IMAGE VIA @ELENA_TEA/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY MAGGIE ZHOU
“I personally don’t feel much pressure to travel with my partner as I know how much personal growth I need before I settle down.”
Travel, whether in your backyard or across the pond, can be one of life’s most enriching experiences. You know the stereotypes; the lady who ‘found herself’ while eating, loving and praying her way through a Southeast Asian country, or the person who won’t stop reminding everyone they ‘lived’ in Europe for a full six weeks.
Some studies show travel can make people more open to new experiences, agreeableness and emotional stability, while also keeping minds sharp. Without dependence on a significant other, this can ring even more true.
Interested to hear how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.
“[Travel] can create a flexibility, both mental flexibility and flexibility of social structures, that allows us to see things differently, have different experiences or do things a little bit differently,” sociologist Karen Stein previously told Washington Post.
My boyfriend and I have been together for eight years, but this year was the first time we went on a proper overseas holiday together. Lockdowns aside, we naturally found ourselves travelling separately, whether with friends or for work.
Embarking on our first trip together was incredible, in every clichéd and sentimental way. To date, it was the best holiday I’ve ever been on. But it also made me thankful for the times I’ve been able to travel with friends.
In 2019, I traversed along the West Coast of the U.S. with a friend I’ve had since primary school. We planned most of the trip by plotting out which Buzzfeed Worth It restaurants we could visit (it was very of its time). In 2020, three high school friends and I went around Japan, sleeping in tiny hostel bunk beds and coming home with an unexpected love for vending machine corn soup.
“Travelling with friends is honestly one of the best things you can do in all stages of life,” Sydney-based digital creator Amy Kaleski tells me. “Not only does it fill up your cup with wholesome memories, but it teaches you so much about yourself, so many things you may not have already known.”
It’s hard to separate a travel experience from the people you’re with; the two are so intertwined. But the way you move through the world and the activities you gravitate to on holidays – and therefore the life lessons and stories you come home with – change depending on if your accompanying relationships are platonic or romantic.
South Australian artist Elena Téa is currently at the tail end of a two-month Europe solo trip. While she’s been to Europe with her boyfriend twice (both “trips of a lifetime”), the pair realised this year’s holiday needed to be spent apart.
“During this trip, I have spent precious one-on-one time with my auntie who I’m very close to and met up with girlfriends from all over the world. I wouldn’t have been able to give my full energy to these things if I wasn’t alone,” she tells me.
Echoing Amy, Elena points to how travel can teach you so much. “You are constantly out of your comfort zone, constantly having to rise to the occasion of socialising with people you don’t know too well [and] problem-solving by yourself,” she says. “I think it’s so important in a long-term partnership to build on these qualities for yourself.”
Self-discovery can help strengthen existing relationships; learning about yourself means learning about what you want out of a partnership. “Travelling give[s] you time to reflect on what you’re truly after in a lifelong partner… I personally don’t feel much pressure to travel with my partner as I know how much personal growth I need before I settle down,” adds Amy.