What Travel Taught Me About Relationships

June 7, 2015
What Travel Taught Me About Relationships

I am not the most well-traveled young woman in the world, but I’ve been to a few places. I’ve traveled throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Central America, Canada, and, most recently, Southeast Asia. I have loved different aspects of every destination. Of course there are places that I love more than others, but there are none that I regret visiting.

I wouldn’t change my traveling experiences for the world, and I wouldn’t change the experiences of my relationships either. Now, when I choose a travel destination, I am careful about my choice. I am cautious about my decision because it will ultimately dictate my safety and enjoyment in a particular country.

This is also the approach I take with people. I do not engage with just anyone; I wait. I wait on my own accord. I wait to give myself just enough time to feel things out and to monitor the vibes. Through these actions, I have learned that traveling and relationships are not about holding on; they are about connecting. I try to be careful with connection, but once I have made the commitment to connect, I am gloriously reckless. I am vulnerable with emotion, I am adventurous in action, and I am introspective in thought.

I will cherish the connections I made in that place forever.

When traveling, I don’t have time to hold on to people and places. All I have time to do is bask in the moment. When I traveled to the Philippines, I went alone. Upon my arrival in Manila, I napped, got dressed, and headed out at night. The next day I took a five hour bus ride to Nasugbu, south of the capital. There, I strolled along the beach and I met some surfers. They took me under their wing and all around town.

I saw the nightlife of Nasugbu, I listened to the beautiful language of Tagalog, I went back to one of their places, I met their family, and I ended the night drinking beers by the beach. I hung out with a group of five men—most people would call this reckless. But, I started off cautious and I ended up connected. I jumped in a truck with them and I never felt more free as I basked in the moment, smiled, laughed, and snap-chatted.

I ate chicken intestines (and I’m mostly vegetarian), I spoke about history and politics, and I learned so much in only two days! I connected with my environment, the food, the familiar music, my new friendly travel guides, and I connected it all back to myself. I will cherish the connections I made in that place forever.

What Travel Taught Me About Relationships.

My trip to the Philippines reminds me of a relationship I had that recently ended. It was short, like my time in the country. I was attracted by warmth and aesthetic beauty. I took a risk with my feelings, freeing myself as I had done in Nasugbu. I learned so much by simply allowing myself to connect to this individual. I was blissful and I used every ounce of my being to become vulnerable; to be myself. And then it ended.

When I travel, I never deny any of the things that happen during my stay. Spending only four days in the Philippines doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth the trip! It does not mean that it was insignificant and that I should forget it ever happened. In those four days, I went to two different cities. In those four days, I met ten different people. In those four days, I tried things I never thought I would try and I went places I never thought I would go. There is still value in short term.

I connected with my environment, the food, the familiar music, my new friendly travel guides, and I connected it all back to myself.

My relationship was also short. And because of this, I tried to deny it. It was easy for me to denounce an experience that did not last a long time. I was bitter when it had to end because it was impossible for me to hold onto it. Since I could not hold onto it in a way that was comfortable for me, it was easy to deem the whole thing irrelevant.

But this never happens with travel. And relationships are just like travel. You can’t leave and act like it did not happen. You did it. They did it. You did it together. And that will be with you for the rest of your life. It may be put on the back burner or it may slide into your subconscious, but it will forever affect the way you see the world and who is in it.

Now I know that I feel the best when I’m being vulnerable. Now I know that I should always push myself to show more of my personality and my quirkiness to someone that I am interested in. Now I know that being blissful also comes with being brave! Now I know that a connection I share with one person can be the energy I will share with someone else. That connection will be just as real, just as risky, and just as beautiful.


Photo by Unsplash. 

About Iyanna James-Stephenson

Iyanna James-Stephenson is a recent graduate from Mount Holyoke College. Her academic passions include philosophy and law, which is what she has earned her Bachelor’s in. Her extracurricular interests include writing, speech, and dance. She has traveled to seven different countries and has lived in three, including South Korea were she is currently working as an English Instructor for an after-school academy. She hopes to travel the world, inspire others, learn different languages, absorb different cultures, and grow with every experience she has. She is 23.

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