Is ‘The Girl Who Travels’ the new Manic Pixie Dream Girl?

I’ve seen circulating on the internet that there are quite a few articles about “Date the girl who travels”, or “Don’t date the girl who travels” – ironically promoting the same idea: a girl who travels is the girl of your dreams, but she will only be in your dreams if you can’t keep up with her crazy adventures and free spirit.

A girl of your dreams who has crazy adventures and a free spirit? Where have I seen that before?

The vast majority of indie rom-coms.

Don’t get me wrong, I love indie rom-coms. When the characters feel real. If you don’t know what a manic pixie dream girl is, it’s this:

Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after observing Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown (2005), describes the MPDG as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up; thus, their men never grow up.

Ta, Wikipedia.

Other examples include Sam from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, and Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs the World. One example I say challenges the notion is Summer from 500 Days of Summer. To me the film is about a guy who idealises a girl and decides she’s the one for him, but can’t accept she doesn’t feel the same way. We don’t get her perspective because the film has to focus on him, to make a point.

There are plenty of people criticising the term. A girl who is beautiful, quirky, has unusual hobbies, and always seems to have a thing for shy, quiet, “sensitive” guys who usually are ignored by other beautiful girls. Guys, stop fantasising and go out and meet a real girl. And she won’t be existing for you, she exists for herself (and because her parents did it).

But it seems there is a MPDG who has escaped our screens and ventured into the real world – almost. The Girl Who Travels. Now, an article which makes good use of the term is this one. It doesn’t put the idea of these girls into a box, instead it celebrates their independence and that they aren’t there to impress a guy: “She’d rather catch a flight than chase a man who doesn’t value her.”

But there are other articles which try to suggest that a girl who travels is the best thing that can happen to a guy. Even though being with them is difficult. You have to be a guy who travels, but you have to do it to keep up with her. Because she will make your life worth living.

Why can’t we have articles celebrating independence of every gender.

Also, what makes The Girl Who Travels different from any other girl who likes to travel? They just maybe do it after saving up in their 9-5 job, and take holiday leave. Or they choose a nice hotel instead of a cheap and dodgy hostel. Sure, there are some girls out there who can travel nearly all year, and take jobs which allow this flexibility. But they are far and few.

Travelling is one of the best things a person can do. And you do it for yourself, and yourself alone. You do it to become more confident, wiser, to experience once in a lifetime opportunities, to understand the world outside of your own perspective, to stand on your own two feet. And the problem with creating ‘The Girl Who Travels’, is that it takes these qualities that travellers discover for themselves, and turns them into something for girls to impress guys.

Yes, if you travel you have experiences and qualities that will attract romantic partners, and flaunt them because they make you, you. But don’t project yourself as an ideal. Because real freedom is found in caring less about what other people think. Since my teens I have listened to music different from my friends, worn clothes that no one else does, had my own hobbies and interests. Why? Because I like these things, not because I’m trying to be a certain type of person. And when I travel it’s because I want to explore, and share moments with people I care about. My stories will be for my future children, if I have them. Not to impress some guy in a bar.

So, be a girl who travels. Be a guy who travels. Be someone who travels. Because it’s one of the best things you can do with your life, but do it on your own terms.

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