Traveling After a Break Up
Believe it or not, I receive a lot of emails about this topic. I even received one this week, which inspired me to finally write this post. Yay, inspiration.
Now I won’t copy and paste the exact message here, but the main idea of the email is pretty much summarized in the following few sentences:
“I broke up with my partner of X years/months. I’m going to travel to get over him. Is it a good idea?”
Hmmmm. Well. It depends.
I know, I know. Such a non-answer, right?
Travel is seen as a cure, a strong antibiotic, for a broken heart. We see heartbreak and travel combat in popular culture countless times through a variety of mediums. For example, Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love chronicles the narrator’s spiritual and personal development while spending a year abroad in Italy, India, and Indonesia.
These stories are popular because we relate to the central characters’ pain. After all, most of us have experienced at least one break up in our lives. Embracing your singleness isn’t always easy either.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually gone on trips right on the heels of two separate break ups so I almost feel like an expert on this subject, haha.
Lucky me, huh?
But this post isn’t about the nitty gritty details surrounding me or my love life. The last thing I want is to plaster my relationship laundry all over the internet. Not to mention, I respect my ex-partners and their right to privacy. So, sorry, you’ll have to stay curious, haha.
Instead of revisiting my own failures in love, I want to offer practical tips to everyone whose asked me if traveling is a good idea after a relationship falls out, and whether or not the act of travel heals a broken heart.
Be Prepared for Jealousy.
Hate to say it, but get ready for surges of sweet jealousy on your trip. Just because you’re in a different location doesn’t mean your feelings will instantly vanish into thin air. Travel doesn’t defeat the green-eyed monster. Alas, I wish.
By visiting a popular travel destination, happy kissy couples will appear absolutely everywhere, perhaps on their honeymoons, and their presence will make you want to punch a hole through the nearest wall.
For example, I experienced a tiny bit of rage myself when I was trapped inside an elevator at Reina Sofia with the most lovey-dovey college age couple in the history of the world. It was a painful five minutes, my friends. I was ready to break through the elevator’s glass walls and jump to my death. Well. Not really, but you get the point.
So how do you handle jealousy? To be honest, I don’t know. I’ve always been an envious person which I’m not proud of.
However, if you mentally accept you’ll have moments of jealousy, you’ll be better prepared when you do see that spectacular proposal in a romantic city square under the dewy pink sunset. … gag.
Don’t Hate Yourself if You Think About Your Ex.
Okay, let’s say you went through a break up and immediately traveled someplace new. Despite all the exotic wonders, exciting smells and sounds and people, your mind may still drift to your ex. This is frustrating but understandable. You shared a connection with this person for months or years, so thinking of him or her is a normal reaction. However, you might feel angry at yourself for giving your ex rentfree space in your head.
Please don’t be hard on yourself for having a compassionate heart.
Besides, if it’s any reassurance, I’m sure your ex is thinking about you too especially if your former partner is aware you’re off traveling the world rather than sitting at home and watching reality television. It doesn’t matter who was the dumper or dumpee either. Any relationship coming to a close leaves a void, an emptiness, a vacuum.
So, trust me, you’re not alone in thinking about your former partner, unless s/he is a complete sociopath in which case you are totally better off, haha! No one wants to date Iago from Othello, am I right?
Speaking of which …
Resist the Urge to Contact Your Ex.
Don’t contact your ex when you’re traveling after a break up. No contact is a good idea under normal circumstances, but it’s even more vital if you’re off seeing the world.
I mean it. Text messages, emails, not-so subtle social media posts, and prying messages to mutual friends are all banned on this trip. Go as far as blocking your ex’s number if you’re really tempted.
I know no contact is difficult for a lot of people. But sending repeated messages to your former flame is a bad idea for two reasons:
- You may not like your ex’s response. Can you handle an angry message back? Or, even better, no reply whatsoever? Or will you melt into a puddle of tears? Not reaching out eliminates drama and bad vibes. Give your mind and emotions a rest.
- It sends the message that you’re excessively needy. Think about it. You’re so desperate to stay in contact that you can’t even create your own happiness on your trip. C’mon. You’re exploring Central Park or the Vatican Museum, and still have time to pester an ex? Really? Really. Stop. Neediness isn’t attractive.
Truthfully break ups suck for everyone. You need space. Both of you.
And quite frankly, your ex needs to space to recover too. Again, unless you dated Iago, your ex is probably experiencing similar confusion and pain right now. You’re not the only person affected by this break up. Don’t act selfish. Put the phone away, leave your ex alone, and focus on the world’s beauty instead.
Travel is the Perfect Time to Rebound.
Cheer up! Gorgeous men and women with equally enticing accents exist all around you! Why not download tinder and go on an exciting date?
You might feel awkward but hear me out. Flings and dates are great confidence builders! The fact that the sex of your choice still finds you attractive will make you feel a lot better. And really is having a dinner date with a pretty stranger too much of an investment? Risk vs. reward, I say.
Not to mention, you’ll probably never see the person again so you’re not likely to end up in a tragic three month rebound relationship. Woooooorth it!
However, respect and love yourself well enough not to indulge if rebounding will cause you additional pain. No one’s saying you need to get romantic on your vacation. Don’t allow other people to pressure you either. Set strong boundaries and stick with them.
Use the Time to Discover Yourself.
I think we all tend to “lose ourselves” in relationships even if we’re otherwise independent individuals. When you’re in a committed relationship, suddenly you need to split your time, money, and emotional energy on another person. It’s a big deal.
So a break up leaves us not only heartbroken, but in a state of confusion. We question our very identities as a newly single people. Ultimately the time has come to rediscover and love “us” again.
And travel? Provides the perfect chance. On your trip, you have no other responsibilities except to soak up your surroundings.
So use those quiet moments, when you’re settled at a corner cafe or standing inside a famous art museum, to reflect on yourself, your values, and your goals.
Remember you’re a much stronger person than you give yourself credit for.
Spoil Yourself with Sites and Food and Gifts.
Pamper yourself on your travels to help you recover from your break up.
You might also want to throw the damn budget out the window unless you’re seriously strapped for cash. I completely trashed my own budget in Montreal when I was still happily single. A recent break up is definitely a perfect excuse to splurge on that amazing soccer game or beautiful painting at the local flea market.
You don’t only have to spoil yourself with tangible gifts, though.
Do you love food? As a rule of thumb, we don’t count calories on regular “run of the mill” travels. This freedom is doubly important now. Eat all the tapas in Madrid. Load up on pasta in Bologna. Devour pizza in New York City. Consume langos in Budapest. Exercise at home. Indulge on the road.
You’ll feel special when you treat yourself in an indulgent way. You’ll realize you are worthy of all these gifts and smile. Plus you’ll have great memories to share for when you return home.
Avoid Excessive Partying.
This point is a little hypocritical of me, but I want to be honest and provide the best advice.
Keep the partying and pub crawling to a reasonable level. Don’t get out of control.
It’s so easy to self-medicate our broken hearts using alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and temporarily numbs all the pain. And, okay, hitting the bars responsibly is a freeing idea. You’ll make new friends and have a great time dancing.
However you want to be careful. Don’t drink so much that you’ll crumble into a emotional mess on a pub floor, or randomly go home with sketchy strangers. Your safety still needs to be a priority. Plus no one likes sightseeing as a wicked hangover rages non-stop in their brains. Yuck.
Get Advice from Strangers at Your Hostel.
Okay, I’m not saying to talk about your heartbreak at great length to complete strangers. Your fellow travelers are not paid therapists. I’ve been on the receiving end of this “waaaaah, s/he doesn’t love me!” conversation many, many, many times. It’s not fun. At all.
However, you should open up a little bit especially if you’re comfortable around your new travel buddies. Unlike friends and family, your fellow hostel mates exist outside the situation. For all intents and purposes, they are strangers. They don’t know or even care about your ex nor do they move in the same social circles (or countries, for that matter). Therefore they won’t try to spare your feelings by telling you what you want to hear. Instead you’ll be exposed to a rare glimmer of the truth.
Opening dialogue means it’s time for real talk and sometimes tough love. Honestly, don’t be surprised if your dorm mates tell you that your break up was a blessing in disguise, and go onto share similar stories about their own love struggles.
Ultimately their insight is honest and valuable. Take advantage of it.
Stay in Touch with Family and Friends at Home.
You may want to make a “clean break” from everything and block out any associations at home. It’s understandable. But remember to keep your family and friends in the loop as you travel.
This tip also relates to your personal safety. You want friends and family to know your location in case of an emergency. Plus hearing from you reassures them if they’re nervous about you traveling in such an emotional state.
Besides, conversations with your closest loved ones might brighten your travel days even more. Stay in contact with them. They love hearing your stories.
However do request that they not mention the break up. You don’t wanna go there.
And, for the Love of God, Don’t Blame Yourself!
Don’t waste your precious travel time or mental energy rehashing old relationship drama. Just don’t.
Now I get that it’s easier said than done, but believe me, you don’t want to think about “what you could’ve done differently” while you’re lounging on a turquoise beach in southern Croatia. I mean. No.
You’ve saved your hard-earned money to embark on this adventure. Cherish your time.
And remember: unless it was a horrifically abusive situation, it takes two people for a relationship to flounder, not one. You changing a few behaviors or actions might’ve done nothing to fix the outcome anyway. You don’t need to bear all the blame. So turn off those negative thought patterns, and jump in the Mediterranean Sea, my love. You’ve earned your joy.
Finally Don’t Expect Travel to Heal Your Heart.
As I’ve already said, travel won’t cure all the bad feelings you experience once you and your partner split. Saying you’re traveling to get over someone is problematic. Despite what the media tells us, travel won’t miraculously heal your battered heart.
Time and reflection, on the other hand, will.
Time is important. Each day hurts a little less. Be patient with yourself. Take it one step at a time.
Focus on new goals. Have you ever wanted to pick up a new hobby? Try a new workout regime? Form a book club with old friends? Now is the time.
Reach out to loved ones. Remember other people still care about you.
Yes, break ups suck, but as the famous saying goes: “This too shall pass.”
Heartbreak is a song as old as time itself. A million people have survived it. And you will be a million and one.
Have you ever gone traveling after a break up? What was your experience? Did travel mend your broken heart? Share your thoughts in the comments.