At the time, it felt more like a heart explosion or a heart apocalypse (that’s a thing, right?) then heart break. That’s how monumental it felt when my first boyfriend and I broke up after suffering through long distance for the last 3 years of our 8-year relationship.
Even though I knew the time to part ways had been long overdue, it still felt like a seismic punch right through my chest and everything came spilling out. Grief that the life I knew was over. Loss for my best friend and confidante. Fear of trying to figure out who I was now that I wasn’t part of a “we” at the ripe old age of 24.
Falling in love at 16 is simultaneously wonderful and horrible. You’re naive and optimistic enough that you love fearlessly and with your whole heart. There are no inhibitions holding you back or safety nets to catch you – just the exhilaration of free falling.
The problem is that you’re too
stupid inexperienced and you have no idea that there’s only a fine line separating love and pain. Your young heart is too soft and tender to adequately protect itself from first love. It’s all-consuming because you didn’t keep some of your heart for yourself… but man, does it feel good to just fall.
That is, until you’re crying your eyes out on your bedroom floor with Adele crooning “First Love” on repeat.*
*You should try it. It’s amazingly cathartic. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, it’s just an example. Obviously.
The roots of our lives had become so intertwined – even living thousands of miles apart – that the split ripped apart the foundation of my life. Over the years, I had lost sight of who I was so now I was left amid a pile of emotional wreckage with a sickening feeling of being unmoored. Who am I? What do I want? What should I do now?
I didn’t want to start this new chapter of my life at a reluctant crawl but with a purposeful stride so when a friend suggested that I meet her in Ireland, I said “Why the hell not.” Little did I know how restorative that trip would be to my wounded heart and kickstart the process of returning me to myself.
From taking my first solo flight to cycling the hilly moors of Dún Aonghasa (dreadfully hungover) to watching the royal wedding in Temple Bar, my sojourn to Ireland worked wonders towards helping me recover from my heart apocalypse (I’m making it happen).
Personally, travel serves as a catch-all remedy to cure whatever ails me, but here are 7 reasons why you should travel specifically post-breakup:
1/ You’re in control
We can’t make people want to be with us. We can’t make them stay and love us. We can’t control how we feel about it because emotions are wild and irrational. Breakups unleash a tumultuous ocean of feelings that sweep us off our feet until we’re drowning in them.
Booking a flight is taking back some control over your circumstances. You’re doing something for you instead of wallowing in that overwhelming pain that threatens to overtake you.
2/ be selfish
The benefit of riding solo is that YOU – your wants and desires – are your only priority. No one else can benefit from your experience of travelling and now that you don’t have to be consider the travel preferences of your ball-and-chain (i.e. their idea of vacation is an all-inclusive resort…yuck), choosing a destination can be liberating.
Not only does being minus one ball-and-chain mean that you no longer have to compromise, but choosing a destination means deciding what you want – the first step towards reclaiming your solo identity.
Luckily for me, my ex already lived thousands of miles away so I had physical space, but there’s still digital space. Obsessive social media
stalking lurking browsing is not conducive to emotional healing but taking a trip abroad can help wean you off of those impulses.
You’re usually too busy trying to cram as much sight-seeing in as possible to remember to ask “Is there free wi-fi?” Plus, it’s not exactly easy to find a connection when you’re camping in the middle of the Saharan Desert…unless it’s to a camel. Out of sight, out of mind…IRL and online.
4/ Out Of Context
Without realizing it, people – friends, family, partners – act as mirrors, reflecting back who you are to them. In this case, you’re the tragic, going-through-a-break-up person. It’s hard not to get lost in that illusion, especially when you’re in a weak and vulnerable state.
When you travel, no one knows who you are (unless you’re a Kardashian). Without the imposed perceptions, you’re free to experiment with your identity as well as from answering uncomfortable (albeit well-meaning)
interrogations questions about your split that you’re not ready to articulate.
5/ Outside your comfort zone
Travelling is a constant barrage of the unfamiliar from attempting to navigate transportation to vaulting over language barriers. Even buying a cup of coffee using foreign currency presents a problem.
When everything is uncomfortable, nothing is! Or at least hopefully less so. Breakup discomfort gets mixed in with travel discomfort so the pain doesn’t stand out in such stark contrast.
Breakups make your world view shrink and your focus to zone in on the gaping, human-sized hole that the split left behind. Travelling reminds you that there is so much more life to live beyond the mere chapter that has come to a close.
When you venture outside of your little bubble and are confronted with the vast greatness of the world, you’re reminded that life goes on. You can begin to imagine the possibilities a new life has to offer instead of mourning the one you lost.
7/ Figure out your feelings
Post-breakup, you’re a hot mess (emphasis on “HOT”) and all you feel fit to do is cry into a pint of ice cream from the safety of your duvet.
Your emotions are a chaotic mess that you’re not ready to untangle let alone attempt to articulate – to yourself or others. Every retelling or attempt at deciphering what happened, chafes at the raw wound.
Travel gives you time away from intrusive inquiries, letting the wound heal a bit; toughen into scar tissue before you relive the pain by giving voice to it.
At the end of the day knowing what I know now (hindsight is 20/20, right?), I don’t regret loving so recklessly. If there hadn’t been pain there would’ve been no need; no catalyst or impetus to compel me to try and “find” myself.
You grow stronger in the places you were broken. Even though the healing process is a lengthy one, remember: You will heal.
Plus, if you conveniently subscribe to this notion, then it’s an unassailable excuse to start packing your suitcase!