How Travel Taught Me to Mend my Broken Heart - This American Girl

red hibiscus flower


Tomorrow marks my one year anniversary of travel.


One year since I ended my lease, handed over my car keys, strapped on my backpack, and entered the airport with a smile not even the most disillusioned TSA agent could erase.


While most of you know me as the girl on the other side of security, traipsing the world, bikini clad on beaches, laying under almond trees,

you should also know

that my life was not always this way.

I was not always this way.


I was not always the wanderlust girl with a big smile on her face.

I was not always free with an open heart.
I was not always at peace with myself.


In fact, one year ago, before I began my story of travel and adventure,

I was paralyzed by my own broken heart.


You see

I spent the last three years

exerting all of my energy

exhausting my body and mind

pressing my entire weight on a square peg

in a desperate attempt to make it fit into a round hole.


And in that attempt, I became stuck.


Stuck inside of a relationship that consumed my mind, my entire being, knowing I could achieve greatness if I channeled the same energy elsewhere.

Where each time we said it was over, we found ourselves back in the same place.

Where I never felt comfortable, secure, nor fulfilled, yet did not give myself permission to let go.

Where I swore that if I were less this, if he were more that, then we could be so perfect.

And I believed that if I had any chance of moving on, I first had to run away.


So I did.


Today, one year later, I am happy to say that it no longer hurts.

That I can tell this story with emotional distance.

That I genuinely wish him well.


And while running from my old life did not solve any problems, settling into this new one opened my eyes and showed me how to live again.


My broken heart was the catalyst in finding my passion, in finding a new way of living, and in learning to heal myself in every sense of the word.


One year older, and infinitely wiser, here is my advice to the lost hurting girl I once was, to the lost hurting girl I may be in the future, and to any of you who may be lost and hurting today.



salsa brava


Step 1: Breathe


It sounds simple because it is; yet so often we forget to breathe.


When things are difficult do you hold your breath?

Does it quicken?

Become shallow?


I remember crying so hard I could hardly breathe.  The less I heard the sound of my breath, the louder my anxieties and fears became.


Take a moment to breathe deeply. Allow your breath to calm you. To regulate you. Use your breath to give you the power and energy you need to get through this.


Because you absolutely can.



punta uva boat


Step 2: Create distance from your past relationship


The concept of “distance” differs for each of us. Perhaps it means moving into a separate bedroom, no longer speaking every day, or if necessary even leaving the country.


The purpose of this distance is to create space to be self-focused. Much of your life was likely filled with that person: your time, your mind, your home, and now your memories.


The more distance you create, the more room you have to fill with things you want now, for yourself.


I stopped picking up the phone, stopped responding to messages, and left my apartment of memories to a jungle hut in Costa Rica where I began creating new ones. There, in that space, my own space, I began to heal.



beach coral


Step 3: Fill the hole with good things that make you feel fulfilled


Now that you have space, fill it with what nourishes you.


Wander the city behind your camera lens.

Volunteer in your community.

Start practicing yoga.

Spend quality time with the people you love.

Experiment in the kitchen.



I truly believe that the more you surround yourself with things that make you feel good, the less space you have for negativity in your life.



sea urchin


Step 4: Settle into your discomfort


There is no denying that ending a relationship can be incredibly painful. So painful that we may resist enduring the course of our discomfort, and instead try anything to stop it.


Many times I found myself crawling into the warm white linens of my ex boyfriend’s bed. I prolonged my suffering in my attempt to end it in the short term.


If instead you let yourself feel the loss and trust that it will not last forever you will find relief.


Imagine for a moment that you are trapped on a small sailboat in open seas for an undetermined period of time. The intense rocking from rough winter waters is sending your belly into your throat and your head into a daze. You have no shower. No bed. And you are sharing this boat with six other people.


Do you focus your thoughts on your own misery? Do you unproductively complain about your predicament? Do you beg the captain to turn the boat around? Do you jump off the side of the boat?


Or do you accept the uncomfortable, yet inevitable situation and trust that it won’t last forever? Do you relax into your surroundings, your physical sensations, and experience them without judgment? Do you find moments of joy when they arise?


Do you notice which feels better? Which feels easier?


Travel has become a constant practice for me in accepting and embracing discomfort in all forms. Cold showers. Twelve-hour bus rides. Questionably dangerous encounters. Long bouts of seasickness on ill equipped boats. The more I manage to relax into my discomfort, rather than fight to change the circumstance, the more peace and comfort I find.



be present


Step 5: Be in the present moment


This person, this experience, this feeling does not own you. It does not consume you. In fact, it does not even exist.


When you walk out the door and the sun is shining, when you sit down for drinks with your best friend, when you snuggle under a blanket with a hot cup of tea, enjoy.


Feel happy.


Because in each of these moments there is nothing to make you feel anything else. Everything that is happening right now is what is real. Everything that is happening right now is good.


Your life, your being is so much more than your thoughts and worries.


So smile.


You deserve to.



coconut cocles


Step 6: Free yourself from the story of your past relationship


How many times have you told the story of your breakup? Of your relationship? Of every fight you ever had?


Too many?




Telling this story is an important part in healing. Sometimes it takes telling the story many, many, many, times before you can finally let it go.


But at some point you need to let it go. Until you do, you stay stuck in that story, reliving it each time you tell it. Recognize the point when that story is no longer serving you. When telling it becomes counterproductive.


And stop.


I became obsessed with the story of my relationship. With the story of its downfall. I hoped that if I continued to tell it, I could identify the moment that things went wrong and somehow go back in time and fix it.


Then I went to places in the world where no one knew him. Where no one knew me. Where no one knew my story. Did I want that story, that old story, to be the one I told?




So I let that story go, and told a different one.



palm tree cocles


Step 7: Feel complete being alone


You may feel empty with your broken heart.


Do you think that you need your ex, or any other person for that matter, to fill you back up? Do you know that you have everything inside of you already that you need?


I once thought that I needed a boyfriend, a man, to love me, to be with me, in order to feel content.


I could not have been more wrong.


Do you feel scared of being alone? This might make you less afraid.


I remember a time when I couldn’t eat dinner by myself. Couldn’t sleep alone in my own bed. Now I travel the world alone. Go to dinner. Nightclubs. Wander the streets. And I actually like it.


When alone I can best hear the sound of my own breath. I can listen to the sounds of the universe. I can completely connect with what is around me. Without distraction.


I am completely free. And because I do not need someone else to be happy, to fulfill me, when I am with someone I can just love them instead.



waves punta uva


Step 8: Let it go


Decide that you truly want to let it go.


How is holding onto the pain, the past, serving you? Is it simply hurting you? Are you afraid that if you let it go what you felt was not real?


What you had was real. What you felt was real. It did not last forever. It is no longer what you need. And that is ok. Accepting what is does not dishonor what was.







If you do, your life will open to what you do need now. What will serve you now. So stop looking backwards at what you had, what you lost, and start looking at what is, what could be.


Let go.



driftwood punta uva


Step 9: Start believing in love again


It will happen for you again, I promise. Believe. Continue to live the life you want and the people who are meant to enter it will.



punta uva


Step 10: Love again


Then, one day, you will meet someone. Someone who makes you feel things you never imagined were possible. Someone you could not have created in your mind. Someone who you feel secure with. Someone who you don’t wish you could change.


Don’t run away.

Don’t be scared.


Know that you are not the person you were in your last relationship. You are not destined to fail.

You have grown. You have survived.


You are absolutely capable and deserving of this love.


You are.


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