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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You deserve to.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I love this and for many reasons. One being that I am going through something similar right now. Though certainly not as difficult. And two, I’m taking my first trip alone in two months. I’ll be driving the coast from San Fran to LA in about a week’s time. I’m almost 30 and I don’t even go to dinner alone! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and you have inspired me to take the first step! And while I have no idea what I am doing and I’m a little bit scared, I’m doing it anyway. Best of luck in all of your future travels! You seem like an amazing person based on your posts alone!
Tae, congratulations on taking your first trip alone! I know it takes courage. I am so honored to have offered you any inspiration in your journey. I wish you luck and would love to hear all about your trip as it progresses.
Thank you for sharing the video. At just the perfect moment.
You’re welcome! She is so amazing isn’t she??
Beautiful words and pictures…..You MUST turn this into a book it would be easy enough to do you already have all the content. Email me if you are interested in some ideas on how to do this. Since I just finished my book, I have looked at MANY options. I would totally sell it on my website. Your words are amazingly wise and also show the peace you now have. I urge you to share this even further then this blog.
Thank you I am so flattered you think so!! At this point I am working on simply posting in a timely fashion… sorry for the slacking… but perhaps one day I will be ready for that type of endeavor. Hopefully I can continue to grow this blog and share with more people in the meantime. Thanks again for your support 🙂
I love this post! I am glad to read the joy that you now feel, and I think that this is inspiring for anyone stuck in that “does this ever stop hurting?!” phase.
Happy and safe travels!
It is amazing how much less it hurts when you just give in and let go! Thanks for reading Rachel 🙂
Simply beautiful… And, beautifully simple.
I LOVE this. It’s beautiful.
I think that for me (as someone who has run plenty in my life) that this sums it up: “wherever you go, there you are.” Running and distance can give you a different perspective for sure, but we are all who we are, no matter where we are in this beautiful world.
It was such a comforting feeling when I REALLY understood that and was able to embody it in my life and I see it unfolding for you too.
Great sentiment. For me travel isn’t about changing myself, it’s about being true to myself. Going deeper into myself. Finding experiences and places where I feel more connected with my self. I think when we “run” from our lives we quickly learn that yes, no matter where we go there we are. We can’t expect a beautiful beach to make us happy, but it sure can make it easier to start reflecting!
ahhh…so sweet, and so true. thanks for this!
Beautifully written. As your story continues to unfold, I hope you continue blogging. You have a gift with words and connecting with people
Thank you Kim 🙂 that affirmation means a lot.
someone suggest I read this for myself because I am going through something similar and am already moving on, but this was just that next push in the right direction. it is amazing to see someone else go through it and move on from it so well. thank you for this post!
You’re welcome Sammy. YOU CAN DO IT. Really, you can 🙂
well written 🙂 cheers and enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica! Pura vida!
Ah pura vida, I’ve missed those words! Thanks 🙂
I love your journey and how brave you were to begin and follow through on this year. Thank you so much for sharing all the strugles you overcame, sometimes it is comforting to know that others share the same struggles that we do. Thank you again adn best wishes to you on your new journey. Hugs!
Thank you for listening to the stories Cindy. xo
I love this post. I found you from robert’s blog. I’m going through something similar right now. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and you have inspired me to take the first step. I’m almost 30 (26 is not scary at all, hahaha) and I courage myself to not scared pursuing my dream, travel, and it might be alone!
Thank you so much for your comment. It made my day. You absolutely can pursue all of your dreams and all you need is yourself to do it! Good luck in your future adventures.
Thank you This American Girl! This post is inspiring and uplifting. My (ex) boyfriend and I moved to Boston together for the summer, coming from Florida. Upon returning to FL for our last year in college he unexpectedly broke up with me. It has been 5 months since the break up but I still have a hole in my heart and feel broken. I don’t know what my purpose is and I crave to pick up and travel solo. Congrats on following your heart and facing your fears 🙂 Look forward to reading your future posts!
You’re welcome. Please know that you are not broken. You might feel alone. You might feel empty. But your heart is complete and you are whole. You have a purpose and right now that purpose is to find one. Do things that make you feel happy. Do things that make you feel so alive you cannot help but be completely in the moment. If solo travel is what you crave, then you know what you need to do 😉 Wishing you all the best.
This is beautiful, this was needed, this was poignant, and real. Thank you.
Thank you Amanda 🙂 You and your blog are both adorable.
I really love this post..
Thank you so much 🙂
I really can relate on this. This is truly an inspiration. I’ll re-post this on my blog. 🙂
Thank you so much Gail 🙂
I just don’t know how am i going to-re-post this on my blog. 🙂
Thank you for this. I’m still very much in the middle of something like this that I’ve been trying to stabilize for a year. I’m leaving to study abroad in a month and I hope I’m able to achieve the kind of peace that you have!
You’re so welcome. <3
It’s amazing how all us strangers share the same heart. Some of us broken, others healing and some completely re-born. Your post has gave me the breath I needed. It’s time to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts and go, to find ourselves. I know someday again I will love and be loved.
<3 <3 <3 You ARE love. Love is always with you.
I am going to Europe to deal with a broken heart – to create a new normal. I am scared, but excited. Thank you so much for this article. It spoke to my spirit.
You’re so welcome. It means a lot that it touched you xo
You don’t know how much I needed to read this. I’ve gone through a breakup in the past that was so painful, it put me in a psychiatric hospital. I really thought I was stronger this time around, but I painfully found out that I was weaker than I thought. I feel like I’m drowning and nothing seems to pull me out of it. I have done so much, talked to so many people, and I still can’t breathe. The only relief I have felt was in the few minutes it took me to read this. You have described so many things that I am feeling. I am going to Europe for six weeks in the summer and for the first time, I am actually getting excited. And it’s because of what you wrote. So thank you. I appreciate this more than you can know.
Thank you Theresa, I appreciate you sharing your feelings more than you know. Remember that your spirit is so much more powerful than any hardship you may encounter, the key is simply in realizing it. <3 Have a FABULOUS time in Europe this Summer! 🙂
Hey Teresa (and/or Camille; I’m not entirely sure how this might get published). As you might tell, I’ve never replied to a blog, before.
But I just felt compelled to drop you (both) a line. Like I said, I’m not sure how these things work, or whether you’ll even receive my message.
But I came to see your post having pulled Camille’s blog from an internet search on ‘Can travelling help mend a broken heart’.
Your words totally resonated with me – I am fresh from having been dumped from the only woman I have truly loved. And I should know. I met her in France (we are both English) nearly four years ago when I was 49 and she was then 53. I’d had lots of girlfriends over the years but had never been married or had kids. And know… Not secretly harbouring any gay thoughts either, which people seem to enquire on. ’49! Never married! Not had kids! Must be gay!’. Nope. I digress. At 49, my life suddenly made sense – for the first time ever. It was True Love. I’d found the missing piece to the crazy puzzle I was.
And now it’s all broken up and the pieces lost. Forever. Your words really hit me like a ton of bricks. The loss that you describe as feeling like drowning and the feeling that you can’t breathe. I’m been so depressed that I’ve been in touch with The Samaritans which is something I’ve never done in my life. Now back in the UK, I cannot see a future. 52, living back home with my mother, no job, no prospects, next to little money. How to reinvent myself? Is there even anyone left inside of me?
Well, I am planning to soon discover. By risking everything (although what ‘everything’ do I actually have to risk??) by taking my broken heart to Cambodia, where I have booked myself onto a volunteering programme. I see in my mind’s eye going away for 3 months. I need to shake up the non-life I have now. I need to find who I am. The man that I once liked. I have to hope that I
am doing it for the right reasons – to see life from a totally different perspective and to help those with virtually nothing in terms of material wealth but who appear – at least on the face of it – to have everything in happiness. Most of us in the West seem to have lost that simple happiness which comes from not having ‘things’. I don’t want to be running from the man I once was, but want to run into him again. I used to like and believe in that man – not the hologram he’s become. I want to see if he’s still alive and that he still has the capacity to feel and love, again.
I hope Theresa, that some 3 years on, you went on to find peace and happiness and hopefully love again, and that those dark days are a thing in a distance corner of your memory.
Just the same that one day too – I hope to…
Take care – and thanks again for both your post Theresa and to Camille – for your wonderful blog.
Most respondants on here seem to be women, so I hope getting things from a male’s perspective makes you realise that guys can really hurt, too.
Thank you so very much for sharing your story with us, for your kindness and compassion, you are so worthy and deserving of love <3
This blog post couldn’t have popped up on my Pinterest feed at a more perfect time. I read the whole thing with tears streaming down my face and then spent the next few hours devouring post after post. I can’t thank you enough for baring your most vulnerable parts to all of us. You’ve helped me more than you could ever know.
Aw thank you Jenn thank you thank you!! It is a gift and an honor to help you! Have you seen this post of mine??
I did read that post, multiple times. I’m at the end of an almost 5-year marriage and have finally realized that I can’t expect anyone else to show me unconditional love when I don’t even show it to myself. I can’t spend the rest of my life searching for someone to fill a void that is meant to be filled by me. I’m just so thankful to have realized this while I still have plenty of time to fix it.
I’ve recently purchased an airline ticket to Costa Rica, to stay at the Yoga Farm in Pavones for a week. Followed by 3 months exploring the beaches of Panama. Without the extra nudge that you’ve unknowingly given me, I wouldn’t have ever had the courage to go out and seek my own bliss.
Wow, thank you Jenn, I just got chills. I can’t tell you how much that means to me, and how unbelievably HAPPY I am for you!!! Keep filling yourself up with love and let that bliss you’ve cultivated from within burst beyond you like a million rays of light. xoxoox
I can’t thank you enough for this article. It has gave me the hope I need but most importantly the courage.
You are so welcome angel <3
I really love reading your blog, thank you for this. You inspired your readers through your powerful words of wisdom and every words of advise enlighten each and everyone’s heart. May you enjoy your future travel and Godbless!. Hoping to read more blogs about your next destination 🙂 XOXO
Thank you so much <3
Wow this is so beautiful, I definitely needed to read this! I am moving to Italy for 3 months, and I am on this same boat! Thanks for helping me see that things really do get better
You are so welcome I wish you so much healing.
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