5 Things You Learn When You Travel With A Broken Heart

“Sometimes you have to be completely broken in order to build yourself back up. We need to be stripped raw until even a slight breeze will make our bones chatter.”

I wrote that over two years ago when I was leaving for my first trip to Central America. At that time I was heartbroken, drained, and oblivious to the fact that I would be spontaneously living in the country longer than my backpack was prepared.

I remember feeling disconnected, sleep deprived and undeniably depressed. I had graduated college, moved out of my apartment and left my job. I celebrated Christmas in my childhood home with my family, enjoying their company, but feeling a sense of emptiness having just separated from my boyfriend. He didn’t want to be in contact and I chose to not respect that, and would cry after every rejected phone call or text.

But, months before, I had made concrete plans to complete my Yoga Teacher Training in Nicaragua. The fees had been paid, as well as my plane ticket.

So there I was, dragging myself out of bed after another sleepless night, and committing to a trip I had been excitedly anticipating for many months. I certainly didn’t think I would be embarking on it with such a cold mindset and a broken heart. I also didn’t think I would be intentionally missing my return flight to continue travelling in the country that helped mend my heart, and open my eyes to years of self-inflicting abuse.

1. The rawest form of the word “alone”

It isn’t uncommon to be alone while traveling, or to travel alone all together. The difference between the two is what you feel throughout your whole body when you are physically alone, versus the type of alone you experience after a breakup. The empty seats next to you on planes and buses are filled with strangers, and the beds you sleep in feel too big and far too cold. The locks on the doors can’t be trusted, and the beautiful places you see seem less monumental. Not because someone isn’t standing next to you, but because you suddenly lack the ability to appreciate beauty around you..

Being alone isn’t a bad thing – however adjusting to the concept while traveling will leave little room for distraction and denial. Learning to cope with those small moments that project a deeper struggle eventually lead to the acceptance of being single.

2. The power of disconnecting

After a breakup we stew and insist on intentionally making ourselves miserable. The most accessible way we do this is by checking every form of social media constantly, and having our phone on hand at every moment. We somehow manage to know every move our ex is making, and assume that every female in a photo is a new lover. We wait for a phone call that never comes, and we sink deeper into the hole we’ve become terribly comfortable in.

Depending on where you travel, phone and internet service isn’t always necessarily available. Additionally, carrying around your expensive iPhone or laptop runs the risk of being robbed. But the good things is, the need to check every notification, or wait for a call that you literally cannot receive, starts to diminish. You’re finally able to unplug, disconnect, and focus on getting out of the hole.

3. How to bring your awareness to the present

Much like disconnecting from technology, traveling with a broken heart is bound to test your ability to stay present. Those moments you’d normally cherish become almost unbearable, because the sight of something beautiful takes your mind to the person that isn’t present. The process of moving on is uncomfortable, but the more you keep trekking up volcanoes and rural mountain trails, the more you keep swimming in the ocean or practicing yoga, the sooner it’ll be harder to deny the rewarding experiences around you.

Moreover, without the obligation of checking in with your once-lover, or altering your plans so you can be online at the same time, the more time you have to focus on what’s in front of you – and less on what’s not. Like me, you could decide to make choices on your own, such as settling in an area long-term without having to consult your partner.

4. A new sense of freedom

Not to say every relationship is hostile and controlling, but for any relationship to come to end, there’s something that is not quite right. Whether it’s toxic or the distance is just too big of an obstacle, the end of a relationship clears up space in our days and also our heart. Even if this freedom isn’t necessarily desired, it inevitably makes room, waiting to be filled.

Like when practicing yoga, we twist and bend our bodies while using our breath to clear space as well as fill it. We meditate to flush out the old thoughts. We give ourselves the freedom to move forward or into something new. Travelling newly single is that fresh breath of air!

5. Self-sufficiency

Obviously, you can still be independent while being in a relationship, but traveling breeds a different type of independence. Being out of your comfort zone or familiar environment can be difficult; even learning basic bus routes, reading maps or asking a local for directions in a foreign language can cause stress and anxiety.

When you’re alone, you have no choice other than to figure it out on your own. When you’re heartbroken, your self-esteem is sure to be affected. Being in situations where you are forced to be self-sufficient and not rely on another person for help encourages your sense of self-worth to rise.

Breakups and broken hearts are never easy, for either party. Traveling alone during these times allows you to bring your attention inward and heal yourself. As long as you’re open to the lessons that come with the initial painful baggage, the weight is sure to lighten.

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Natalie Snyder

Natalie is a writer, yoga instructor and counselor of teenagers with mental health issues. A true believer that life hands us only lessons, she tries to find the medicine in all situations, poisonous or sweet. She is the creator and photographer behind Women of the World. Follow the project on Instagram and Facebook. You can see more of her writing for the Salty Souls and in Travel Deeper: A Globetrotter's Guide on Starting a Business, now on Amazon.