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5 Ways Solo Traveling Heals Heartbreak: A True Story

We’ve all been there. The excruciating pain that torments your soul when you lose someone you love. Suddenly, there’s a void in your heart that no amount of drinks can fill, and you just can’t wrap your head around the idea that you’re all alone again. As supportive as your friends and family may be, here’s the cruel truth: No one is able to lift those sorrows away from your broken heart.  

Image via Shutterstock

After the initial shock, you might force yourself to do something, anything, to cope with the heartache. You turn to your friends, cry over movies with a mouthful of chips, buy things you don’t need, or become a workaholic. At least, that’s what I did. But every time you pass by a certain street corner, you remember the time when you held his or her hand the very first time at that spot. Those memories are constantly replaying in your mind like a broken cassette, luring you to come back to those places where you and your former love spent much time together.

That’s when you think about the idea of traveling, the ultimate distraction. You might have read or watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love”, and are curious to see if travel really heals a broken heart, like I did.

Here’s my story that reveals 5 ways that solo travel helps to heal a heartbreak. While traveling overseas is not an elixir that will miraculously heal that soul-crushing pain in your chest, it’s definitely more than just escaping from the hot mess back home. It paves the way to the path of self-recovery, as long as you set the right intention.

So the story goes like this…

After my graduation from college in London, I had to face reality and book a flight to leave the country. The worst of all, I left a guy I had been seeing for a while too. It wasn’t a bad break up, but still a heartbreaking one. At that time, the past seemed too sweet and hard to let go, while the future resembled a giant black cloud full of doom and gloom.

Facing the ambiguity of my life’s purpose and insecurity at my heels, I made a bold decision to travel solo to Bali, Indonesia before finally returning to my home country. Why Bali? Cliche as it might sound, I had just read the book, “Eat Pray Love”, so I decided to follow Elizabeth’s footsteps. It was my first time traveling completely alone, and it turned out to be the most unforgettable trip in my life so far. Here are my reasons why:

Travel gives you distance from the past

This is the first effect of going on a trip: you leave the place where everything happened, the ordinary life, and your worries behind, temporarily. Physical distance helps create mental distance, giving yourself some space to breathe.Being at another unfamiliar place draws a solid line between the past and the present, reminding oneself that the past cannot be brought back.

As the plane was gradually getting closer to the island, I gazed out through the small window. The azure ocean waves felt like a warm embrace to my exhausted body and mind, soothing and welcoming. As the plane landed, I was at a place where nobody knew my name. At this moment, I was flooded with euphoria.

Travel pulls you out from self-pity and forces you to look outward

I felt the sea breezes by stunning beaches in Bali. Image by Sunny Chang

Getting ourselves out of the downward spiral right after the break up ain’t easy. It’s normal when you just lost something important, that your mind is always analyzing the past, trying to figure out what went wrong.

However, as soon as I stepped out of the airport, my mind had no choice but to look outward. Because everything I can see, hear,  feel, and touch seemed so exotic and unfamiliar. The warm sea breezes (that’s impossible to find in London) kissed my face, and the aromatic smell from the incense they burn at every corner of the street allured me. I was also intrigued by the strange attire of the locals and their friendly smiles. As my mind was occupied with new stimuli and filled with curiosity from the novelty of it all, there was no room left to mope.

Travel helps you to reconnect with yourself again

A temple I bumped into in Sanur. Image by Sunny Chang

Yeah, I was alone in Bali, but I didn’t feel lost and lonely. It was exactly what I need, which was to be completely on my own and to stay in the present. After checking in at the Airbnb (which was a lovely treehouse by the seaside in Sanur), I grabbed my camera and embarked on a small excursion around the area. I went wherever I wanted to, walked at my own pace, and let my mind wander.

The peaceful and natural ambiance of this island calmed my nerves and slowed down my thoughts. I stopped by each curious site to take pictures, bargained with the lady selling beautiful beach dresses, and strolled along the beach and listened to the sea waves. Being alone made me learn to rely completely on myself and I actually felt good about it.

Travel makes you believe you can still connect with people and be loved

After a breakup, you may feel the need to withdraw from people. You might even think you’ll be forever alone. Traveling alone turns that thought upside down. You’ll meet new people, no matter if they’re fellow travelers or  locals. They’ll be quite different from you, and by befriending them, you’ll restore your confidence in building relationships with other human beings.

While I was wandering along the seaside, I met a local guy working at the villa by the beach. He greeted me, and we introduced ourselves (his name was Su). After some friendly chat, he invited me to visit his village that evening for the Full Moon Ceremony. Yeah I know, it’s risky to follow a stranger to an unknown place, but I said yes anyway. Please use your best judgment should this scenario happen to you!

Su’s family helped me to dress in their costume for the religious ceremony. Photo by Sunny Chang

Fortunately, he was indeed a trustworthy man. He took me to his tiny village, which was 30 minutes away from Sanur by motorbike. I was the only foreign face in that village, and everyone was staring at me curiously. Though I was a complete stranger, Su’s family overwhelmed me with their hospitality. They lent me a traditional costume to wear and took me to the Hindu temple.

The villagers and I sat on the ground, with some freshly picked plumeria flowers and incense placed before each of us. The priest started the ceremony with chanting, and passed by each of us with a bowl of rice soaked in water to give blessings. I followed the others, took a pinch of rice and stuck them on my forehead, my upper chest and in my mouth. Su told me that it symbolized the cleansing of mind, heart, and spoken words.

Travel tells you that you can bring your own happiness

Meeting with the son of Liyer. Photo by Sunny Chang

Besides the unforgettable adventure in this little village, my trip to Bali was filled with many other wonders. I went to visit the son of Liyer, the famous palm reader who told me that I have a great future ahead of me. I lazed around beaches, visited temples on the sea cliff and captivating rice terraces at Ubud, and explored the local markets.

Seeing stunning sceneries and meeting loving and friendly people made me grateful for life and every encounter again. I started to believe that I have the ability to make myself happy, and to find peace in myself even in a bad situation. This was an empowering realization—the best gift traveling gave me—that my happiness does not depend on other people.

 

I hope this story will inspire you to go on a journey to broaden your perspective whenever your heart is broken. It doesn’t have to be Bali. It can be anywhere, even somewhere not far from home! As long as you prioritize your safety, you’ll learn to let go and be free from the pain of the past.

Advanced Happy Valentine’s Day to y’all! Be your own valentine, cherish your moments alone, then spread that love to all those around you. 

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