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Figuring out how to go it alone again isn’t always easy. (Annie Daly for Yahoo Travel)
In December of 2008, Sloane Davidson broke up with her boyfriend of seven years and purchased a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires. A single plane ride turned into a year of travel around the world to seven different countries.
"I needed a drastic change," Davidson said. "I couldn’t just go on as ‘business as usual’ in my life. Traveling helped immensely. I was forced to spend a lot of time with myself and my thoughts. That can be exactly the opposite of what people want to do during tough times, but I wanted to face all of this head on. Being in a new place gave me the freedom to feel new and refreshed.”
There’s only one sure-fire way to get over a bad breakup — get the hell out of town.
Sure, the old standbys of Jose Cuervo and Ben & Jerry’s seem like quick fixes for a broken heart, but in truth, they’re just Band-Aids that don’t fix what gets broken inside of you when a relationship falls apart.
I believe that the true sadness at the end of a relationship comes from the loss of an imagined future together — a future of plans, maybe marriage, maybe kids, maybe travel. Losing that future leaves a hole in us. The best way to fill that void and figure out who you are without that person in your life is to break out of your routine, get away from all of the things that remind you of that person, and rediscover yourself all over again.
You need to take a breakcation.
"You’ve heard that ‘love is a drug.’" So, it’s no wonder that it would be so hard to get over after a breakup. You have synapses in your brain that have been telling you how to respond to all things relating to your now ex-significant other. The "withdrawal" comes when you literally have to retrain your brain to have new responses. "Your brain is like a computer, so if it’s been programmed to expect to have dinner every night with Bob, then it’s going to freeze and possibly crash when Bob is a no-show tonight," explains licensed therapist Jennifer Gatti.
"When a breakup is fresh, you are surrounded by one emotional trigger after another reminding you of them. Therefore, sometimes the best medicine is a complete change of scenery," Gatti says. "When everything around you is new, the brain barely even remembers Bob. It’s too busy inputting the beautiful beaches of Brazil, or the winding streets of Venice, or the cows roaming along the French Alps. When you remove the triggers, you remove the impulses, and the retraining and rerouting of some of your synapses can begin."
I had the serendipity of getting my job as the managing editor of Yahoo Travel just a week after splitting from my boyfriend of two years. He was wonderful. He just wasn’t my husband, and we both knew that was the case. And even though it was amicable, the breakup left me feeling unmoored, confused, and, frankly, frightened about the future. My future wasn’t him. What was it? No matter how something ends, it is impossible to imagine anything else ever beginning. You believe, no matter how irrationally, that you will absolutely now be alone forever.
We worked around the clock launching Yahoo Travel that month, and I hardly did anything outside of the office until launch day. Afterward, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment about what we had done, but I still ached from my split. Then I had the good fortune to hit the road.
The Maldives is one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world. Our author made the trip there by herself. (Martine Bury)
My first breakcation was to a remote island in the Maldives at the Four Seasons resort of Kuda Huraa during a time when my ex and I still spoke nearly every day, a habit we found hard to break. And each time we did, it was a little paper cut on my heart. I knew it was bad, he knew it was bad, but we were stuck in an addictive cycle of sharing our lives with one another.
I had no cell service in the Maldives, which forced the two of us to go cold turkey. Sure we could email. There is always a way to email (or let’s face it, to Facebook, Snapchat, or Gchat), but because it wouldn’t be as easily accessible, we agreed not to communicate for the 10 days I would be gone.
The perfect place to be alone? (Jo Piazza for Yahoo Travel)
That first night, there was a terrible thunderstorm. There is nothing reassuring about being in an over-water bungalow in the middle of the Indian Ocean during a storm that sounds like it is trying to punish planet Earth. I paced the room and discovered an evacuation life raft beneath the sink, which did nothing to calm my fears.
My first instinct was to text B. It would calm me down. He would want to know if I was about to be swept out to sea in a tsunami, which I almost certainly was going to be. I needed to say goodbye. I opened my laptop, assuming there would be Wi-Fi. There’s wasn’t. I had no choice but to sit on the bed and breathe to keep my panic attack at bay. I was going to have to get through this storm alone. I sat cross-legged in the middle of the plush hotel bed and stared out the floor-to-ceiling window at the waves crashing against the pillars of the bungalow. And for the first time since our breakup, I cried. I really cried — ugly crying, wailing really, with tears and snot running down my face. I was alone, literally, in the middle of the ocean, and I had no one to comfort me but myself.
So I did. After 15 minutes of howling like a crippled kitten, I stood up and drew myself a bath, put on gentle music, and tried to enjoy being alone.
The next morning, the sky was perfectly clear, the sea flat, and no one talked about the storm. I set out on a scuba diving expedition. Scuba diving in the Maldives is simply magical. It’s a diver’s dream, filled with whale sharks, manta rays, and all the sea turtles you’d ever hope to see. I felt good — better, in fact, than I had for a long time.
"When you give yourself the gift of travel, you are giving yourself the priceless gift of experience. Experience can lead you in many directions, but when it leads you to discovery of the outside world, it can greatly help to shift your perspective of your own," Gatti said.
I tested out a new underwater camera and took some amazing pictures of the sea turtles. When I uploaded them, I sent them right to my mom. Not B.
Some things are better enjoyed all alone. (Jo Piazza for Yahoo Travel)
B and I made it through that whole trip without talking or texting, and when I returned, we continued to make progress in unraveling our lives. Between June and December, I’ve traveled to eight different countries, and with each trip, I felt more and more like myself, letting go of the future I had imagined having with B. I began to craft my own narrative.
Christina Wallace experienced a similar sense of revival after backpacking solo through East Africa for six weeks and climbing Kilimanjaro to get over the breakup with the man she thought was the love of her life.
"It reaffirmed that I was completely over him. Indeed, summiting Kili was absolutely harder than mending my broken heart, and yet I did it anyway," Wallace said. "Six years later we are great friends."
I have since climbed mountains in Kosovo, Albania, and Ireland. I went wreck diving in Turkey. I hugged a wild Mustang in Utah.
Connecting with the wild mustangs at M.E.E.T The Mustangs in Ivins, Utah, is a healing experience. (Russell Powell for Yahoo Travel)
When I least expected it — in Athens, literally in the shadow of the Acropolis — I found myself ready to date again, and though that brief transatlantic romance didn’t go anywhere, it reminded me that the world is absolutely filled with the possibility of new romance.
Related: How Travel Saved Our Marriage
Traveling has reinvigorated my sense of hope and possibility. I’m finally in a place where I love being with just me again. And I’m excited about the prospect that I haven’t met my soulmate yet, that he is out there, and at some point we will get to start an entirely new adventure together. My series of breakcations mended my soul and healed my heart.
Now, I’m ready.