Time for a story from the heart.
Last year I embarked on a year-long journey around the world across 6 continents, 50-something countries, and with just myself, my suitcase, and my camera to document every single minute of every single day. It changed my life, my understanding of the world and my approach to others, so much that I decided to write about it and share my experience with readers in my book A Year to Myself.
I left my home country broken. Confused. Lost. And at a complete crossroads in my life. But I felt a certain sense of guilt then as I do now writing this, as I have been incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the Western World, in a system where my health, education, and society has always been held in high regard. So I didn’t understand nor could I justify: why was I so miserable?
I had just completed my university degree, been through a breakup that left me convinced I was destined for eternal singledom and 20+ cats (spoiler: I met the love of my life a year after this yearlong solo journey around the world – right back at home, would you believe!), but I just didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know my purpose. I didn’t even know I had one!
So I took A Year to Myself on a quest find myself, my purpose, and my happiness. From the title I’m sure you’re wondering how it all ends… Does travelling heal a broken heart? Here’s your answers based purely on my findings as a guinea pig who took the year-long solo adventure to find out:
Above are two photographs of me: one taken at the start of my year of adventures (left) and one taken just after (right). One girl, two completely different people from left-right.
There are a few obvious physical differences worth bringing your attention to: my hair is darker (much darker) in the first photograph, I am smiling ear-to-ear a genuine smile in the second photograph, and perhaps you can even tell I am much thinner in the first with a fuller face and figure in the second.
In the first photograph I recall quite well how insecure I was, uncertain of the future and scared by it. In the second photograph I am by no means insecure and completely happy with myself and the body I live in, but I am still just as uncertain of the future… the only different being I am by no means scared of that, rather, it excites me!
Does Travelling Heal a Broken Heart?
A lot of girls and women are now choosing to travel solo. Of course this doesn’t always mean they are ‘broken’ or really travelling for the sole purpose of getting over something – particularly a break up. But at the same time, a lot of them are. After all… that’s probably why you’re here reading this!
I also get a lot of emails, tweets and comments from girls who have followed in my footsteps and other solo travel bloggers, many of whom have cited a break up as their reason for needing to venture out into the world to heal or find answers to the questions they don’t even know. Point being: you are not alone. You are never alone and there is always someone fighting the same battle as you, just as there is always someone fighting a harder battle than you. [as girls, we gotta stick together!]
When I took this year I took it completely for myself. I wasn’t interested in getting back into a relationship with my ex-boyfriend and I wasn’t even interested in getting into a new relationship. All I wanted was time to myself to figure it all out, but mostly to figure myself out. To find out what I did and didn’t like, only to be discovered by actually trying those things rather than to conclude “i hate peanut butter” because I had never tried it (I now love peanut butter, by the way!)
I needed to better understand myself, be able to become patient, more kind, more understanding… because there isn’t enough of that in the world and the best we can do is start with ourselves. I need to learn how to deal with stressful situations, with the rollercoaster that is life, and to tolerate others in a way that would leave a calm smile on my face when someone around me was doing something I didn’t like. Being resentful doesn’t help anyone, and least of all yourself.
So in short, yes. Travelling did heal my broken heart and it is a sure way to challenge yourself, lose yourself, find yourself, create yourself… it truly is a time to just be yourself. But that isn’t to say you couldn’t do this without travelling either. The point of that year was to take a year to myself – not to focus on anyone or anything other than me, because I think in some ways to be with someone and let them love you, you really have to fall in love with yourself first.