Travelling after a break up is a totally natural and normal thing to want to do. You’ve come out of a really intense part of your life and it’s time for a change. When my boyfriend split up with me I saw it as the perfect opportunity to get out there and start making a dent on all the places I wanted to see.
I made a pretty big dent.
It’s not easy though, travelling after such a upheaval. Two months after I moved out of our home, I’d moved out of my next place, given up my job, sold most of my stuff or given it to charity and I was ready for my next adventure to Eastern Europe via Latitude Festival. When I look back on it I realise what a whirlwind it was and how I was a big ball of anxiety in the middle of it.
1. Write down everywhere you want to go
And then I needed to factor in Budapest to join some of my friends at Sziget Festival. The rest of the travels round Eastern Europe and Central America for 2014 led on from those key points.
I used the same formula for my little Asia adventure in 2015. I wanted to go to Japan, to the Philippines, Bali and India so I looked at the map to see where would make sense to go in between. My original plan was a lot grander than the one I ended up following, but I’m so glad I didn’t lock myself in to the initial kneejerk ‘I want to go everywhere’ idea. Asia was already a crazy four months, without Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma in there.
2. Then everything you want to do
I wanted festivals, scuba diving, health retreats, surfing, azure waters and to do a few crazy things – like flyboarding – in there too. Once I’d done action point 1 (my list of places I wanted to go) I’d Google destinations and activities, ‘Mexico flyboarding’ for example, and then ended up doing this at the Vallarta Adventures centre in Puerta Vallarta. I also did my PADI on Caye Caulker in Belize, went to a health retreat in Puerto Escondido in Mexico and learnt to surf in San Pancho, in the north.
The Sapporo Ice Festival was another really-want-to-do so I planned my Japan schedule around being in Sapporo at the start of February.
You need to work out how to fit your activities into your destinations, Google is your friend. I built a skeleton of where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and then filled in the gaps logically.
Travelling after a break up is your opportunity to do exactly what you want to do, but when you’re fresh out of a twosome it can be difficult to work out exactly what that is. There’s no rush. Research and work on the list before you book anything – it can be a great focus for your energies.
3. Think realistically
I knew that I needed to be back for a hen party, a wedding, a holiday I’d already booked with my parents and that I wanted to be home for Christmas.
I also knew that I wanted to be away for my 30th birthday which fell on a Saturday, a day we’d previously discussed getting married on. I planned all my travel around these dates.
I was happy to spend money, but I didn’t want to spend more of the money I’d saved for a house, than was necessary. This meant hostels, cheap food and a backpacker way of life in most of the destinations I chose. But this is the best way to meet people anyway.
Work out how much money you have, to do and see all the things you want to, and then adjust your plans to fit. Think about taking time to work or volunteer abroad, as that can extend your trip by a lot. Check out my guide to Workaway (you work 5 hours a day in return for bed and board), or this article I wrote for gapyear.com featuring 19 ways to make money while you’re travelling.
I set a budget, well more of a ‘reach-this-low-balance-and-I-go-home’ knowing that I’d be able to work a bit to extend my time on the road.
4. Don’t book too much straight away
In all the excitement I pretty much booked myself up for seven months, not day by day but by the end of September 2014 I’d booked my big flights to the end of May 2015. This was a bit silly.
It meant I had no space to manoeuvre. Unfortunately I actually ended up forking out about £400 for another flight to come back from India mid April, with my friends, instead of going on to Nepal and Burma, then finally getting my flight in Thailand six weeks later. It did actually end up being one of the best £400 ever spent as if I’d followed my original plan I would’ve been in Kathmandu when the earthquake struck.
But anyway, book flexible tickets if you do want to have things booked but keep your dates lucid so you can change plans when you meet people and if you hear about new things you want to include on your itinerary.
5. Allow time to grieve, think and accept
I didn’t do this. I was all in planning my trip from the minute we touched down in England (we broke up in San Francisco). Straight away I was looking at house shares to move into, then preparing to leave work, then selling my stuff… the two months between touchdown and preparing to go off again were crazy. And there was a week in Greece thrown in there for good measure too.
That meant that when I was travelling the trains of Eastern Europe by myself the full gravitas of what had just happened – losing my best friend / boyfriend / future husband, our home, his mum as a friend and housemate etc – hit me. It also meant I didn’t think through how it would affect me subconsciously, or what he might’ve done, until much later.
Make sure you allot some time in all this exciting decision making and travel planning to think about and accept what’s happened, and deal with it so you can get rid of any bad thoughts and negative mindsets before you set off for travelling. Travel definitely helped me focus, but sometimes I think I was too distracted by it all meaning it took longer to move my thoughts on from our relationship.
6. Open your mind
If you’ve just come out of a long-term relationship I’m guessing at one point you thought your life was sorted. The two of you had your friends, your morning routines, your favourite meals, music, Netflix shows and way of doing things. Now you can leave all that behind, you’re no longer ‘someone and someone’, you’re ‘someone’.
This is the time to follow any dreams you had for yourself to experience new foods, drinks and ways of life. Go with an open mind and the people you meet and the new experiences you’ll have will set you well on the way to realising that your break up was the best thing that could’ve happened.
Don’t talk about it for too long. Set the date, have a leaving party, look fabulous, and just go.