Many new travelers I meet on the road have a certain thing in common- they've been through a horrible breakup. After their breakup, they dropped everything to travel to exotic countries alone. Some say they had been wanting to do this forever, and just couldn't convince their ex-significant others to join. Others just needed an escape. Whatever the reason may be of the story of the heart broken traveler, it is a far more universal story than we care to think. Truth is, the best part about single solo travel is that you can be completely transformed, and there is no need to relive your break up everyday as you might when you are at home. William Least Heat-Moon says it perfectly:
“What you've done becomes the judge of what you're going to do- especially in other people's minds. When you're traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”
Sometimes I feel embarrassed when people ask me about why I left the US for a life abroad. Why did I chose to go to Thailand? My answer usually consist of “I'd always wanted to travel, live abroad in Asia, and a former roomate of mine was teaching in Bangkok which offered some real life inspiration.” All of this is true, but I don't always have the courage to tell I had experienced a traumatic breakup myself.
I had always talked of going abroad to work with my ex, but the reality was I wouldn't actively take a chance to possibly sacrifice a relationship to go pursue my own dreams. I knew deep down that that current realationship didn't stand a chance of surviving even a little distance. So when the relationship came to its natural demise, one month later I was on 27 hour long flight with a one-way ticket to Thailand.
Leaving was the easy part. Figuring out what to do next was not so easy. Luckily, I had enrolled in a TEFL certification month-long course that helped to take my mind away from grief while submersing myself into a group of fellow travelers who would become my full-time companions for the next couple months. We taught some English classes to Thai monks, traveled the islands of southern Thailand, drank iced-beer while eating world-class cuisine with sand between our toes, all while soaking in the salty sea air. This was a breeze. There was no reason to ever think about that break up or to ever go through a dark moment again. Or so I thought.
When I found myself alone for a couple weeks in a hotel room in Bangkok while job hunting, I thought I would rejoice in having some 'me-time.' Being very introverted those 'me-time' hours or days refresh me. I walk away like a snake that just shedded its outer skin, new as can be. But that wasn't the case this time. Instead, I sat there staring at my computer, awake for days straight, smacked in the face with the reality that I was still sad over what had happened. I emerged from the hotel room only to walk alone for hours on end in the busy city traffic. The best part about being a walking zombie is that people sense it, and if you remove yourself from any social situation, you couldn't possibly take the chance of making any meaningful or pitiful encounters with anyone.
One shouldn't be ashamed of pulling a Carrie Bradshaw. If you can remember from the first SATC movie, she locked herself up in a dark room in sunny tropical place as well. But there'll come a time where you will need to slap yourself in the face to get out of your rut. (And I encourage it done at a faster pace than the neurotic, self-obssesed Carrie Bradshaw.)
My slap came when a dear friend of mine told me she was coming to visit me in Thailand in three weeks. The next day I met a friend (who was one of the first people I met in my travels while on my course) and we headed off to a tropical island. After that my solo travels commenced to epic poportions- a birthday in Bali, island hopping with my childhood best friend, volunteering at an elephant sanctuary, followed by finally deciding to settle down for a few years in Phuket on a quiet beach in my own little house, and purchasing my first automative vehichle (the Scoopy motorbike). I again enjoyed being alone. It was time to spend my hours how I wanted to.
The moment you realize you can live the life you exactly want to live without making compromises of your own happiness lifts a load of your shoulders. And the moment you realize you can live the life you exactly want with a person who supports your goals, dreams, and well-being is profoundly special, because having love in your life is a gift (as long as its healthy, balanced, and nurtured). And if something simply feels half-assed, you'll know you are perfectly fine standing on your own two feet. For those are the two feet that will take you exactly where you want to go if you let them.