A remedy for heartbreak: how solo travel changed my life

One month ago, I was getting on a plane to the other side of the world, completely on my own.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Scared of having no one else to rely on. Scared of having to deal with new and challenging situations alone. Scared of being forced to come face-to-face with my fears. Scared of being stripped of the familiarity and comfort of my home. But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last 11 months, it’s that my home isn’t a place or a person. I am my home. And if I can conquer heartbreak, I sure as hell can conquer spending a month alone in another country.

I didn't know what was going to happen or what I was going to find while I was in Thailand. All I knew was that I’d never been more ready to embrace the unknown. I was done with living small, with being defined by my relationship status, with conforming to what was expected of me. I was ready to follow my heart and to fall in love with life again. And I did.

The skyline during one of Koh Lanta's spectacular sunsets

From trekking through the jungle, swimming through caves, walking with elephants, chatting with Buddhist monks, and sleeping in a floating raft house to seeing in 2019 at a Bangkok street party, swimming in the sea at midnight on Christmas day, watching fireworks on the beach, and partying until the early hours with people from all over the world, it was the most surreal and unforgettable adventure.

Meeting the rescue elephants at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

And what I found while I was away was better than I could have ever imagined. I found a country that’s home to the best food I’ve ever tasted, the richest culture I’ve ever experienced, the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen, and the kindest people I’ve ever met. A country where appearances and money don’t matter but community, compassion and humanity do, where strangers will go out of their way to help you, where locals will welcome you into their homes with a smile. A country where you can walk down a dark alleyway and find the most delicious street food, where the shabbiest buildings are home to the best restaurants, where luxury skyscrapers and wooden shacks and ornate temples sit side-by-side, where the streets are colourful and cheerful and chaotic, and where bats find their way into your hotel room and dirt finds its way into everything.

I found a country that felt more like home to me than my home ever has and that has captured my heart forever. And best of all, I found myself

Looking around Wat Chedi Luang, a historic temple in Chiang Mai

But it wasn't always easy. Some people think that to travel is to run away from or to escape your problems. But the reality is, it only amplifies them. Because when you're removed from the social and cultural norms, ideals and structures that govern your everyday life, when you're removed from your support system, when you're removed from your comfort zone, there's nowhere left to hide.

"No matter where you go, there you are." - Confucius

Travelling forces you to be vulnerable. It forces you to hold a mirror up to your imperfections, your anxieties, and your habits. It forces you to re-evaluate your preconceptions, your judgements, and your beliefs. It forces you to learn how to put yourself out there, how to adapt to a different environment and way of life, and how to pick yourself up when things inevitably go wrong.

And when it's time to leave people and places behind, it forces you to move on and surrender to the next chapter of your story, no matter how much it breaks your heart. 

Wandering the markets in Bangkok, side streets in Chiang Mai and local villages in Koh Lanta

People asked me if I was lonely travelling on my own. The truth is, I felt less alone than I ever have in my life. Yes, I made some bad decisions, I hurt myself, I messed up my plans, and I fell out with myself more than once. There were days where I was sick of being constantly on the go, of having to make new friends, and of being dirty, sleep deprived, itchy, and hot. But I’ve learned more about myself, met more amazing people, and felt more alive in the last month than I have in the last few years.

Exploring the Old City, Chiang Mai

And as I sat listening to the waves lap the shore on a beach approximately 6,000 miles away from my ex, I found myself reflecting on all that has happened for me over the last year and how it led me to this perfect moment. The thing is, it's impossible to see what's waiting for us around the next corner. And when we're heartbroken, the suffering feels eternal.

But if it wasn’t for my breakup, I would probably still be sleepwalking through life, feeling stuck, stagnant and disconnected, and oblivious to the abundance and happiness that is available to me. 

Sunset on Phra Ae Beach, Koh Lanta

Our journeys might have taken an unexpected turn, but we never really know what's going to happen next. We might have lost love, our plans for the future, or ourselves, but we’ve also gained the chance to rewrite our stories. That's part of the beauty and magic of this life. No matter how hard it seems, we have to trust that when we let go of what is not meant for us, what is meant for us will find us.

And until then, I’m just going to keep exploring, discovering, and soaking up everything this beautiful world has to offer.

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”

- Hans Christian Andersen

All my love x 

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