Leaving the Divorce Behind with Solo Travel
I got divorced in 2011. It was difficult, painful, and uncomfortable. Like most people, I wanted to focus on leaving the divorce behind after it was over. I’ve always loved traveling, since long before I was married. I’m no stranger to traveling solo, but it was still an adjustment to travel without my husband. While traveling with a group of girlfriends can be a bonding experience, it’s the solo travel that helps you reconnect to yourself, which is a truly powerful experience.
Why Travel Can Help You Heal After Divorce
If you do a little research, you’ll quickly discover some of the key reasons that travel goes hand-in-hand with healing from divorce. First, you get to change your surroundings. That means you probably won’t see anyone who reminds you of your Ex. Cue the relief! That, in turn, allows you to rediscover who you are now. You get to focus on being you instead of whoever you were inside your marriage. You’ll tap into your own resilience, and you can process your emotions at your own pace, in your own way. Rediscovering that you can exist on your own is an important part of healing after divorce.
The Power of Solo Travel on Your Healing Journey
I left my divorce behind, and, several years later, left my career behind to start traveling full-time. When I started my journey, I had no idea it would be such an inward one. My initial travels were akin to an adult vision quest. With only myself to focus on, I began unwrapping the ideas, beliefs, and behaviors I didn’t realize I had embraced in my prior corporate life and marriage. Once I began traveling, I realized those parts of me no longer served me. I went through the process of discovering what I was holding on to, letting it go, and then delving into who I was at the core. As a full-time traveler, I’ve had a lot more time to contemplate the questions of “who am I?” and “what do I want?” than vacation travel allows.
However, travel lends itself to personal no matter how long you do it for.
Here are a few ways that travel has helped me with leaving the divorce behind.
Confront Your Shadows and Find Your Heart
Part of travel is meeting interesting people. Some of those people may become relationships. Whether or not it lasts, travel relationships offer deep personal growth.
When I lived in Portugal, I met a man I thought was a kindred spirit. Instead, he became one of the most awful human beings I’ve ever met. The details aren’t important. What I learned through our relationship is that I had a core personal issue; lack of self-esteem. This was an issue I successfully ignored my entire life through the distraction of work, life, and marriage responsibilities. Now it smacked me in the face. Because I finally had the time and space to focus on myself, I grabbed the bull by the horns and confronted this part of myself I didn’t want to acknowledge. It took a lot of courage and humility, but I’m so glad that I can now surround myself with people who treat me with respect, walk away from the ones who don’t, and like myself better!
A year later, in Argentina, I met and fell in love with another man. That relationship didn’t last, however, I felt feelings I had never experienced in my life. Those feelings made me realize why my marriage had no chance of lasting. The mere act of feeling such deep emotions connected me to my own heart in new ways.
Because I confronted my inner demons and dared to feel, I received the ultimate reassurance that my divorce was the right choice for me.
Discover Your Innate Resourcefulness
When you go from a “we” to an “I”, you may suddenly doubt your ability to take care of yourself on your own. Throw travel into the mix, a place you don’t know, possibly a different language, and things can get daunting.
I started my full-time travels in Costa Rica. I was on my own, and, for the first time in my life, trying out “go-with-the-flow” travel instead of pre-booking everything in advance. I ended up in a national park with horrible WiFi, giant cockroaches and no one to help me find transportation to meet new friends in another part of the country. In the end, I couldn’t figure it out on my own.
I had a meltdown. I almost gave up on my travels until a voice in my head snapped me out of it. That wise voice said,
“Why don’t you try going someplace you can get, instead of focusing on one you can’t?”
The shift in focus changed travel for me and I’ve never looked back. When the going gets tough, I know I need to let go and try something else.
Reconnect With Your Intuition
As I learned my own resourcefulness through solo travel, I also tapped more deeply into my intuition. Today, if I have any “weird” feelings about someone, I listen and act accordingly. I’ve found this to be the most essential tool in my solo traveler safety kit! I’ve spent a long time ignoring my intuition. It told me that my now Ex wasn’t right for me, and I married him anyway.
Travel gave me the space to hear my inner voice and honor it.
One day in Cape Town, South Africa, a man in a robe asked if I was from the area. I was instantly on alert (body shivers, weird vibes and inner voice dialect) because I was wearing a touristy hat and shirt, so it was clear I was a tourist. The man began begging for my help. I instinctively listened without speaking. The more I said nothing, the more he embellished his story and increased his sense of urgency. He asked me to please come back to his car with him. I said no and walked away. That evening, I told a local friend what happened, and he said this is how people get into trouble. My intuition literally saved my life.
Learn To Trust and Find Your Manifesting Powers
Part of travel is trust. Trusting your intuition allows you to trust yourself. Then you can make the leap to rebuild your trust in others. Travel plans often go awry. Having faith that you’ll be ok even if your plans need to shift, is a healing experience.
Travel is trust.
In real life, manifesting doesn’t seem to work well. In travel life, especially solo travel, I’ve noticed when I ask for something I receive it. A comical example of this happened in Uruguay. I was in Montevideo and needed a paper clip. There were no office supply stores, and I couldn’t find anyone that sold them. The next day, I went on a wine tour with a lovely family from Brazil. We spent the afternoon together, drinking some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. At the end of the day, we went to a playground where their young daughter enjoyed a slide and swings. While watching her play, I looked down at the ground. There, beside my right foot, was a paper clip.
How To Overcome Your Fear Of Solo Travel
I’ve traveled solo, full-time, for the past six years. I’ve been to 39 countries on six continents including getting marooned in New Zealand for two years during the pandemic. When I first arrived there, I had no connections or acquaintances. I’ve become an expert on recreating myself all over the world.
If solo travel seems like too big a step for your current comfort zone, here are some ideas.
- Start by dining solo in your neighborhood. Grab lunch or dinner at a restaurant nearby. Get a table for one. See how you feel. Challenge yourself to speak with someone at a nearby table or strike up a friendly conversation with your waiter or waitress. When you make it home, you’ll realize you didn’t die from the experience. Add that to your list of accomplishments, and try another activity on your own, like taking a class, seeing a movie, or going for a long walk.
- Remember, you don’t have to be alone all the time. Free walking tours are one of my favorite ways to meet people around the world. I’ve formed some great friendships with them, and even met some of those friends in other countries months later.
- Try a group day tour. These are another great way to see a place with other people. I’ve almost always met someone on a day tour who’s up for a meal, and maybe another adventure, later in the week.
- Create a routine. If I stay in a city for a week or more, I try to find a favorite coffee shop and go there every day. Within a few days, the staff remembers me and becomes friendly. It helps me feel like someone knows me, and I’ve discovered many off-the-beaten-path places thanks to local friends around the world.
Solo travel has helped me with leaving the divorce behind, but its benefits are much deeper. I’ve found the woman I’m proud to be, the faith to trust things will work out even if not how I planned, and the courage to expand my comfort zone to welcome in new friends and experiences.
Heather Markel is a Travel Lifestyle Coach. She helps her clients tackle the emotional, financial and logistical challenges in the way of living a travel lifestyle, so they can feel empowered to travel full or part-time. To make real your dreams, set up a complimentary travel chat with Heather here.
*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”