Dealing with Heartbreak Abroad
Beyond just generally thinking we were crazy, the main concern people had about me and my ex moving to Thailand together was what would happen if we didn’t make it as a couple. “What if you get there and realize you’re totally incompatible?” they said. “Aren’t you afraid? You’ve only known the guy for eight months.”
Admittedly, yes. I was scared. It was a huge gamble. But never one to back down from a challenge, I went ahead with it anyway.
And lo and behold! A year and some odd months later, the relationship ended. We grew to be incompatible. But rather than self-destructing or ceasing to exist or any other irrational worries one might come up with, we somehow managed to survive.
That’s not to say it didn't suck. Probably a lot worse than it would have had it happened at home. But that’s when I learned I was equipped with the skills to deal with heartbreak abroad.
Now here I am seven months later, heartbroken again after a hurricane romance that I fell way too hard for, way too fast. I was empty promised this visa run would be spent running around the Middle East by a guy with a devilishly handsome smile, but instead I'm sitting alone at a café in Laos with a fat glass of house white in hand, looking over a pitch-black river and remembering all the ways to get my heart back on the mend.
Heartbreak is awful no matter where you are, but it’s especially tough when you’re on the road and away from your support system. Here are the ways I’ve learned to cope with it:
Give yourself time and space.
Whether the relationship lasted two weeks or five years, being rejected fucking hurts. You need room to grieve that feeling out. If you’re staying at a hostel and new people are constantly bombarding you to go do this or that and all you want is to be alone, get yourself a private room for a few days. Allow yourself some time to just be.
Write and work it out.
I don’t know what I would’ve done without my journal throughout my entire relationship with C. It was just the two of us against the world a lot of the time, and when we were up against each other, my worn-in travel journal was often my only solace. Writing is so cathartic and can help you work through a lot of what went wrong. It pushes you to examine your life rather than just letting things happen, revealing your own strengths and downfalls in the process. Just put the pen to paper and see what comes out. It is one of the best forms of release.
Doing something physical is also a great option. Look up classes in whatever city you find yourself, or just throw on those tennis shoes you packed way at the bottom of your bag and hit the pavement (or dirt road if that’s what you’re working with). Not only will the endorphins help, but it’ll also keep you feeling sexy when you’re ready to get back in the game.
Make time to talk with family and friends back home.
This is so important. Even as an expat with a close friend base in my foreign city, those Skype calls with the people that have known me my whole life are so pertinent to the healing process. And this is even more necessary if you’re in full-motion solo travel. As understanding as the strangers you meet on the road can be, there’s nothing like having those that know you best remind you of how amazing you really are. In my experience, grandparents and aunties are especially great for this.
Don’t torture yourself.
We all grieve differently and sometimes you just need to be sad, listen to break-up songs and have a good cry, but if you’re ready to move forward, stop with the torture. Don’t listen to “your song” on repeat 80 times. Don’t read over all the old conversations. Seriously, it’s best to just delete them. At least archive that shit. The truth is, you aren’t the same people that said all those things anymore – either of you – so there’s no sense in agonizing over what was said in the past. And while you’re at it…
Unfollow your ex on social media.
Please do this. There’s nothing worse than being blindsided by your ex’s most recent holiday photos when going for a quick Instagram scroll. You’d actually gone a solid hour without thinking about him and then BAM! There he is at the top of the newsfeed looking like he’s having the time of his life without you.
If the relationship ended amicably and there’s a potential for friendship in the future, it may not be necessary to completely delete him/her, but put the proper measures in place so Facebook doesn’t send you on a three-hour stalk session. “But I only clicked it because he showed up on my newsfeed…” should not apply here. UNFOLLOW. And as if I even need to say this…
DO NOT STALK FOR THE SAKE OF STALKING.
Okay, but I do need to say this because I know how impossible it can be to not do. Resist the urge (see don’t torture yourself). It’s easier if you just delete them. You’re the one being fabulous and traveling, you don’t need to concern yourself with their peasant shit back home (I think the wine is starting to kick in). But really, stop focusing on them! Instead…
Send all that unrequited love back to number one.
Just because it didn’t work out with someone, does not make you anything less. All it means is that you aren't compatible with this one person. Do you know how many people there are in the world? Stop wasting your time loving someone that doesn’t love you back. There are so many people that will love you for everything you are. I’m willing to bet there are so many people that already do.
Something I’ve really been working on is self-love. This one thing alone has made these break-ups so much easier. As long as you are okay with yourself, you will always be okay. Give this mantra a try:
I am a goddess and I’m worthy of love.
I know it’s cheesy, but it has honestly saved me on my hardest of days. Say it 75 times in the mirror until you start to believe it. And if that doesn't work…
Make out with a hot French guy.
Or sneak away with that sexy Australian from your dorm. What about that Colombian man looking your way? You know what they say: the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else…
But only if you’re ready!
I was a total man repeller for months after my last big relationship. Like the thought of someone else touching me repulsed me and I guarded my body like it was fucking gold until I found someone I deemed worthy. That’s fine too.
In the end, it’s what makes you feel comfortable. We all handle these situations differently, and there's really no right or wrong way to do it. I hope this could make your heart feel even the tiniest bit better. Because you are so worthy of love.