Welcome back to Wanderlusting, our guest author series in which we invite other intrepid travellers to share their most memorable travel moments.
This week we’re thrilled to introduce Toni.
Now that she has reclaimed her future she’s about to embark on a period of indefinite travel.
Having walked a long and winding road to arrive at this moment, her tale of wanderlust is an inspirational one.
Prepare to be inspired…
TRAVELLING WITH A BROKEN HEART
If you have friends or family that travel, the likelihood is that if you suffer a broken heart, they will tell you pack your bags and go out into the world to mend it.
To go and ‘find yourself’, accept who you are and be happy in your skin; something that wouldn’t sound out of place in the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.
But you know what?
Travelling with a broken heart was one of the worst things I did despite the valuable lessons that it taught me.
March 15th 2010 is the day that I began to learn some of the hardest lessons that life had to teach me, and the day that I began to regret getting on the plane to learn them.
Having left my 4.5 year relationship the previous year, I had been planning my trip for months when in the October I met a man who I fell head over heels for. He was everything I had ever dreamed of; gorgeous, owned his own home, a father (which didn’t bother me at all) and in a steady job; exactly what I wanted (and needed).
We’d only been together for weeks but it felt so right. And then it felt all so wrong. Christmas time came and went, as did New Year and just as quickly as he came into my life, he vanished without an explanation.
He got what he wanted from me and I never heard from him again. I was heartbroken but told myself to ‘stick it in a box’; I didn’t have time to grieve over the intense feelings I had; Asia was just weeks away; I needed to plan.
It was January 31st and I was in London seeing friends and researching travel plans when everything turned upside down. Feeling unwell all day I went back to my hostel early and in the dark of night, in my dorm surrounded by people, my baby died.
I didn’t know I was pregnant but before I realised what was happening, I was in hospital having leaflets put into my hand about how to deal with loss. I was in shock. I didn’t even know what hospital I was in. But it was the middle of the night on a weekend and I was being ‘dealt with’ as quickly as possible for more urgent cases.
It must be something the staff deal with on an almost daily basis but I felt as though my world had collapsed. I said nothing. I simply went back to the hostel and crawled into bed.
Just like I had done with my relationship, I told myself I didn’t have time to grieve and so ‘stuck it in a box’ and ignored it.
I fell out with my entire family because I refused to talk about it with anyone. They didn’t want to accept that I wanted to deal (or not deal) with it in my own way.
Before I knew it, I was sat in the airport with mum waiting to go through to security but I couldn’t move. I just kept wondering how much money I’d lose if I cancelled everything and walked away from the airport. I didn’t want to go but everything in the Universe was telling me to; I’d got the time off work, I was hitting all my destinations in the perfect weather season; all the signs were there that I needed to get on the plane.
So I did.
STARTING OVER IN ASIA
I’d like to say that those 3 months around Asia were some of the best of my life but I’m afraid I can’t because they weren’t.
They were some of the unhappiest and desperate weeks I have ever experienced because with no one or anything else to distract me, Grief knocked on the door and became my travel companion.
I cried on beaches, by swimming pools and often fell asleep with tears staining my cheeks. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have good times.
I had a huge smile on my face when I was partying with the Scottish rugby team in Hong Kong, danced the night away without a care in the world with new friends in Koh Tao and when I learnt to dive around the Similan Islands, I was so blissfully happy I cried underwater.
However moments like that we few and far between; for the most part I was miserable. I didn’t want to go home but I didn’t have the energy or desire to travel either. I hadn’t felt so trapped in years.
I was grieving for both my broken relationship and my baby; everything that I had ‘kept in a box’ came flooding out and I couldn’t stop it.
TRAVEL HEALS ALL WOUNDS
I wasn’t ungrateful for having the opportunity to travel but I was too broken to appreciate it.
I can’t look back on my time in Asia as a whole and think of it as a happy time in my life because sadly, it wasn’t. People say that travel mends a broken heart but I think it only works if your heart is wounded.
When it’s truly broken you need time to grieve, whether it’s a relationship that has ended, someone has died or you’re just exhausted in life; you are so overwhelmed with grief that you can’t think straight and I couldn’t enjoy myself like I should have because Grief became my best friend.
I spent too much money, didn’t realise what certain places had to offer because I didn’t pay attention and didn’t explore because I didn’t care. It wasn’t my finest time in life.
The ironic thing about feeling so lost and grief-stricken in those 3 months was that it taught me invaluable lessons about myself and life.
I realised that I was stronger than I thought, that writing was something that I needed to make a big part of my life and that travel was the only thing that gave me a taste of what true happiness felt like.
When you travel, particularly if you’re by yourself, you are often faced with emotional baggage which you can’t hide from and if you’re not strong enough to work through it, it can take over like it did for me in Asia. Although there were happy times, I often don’t like to remember those 3 months.
Fast forward 16 months and I was back in the airport waiting to head to Africa to begin 7 weeks of camping across South Africa to Kenya.
HEALING MY HEART
There were long days on the truck that forced me to face things in my past I had never felt able to before and though I cried; my tears were from relief instead of sadness.
My heart was wounded but I was strong enough to face my emotional fears in life. I look back on my time in Africa and know that it changed my life, as Asia should have done but my heart has not been ready for it.