A Zen Guide to Heartbreak while Travelling

A heart-wrenching breakup is agonizing under any circumstances. But doing it while travelling adds a whole new set of complications.

I’ve had a few cracks at breaking up while travelling. The first was three years into my full-time travel lifestyle; my boyfriend and I had been together for a year when we sold everything to travel. I learned some key lessons about travelling with a partner during our three years on the road:

  • Travelling accelerates the natural progression of a relationship.
  • Travel’s inherent stressors create interpersonal tension.
  • It’s imperative to claim your space, since you’re together 24/7.
  • You might stay together longer than you should.

This last point was the most difficult for me: our relationship was over long before we broke up. But we were in Australia, my boyfriend had run out of money, and he was working to replenish it. I couldn’t just leave him on the other side of the world. So we stayed together, and I supported him until he was on better footing. We “took a break” while I travelled solo for five months (he remained working in Australia), thinking we would continue travelling together when I returned. A few weeks into my trip, he found somebody else. He now lives in Canada with his Australian fiancé.

My next major relationship was with a man I dubbed my “Swedish Squeeze,” who I met in New Zealand. Unsure of our respective futures, we kept things light, and we travelled both together and separately. As our relationship progressed, we committed to a three-month house-sitting gig in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, while I sat in Grenada awaiting his arrival, I learned that in the month prior while we were apart, he had hooked up with an old friend of his… and got her pregnant. It marked an abrupt and heartbreaking end to the relationship, which also coincided with my getting dengue fever.

Six months later I got together with a UK/Grenadian man when I returned to Grenada for more house-sitting. For almost two years, I used Grenada as a home base and lived with this man and his daughter. The relationship was tumultuous at best, and after a hellish year (including a near-fatal accident among other tragedies), we separated while house-sitting in Panama. He returned to Grenada on New Year’s Eve, and although we kept in touch in an attempt to reconcile, a fateful drunken text message on Valentine’s Day sealed the deal.

Almost two years later I was living in Peru and fell in love with a man visiting from the U.S. His life was in transition, and after a few visits, he sold everything and moved to Peru. Unfortunately it was too much too fast, and shortly after he moved in I realized it was a mistake. I was guilt-ridden after his international move, but wanted to learn from the mistakes of my first travelling relationship and nip it in the bud.

The tables turned when I had my heart broken in Peru a year later; he wasn’t my boyfriend, but rather my teacher/friend/landlord/boss. He was a shaman with whom I was apprenticing, and in the years we worked together, our lives became intertwined and we formed a lifelong partnership. When he suddenly changed his mind, my life was turned upside down and my heart broken.

These five stories over 10 years are an interesting cross-section of life in general. I’ve had my heart broken, and I’ve broken hearts. It isn’t any easier or more difficult while travelling. In fact, an advantage of breaking up while travelling is that you can put a few countries of distance between you! And although the pool of compatible mates is smaller when travelling full-time, it’s far from impossible to find love on the road.

Travel is intense, in every way. Relationships on the road reflect that intensity. If I’ve learned anything in the last 10 years, it’s that communication is paramount. The relationship may work, or not. But if you communicate openly, you’ll reduce the chance of surprise and unnecessary heartbreak on the road.

 

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