Feeling like you have no one to get away with is all too common after a divorce or breakup. But the truth is, you always have a worthwhile travel companion – yourself – and hitting the road on your own can be a deeply transformative experience.
“As a way to heal after a breakup, solo travel is a great opportunity to see the gifts of not being in a partnership,” Suzanne Vickberg, PhD, a social-personality psychologist and author of “Divorce by Design: What If Staying or Leaving Aren’t Your Only Options?, said.” “It gives you focused time to not worry about anyone but yourself.”
Here’s a closer look at how traveling on your own can boost your well-being after a divorce or breakup.
Turn your post-breakup heartache into a journey of self-discovery
A divorce or breakup can make you feel like you’ve lost part of your identity. You might wonder who you are now, as a single person. Traveling on your own can give you the opportunity to peel back the layers of your identity and start a self-discovery journey.
Take it from said Leona Barr*, a woman in her 50s who lives in the Southern U.S. She packed her bags and took a solo trip to Tulum, Mexico, after the end of her 25-year marriage.
“It was an adventurous start to my new life as a single person,” she said.
Exploring a new place on your own is a chance to take things at your own pace, which might look different than it did when you were in a relationship. You might discover that you prefer to start sightseeing early in the day, rather than sleeping in on vacation, or spending hours reading at a local coffee shop, instead of hitting all the big attractions. All of this information can help feed your sense of who you are right now.
Plus, our sense of self-identity is often grounded in our memories, and taking a solo trip gives you the chance to make some brand new ones.
“Some of the stuff that makes a breakup so hard are all the shared experiences you had with a partner, like the inside jokes and things you did together. But when you travel alone, you create your own memories, and that can help people have a great relationship with themselves,” Vickberg said.
A post-breakup solo vacation can boost your independence
The number one thing people like about post-divorce life is having the freedom and independence to do exactly what you want to do, according to a study on more than 1,100 divorced people. And interestingly, freedom and independence are also one of the driving forces behind solo travel, according to a 2022 survey of 1,560 people.
That’s not to say it’s easy to jump on a plane to a new destination where you might not know anyone, though. Solo travel is intimidating for just about everyone, single or not, but it can be especially worthwhile when you need a reminder of your self-reliance.
“Having to navigate around a place you’ve never been without anyone to fall back on can be scary for people,” Vickberg said. “But when you’ve just broken up with someone, it’s such a great time to revel in the benefits of being independent and take on something that feels challenging to show yourself just how strong you are.”
Barr admitted she was daunted by the idea of traveling alone when she was planning her Tulum trip. But figuring out the logistics of a hotel and transportation and setting up daily check-ins with friends back at home, helped calm her nerves, allowing her to soak up the freedom of the journey.
“After having someone else be kind of in charge for so long, I was finally taking charge of what was going on. It was the ultimate freedom,” she said.
Solving challenges while traveling alone can boost your self-esteem
Every trip can present challenges, from flight cancellations to language barriers. Finding ways to overcome them completely on your own can foster a sense of empowerment, which can be especially helpful if a breakup has delivered a blow to your self-esteem.
“It’s up to you to solve the things that go wrong, but you will figure it out. That will build your confidence, and the next time, it won’t be as scary,” Vickberg said. “It proves to yourself that you have the resources to solve problems.”
Still, it can feel uncomfortable to face a travel hiccup alone when you’re on the road. In those times, it can be helpful to imagine yourself into the future – when this is all behind you – and how it will become a funny story to share one day.
“When I had a small bicycle wreck in Tulum, I got up, dusted myself off, and got back on the bike. There was nobody else there to laugh about it with at the time, but now I can tell the story and laugh about it,” Barr said.
Vickberg also finds it helpful to focus on gratitude (a practice that’s closely linked with our happiness levels) for her independence when she’s dealing with a travel problem alone.
“When traveling involves something like a flight delay, sitting on the tarmac for two hours for no apparent reason, I always take a moment to think, ‘I’m so glad I’m here alone and I don’t have to worry about anyone else being miserable.’ I get to manage my own emotions around it and I don’t have to have other people suffering with me,” she said.
Undoubtedly, getting through an obstacle on the road will no doubt give you a feeling of accomplishment to take back home.
Traveling solo offers a path to self-discovery and healing
Traveling on your own gives you two of the most important things you need to heal from a breakup: time and space. Being away from home can help clear your mind and keep you in the present moment.
You also get lots of uninterrupted hours to focus on yourself and figure out the best way forward.
“Whether it was out on the beach in the sun, taking a walk, eating at a restaurant alone, or just sitting quietly in my room at night, my solo trip to Tulum gave me lots of introspective time,” said Barr. “It was definitely a healing experience because I was by myself.”
Although it can feel daunting to spend many hours by yourself during a vulnerable time, finding ways to lean into it can help stave off loneliness. For Barr, that meant reading self-help books. Others may find it helpful to journal or meditate.
The change in routine alone may provide some welcome relief from heartbreak and put you on the path to healing.
“Taking a trip alone after a breakup is a good way to get out of whatever feelings and familiarities you have when you’re in your normal space and normal life,” said Vickberg. “Getting on an airplane is a signal to yourself and that world that you’re not going to sit and wait to see what happens next. You’re going to actively live your life.”
*name has been changed