The world is in a disarray right now. You could say 2020 has not been the year I was expecting when I was celebrating on the 31st of December in Indonesia. Like many, I believed this year would be a fresh start, a whole 12 months of exciting, new possibilities regarding my travels, my writing career, and my new, blossoming overseas romance.
Within a few months into 2020, it became clear to me that one by one, these dreams weren’t going to emerge into anything and that’s been tough to accept.
Before I went travelling, I believed that every bad thing that happened in life meant that life was terrible. I used to think that awful world events and smaller more personal rejections, failures, and mistakes, as things that simply would get worse; a sure sign that life was not worth it.
If you had told me change could lead to bigger and better things, I would have laughed in your face before returning to my bed. I’ve been travelling now – pre-COVID-19 – for one and a half years, and during that time, amongst the amazing experiences I’ve had, there’s been some that haven’t been so great. At the time, it was hard to see, but they’ve taught me that eventually, something better was on the horizon. It’s the oldest cliché in the book but it’s true.
Now, in 2020, where from awful pandemics and loss comes togetherness, an innocent man’s death comes worldwide demonstrations for change against racism, and from failed romances with toxic people comes a deeper appreciation for myself, I can recognise that sometimes gut-wrenching events happen to open life for better and more important things to come.
A lot has happened to make me realise that I am the strongest I have ever been: an Anxiety and Depression diagnosis, the numbing (initial) embarrassment that I felt abnormal, missing flights and losing money, having my heart broken, meeting people I thought would be lifelong friends, loneliness… the list goes on. It’s these experiences that have made me feel so low, to appreciate what I have in the palm of my hand like the friends that DO care, and what things I still need to work on to ensure I welcome the right kind of people into my heart. It’s still not easy to practise, but it’s the correct path.
I’m a romantic, and a hopeless romantic at that too. I just love LOVE – the idea of it, the beauty of it, and the way it makes you feel so wonderful (most of the time). I started to gain quick insights on how different relationships were travelling than just getting a boyfriend at home.
Previously, when relationships came to an end, I found that it was hard to reassess where my roots were and in which soil I had to plant them. When you’re on the road, in foreign countries, and relationships finish, you need to gain the strength to keep going. I had to learn how to take those bad experiences and take a step back to understand what this could mean in the bigger picture, whilst continuing my journey and remembering that they shouldn’t define my trip.
Things changed a lot when COVID-19 hit the world. I’ve been on the road for so long, that returning home and having to self isolate straight away was a very difficult thing to do. My father has MS, so even when restrictions begin to ease, I will have to be careful about what I can and can’t do.
A period of feeling low
I’ve gone from having the freedom to do whatever I want, to the pressure of knowing if I even ventured out for a small walk, I could risk my Dad’s health. It’s contributed to feeling low, trapped, and very scared. The only thing I felt confident in was a relationship that had stood the test of time, distance and was something I thought was strong. How wrong I was.
I was broken up with over a text message, during a global pandemic which was a kick in the teeth. Boundaries I’d built whilst travelling the world were lessened whilst home and therefore it took me a while to know how to come to terms with it. Isolation, where there are no distractions to throw myself into, has given me the chance to ruminate about what I’ve lost and put into perspective just how different dating is whilst on the road, to being at home every day.
When you’re away in a foreign country meeting people you’d never meet in your hometown, everything is exciting, bonding is quick and feelings are strong. A long-distance relationship in isolation predominantly shows you traits that were perhaps looked over and you realise just how much effort and honesty is required on both parts. It’s been a major time for reflection. Here’s how what I’ve learnt travelling solo around the world has helped me survive a pandemic breakup:
1. Fill your moments of stillness with love
When you’re alone with your thoughts, sometimes not all those thoughts are going to be self-validating. We have thousands of thoughts day in and day out, and for some reason, it’s easy to hold onto the ones that make you feel like rubbish. When you’re travelling by yourself, you will meet a variety of people who will become your good friends instantly. You will also meet people where your interactions with them are not always going to be perfect.
We cannot be liked by everyone and similarly not everyone is going to like us – that’s just life. When you’re on the road, you have to teach yourself to feel confident in situations where you feel uncomfortable. That might mean changing your accommodation, taking some time to reflect on why someone’s actions are making you feel a certain way or recharging and remembering the reasons you’re on this adventure in the first place.
For me, I used to be reliant on others and cared too much about what people thought. I decided in 2018, when my adventure around the world started that I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to be thrown into situations where even if I felt left out, I could recognise that wasn’t a reflection on who I was as a person.
Travelling was great, but I’m not going to say every day was perfect. Sometimes, I had to fight with feelings of inadequacy, when I wasn’t treated so nicely by people who otherwise I wouldn’t have spent time welcoming into my safe circle of friends. Whilst I’ve been in isolation, I’ve found it a real struggle to access those stronger, more secure parts of myself.
Perhaps it’s because I’m at home, with no distractions and so it’s easier to regress back to feeling sorry for myself. Upon being dumped over text by someone I thought cared, with the help of my best friends, I’ve been slowly able to filter out the insecure thoughts that have tried to pull me down. Not all moments of stillness and thought have to be negative.
Getting over rejection by being at home alone, instead of socialising, can also give you the much needed space to soothe yourself, and be kind to your inner child who needs some healing time. It’s okay to be upset and angry if someone hasn’t treated you well, but you deserve to speak nicely to the part of you that’s sad.
You are worthy of love, but how will you understand that if the words you use against yourself are harsh? If someone treats you badly, KNOW your self worth and question why you’d want someone with that type of negativity in your life. Remember the times you’d walk away from uncomfortable situations and try your best to apply that to the here and now.
2. Your friends are your go to pick-me-up
Relationships are great, but friendships are better. I’ve always struggled with realising my own self worth, sometimes even doubting why the people who befriend me do – but upon my moment of need, my friends came out like an army, ready to hear me out and fill me with every ounce of love they have.
My best friends are people I’ve made from travels around the world or people I’ve been blessed with since my school days. Being broken up with is always going to wreck your self esteem a little. When you’re inside, you can doubt yourself and internalise every single bad feeling.
Suffering from Depression and Anxiety doesn’t make it easier, and my heart is full when I think about the numerous phone calls my friends took time out to make to ensure I didn’t sink into a hole of self hate and loneliness. Romantic relationships come and go, the friends that stay are the keepers.
They know things about you that your insecurities try and filter out. If you’re struggling from a break up, please talk to your nearest and dearest. It helps when you know your anger at an unjust situation is shared by people that have your back through thick and thin.
3. The best and the worst of people
This global pandemic has brought out the best and worst in people from one side of the world to the other. Every day we’ve been watching from indoors the valiant efforts of medical staff to try and save every person that’s been diagnosed with this awful virus, putting their lives on the line to do their job.
It’s not just them. It’s the people who can’t stay at home, those that empty your bins, clean the hospital floors, deliver your food, drive you in an ambulance, the list is endless. We’ve had volunteers help shop for the most vulnerable, phone up the elderly to make sure they’re okay and I’ve been amazed with the kindness shown to those struggling with their mental health issues. The viral movement encouraging people to be honest and to tell someone if they’re understandably anxious or low, is stronger than ever.
The communal feel in these uncertain times is more powerful than ever before and for the first time, the differences perhaps previously felt between social classes do not feel as prevalent. We are all one, part of the human race. Everyone is vulnerable and therefore we must continue to support each other.
The viral movement encouraging people to be honest and to tell someone if they’re understandably anxious or low, is stronger than ever.
Unfortunately, most of us will have come across someone who is not so selfless to the emotions of others. It would be naive to say that only good can grow from difficult situations. I sometimes scold myself over my naivety that honesty is as important to everyone as it is to me. I’ve learnt from my experiences travelling that you bond so quickly with people, you gloss over the red flags that blow up in the back of your head.
When you’re romantically linked with someone, and you’re enjoying your time with them travelling in an exciting, new country, you can tend to ignore warning bells that you should pay attention to. We’re all different, and our uniqueness comes from our personal development, experiences and upbringing.
Not everyone can let themselves be vulnerable and look out for the other, and that’s something I’ve realised is an important value to me in a relationship. Over time, I’ve realised I seem to attract those that are too scared of their own emotions, those happier to respond to situations with a lack of communication and a “put it in the box” mentality, those who don’t worry about the other’s feelings, as long as they themselves feel better.
I’ve learnt that just because I’m a person who is mindful about how my actions affect other people, not everyone else cares to that extent or even has that capability.
There are some pretty self-absorbed people out there – and why should you stunt your own growth because of their inability to deal with their own problems. Let them be immature, let them have their moments – just know that anyone who disrupts your inner peace or makes you question your self-worth is bad news.
If you’re a good communicator, don’t settle for less hoping not such a good communicator will change their ways. People shine when they’re away, it’s when life gets less rosy that you’ll see how good a match you two are.
4. The important cliche – Everything happens for a reason
I believe everything happens for a reason, I always have. I would never, ever wish this pandemic to happen again, and it crushes me that people I’ve known well have been affected and passed from it. If anything, the only thing we can take from this experience is that perhaps the universe needed us to recharge and connect with ourselves and our family again.
Maybe someone or something was reminding us of the brutal yet important reality that life is short, and you should be grateful to wake up with your health everyday. A simple appreciation of being alive, healthy and to live life to the fullest as much as possible. When you’re in your daily routine of waking up, working until the evening and going to bed, you can forget this very easily.
When you travel, and routine is not so important, you begin to notice how lucky you are to be away in a foreign country, learning about the culture and traditions. The people you meet are important, as they make up your trip, and romantic partners you engage with on the way contribute to a part of your story without necessarily having to be the one you end up with forever.
There’s something special about being with each other whilst learning about a country’s history. I’ve shared incredible moments from learning about Cambodia’s years of genocide against their own people and meeting survivors, to speaking to Venezualan locals and understanding why political unrest in Venezuela contributed to them escaping to Colombia.
I will always be grateful that my travel partner at the time was someone I shared these unique experiences with and we discovered together how different our lives were to the people we spoke to. To read more about when I met a survivor of the Cambodia genocide click here.
But life moves forward, and this sometimes becomes a precious memory. From being broken up with during this pandemic, I will always appreciate the good times I had in the past, and see them as simply an important piece to add to my continuous life puzzle.
5. The power of you
You. Wonderful, unique you, reading this post. It’s easy, isn’t it, to forget those qualities when someone has treated you badly. To feel a loss of control over your life when you put your hopes and dreams into the hands of someone else – unaware they had the capability of squashing them into dust particles in less than five minutes.
Then again, everyone BUT you have the possibility of damaging anything you give them. I don’t know about others, but I’m very wary when it comes to trusting people. When I’ve eventually let down prebuilt boundaries to let someone ‘special’ in, they’ve taken advantage by trying to knock me down.
From my relationships I had travelling, I can look back and see how much I was affected when we eventually had to separate – but I could always move forward. I had a new destination to rely on, new groups of people to bond with, new sites to see, new hikes to complete, new languages to learn and new locals to chat to.
Being broken up with in isolation and not being able to live my normal life contributed to letting rejection and hurt engulf me in a bubble. I was struggling to remember what I’ve learnt through my travels, forgetting what a strong woman I was and being unable to understand the point of moving forward. But this shouldn’t be the case, with or without the distractions of travel.
Being in isolation can most definitely let you briefly regress, but it should not let you disregard an often forgotten fact – YOU are the CEO of your own life. Sure, others can treat you badly, smashing down those carefully metaphorical bricks you placed to protect your heart but only YOU are the one who knows how to build them back up.
People come and go, and the only person you can fully trust and rely on is yourself. I proved that by travelling solo from Spain, to South America, to India, to South-East Asia and onto Australia. I’d experienced breakups travelling and yet I still moved forward, eager to see what more I could learn about the world and myself.
The same must apply, even if moving forward is simply to believe in yourself throughout isolation, unable to control your next steps during this global pandemic. So if we take all the points into consideration, if you fill your empty moments with love for yourself – because you’re better than the person who let you down.
Let your friends drill this into you if necessary. Everything happens for a reason and life is too short to not live every day to the fullest, you are the only one with the power to change your life for the better – be it your career, your direction, the type of person you let into your inner circle. Tell me, in the words of Mary Oliver, ‘what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’