If you’re newly divorced (or even in the midst of a painful breakup), you know it can be near impossible to find emotional relief.
The endless loop of thoughts, regrets, and what-ifs can play themselves over in your head like a monotonous laugh track, and the cruel joke is on you.
But there are ways to quiet the inner chaos. By quite literally traveling outside one’s comfort zone, it’s possible to regain inner peace, a measure of control, and make a fresh start. “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind,” said Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger.
And science confirms it: solo travel really is good for the soul.
In a study from Queensland University of Technology’s Business School, Professor Constanza Bianchi surveyed participants who had traveled solo for an average vacation time of nine days. Her findings, published in the International Journal of Tourism Research, reinforce what we’ve found to be true all along: solo travel really is good for the divorced soul.
In Solo Holiday Travellers: Motivators and Drivers of Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction, travelers who went alone were said to have experienced “personal feelings of freedom, relaxation, and discovery (personal factors) and interaction with other people (human interaction factors).”
There are other benefits of solo travel, too — a change of scenery can be its own form of therapy. Not only can a vacation help you heal after a breakup, but going on such an adventure can be just what you need to regain confidence as you begin the next chapter of your life.
Here are ten great reasons to take a trip after divorce, along with stories from divorcees and great thinkers who can attest to the power of solo travel.
1. Easier planning and more flexibility.
Mark Twain once candidly stated, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
It’s true — as much as you may love and adore your relatives and friends, let’s face it: taking a trip with them can test the fortitude of even the strongest relationships.
Not to mention, planning a trip for the entire family or a group of friends often entails developing an itinerary that caters to each person’s individual preferences (food, sightseeing, entertainment) and can be difficult, even exhausting.
Megan,* an American citizen currently traveling several months throughout New Zealand, agrees. “I started my trip with a friend… it started out rough. Trying to accommodate two different personalities and desires can be tricky. I found that traveling as a pair gave me little time or means to mingle with other travelers. As soon as we crumbled and went our separate ways a whole new world opened for me.”
If you are newly divorced, it’s probably best not to take on the challenge of planning a group trip at this point in your life. Rather, it may be best to quietly slip away on a holiday that’s just right for you and you alone.
Want to go zip-lining in Costa Rica but your spouse was always afraid of heights? Interested in a beachside yoga retreat, but your significant other hated the heat and humidity? Or would you like to explore several European countries by rail, but couldn’t convince your spouse to board a plane, let alone take a cross-country train ride in a foreign land? Now might be just the time to plan the getaway you’ve (up ’til now) only dreamed about.
2. A fresh start.
If you’ve recently been through a divorce, you’re likely feeling weighed down by the past — decisions you’ve made, mistakes you might regret, even happy memories you haven’t thought about for years.
But as you begin this next stage of your life, getting a fresh start is crucial for your emotional well-being. Living in the past will only extend the time it takes for you to heal and recover.
And what better way to move forward than to take a trip that allows you to reflect on what you want your new beginning to be?
As historian and travel writer William Least Heat Moon said, “What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do — especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”
3. A break from social and familial obligations.
According to British-Italian explorer and travel writer Freya Stark, “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” If you haven’t yet experienced this “sensation,” we highly recommend it.
Everything from sightseeing excursions to when and where you want to enjoy a meal can happen at your own discretion when you travel solo.
“Travel after my divorce has been freeing in many ways,” says Jennifer,* divorced for eight years.
“When my then-husband and I traveled together in the past, we’d have to plan all of our activities around when and where we would eat. No matter what we were doing, if he was hungry, we’d have to find a restaurant where we could sit down to a have a bite — three times a day. When you factor in the time it takes to order, eat, and pay for a meal, we often spent six or more hours every day holed up in a restaurant! For someone like me who likes to explore, that was really frustrating.
But now that I travel alone, I only have myself to worry about. I can eat at times when I am actually hungry and I don’t waste precious travel time sitting in a booth at a restaurant. It sounds like a small thing, but it irritated me that we wasted so many hours on boring meals when we could have been having a more authentic experience in the places we visited.
Travel now that I am divorced involves a lot of grab-and-go, street foods, and ethnic flavors with the locals. I have actually become quite a foodie, thanks to these experiences.”
4. Be the master of your own destiny.
After a divorce, it may seem like your world is spinning out of control. Feelings of helplessness can sometimes be debilitating. But in the study cited at the outset, participants actually experienced less inner chaos when they traveled solo.
“Traveling alone for the holidays also provided some participants with the feeling that they had more control over their lives and actions,” says Bianchi. And having more control over your life is empowering for someone who is newly divorced and unsure of what the future might hold.
“When I got divorced, I told myself I’d never pass up an opportunity for free travel,” says Amanda, a professional photographer. “I put feelers out for all my faraway friends that I’d trade a photoshoot for plane tickets to see them! It was really fun and exhilarating to travel alone, because my ex-husband did not like to travel, nor did we have the money. But after our divorce, I was able to see North Carolina, New York, and Germany all on my own.”
5. Learning lessons.
On the flipside, things don’t always go according to plan — either in relationships or when traveling. “A journey is like marriage,” said John Steinbeck. “The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
But even when the worst (or what we fear the most) happens in life — like the unraveling of a relationship — the experience can be a sobering reminder that “the best-laid plans of mice and men” may go awry at any time. But happiness often depends on our ability to adapt to such situations.
“Traveling… forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends,” said Cesare Pavase, Italian poet, critic, and translator. “You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things — air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky — all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
As difficult as these moments may be, however, they are often opportunities for growth. These experiences, in turn, have the power to shape us in significant ways.
“Adventure is a path,” said Mark Jenkins, author and member of the seven-person team that bicycled across Siberia. “Real adventure — self-determined, self-motivated, often risky — forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind — and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
6. It’s cheaper.
Even for those who would prefer the companionship of a travel partner, it’s hard to pass up opportunities to travel with significantly fewer expenses.
“I did a road trip last summer just after my girlfriend and I broke up,” says Kevin.* “I went to Crater Lake and got to stay for free with my buddy who works there — because it was just me. We had several adventures that would have been much harder if anyone was with me. Then I went to Seattle to see a friend and we had a blast. I again stayed for free — because it was just me.”
If the budget is tight after your divorce (don’t worry, that’s not uncommon), why not make like a college student and couch-surf? Got a friend or family member who lives in another state or country and has been insisting you come and visit? Now might very well be the perfect time to take them up on their offer. Bunking up with someone you know is guaranteed to be more affordable than booking a hotel stay for two (or more).
7. Regenerative me-time.
According to psychologist Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, there are a number of benefits from spending time alone. Among them, the ability to unwind, improve concentration, think deeply, and work through problems more effectively. In an article for Psychology Today, she explains, “Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly.”
“I had the best vacation of my life, by myself, right after my first divorce,” says Katrina*, now happily married with two young children.
“The only people I even spoke to during that trip were servers at the restaurants I went to and people at the check-in at the places I stayed. It was almost like a detox from that immensely negative experience of being with my ex. I was able to fully immerse myself in the beauty around me and feel it in my cells.
I went to central and western Washington and all that damp brilliant green was the antithesis to the desert I lived in during the marriage, physically and metaphorically. It helped me find myself again after all those years of being ignored.”
8. The opportunity to meet new people.
Visiting a new place means forming friendships with people you would’ve likely never met otherwise. And forging these bonds can be life-changing. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends,” said Maya Angelou, the late poet and activist.
While there are many ways to make friends and connect with others while traveling, the idea of planning a trip alone can be intimidating. If this is the case for you, consider going on a singles cruise or retreat. Package prices often include flights, transfers, lodging, and meals — and many opportunities for socializing.
If you’re interested in meeting like-minded people, peruse Meetup groups in the area you’re visiting. Want to get in touch with your creative side — while connecting with other free spirits? Consider taking a painting class or pottery workshop. Or maybe you want to spend time in the great outdoors. Local trail organizations can often connect you with hiking or cycling groups willing to show you around. You might also seek out those with common interests by volunteering for an organization or cause you are passionate about. Oftentimes, by contributing to a community, you become part of one.
9. New experiences.
For anyone who has disembarked a plane and visited a new city or country with only a carry-on bag as your companion, the newness of the experience can be exhilarating.
“To my mind,” said author Bill Bryson, “the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
It’s these new experiences, these firsts that afford us the ability to see ourselves and the world in an entirely new way. And they empower us to begin again.
“The traveling world is fluid. You have to be able to just go with it, which is why I find solo travel so appealing,” says Megan, quoted earlier.
“Every day is a new day and a new opportunity, and if you are open to it, it will provide all that you need. I have been able to use all means available to me such as couch-surfing, hostels, campgrounds and Airbnb as well as the many random acts of kindness offered to me to find housing, meals, and incredible companionship.
I have learned new travel tricks from the hitchhikers I have picked up and more about myself than I ever thought possible in the process. All of this wouldn’t be possible with the rigidness that traveling with another person or group often automatically instills — despite how flexible we think we may be.”
10. Personal enrichment.
Taking a solo trip might initially seem like a selfish pursuit or a convenient way to use up one’s vacation days. But in reality, traveling alone can be just the thing a recent divorcee needs most. This type of travel provides a timely opportunity for self-discovery, personal enrichment, and transformation.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights,” said Miriam Beard, historian and activist. “It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” This change often affects other aspects of our lives, everything from our careers and hobbies to our personal values and relationships.
When dealing with the aftermath of divorce, it may feel like you’ve reached “The End” — the last page of your life’s story together. But in reality, this is actually a time of new beginnings. This means a whole new way of life, opportunities for new experiences, and a brand new you. And as with most new adventures, the experience can be frightening and even painful at times, but there is potential for joy on the other side. As novelist Charles Dudley Warner once said, “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.”
*some names have been changed.
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If you’re thinking a solo adventure might help mend your broken heart but you’re unsure where to begin, peruse 101 Singles Holidays for a few ideas. And if you’ve ever traveled post-divorce and would like to share your story, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect.