On Heartbreak and Traveling Alone

Today Michelle Alexander shares her inspiring story of quitting her job, getting dumped and deciding to globe-trot alone.
Publish date:
Image Credit: Carly Mask 

Image Credit: Carly Mask 

Up until a few weeks ago, I was on the verge of achieving all of my relationship goals. The next three months were going to be spent traveling with my perfect guy on a perfectly romantic adventure, seeing the world and planning the next stage of our lives. 

I mean, this was the “first half of a Taylor Swift album” sort of love. He was thoughtful, good looking, successful…and he even smelled amazing after a run! We were all set to go to Nice, France in November; Barcelona, Spain for Christmas; Lisbon, Portugal in January, followed by a road trip that would relocate me from Toronto to LA, so we could live happily ever after. It all seemed like one of those idealistic, big-budget rom-coms that couldn’t possibly reflect reality.

Then, I got dumped. I’m still flying to Nice next week – but I’m going alone.

Let’s back up. Four months ago, I quit my steady but utterly joyless job. I don’t regret leaving it, but I’m a born and bred Type A personality who thrives on routine and security. After the initial wave of post-quitting empowerment, I quickly took a mishmash of odd jobs to pay my rent, began exercising constantly to fill my time, and started seeking the self-worth I couldn’t find in myself through the validation of my boyfriend. This once confident, feminist woman had no idea who she was on her own anymore. 

Traveling with my boyfriend seemed like the perfect way to take off in a new direction. He was going to be in Europe for the winter, so visiting him and exploring together seemed like the salve to my aimless existence. Unfortunately, my lack of identity soon equaled a serious lack of self-esteem, and it took the ultimate toll on my relationship.

Flash forward: I am now boyfriend-less, job-less and back to reality. My apartment is sublet for four months. I have no idea where my life is going. I had never realized how much I connect my sense of self to relationship and career, and here I am, a grown woman starting from ground zero.

After spending a few weeks hiding in my apartment post-break-up, surviving on Gatorade, red wine and peanut butter, I decided I had two options in front of me.

Option one: move back in with my parents and live life curled in a ball on the floor of my childhood bedroom while my mother occasionally shoves grilled cheese sandwiches under the door. 

Option two: have my own #eatpraylove moment – put the peanut butter back in the fridge, pack my suitcases, travel on my own and then relocate to LA anyway in a blaze of glory and strength that would make Beyoncé proud.

As much as I love grilled cheese, I chose option two.

When I realized that if I did keep my travel plans, I would have to go all by myself, it seemed too complicated, too daunting and, frankly, too sad at first. But when I came across the Clementine Daily manifestoto create a space for real women living authentic-sometimes-frenzied-often-harried-but-always-inspired lives” – I realized, I’m definitely frenzied and harried, but I need to do this.

Over the next three months, I’m officially undertaking what I’m calling “The Real Life Adventures of Someone Figuring Their Sh*t Out – Europe-Style.”

On November 1, I’m flying to Nice. Since my itinerary is officially my own, I will be side-tripping to the fashion capital of the world: Milan, Italy. I will also still be spending Christmas in Barcelona. This will be my first Christmas alone, and I am purposely challenging myself to find some yuletide cheer for one. January will still involve Portugal, but it will be a single-ticket train ride that gets me there, not a romantic car for two. And the road trip to LA in January? Just me, the open road and a shameless iPod mix of whatever my heart desires.

Yes, I am still heartbroken, and no, I am not feeling my inner Beyoncé quite yet. With my trip fast approaching, the barf-worthy fear is real, and that fierce single woman sensation has yet to surface. But maybe I need to work from the outside in.

I promise to explore, experience, risk looking ridiculous, and report back in writing and on my Instagram page. No, there won’t be pics of #babeonthebeach or retellings of candelit French dinners for two. But there will be honest insights into some amazing places from a woman making it happen on her own. I love great food and coffee, I have a knack for finding a city’s hidden gems, and I am a constant style seeker. But I’m also going to make mistakes, take the wrong train, end up at a restaurant I may or may not regret later, and see sights that sound great on the internet but, let’s be straight-up, are better left online.

I’m not going to be “finding myself” by tunneling through ice in the Arctic or living on a tree branch in the Amazon. (Mad respect to the travel-savvy girls out there that see this and think, “Piece of cake, girl!”) But for me, a woman who has spent her whole life knowing what kind of fruit she’ll have on her oatmeal every morning, this is way out of my comfort zone.

And, who knows — the lessons I learn along the way may prove useful to you. Maybe you’ll embark on your own #eatpraylove trip one day. Ultimately, even when we’re flying solo, we authentic-sometimes-frenzied-often-harried-but-always-inspired women are never really all on our own. 

p.s. If you're feeling wanderlusty but experiencing your own pre-departure nerves, don't miss these tips for easing air travel anxiety.