Ask Kate: How Do I Get Over Heartbreak While Traveling?

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How to get over heartbreak while traveling.

Has heartbreak ever impacted your travels?  This week’s question has an unorthodox answer.

Hi Kate,

I’ve recently started my around the world trip and had to end my relationship to come out here (my boyfriend was very supportive but we both decided that long term just isn’t for us). However now I’m out here I feel very alone and sad – and am missing him a lot.

I just wondered if you have any advice on how to make the most of this great experience without clinging too much onto the past. Currently I wish I never decided to travel (what an awful thought!)

I know this is more a relationship question than a travel one but I hope you can help.


Step One: Find a hot Scandinavian.

Step Two: Make out with him.

I’m completely serious.  I’ve done it and I’ve found it highly therapeutic.  Sometimes, all you need to lift your spirits is a makeout session with a cute stranger with whom you’re not emotionally invested.

It really sucks when heartbreak impacts your trip, and that’s why you need to be careful about not letting yourself fall too hard for someone who may not return your feelings.  (That’s a hell of a lot easier said than done.)  Breakups are awful, especially breakups with kind people whom you love very much, and it makes me sad that you’re not enjoying the trip of a lifetime.

But trust me — you won’t feel this way forever.  Each day will be easier than the last — it may be by such a small margin that you might not notice it at first, but IT WILL GET BETTER. I promise.

In the meantime, it’s time to get yourself to feel happier.  If you’re not going to take the aforementioned approach, this is what I recommend:

Force yourself to fill your days with people and activities.  If you’re an introvert like me and perfectly content to explore alone, eat alone, and spend the bulk of your time alone, that can be a bit of a challenge.  Resist the urge to stay alone and get yourself out there.

Look for free tours.  Look for cheap activities.  Look for anything that involves a group.  Check into a social hostel, or any hostel with a bar.  Go on Couchsurfing and look for events taking place.  Try something you’ve always dreamed of doing — or have never heard of before!  I particularly recommend trying physical activities — hiking, biking, rafting — because the endorphin rush will make you feel great.

In the meantime, stop communicating with your ex-boyfriend.  Unsubscribe from his Facebook updates (he won’t notice); stop emailing him.  If you’re still in touch regularly, send a kind but firm email saying that you need some time to yourself.

Filling your days with people and activities will serve several purposes: it will distract you from the pain you’re feeling right now, it will get you outside your comfort zone, it will introduce you to new people who could become good or even lifelong friends, it will teach you something new, and it will create wonderful memories for you  — thus confirming that deciding to travel long-term was the best decision of your life.

Keep doing this, little by little, and I promise you that it will get better.  Chin up.

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46 thoughts on “Ask Kate: How Do I Get Over Heartbreak While Traveling?”

  1. I haven’t been in the readers exact situation before, but PLEASE don’t spend a second of your amazing trip pining over a guy! I’ve been through more break-ups then I care to admit so I’m well versed in heartache and I wouldn’t ever let ti take away from my happiness in a substantial way again!

  2. I’ve been in the situation before – my ex-boyfriend broke up with me a matter of days before I began a trip abroad that I’d been dreaming about for over a year! There were some tough parts, but a lot of wonderful ones, too – someone took a picture of me on this trip where I looked the HAPPIEST that I’d ever been in my life. That picture and that trip in general have been things that I go back to in order to realize that even in bad times the world is a powerful and amazing place and I have more strength than I know – and I think that will be true for you, as well.

    Particular advice for you?
    1) I’ll second Kate and say DON’T contact him … just don’t. Sent an email to my ex on this trip that he never replied to and it was embarrassing to say the least.
    2) Write in a journal – this can include some letters you don’t send to your ex, too!
    3) I sent tons of postcards – to family, old friends, former roommates … not only does it keep you busy picking out the postcards, finding a place to buy stamps, and writing them, it reminds you of all the awesome people you have in your life and that you’re doing some pretty cool stuff right now! It doesn’t have to be postcards, but it’s good to invent some sort of hobby.
    4) I didn’t make out with anybody on my trip, but in hindsight, a bit of me wishes I had! So no pressure, but keep it in mind. Just talking to some cute locals can be helpful! 😉

    I promise – it does get better!!

  3. Here here! A fun social hostel, some new found travel buddies and a hot Scandinavian is a sure cure!!
    I’ve gotten pangs for home and exes on long trips and find some social fun fixes it up quick sticks xx

  4. I love this question (and answer) – even though it’s sad that you had to ask it.
    I also suffered from a heartache while I was traveling, and I had it so bad (I seem to be a sensitive person …) that I cut my trip short and returned home.

    Don’t – do – that.

    It took me only a few days to realise that home was not going to cure my heartache, on the contrary. Being alone with access to all kinds of social media and email, and with oceans of time to think – it’s a killer! After a few days I wished I was again on the beaches of Thailand. How stupid I was.

    I second everything that has been said above – I love writing postcards 🙂 – and I think that even though you don’t have to actually make out with anyone if that isn’t what you want, just the thought of doing it can be a great help!

    Now, in hindsight, it’s safe to say that it does get better, and it is NOT worth ruining your tip for.
    Good luck!

  5. Good advice, Kate. I went through something similar when I broke up with a boyfriend to pursue my dream of traveling. I ended up meeting my travel loving husband abroad and now I’ve got a partner in crime for all of my adventures. Sometimes doors close so others can open! 🙂

  6. Great response – she’s doing things most people only ever dream about! And think of it this way: If she lets the experience get ruined by pining after her ex, the odds of ever getting back with him (if she’s concerned that might actually be a possibility) will be even less because he’ll forever be the guy who, even though they were no longer seeing each other, still managed to ruin her dream. The resentment would always be there. So however things end up with him, she needs to do this thing and live in the moment.

  7. Sad face. I hope you can get past it and start enjoying your travels. Kat’s advice is great! I’d also add a kind of “fake it till you make it” piece: if you try to outwardly present yourself as happy with your situation (being single), smile a lot (there’s evidence, I believe, that just the act of smiling can make you feel happier, and I often use this myself when feeling down) and put yourself out there, as Kate says. Sometimes, it’ll be hard, and you will just want to curl up in to a ball, stay in bed and wallow all day. And sometimes that’s OK, but don’t let yourself slip in to a routine of it. Good luck! 🙂

  8. I totally agree with all of this wise advise!
    After going through a horrible break up I booked myself an impulsive 3 week trip to South Africa – solo.
    The day of my flight I woke up feeling so anxious and wondering what on earth I’d done and if maybe should just not go and try to claim some money back. But no, I pushed myself out of comfort zone and went and it was AMAZING!
    My hostel was packed with the friendliest, interesting people I’d ever met and on my second night there I met a cute guy!
    Within days my heartache was forgotten and I became good friends with the guy and went to visit him in Canada!
    Everything happens for a reason, even if we can’t immeadiately figure it out 🙂

  9. While I agree with Kate’s advice, there is a part of me worrying…if you are gonna make out with someone (and I agree that there may be cute locals or hot Scandinavian guys available; lucky you if so!) then please BE SAFE!

    Enjoy your trip and remember, if it’s ‘meant to be’ with your ex, then it’ll happen in the future! Don’t let what might happen tomorrow spoil what could happen today.

  10. If making out with a hot Scandinavian doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other things to try. Hot Italians, cute Irishmen, sexy Spaniards….

  11. Thank you Kate. This is a worry of mine as I will most likely be having a long relationship come to an end as I leave to teach abroad. I’ve gone back and forth on leaving or staying based on this relationship, and have realized that if having to choose is necessary the relationship probably isn’t the strongest anyways. However, I am well aware that I will miss her, but I don’t want that to ruin my trip.

  12. Great advice Kate but why limit yourself to Scandinavians? You might as well get as many nationalities under your belt as you can.
    But seriously, keeping yourself busy and staying in hostels where you are able to mingle with others will keep your mind off things.

  13. Seems a lot of people have gone through a breakup before traveling. I was one of them and, it was weird, I was so happy at first to be free that it didn’t even hit me. After falling for someone else on the road and having that implode, the two breakups have hit me at once. I’m still figuring out how to get past it – making out with hot blonde men does help – but it’s not the cure-all that time is.

  14. My husband and I decided to get a divorce right before I left for a solo trip to Nepal. It was actually a relief to get away from the drama and just concentrate on hiking and climbing. I was really glad I was by myself and only had to worry about getting myself up the mountain. It was one of the most stress-free, enjoyable trips I have ever taken.

  15. Thanks Kate for answering my question and thanks to everyone for their comments. I’ve really enjoyed reading them and it has made me feel a bit better. I still feel pretty sad most days but then I have the odd day where I feel happy so I guess that’s going in the right direction.

    Really liked your tip about doing some adrenaline activities – I can imagine this will help!

    Your making out with a cute guy comment made me laugh, and as much as I hate to admit it – it probably would help me feel better! Even just for a bit of closure.

    Thanks again for your advice 🙂


  16. I agree with these tips. I haven’t been in a serious relationship for years now, but while I’ve been traveling I have developed feelings for a few guys. What helps me to move on is to simply think of the great time we had together and be thankful that I got to meet such an amazing person, and then remind myself that I will find someone even more amazing along the way. Also, it helps in the meanwhile to think back on all the other wonderful people I have in my life like family and friends until I find myself a hot australian (as I am scandinavian myself) to make out with 😉

  17. Love the response to this question. I hate to admit it but I let a break-up ruin a trip to Mexico when I was younger. I sooo regret that now and wish someone had pushed me to just enjoy the trip – and make out with a cute Scandinavian. 😉

  18. What a great advice! Keeping yourself busy *most people drowned themselves with work* with new sights and sound (while making out with the hot Scandinavian, why not have him teach you a few terms of endearment) not to mention the possibility of meeting your long-term partner while travelling are the best cure…. Love your blog Kate!

  19. Great advice. A lot of people (including myself) have taken trips to get over a heartbreak and this advice is spot on. Live your life and you’ll have a blast on this trip. You don’t want to look back on the trip regretting that you spent your time worrying about someone instead of drinking in the experience.

  20. I just planned a solo backpacking journey to SEA and I leave in 3 weeks. There’s this unspoken tension between my boyfriend and me about my trip. It’s gotten so bad that when I bought my backpack I had to leave it in my car to avoid an argument…

    We just broke up. I’m so heart broken. We’ve been together for nearly 4 years. But I’m such an independent woman that I can’t let a man stop me from my dreams. We’ve talked about building a family together and racing each other in wheelchairs in nursing homes. But what I don’t understand is how 3 months out of our lives can just get rid of that beautiful future together…

  21. I couldnt have come across this post at a better time. I want to travel so bad! Its the only thing I know I want to do in life. I have a boyfriend atm and for the past two months I have been trying to decide whether I want to be with him or not because my need to travel is in my mind literally every single day. He says he will travel with me in about 2 years but all I want to do is focus on saving and thats harder then it should be because he wants to go on dates and do other things that cost money that i dont want to spend. I just dont know what to do.

  22. This hits a little t too close to home for me. I too love to travel, and had dreams of travelling and meeting the man of my dreams to do it with. Well my dream came true…, and at least for a while. I went to Canada on a working holiday and in my first week there met the love of my life. We were inseparable for a year and traveled and did everything together. He was from Chile and i am Australian. He cant get a working visa here because he is over 30 and i had to come home for family reasons. We broke up. It has been 3 months. We kept in regular contact and even spoke about getting back together. I booked flights back to Canada to be with him. He has since decided that is not what he wants. So now im stuck….flights are booked and i leave in 3 days. I have booked myself on a holiday around south east asia first before i arrive in Canada. I hope this helps to cure my heartbreak, at least a little before i see him in Canada. I am a little terrified, but I hope that distracting myself will help me forget about him. I hope this works for you too

  23. I’m glad I saw this post! Even though it is from last year, I have come across it in a great timing.
    I have (or had) a boyfriend for 1,5 years now. Before I met him I had decided to travel for 1 year – I had everything figured out: when I was going to tell my boss I was quitting, the amount of money I needed, where I would go, personal projects…

    Then I met him. I stayed strong there for a few months, I told him: this is my dream and there is no one that can make me give up on it. He supported me. Then, I decided that, for our relationship sake, I would only go for 6 months. I ended up with just 4 months.

    I thought about breaking up. But I loved him too much. He told me everything would be ok, 4 months is nothing and we loved each other a lot.
    I believed in it.

    I have been traveling for exactly one month now – we broke up last week. He resents me for leaving him and has a lot of new things in his life (new university). I was the one who decided to break up because I was suffering too much – he was very different, very distanced.

    I have been crying everyday since we broke up, and I don’t want to! Everything makes me burst into tears, it’s ridiculous. This is my dream and he is ruining it!!! And I’m letting him do it!! I went to the most amazing waterfall and cried the whole way until I got there – then I saw it and it just impossible to be sad with such a gorgeous view.

    I have been doing everything I can to distract myself from this situation, but I am very limited here – there are not a lot of foreigners and my host is over-protective of me. I have some days where I’m just at home. I try to avoid being obsessed with his Facebook, but it’s so hard! And not talking to him is hard too, because he actually does not start a conversation with me. So I feel like I have to tell him everything he is making me feel by not talking to me. But now I am much better – I haven’t said a word in 2 days (LOL).

    BUUUT, in a few weeks I will be free as a bird: i will go to bali for 15 days.
    So, I just added a new objective to my trip to Bali – find tall hot blond (or with dark-hair, doesn’t really matter as long as he’s interesting) and make out with him. Everything else is important too, obviously, but I would have done it anyway – but feeling that I’m worth the attention of a good looking guy I think would be one important step towards feeling happier, since my own boyfriend decided I was not worth the attention anymore.
    Until then, I will be trying to cure my broken little heart so that I am not too messed up in Bali. I will cry it out when I have to, enjoy everything as much as I can and be freaking happy.

  24. Hi Kate, my ex split with me for (her Ex of 10 years) I wish I had, had the money for a trip like this, I will read in depth but how much did you start with when you left?

  25. I know you wrote this ages ago but it really, really helps to see that other women who were going through messy breakups travelled to help them get over the trauma and find themselves outside of the relationship.

    I just broke up with my long-term boyfriend on Saturday after I found out he did something horrible. Right now my whole life has changed because I immediately moved out of the apartment we lived in together, which involved a hundred mile drive by myself, towing my car and all my belongings in a U Haul. (I may or may not have sobbed intermittently the whole way.) I broke up with him, packed the truck, and moved out in the space of a morning because after I learned what he did I couldn’t bear to be around him one more second than necessary because I was so incredibly hurt. It’s a lot of change and trauma at once.

    I’m grieving and in so much agonizing, unbearable pain right now, but I’m planning a trip out to Denver next month for 30 days to see my best friend and try to heal and spend time with her. After Denver I’m embarking on my first solo trip around France for a month this summer. Depending on how that trip goes, I’ll probably keep traveling internationally from there if I don’t get too homesick. I’m scared and intimidated but also excited for the experience. I really hope it will help me get through what feels like a huge loss and massive betrayal.

    While I don’t want him back after what he did and don’t even know if I could ever bear to speak to him again at this point, it still hurts so much that he would do that to me after all we had been through together. It’s also agonizing that he didn’t have the respect for me or our relationship or even the human decency to just break up with me before doing something so astronomically hurtful.

    Anyway, I’ve only travelled solo to study abroad before, so this is the first time I’ll be doing a trip for pleasure while solo. I really hope it gives me some perspective, reminds me who I am without him, and helps me get over this gargantuan amount of searing pain. I already know intellectually that I don’t want to and shouldn’t be with someone who would do what he did to me and that I deserve much, much better. We weren’t right for each other in any other aspects of our personalities anyway, so it would have ended at some point; I just never expected it would be like that.

    I’m hoping this trip will help me know it in my heart as well and get me through this heartache. Thank you so much for this post. While I’m not ready for any Scandinavians or any other nationality and the thought of another romantic relationship currently makes me feel sick, I hope that will come with time.

  26. Hi Kate,

    Such a great post! I am currently on a mini vacation on one of the gulf islands in British Columbia. It’s beautiful here. I broke up with my boyfriend back in January. We were dating long distance ( a couple of provinces over in Canada) He wanted me to move to his city. I couldn’t imagine myself being happy there. Him and I were just so different and wanted different things. Last night I did something foolish, I stalked him online and discovered he had a profile up on a dating site. It set off a lot of strong emotions in me. I ended up texting him. I feel bad for not being able to control myself better. Anyways today is a new day. Even though I ended the relationship it still hurts. Last night was hard but I’m not going to let it ruin my trip. Going to make an effort to meet some locals today and for the rest of my time here. I know the best is yet to come.

  27. My boyfriend and I planned a 4 month trip to SE Asia and working holiday visas for Australia so we could stay up to a year after (my sister lives in sydney so staying with her). This was in August after we had been together for a year (we met at uni and were togetger through our finally year). Now 3 weeks before we are meant to leave he has broken up with me. We had been having problems but i was so desperate to fix things and i am absolutely devastated by this decision he has made. I have barely got out of bed for a week now and he has been quite nasty to me since the break up which upsets me immensly. I dont know what to do. I am supposed to leave in 18 days and i feel so depressed i am scared i wont be okay and wont want to get on the plane. I have to reorganise everything and I am struggling a lot. I will have to shorten the trip and try and book onto an expensive organised tour for part of it just so i am not alone the whole time. I know if i make myself go it could help me but i am so scared and sad at the same time i just dont know what to do. My parents are scared and im am scared about leaving them. I am doubting everything and the temptation to just let myself waste away in bed is so strong :'( i just wish i had someone to get on that plane with!

    1. Evie, I am so sorry that you’re hurting and left in a lurch.

      You can still go. Don’t book yourself a tour just yet. Go to Bangkok — or, better yet, Chiang Mai — and just hang out and get to know people as a solo traveler. Give yourself time, freedom, and nice things. You’ll meet TONS of people. It won’t be what you planned, but I bet you will be SO glad you went at the end of the trip.

  28. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for the post.

    I’m currently travelling with a lot of baggage (both emotional and physical!). I underwent an illness 2 years ago which left me a shell of my former self. During my recovery, I met a really sweet guy. We dated for 6 months but there were a few points of contention that suggested he wasn’t really serious/that committed to me, although he insisted he was so I kept giving it a chance. During us dating, I was planning travel as part of my recovery and wore my heart on my sleeve about my difficult past and illness hoping that this would make him more aware of my feelings etc. He was supposed to come and visit me on my travels and we were supposed to spend time before I leave but he ended things a few days before I left and I didn’t end up seeing him.

    I felt sick and the start of my trip (it’s been a week) has been in part ok but mostly overshadowed by anxious and depressive feelings. My illness is hanging over me – I feel will I ever get better and am I worth love whilst dragging around this illness and all of the physical and psychological issues it brings with it. I have been dreaming of the guy, still feeling connected and also deluded, and just feeling quite heartbroken and not able to enjoy the present.

    I haven’t met that many people whilst travelling either as everyone seems to be in their groups and I’m not really into drinking at the moment.

    Feeling just as lost and confused in Bali as I did back home! 🙁

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