Why I Travel To Cure My Broken Heart

While I am, in some ways, trying to outrun my pain, I also see myself as running toward my future.

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When the man I loved in 2009 broke my heart, I booked a flight to Paris. I had never been to Paris, nor had I ever traveled alone. But as heartache tends to do, I had been on the floor in the fetal position for weeks, devastated and broken. So as Audrey Hepburn says in Sabrina, "Paris is always a good idea."

I did an apartment swap and landed in Paris in early January 2010. Since then, a precedent has been set. When things get a little too intense to handle, I sublet my apartment and book a flight out of town.


My therapist doesn't think this is the best way to handle these bumps in the road of my life.

"Sit with your feelings, Amanda," she tells me. "You need to allow yourself the chance to feel the pain in order to heal." As I explain to her, I do sit with my feelings; I just do it in another country.

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I've been on the move a lot since 2010. Although my heartache from the man I knew in 2009 has long since subsided, I'm now dealing with the pain of my losing my husband... to a child... who emailed me poetry. But we all know how I initially responded to that.

But just as I did in 2009, I peeled myself from the floor, realized that sending poop to your husband is no cure for a broken heart, and left town.

First I went to St. Thomas, then New Orleans. I usually travel further, but these were places I wanted to see. After coming back to the city to find my center again, I headed to Costa Rica, and later this month I'll be heading to Thailand and Cambodia. After that, I'll be in Europe for a few months.

While some call this running away, I see it differently. While I am, in some ways, trying to outrun my pain, I also see myself as running toward my future. I'm not wallowing on the floor of my apartment, with my head in the toilet bowl throwing up my broken insides, but in a café in Bangkok, a brewery in Belgium, or on a beach in Spain.


I am, as my therapist tells me to do, sitting with my feelings but I'm doing so outside the space that's familiar to me, a space haunted with memories and the riff-raff of my past.

I've chosen to take myself out of the bed I once shared with my husband, away from the kitchen where we made dinner together so many times, and out of the city where each block is a reminder of all the ways we wandered home, back when we had a home together.

I don't see that as running away; I see that as a wise decision and one which I've realized works for me. In other words, I'm finding the bits of me that were lost in the collision.

With every relationship, a piece of you is lost. I believe this through and through. We may not have intended to lose ourselves but when we compromise, as all relationships require, we sacrifice a bit of ourselves. We offer a piece to our partner and boldly say, "Here. I'm giving you this part of me and, in turn, I'd like that part of you." It's a deal you make when you fall in love, and a deal you don't mind making because you're in love.


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But when the love has died, you find yourself trying to get those pieces back. You know that your former partner no longer has them but that doesn't mean they just magically come back to their rightful owner. So you find yourself on your knees, looking under the bed, in between the couch cushions, or digging out the drain of your shower trying to find them.

When you realize they're not there, you need to search further. You're forced to wonder where pieces of you would go if they could go anywhere in the world. And you end up realizing that they're probably hiding out in places the rest of you have always wanted to be.


Then you're suddenly on this goose chase, a game of sorts, running around trying to find the aspects of yourself that your former partner no longer wants, so you can configure them into the puzzle that is you.

Before you know it, you're sitting on the steps of Sacré-Cœur, looking out on the streets of Montmartre just below and you feel a twinge. It's very subtle, far from remarkable, and not exactly note-worthy enough for a parade but you realize that it's a piece of you climbing back inside.

It made its way through the crash, climbed up all those steps, dug through your skin, pushed past your bones, and reclaimed its rightful spot. And you come to understand that this is how it's done; this is how people recover from a broken heart.

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As I pack up my belongings once again, I think back to that moment in Montmartre six years ago. I remember so clearly how it felt and what it meant. While I don't know if I'll find a piece of myself in Bangkok, saddling up next to me at a bar, amongst the ruins of Angkor Wat, or even on the steps of Sacré-Cœur again, I know that I'm out there.

It's just going to take time, and eventually, I'll feel that twinge and know that I'm on the road to being me again.

The whole me, but with a few more scars that I'll wear proudly. No one walks away from a crash unscathed, and when you think about it, you probably wouldn't want it any other way.


All photos: Author

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Amanda Chatel is a lifestyle writer with a focus on sex, relationships, sexual health women's reproductive rights, feminism, and mental health. Her work has appeared on Glamour, Bustle, HelloGiggles, Shape, Mic, Harper's Bazaar, and more.