“May I have your passport, please?” asked the man at the hotel’s dingy reception desk.
“Certainly.” Smiling brightly, I handed it over.
“And the other one?”, he asked.
“Um, there is no other one. It’s just me” I stuttered, dreading what I knew was coming next.
“But the booking says two people, so I need two passports”. He scrutinised the paper in his hand to confirm that, yes, there were indeed two names on the booking. He held it out to show me.
Swallowing tears, I took a deep breath and said, “he couldn’t come. It’s just me”. The sentence stuck in my throat, my choked voice betraying me. Tears stung my eyes.
He looked at me. Was it pity I could see in his expression? The friends that I was travelling with, a married couple, murmured to each other at the far end of the counter. Waves of crushing loneliness washed over me.
“Here is your key, Madam. Have a pleasant stay in Jordan”. He pushed the passport back across the counter.
This was the first of many, many, moments that reminded me I had just had my heart well and truly broken. (Actually, it wasn’t the first – I had previously argued with the Ryanair personnel at the airport because the check-in bag was on my
boyfriend’s, ex-boyfriend’s ticket and not mine). We’d booked the holiday together, but exactly a week before we were due to go he told me it was over.
I felt so selfish: here I was, on many people’s trip-of-a-lifetime, but I was obsessively watching my phone waiting to see if he had messaged me, if he had updated his Facebook status, if he had changed his mind and wanted to talk.
He hadn’t and he didn’t.
I spent the week staring at my phone and crying. I cried when he hadn’t messaged me. I cried more when he had. I knew that my erratic moods were hard on the friends I was travelling with and I withdrew more into myself. I walked around Jerusalem alone, my vision obscured by a veil of tears.
I’m not looking for sympathy. The break-up was mutual in many ways, but it was he who pressed the big red button to finish our 10-year relationship. Time will tell if it was the right decision.
The trip was indeed memorable, and – against all the odds, I enjoyed it. I visited Petra in Jordan, which was the first place ever on my bucket list – long before I heard the term, bucket list. In Israel, I floated in the Dead Sea. I sat amongst the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (and yes, I wept). I stood at the Western Wall. I laid a stone on Oskar Schindler’s grave, and I walked on the Mount of Olives with a Colombian who mistook me for a 25-year-old.
But most of all, I reflected.
I analysed the relationship, seeing the broken parts more clearly. I thought about the future, and I was surprised that – even though I am despondent at the moment – I can think of a future without him.
More importantly, I thought about me.
I realised that somewhere, over the course of our relationship I lost my self-confidence. There are barely any photographs of me from the last few years – I avoided having my picture taken. I thought about how I missed yoga (I practised three times a week when I lived in India but stopped when I moved to Bratislava). I thought about how I have to eat more healthily; how I’d like to drop a dress size; how I should spend more time with friends; how I’m going to speak to family more often; and how I need to travel around Europe extensively in the next year if I’m going to achieve my goal of visiting every European country before I’m 40.
In short, I realised that I had stopped being me and it’s time to claim that back.
Even though it was hard, I took selfies and asked my friends to photograph me. Of course, I have added numerous filters to the finished photograph, but it’s a start. Looking at those photographs, you wouldn’t suspect that heartbreak lies behind a forced smile, but I know that the real smile will shine even more brightly soon.
And that gives me hope.
Do you have any healing heartbreak stories to share? Has travel helped you see things more clearly? Let me know in the comments. If you like the post, please share.
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