Travel and a broken heart: How they changed my life forever

Travel and a broken heart: Gluing the pieces together

Travel and a broken heart feel like… (Nevit Dilmen, Wiki)

I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for travel and a broken heart. My life, personality, and even career choices would be completely different as we speak. So today I open my beat, albeit undefeated heart and show you that the worst things in life usually end up being the best for us. Thank you BootsnAll & 30 Days of Indie Travel (prompt 2) for making me open up again and hopefully strengthen and inspire many others to follow their dreams & passions — despite of the consequences

December 13th, 2008. I was in Egypt studying for my Arabic language finals, a little distracted because I was excited to go back to America in 10 days to surprise my future husband, love of my of life, for Christmas. He thought he wasn’t going to see me for a full year – all the way ’til the summer – but who does he think he is? I am Maria Alexandra, expect the unexpected! His handsome face, cheery eyes and dropped jaw once he saw me at his front door were all I could think about that night. Then, the call

“I just can’t do this anymore,” his broken voice spurted. I thought this was a bad dream: “Didn’t you just tell me last week that you looked to your bed in the morning and realized how much you missed me, that you couldn’t wait to hug me, squeeze me, and kiss me? That you missed seeing me standing on my tippy toes because I looked so cute? That I am the love of your life?!” My heart paralyzed and went into chaos all at the same time. I couldn’t breathe. I was choking in my own tears. I don’t think I have ever hurt or cried so much in my entire life.

He might read this, but he knows anyway. And if he doesn’t, I am kind of happy that today he will find out. And so, I decided to write an open letter to him…so you can see how travel and a broken heart were the two best things that ever happened to me (having loved with my all tying at the top…)

Dear James,

Today I want to thank you for giving me the gifts of travel and a broken heart. I know you planned it all very carefully, I know you also hurt while doing so, but furthermore I know you did it all because you deeply cared for me. They were almost 3 bittersweet years. You were there through my worst, through my depression, eating disorders. YOU, in fact, took me out of those black holes in my life. You never deserted me. You saved me. You truly loved me James, and I’ll cherish that forever.

Thank you for lying to me when I asked you if you wanted me to stay or apply for the Boren scholarship that eventually paid for my studies in Egypt. Keeping a straight face for a full year as I prepared my essays, application, and dreams must have been hard. Thank you for taking my essays to the most suitable person you knew so they could be proofread and the finish product be stellar. Thank you because no matter what, you always put my happiness before yours. You knew I’ve had the travel bug for quite some time, and instead of killing my dreams, you gave them wings. You knew that our relationship had come to a point of no return, that it was too damn difficult, and there was no way I could be truly happy with you. That we could be happier apart. And while both of our families already knew about the wedding plans…they could be put aside to make the best decision for both of us, the ones who actually mattered in the scheme of things. So you let me go…


Yet…you did tell me to stay AFTER you, YOURSELF, faxed the contract that bind me to “my dream” for a year in Egypt, and you know there was no chance of me backing out from it at that point. WHY DID YOU DO THAT!? That pissed me off! Sorry, I had to say it. I believe my heart was broken just then. True of the matter is, I was such a little girl. I didn’t understand. You simply wanted me to know how you truly felt — and that the reason you did all of that was so I had no choice but to follow my dreams. You knew I would drop everything in a second just to be with you – and you didn’t want me to do that. Of course, I didn’t understand then.

Ironically enough though, I felt that every day that went by just brought more and more pain, more and more guilt, more and more questions on why I was still there with you. But I guess I was too weak. I couldn’t let you go even though you were simply an “idealized” image of what I wanted my future husband to be. You were him though, a wonderful man! You loved me, you were/will always be there for me. Yet, I was also sure that wasn’t going to be the case.

So I left. Travel and a broken heart…

And you know what James? It is the best decision I have made in my life. I learned Arabic (reached intermediate level in just 2 semesters!), traveled to more than 11 new countries, and even decided to study in Morocco after a year in the Middle East because I just couldn’t handle coming back to Tampa and see you every day on campus. And once again I thank you, because you were my impetus, the catalyst – in so many ways. Basically, running away from you equaled even more travel and a broken heart.

In 2 years, my country counter almost hit 30, I could get by in 3 different languages, and most importantly, I found myself. I figured out exactly the kind of man I needed (an educated, rambunctious wanderer like myself). I realized that my career goal had to be being a successful digital nomad through writing, translating & interpreting in a myriad of languages. At last, I knew exactly what I wanted. I became a woman. I grew up.

As I went through said metamorphosis though, I struggled with embracing the changes. I still hated you while loving you so deeply for more than 2 years after the break up. I was traveling, learning, seeing new things but once a week or so, I would break down. I would write pages and pages in my journal telling you how much I hated you for dropping such a beautiful kind of love. Clearly, I was still a little girl back then. Or maybe it simply means being human? Whatever it was, one day I finally understood that you didn’t give up on love. Neither of us ever did. We simply realized that “letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that certain things aren’t meant to be.”

Love is like energy: It can’t be destroyed, but rather, transferred or transformed.

True love never dies. Life moves on, people come and go. A new relationship might make us happier. A new love is born. However, that doesn’t mean ours will weaken or dissipate, James. Love will always be strong & true. It has simply…changed.

*wipes tears off her cheeks* Remembering the best and worst moments of my life always makes me cry of joy. They are reminders of how greatly I’ve been blessed, because they have all taken me where I am. Which is where I’m supposed to be today. Crazy I figured it all out by age 24…

Travel and a broken heart changed my life forever.

Travel and a broken heart are the reasons why I’m so happy I could die

Lyrics of my life’s anthem here

37 thoughts on “Travel and a broken heart: How they changed my life forever

  1. What a moving story; thanks for sharing. I’m sorry to hear about your heartbreaks from years back, but I’m glad that you were able to turn them into positive experiences. My fiancé of 5 years dumped me via e-mail right before we were supposed to be re-united after an 8 month LDR. At the time, I was struggling to recover from a severe sports-related traumatic brain injury, so I felt like I was being kicked while I was down. Unbeknownst to me, my ex moved back to my area shortly after sending that e-mail. He still lives close by, but refuses to talk– he has a new life, new personality, new girlfriend, and new set of dreams. While I know I’m better off (he was controlling/manipulative… I now find myself wondering how I ignored all the red flags), it’s still a tough for me to accept that the promise of marriage was so easily broken. I can relate to what you wrote about struggling to embrace the new reality and having those tough emotions. My ex is the only person that I despise, yet at the same time, I’m thankful that he left me because in the 1.5 years he’s been gone, I’ve graduated with my masters and have had the freedom to apply to medical school, achieve many of my dreams, and travel (none of which I could have done with him). Despite finding a new love and having a great new life, I still find myself having weak moments on a regular basis. Because of this, I’ll soon be embarking on a round-the-world trip to “reconnect with myself” before heading off to med school- I’m optimistic travel will help me as it had helped you.
    Again, wonderful blog post– I’m so glad I stumbled upon it, because it’s made me realize that it’s not abnormal to still feel hurt years later, even when you’ve seemingly “moved on”. Hope you have dozens more safe and wonderful travels.

    • Sunshine, we’re humans, and yes, it will hurt years and years after the fact (I know I still hurt/kind of miss my ex every now and then). The important thing is that we move on with our lives, UNDERSTAND it wasn’t meant to be, follow the new direction of our hearts, and lose all fear.

      Shine on! *Hugs*

  2. Wow. This was so moving. I know it’s an older post but honestly it just spoke to me soo much. Props to you for having the balls to write it, I’m not sure I would be able to. I’m in a relationship with someone for over 2 years now, and it looks as though it may have a similar end to yours because our individual dreams for our lives are just so different. We have something beautiful and special so we keep chugging along, and who’s to say what will happen. It’s hard to be a nomad/travel lover when the love of your life isn’t the same way!

    BTW you rock – I’m obsessed with Shaki and consider Gitana to be the anthem for my life 🙂

    • Sometimes, love entails letting go of our beloved just so they can be happier with someone else.

      Abandoning dreams in the name of “love” isn’t right–or so I’ve learned. But of course, it’s up to you guys what you decide to do. I hope you guys are happy whichever route you take.

      Yay for Gitana — the anthem of free-spirited, independent women! 😉

  3. Amazing article! I so prefer the personal articles like this one! And I have a very similar experience, I had so many bad relationships before which are now one of my reasons to travel all the time. Keep going, girl!

    • Seems like many of us travelers have gone through the same. Everything does happen for a reason, and I’m excited for the future 🙂

  4. Oh Maria, this really moved me! I feel your pain!

    As you know, I just experienced something similar recently and hurts like hell.

    I couldn’t believe it when I heard the words: “I am not sure anymore…I am sorry” that was like being shot in the heart!

    I know it is for my highest good and frankly I am better off without this person who would not support me or my dreams.

    I moved to the other side of the planet to acquire some precious experience and was ready to build a life together but someone got cold feet in the end.

    I will heal with time & look forward to greater things!

    Keep your chin up & be happy no matter what (I’ll follow my own advice)

    Un *abrazo*

    Kay 😉

  5. I have the biggest goosebumps! This happened to me down to the T. My ex-fiance of 6 years called me on the phone and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” After some months of feeling like my heart would never heal, I marched myself to the jewelry store, sold my engagement ring, and used the $ to travel to Buenos Aires. And you know what happened next…

  6. Very nice post! Sometimes we think that when getting married we have to compromise, but in love there is no compromise! It’s all about finding the right balance! And like they say, “your’re in the right place in the right time” 🙂 Happy Travelling!

    • Anji, you are so right about EVERYTHING you said. Right now I’m in a loving relationship with a new wonderful man and it is effortless. “You’re in the right place in the right time” fits to the T and in love, when one finds the right person, one knows by seeing that things just go naturally, you don’t have to try, no compromise, things just flow. It is so beautiful and I thank God every day for all the lessons and blessings. Life is great! 🙂

  7. Everything happens for a reason as they say and it all works out for the best. Thank you for sharing and being so grateful for James and what he taught you,despite the pain of losing someone you loved.

  8. Maybe it’s because I’ve had similar experiences of love and heartbreak on the road, but this one conjured up a tear or two from me. Beautiful post. I’ll be featuring it this week in my Recommended Reads 🙂

  9. I am not sure what is more shocking, that anyone would break up with the beautiful Maria Laborde or that the beautiful Micamyx Senyorita has never had a serious boyfriend. Men of the world are failing out there.

  10. Aww.. This post is so touching…. so true 🙂 I never had a serious boyfriend so I wouldn’t know exactly how that felt. Sometimes, our biggest heartaches will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Cheer up and let’s move forward. Cheers to life and travel! 😀

    • Our first love is also the strongest, as we love without fear, without conditions. Life and love are tough. Hopefully, we can all experience the strength of our first experiences like a child. Life is more intense and worth-living that way..

      And I’m cheered up, no worries! Carrying on 😉

  11. Wow. That was intense and deeply personal. I’m not sure people are as selfless as you make James out to be, but good for you for having that perspective. 🙂

    It sounds like you’re on the right path for you, and you’ve got a good head on those shoulders. Keep following the traveling heart and you’ll find your love (see also. el alquimista).

    • James is a mysterious man. I always knew some dark childhood trauma was/is afflicting him, so who knows with him. Everyday I have a different theory on why/what happened. No point on over-thinking though, it is what it is and us being together, even as friends, isn’t allowed in our lifetime it seems like. Sad, but the dark side of life I guess.

      I’m sure I’m on the right path and will keep pushing on. I’m already seeing many of my wildest dreams come to reality through tears, sweat, blood…I’m almost there!

      PS – I LOVE El Alquimista!!! Among my Top 2 favorite books of all time 🙂

  12. Beautiful post! I can relate very much. I’ve now suffered two breakups while traveling, each very different, and both equally tragic.
    The first was my partner with whom I traveled for 3 years:
    theprofessionalhobo . com/2010/12/breaking-up-while-traveling/

    And the second was a budding romance with somebody I called my Swedish Squeeze:
    theprofessionalhobo . com/2011/06/romance-on-the-road/

    Who ended up recently breaking my heart:
    theprofessionalhobo . com/2011/10/being-thankful-in-grenada/

    And as you can see from the title of the last post (“Being Thankful in Grenada”), it is a gift to be able to see how these tragedies help us grow and move forward in our lives.

    Bravo! Travel on….

  13. Wow. This just brought tears to my eyes. In part because I can relate in a way. It was an ended relationship and a broken heart that pushed me on the road to pursuing travel in my life (and ironically enough, it all started in Egypt!).

    Congrats on moving forward!

    • RUSTY! You found me in the bloggosphere! *hugs* wish I can stumble upon you some day again. You are one of the few fine souls left on Earth 😉

  14. You’re right. This is a very nice article. The personal and truthful ones often are. I’m so glad that you say after 30 countries you managed to sort out who you are, and who you want to be with. It’s good to hear that the rest of us who are running away from one-thing-or-another have hope.

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