Mid-way through my New Zealand trip, I was happy as a clam! I was relaxing into solo travel and would belly-up to the bar for lunch or dinner like an old pro. I was rolling with all kinds of unforeseen travel punches like fraud alerts on my credit cards and not being sold a bottle of wine because I had forgotten my passport (New Zealand air must be good for anti-aging!). I was enjoying getting lost, literally, without WIFI. I was spending days according to my own schedule, without compromise, and my problems were half way around the world.
Unfortunately, as I realized, pain can be hard to shake. You can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away. I think John Irving said it best:
“Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you – and summons them to your recall with a will of its own.”
I was in the energy bar section of a grocery store in the middle of New Zealand, with my mind clear and a smile on my face, when a memory sent me spiraling. I was reaching for a Cliff Bar (fuel for my next hiking trip at Abel Tasman) and had this sharp flash of my ex reaching into his glove compartment for this same stupid peanut butter bar wrapper. It was like seeing a ghost; every cell of my body suddenly filled up with loss and sadness. I felt sick to my stomach, but regrouped and got back to my seat on the tour bus. A night of camping lay ahead.
Laying in my tent that night, I was so mad at myself for “allowing” those feelings to bubble up. The last time I had spoken to my ex was the night we decided to divorce. Since then, I had put one foot in front of the other to get as far from that moment as possible. I truly did not look back and that forward motion took every ounce of my willpower. As these thoughts gathered, I had a cry — the kind that feels like air is being vacuumed from your body. Then out of nowhere, I understood my strong desire to travel. I had traveled around world to give myself the space and permission to be deeply sad in a vulnerable way and the opportunity to redesign my life alone. In the snugness of my tent, I acknowledged a few thing…
…that as a baseline, I am scared shitless and have no answers. I am not afraid to be alone, but to have my heart crushed again. As I was preparing to leave for this trip, the general feedback from women was “you are insane” while men said “you are so brave.” I found this so interesting and ironic. Traveling solo around the world felt like the right move for me partly because it was less risky than the brave (but potentially insane) act of falling in love.
…that I am already tired and bored of the divorced woman story. I have felt failure and loss. But also more importantly feel stronger and unwilling to repeat the same mistakes. So I will no longer define myself with this label and forgave myself and decided to leave this drama behind.
…that love is all around me. The overwhelming and surprising support of my blog readers who’s encouragement keeps me passionate about this adventure. To my loving family back home that wishes I was on a plane back to LAX yesterday, but have supported me on every level of this adventure and life.
…and that, for me, companionship is the cherry on the sundae of life. I do want a partner with whom I can climb glaciers, laugh as our tent collapses, or simply sip a quiet cup of coffee. This realization doesn’t take away from my solo travels; it actually is this incredible relief and a counter to my fear.
AHA moment: heartbreak did not actually break my heart.
Putting space between negative situations has always been a healthy way for me to heal. And this has been my experience in New Zealand. In a short period of time, things had shifted.
A few days later, near the end of a two week adventure, the Flying Kiwi was rolling across the North Island. I finally made it to the white sand New Zealand beach and was welcomed by a double rainbow arching over the Pacific Ocean! It was absolutely awesome. I ran down to the water and literally dove (er, face-planted) into the ocean. I’ve always considered myself a ‘Beach Betty’, but never went in the water because I was afraid of being towed under. This time I was running into the salty Pacific, jumping over and under waves, trying to body surf. I felt back to my roots and like I was experiencing the ocean (again) for the first time.
On my last day, I went into a small jewelry shop and came across this beautiful blue pearl ring, my first AHA FIND of the trip. I asked the jeweler what the carvings on the side of the ring meant and he replied “New Beginnings” — I could not believe my ears! But as I learned recently, there are no coincidences.