February, 2015. I was in Miami International Airport, not really knowing what to do with myself.
I had 6 hours in transit to kill.
And you guys, if you’ve ever been to MIA you know it’s a little world of its own. You can wander around without having the need to leave. Shops, restaurants, even a spa (Terminal D, in case you wonder), everything’s at your service. A cool place to be stuck in transit, if you ask my opinion.
The route was: Guayaquil (Ecuador) — Miami (USA) — London (UK) — Berlin (Germany) — Riga (Latvia).
A trip of a lifetime, right?
Sounds exciting, right?
Thousands and thousands of kilometers covered, how cool is that, right?
And yet, that was one of the most depressing trips in my life.
In fact, I was crying so hard in that duty free store in MIA that people were approaching me to ask if everything’s all right. Crying so hard I couldn’t stop. Crying so hard I started to resemble an Asian at a certain point. (OK, you know things must have gotten pretty bad if there’s a racist joke involved).
The thing was, I felt terribly lost. I broke up with my first boyfriend (mad love!), got most of my hopes and expectations crushed (crazy thing!), I was a recent college graduate with a “useless degree” (yikes!), I had no work experience (uh-oh!) and had no idea what to do with my life (like, for real). And when I say it, I really mean it — I had ZERO FUCKING CLUE WHAT TO DO WITH MY LIFE.
I felt lost.
But I also felt very heartbroken. Sacrificing everything “for love” and moving over to Ecuador for a guy and then realizing that fairy tales exist only in Disney movies was a hard lesson. A bitter pill that, admittedly, I felt I had no willpower to swallow at a time.
So I decided to do what I do best: postpone taking any decision. I kept the pill beneath the tongue, pretending it’s not there, pretending it’s not bitter at all, I started a blog, and told myself that, instead of fixing my problems, I’m gonna see the world and become that cool Russian/Latvian chick that has all these cool travel stories to tell over a cuppa tea. I told myself I needed to catch up on all the “missed out” travel opportunities, visit all the “bucketlisted” destinations, and that my happy place would be found somewhere on the Caribbean beach.
So as soon as I arrived back to Europe, I spent two weeks in London, then one month at home in Latvia, then I packed my bags and moved to Berlin, and then I didn’t stop traveling.
I literally couldn’t sit still.
I would go to a new destination every second week: Saxon landscapes, Bavarian Alps, Swiss hikes, Czech castles, little German towns no German has ever heard of — I became a travel consumer.
But then I wanted more flights, more trips; I wanted to meet more locals, go on more tours; I was constantly hungry for more. I became a travel junkie.
And while such “wanderlust” portrays me like an “aspiring millennial” for many people (who would occasionally drop me the “oh my gawd I want your life” message that always makes me laugh), the truth is, I started feeling a bit bored with travel.
Thing is, once you’ve taken 20 flights, the 21st one becomes a bit “duh”.
Once you’ve visited 50 countries, the 51st one becomes a bit “oh well”.
Once you become a travel junkie, travel isn’t fun anymore.
It’s like flipping the channels on the TV. Or like swiping on Tinder. Or like eating food not because you’re hungry, but because you’re bored. Nothing really strikes you, nothing really stands out, but you keep flipping and swiping and eating because you told yourself there’s nothing else to do. Or because you told yourself that’s THE thing to do.
Sometimes travel is as useless, and stupid, and unnecessary just like doing drugs.
Amidst the travel influenza, the social media madness and all that, it’s easy to believe that travel can fix everything, including your broken heart. But it’s a bait.
Two years later, after “living the life”, I found myself in the exact same state I was in MIA’s duty free. I still felt depressed, still felt heartbroken, and still had no idea what to do with myself.
You can’t substitute your pain with experiences. Pain is pain. Travel is travel. And these two are completely different things, despite what Thought Catalog and Huffington Post might tell you. Despite what your insecure ego might tell you. Drowning your pain in travel is the same as drowning yourself in alcohol — and I guess you never heard from anybody that this is a super wise idea, right?
Often by “living life”, we actually procrastinate living life. We postpone it. And I have news for you: pain is part of life, too — and yet we often tend to put it on a faraway shelf somewhere deep inside of us, hoping that, if there’s enough dust to cover it over time, pain will become invisible. And even if it might seem that is (i.e invisible), it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It doesn’t mean you’ve dealt with it. It doesn’t mean you’ve let things go. It doesn’t mean you’re free, ready to explore, ready to live. There’s still that heavy burden somewhere there, because you never took time to face it and fix it.
Travel can never heal a broken heart. What it does is often postponing dealing with your heartbreak, making it longer for you to cure. Travel as a form of escapism, travel as a form of distraction is the wrong form of travel. And yet it took me 10+ countries and 1 broken heart to realize that.
So what does help healing a broken heart? What is the cure for the pain?
From my experience, it’s sharing the pain that helps you to move beyond it. There’s a big stigma in our society around sharing our pain — the contemporary image of a human being is positive, successful, determined, strong, strong, and did I say strong? Pain just doesn’t really fit in. Saying that you’re in pain, communicating it to the world, screaming about it is a taboo. And yet, squelching our traumas only makes it worse. It starts rotting inside, infecting the whole system. What you need to do is let it out — once the pain is outside of you, you’ll finally be able to live without it. And then good things will happen. Promise.