My interest in traveling was initially triggered by one of my first loves – football. A few years back, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea Football Clubs had their Asian tour in China, Malaysia and Thailand. Together with two friends, I searched for the cheapest ticket going to Kuala Lumpur.
From there, I traveled non-stop all over Southeast Asia and the following year, I was lucky enough to get into a fashion program in Milan.
For the duration of my studies, I was able to explore the beautiful cities of Barcelona, Vienna, Paris and this also gave me the opportunity to watch European teams play live.
Then, another love came. Luckily, we had the same interests. We met in a Couchsurfing meeting in Manila and the stars just aligned. We started dating and decided to travel together to Boracay where we got the chance to know each other very well.
I wasn’t expecting too much, to be honest. I am a very active member of Couchsurfing Philippines and I know the rules of the game – people come and go.
The day he left Manila was also the day he asked me to come with him. I was in total shock. My friends often tease me that I always find something wrong when the ‘gift of love’ comes, that I have always been good at being alone. In a blink of an eye, I said yes.
I believed that I had already met the one who would make my knees tremble, turn my iris’ shapes into hearts and send butterflies to my belly. There’s no harm in traveling with the one you love, right? After all, if it doesn’t work out, home is just a plane away.
We first traveled to Morocco and we were making progress. We rode camels through the Sahara Desert, pigged out over tajine and couscous and experienced the culture. Everything was going well. “This is working out,” I thought.
Eleven cities and numerous cups of tea later, he woke up and said, “I need a break.” I had no idea why he was pulling this trigger, after all the travels that we enjoyed together. Just like that, he decided to leave.
I didn’t have a game plan with the what-if-it-didn’t-work-out-situation and I was staggered by his lack of understanding that I’ve never traveled this far, alone, in a country where I don’t know anyone.
“Go home,” my mother’s voice seemed to echo, while I was looking for flights to I-don’t-know-where. If I went home, I would have all the help I needed to cope. I would be surrounded by a loving community, and after a few days, I would be okay. This time, I chose to be okay because of me. I wanted to help myself and hopefully, discover something along the way. So I decided to travel more.
Where to go?
Where to go, where to go…Not home, please. I was so used to being with him. I couldn’t imagine myself in a place where I knew no one, fending for myself and meeting strangers who could have bad intentions. I was very scared.
I chose Brazil. He suggested it, too. At the back of my head, I still had those thoughts of getting back together.
For a year, I traveled South America by bus, crossing all the frontiers of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Today, a year later, I am very happy to say that I no longer feel that same pain, that I can openly share my story without hurt, that I can say we are in a very good place now as very good friends.
If it weren’t for this emotional battle, I wouldn’t be here to learn how to get my life back together and live again.
At this moment, I know I am in a credible position to give advice to those people who are presently undergoing the same situation of pain, hurt and grief. Here are a few ways travel helped me heal:
He always spoke Spanish for the both of us and I never had the audacity to study. When I first arrived in Colombia, I was totally speaking broken Spanish and people were just being kind trying to understand me.
Three months and two countries later, I am now fluent in speaking the language. All you have to do is to blend with locals and never stop talking even if your grammar sounds ridiculous. You will eventually get used to it.
When I last got in touch with him about my trip to Argentina, he was partly surprised that I can now communicate with him in Spanish – something that I never did when we were still together.
Another thing I learned on my own – how to cook. It’s really a bonus if you already know how, but when traveling, you really get to learn the culture though the local dishes. I couldn’t even fry an egg back home and when I started cooking here, my parents wanted to throw a party. My first few tries weren’t good but now, my guy friends are always asking me to cook (and sometimes marry them).
You will also get the chance to meet with local families and welcome you into their home to teach their local dish. This is something that is worth traveling for, I promise you that.
Seeing the beautiful world for yourself
You won’t be really alone when you travel, because you will meet a lot of people from all over the world who will become your good friends. Their perspective, goals in life and travel stories made me realize that what I went through was a break-up – not the end of the world.
I learned how to appreciate little things and be in the present moment. Before, I was so used to cuddling while watching the sunset, but now, I know how to enjoy things by myself.
From trekking Machu Picchu to exploring the biggest salt flat in the world, I did it all alone. Sometimes, we don’t really look at the bright side of things. But I learned that there is a big world out there that we sometimes ignore. And I saw all these, just by being alone.
When people ask me why am I traveling, I always explain over and over again that I just had a bad break-up. I mean, what else is there to say? I was really there so I could heal my broken heart.
Today, that's all changed. I am no longer identifying myself with my past relationship. When people ask, I say, “I am here because I want to live life.”
Trisha Velarmino is a fashion enthusiast, but she decided to ditch her job and travel the world. She is the author of the travel blog, P.S. I'm On My Way where she writes about her long-term travel adventures, volunteering, learning languages and encouraging women to travel solo. Follow her on Twitter @psimonmyway.
*This story was first published in Rappler.com, a Manila-based social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.
Illustration by Adhitya Pattisahusiwa, background image by Michael Levi.