How Travel Breaks Your Heart

Throwing clothes in a suitcase and jet setting across the blue skies has always appealed to me. It seems only natural then that as I witness the phenomenon of ‘wanderlust’ sweeping over the rest of my peers, I should be rather pleased. That somehow I should feel rather accomplished for having jumped on that train long before it became chic. Yet, looking back over the first few chapters of my travels to where I am now, I realized that my restless feet did not come without the price of my heart.

Traveling is not always glamorous; it can be grueling and intensive. The elements are not mere components of your destination but rather become the hidden pawns of your map. Living abroad is an even further challenge.

Taipei, Taiwan, Christian Ekleberry backpacksandblackboards.com
Taipei, Taiwan, Christian Ekleberry backpacksandblackboards.com

There are days when I am abroad that I do not utter a word to anyone. This is not for lack of desire to chat with another being but due to my inability to communicate with those around me. These days make me realize just how alone one can be even amidst a crowded street.

Cool evenings when I have broken down and shed my tears upon a cobble-stoned street under the dimming sky and shallow glow of a street lamp; all this for merely spending six hours in a foreigners’ clinic feeling horrible and rather alone. Knowing that when I am to arrive at my version of home, there will be only myself to take care of an ailing and horribly depressed me.

There are points in my journey where I know that I cannot be the daughter that my mother wishes I could be: the one that can meet for a spot of coffee or a quick retail therapy session on a long day. Sunday brunches only exist when one person has stayed up late for coffee at a diner while the other person places a call home during an early lunch at their flat before afternoon class. Not to mention that Christmas cards will arrive for Valentine’s Day.

My Birthday in London
My Birthday in London

Friends become distant as their lives continue onwards as your adventures move you forward. You meet new people but nothing replaces the late nights of wine, Cheetos, laughing, and ranting. You wish them well and hope that you won’t be forgotten by the time their “big moments” happen: that where ever you are, their invitations and announcements will make it to your foreign doorstep.

Most of all, your beloved relationships will be pitted against your desire to roam. Commitment, no matter how lovingly tended, will be no match for your wandering soul. Your basic humanistic craving for a sense of stability and support will soon be the very chains that hold you in place. Despite your best attempts to have the best of both, sooner than later you will have to choose. What you are left with is two possibilities: of being in a mostly perfect relationship that forces you to plant your roots way too soon or cutting all ties and leaving, with the known risk of never finding another near perfect relationship. The former would be the stifling of the best part of you, the latter a human void.

In my travels and life abroad, I have found that there are days where my heart is heavier than the bags I carry. My choices have led to my own heartbreak, my heart betrayed by my own doing.

But then there are those other days: the ones that lead to new discoveries and a skyline of abyss, glowing brightly against the hard violet. Moments in my life that have pieced together all the weathered chips off my heart, putting them together in a way that somehow surpasses the original. Times in my wandering where the scars from the past sufferings are wrapped lovingly in an embrace around my wounds in the form of the soft billow of a colorful Bangladeshi scarf, giving a flicker of hope with each whispering wind. Days when a small patch of green coming through a crumbling temple can make me smile.

Wat in Laos, Christian Ekleberry, backpacksandblackboards.com
Wat in Laos, Christian Ekleberry, backpacksandblackboards.com

No matter how many times or in what manners traveling has broken my heart, I come to a special point, a glorious instance, where travel rebuilds and strengths my mind, body, and soul in ways that nothing else ever can.

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24 thoughts on “How Travel Breaks Your Heart”

  1. This is both an inspiring and heart-wrenching post. My eyes actually welled up with tears when you spoke of your mother. I hope peace, certainty and fulfilment find you more often than not, beautiful soul ❤

    1. What beautiful words! Thank you. Most days are filled with joy but every now and then comes a hard day, more than my friends and family know. They see my life as a glamorous fairytale…which most days I agree. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. It’s easy to be perceived as an adventurous soul who wanders and have adventures. It’s easy to project an outside image, but it’s so much more difficult to live under that image.
    For me the most heartbreaking part of travel though is the setting foot in the return airport, away from all your journeys and adventures. That’s always when I get hit hardest with heartbreak and overwhelming thought and feeling of “just how do I explain to others what just happened to me” for it really can’t be put into words. Wonderful post though. You write beautifully.

    1. Seeing family is hard. Traveling with family is sometimes harder. They don’t always like the places that are special to me in my new home or they aren’t as prepared as I’d like them to be. Thank you for the kind words. Writing is a way for me to share with those who also travel and see as well as to those who haven’t had the pleasure yet. Dont be a stranger!

  3. Dear Christian, this is a lovely and poignant reflection of what goes behind the perceived glamour of living abroad. I think you’re a brave soul, letting your heart lead you to where you are right now, even if means having to leave behind your loved ones, and having no one but yourself to pull you through in times of doubt and hardship. Braver still, that you’re able to soldier on with so much positivity and optimism. You go, girl! 🙂
    (I hope this makes sense to you, my English isn’t so good!).

    1. I can’t complain. Living abroad has been beautiful but there are those few hard days! Thanks for all the support 🙂

  4. Such a great post. I feel the same way, in a slightly different setting. I am finishing school, trying to pursue a career in acting, and traveling as much as I can while most of the people I’m close to are settling down. It has a lot to do with choices and figuring out what will make you the happiest, even if it takes you away from those you love.

    Again, beautifully worded!

    1. How awesome with everything you are doing! And so great knowing there’s a community of people who have similar experiences despite amount of miles in between! Good luck with everything 🙂

  5. This is a wonderful post Christian. I felt the same way when I first left my home country to work on a holiday working visa and I felt singled out by my friends at home, alone in this new country but I have learnt so much from these experiences and made new friends. So it works sometimes it just depends on what choice you want to take. The one where it is stable but there might be less sense of adventure or the harder one. Great post.

  6. Hey there, like everyone else I can deeply relate to this piece. I spent 2 years traveling around solo And I remember that feeling on being soo lonely and depressed. Im so happy you wrote this and a few of your other reflective pieces particularly that Carrie Bradshaw post (: Personally I look back and know Ive made a fair share of mistakes out of depression on the road or loneliness! Keep up the good bloggin’ sister (:

    1. What a lovely comment! I was cleaning up my site and getting ready to turn my attention back to my blog and travels after an intense summer of teaching. This was such a nice comment to return back to.

  7. I stumbled upon your blog, and I’ve been reading your stories for the past 30 minutes. This post especially hit home. I moved to Spain in July as an au pair and I have definitely had my share of tough days. The heart break from traveling is inevitable and challenging, but I wouldn’t take it back and trade it in for all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had because of traveling. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      1. It’s pretty great here! It was hard in some ways, just like any move. But not moving to a third world country definitely made my transition easier! You’re teaching English right? That is so awesome. Before I found my au pair gig, I was seriously looking into teaching abroad. It’s still something I am considering, so any insight is always welcome! 🙂

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