• Kayla Minguez

How Traveling Helped Me Heal From Divorce

Updated: Jun 2

If you’ve never experienced the particular brand of pain that comes with getting a divorce, consider yourself lucky. In 2019 alone, over 746,000 divorces were filed in the U.S. Though that’s down slightly from previous years, that’s still a lot of divorces.


I, however, being the overachiever that I am, decided to get divorced during COVID. Well, not quite in that order. Rather, I decided to get divorced, and then the pandemic happened and the courthouses shut down, and so ensued a year of trying to understand the legal proceedings of and file for a divorce digitally.


Under even the best of circumstances, getting divorced is painful and a bit embarrassing. Getting divorced in COVID took an already difficult situation and made it ten times worse for me. However, what helped me get through this time in my life, aside from the invaluable support of my family, was a solo trip that I took to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.


What Does Travel Have to Do With Spiritual and Emotional Healing?

The view from my Airbnb’s balcony, overlooking Old Town Puerto Vallarta and, in the distance, Bahia de Banderas
The view from my Airbnb’s balcony, overlooking Old Town Puerto Vallarta and, in the distance, Bahia de Banderas

Travel and especially solo travel is a great way to reconnect with yourself, your emotions, and your mind. Traveling forces you outside your comfort zone while exposing you to new people, places, and experiences. When you’re going through a hard time, it’s also an effective means to get away from everyone who knows about the drama in your life.


When I went to Mexico, I wanted to experience the local culture, eat amazing food, and experience the world on my own. I also wanted to put as much distance as possible between me and my ex.


I wanted to remember what it was like to be a person again, not someone’s significant other. I wanted to do things exactly the way I wanted to do them: sleep when I was tired, eat whatever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted, without having to consider someone else’s opinion.

Conchas Chinas beach, where I liked to go to swim and read
Conchas Chinas beach, where I liked to go to swim and read

At 29 years old, I’d spent a decade of my adult life in a relationship with the same person. This, while it had its share of good times and happy memories, also led me to be very codependent. Unhealthily so, in many cases.


My solo trip to Mexico showed me that I was still capable of being on my own, and being happy. It gave me the distance and the solitude I needed to start processing the dissolution of my marriage and some of the friendships connected to it.


It gave me the space and the time to sit with myself and remember how it felt not to be on anyone else’s schedule except mine.


This trip also challenged me in many ways. For one, navigating a country you’ve never been to before, where you don’t fluently speak the native language, is difficult. I got by in Mexico with the little bit of Spanish I know, the English that the locals knew, and my friend Google Translate.


I also relied heavily on Facebook Groups for American ex-pats and travelers who lived in or had previously traveled to Puerto Vallarta. And, day by day, I cobbled my knowledge together enough to get fresh water, food, good Wifi, and a ton of invaluable new experiences.

Me releasing baby sea turtles as part of a Puerto Vallarta wildlife conservation tour
Me releasing baby sea turtles as part of a Puerto Vallarta wildlife conservation tour

Additionally, as someone with social anxiety, this trip pushed me to confront many of my anxiety triggers head-on. I’m not the chattiest of people, to begin with, let alone crossing a language barrier and adding the fear of looking like a fool when I spoke Spanish. The Mexican people are very kind, though.


When I was having trouble understanding how to activate my SIM card, the elderly woman who rang me up at a corner store was understanding, and simply selected a plan for me so that I would have the mobile data I needed to then add more minutes and data later. It was probably a very small action to her, but it was so helpful to me.

A path in the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, which I explored for a day
A path in the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, which I explored for a day

The more challenges I experienced and overcame, the more secure I became in myself. The more places I explored on my own, the happier I was with my decision to leave my old life behind. The more I allowed myself to relax, the more my heart and soul healed. The more beautiful sights I saw, the more I looked forward to what I’d see in the future.


Getting divorced, or going through a breakup of any kind, is difficult. There’s a lot of pressure, real or perceived, from other people. It feels like everyone you know is either judging you or feeling sorry for you.


But the truth is, no one except the people in a relationship knows what that relationship is like. And, even then, their opinions may differ on specifics.


Solo travel is a great way to get away from all of that. You can be alone with your thoughts, alone with your feelings, and you can process everything on your own time. And, when you need a break from all that heavy emotional deep work, you can go explore the world around you.


As you do, you’ll see that everyone has their own troubles, some more or less stressful than yours. And, sometimes, that makes dealing with your problems feel a little less lonely.


By the time I left Mexico, I’d spent close to two months living there by myself. As I expressed in an Instagram post when I left, the trip was exactly what I needed to process my pain and begin moving forward again:

Travel is still tenuous and difficult for many people right now. However, if you’re going through a hard time and you can safely travel, it might be just what you need to start healing yourself.

 

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