Falling in and out of love belongs to traveling like collecting stamps from foreign places in your passport. Hands up, who has never met ‘the love of their life’ (or the moment) on the road – or at least helplessly lost their hearts to a city, a country or an area. I am certainly guilty of scattering splinters of my heart wherever I go, and sometimes those splinters are directed at a man I meet on the way.

Travel brings not only those flickering romances that may or may not turn into real love; travel can also cause or mend broken hearts; it can connect lovers over a long distance; or it can cause the most beautiful and most crucial feeling at the same time: love-sickness.

I hope you’re all nodding in agreement with me right now! I suspect you enjoy those stories of travel and love as much as I do, therefore I’m going to share three of them with you.

1) The story of a broken heart

It was the beginning of a long cold winter. I had just moved to Berlin and although it had only been a few weeks since I was finally over my last break-up, I had met this guy. He was tall, Australian and knew everything about street art – a winning combination, especially in Berlin. We spent our time exploring neighborhoods, cafes and festivals that I will forever and always associate with him. Slowly winter became spring and we also got to know each other. I realized there was a darkness in his past, of which I didn’t know how to replace it with light. Of course, I tried anyways; needless to say, that I failed. I had already decided to move away again in a couple of months time, and he was nowhere ready for a casual fling, even less a long-distance relationship. Not exactly a winning hand for love… There I was, sobbing in my living room, all I had left from him, his tag on my kitchen blackboard. He stayed away from me – for about one month. Naive romantic that I am – we both were – we soon rebounded to the exact same place we had been before. We tried to forget about the inevitable end of our precious time together and spent a summer of blinding love. Then he pulled trigger for the second and final time, days before I was embarking on an epic holiday to the Brazilian rainforest. And there I was sobbing, crying and screaming again – louder this time – dreading the journey ahead of me.

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Of course, the flights were booked and there was nothing I could do. I had always dreamt of Brazil and the Amazon rainforest, I wouldn’t let a broken heart ruin that. Or, so I thought… Although others have told their stories of how travel mended their broken hearts, all I felt was isolation. I was on my own, I didn’t speak the language and I was not entirely sure what to expect. Like at home, the first few days of my trip, I spent more time weeping in my hotel bed than out and about exploring. Travel did not take my mind off him, being far away and alone only made it worse. Although I did eventually venture out into the wild and made some unforgettable memories, I will always remember this trip as a journey of heartache and grieve. It took months and yet another relocation to mend my broken heart, but I also took away some lessons from it:

1. Solo traveling with a broken heart can be the loneliest experience of your life – but it might also be the most important step towards a mended heart.

2. You have two options: grieve and let it all out in paradise, or distract yourself with activities and grieve when you’re back home – if you’re wise, you choose the latter because…

3. …nothing is as bad as being in an amazing place and not allowing yourself to enjoy it to the fullest.

2) The story of an unfulfilled dream

I was never one to hold back my emotions and affection, and I probably kissed just as many foreigners on holidays than men in my own hometown. Unless somebody just ripped my heart out of my chest, travel leaves me in an euphoric state of mind that is infectious. When I left for my first big solo trip to Canada, I was happy and single, and had no plans of changing that anytime soon. Of course, that changed when I met him.

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He, a local this time, was perfect – outdoorsy, a climber’s body, into photography and loads of travel stories to tell. He had offered his couch on CouchSurfing and I happened to crash it twice before realizing what I had gotten myself into. Upon my third visit to Vancouver in two months, my final weekend in Canada, I found myself once again in his flat. It took less time than one film – The Fantastic Mr. Fox, until this day one of my favorite films, not at last because of him – and I knew I would not be sleeping on the couch again. An intense Halloween weekend in the Squamish forests and a heart-wrenching goodbye later, I boarded my long flight home, not knowing what would happen with us next. Could I have fallen in love that quickly? Would we have clicked under other circumstances as well? Was this just a CS fling? Those and many other questions roamed my mind for months. We kept in touch, while he had gone off to travel South America for six months. One day just before Christmas, I held a postcard in my hand – it was a photograph of him wearing a Santa hat at Machu Picchu. On the back he wrote, ‘Come join me.’ I was on a rollercoaster of feelings – I changed my mind weekly, until finally I decided to book a flight to join him at the end of his journey. All I knew was, that he was leaving from Costa Rica and which date, so I booked flights for three weeks to/from San Jose. I did not tell him immediately – I thought, either he’ll be there to meet me, or I’ll have three amazing weeks in Costa Rica. I had always wanted to go there, so either way, it would be great.

Of course, I did tell him a few days later. Of course, he picked me up from the airport in our rental car. Of course, it was like we had just said goodbye yesterday. Of course, we spent three amazing weeks together, zip-lined, kayaked, surfed, almost crashed our car, survived, laughed and loved. Not once though, did we talk about what would happen once we were home again – neither of us wanted to face reality. We wanted to make the most out of our holiday together and ignore the fact that soon a continent and an ocean would lie between us.

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After returning home, I was heartbroken and we wrote many love notes. Eventually, the time passing between those messages became longer and longer. We had both gone on with our lives. Much later, he opened up to me, that for a long time he hoped as well, we would find a way somehow, but now I know, that neither of us was 100% ourselves when we were together. We were on holidays, we were looking for a way to escape reality, and we held on to a dream world that only existed in our hearts. It would have never worked out – two workaholics, on two different continents, with aversion towards LDRs. It took me some time to let go, but again I came out wiser:

1. Throughout your life, you meet people with the potential to be your soulmate, but sometimes the timing is just not right.

2. Some of your dreams are not made for reality.

3. Traveling as a couple can be SO easy, if you are open to accept each other 100%.

3) The story of a better future?

Fast forward a bit and I am still in the city I chose to relocate to after the story of a broken heart. I am settled in, I have friends and a professional network, the university offered me the possibility to stay for another three years and I accepted. For the first time I know I will still be in the same place a year from now, and as if Cupid had anticipated that (or Tinder – who knows), my path crossed his.

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Although we have not been together for that long, I feel comfortable writing about us – even though I know he will probably read it. Something is different this time – there is the soulmate potential, there is 100% acceptance, there are dreams of reality-material, and most important of all, the timing finally seems right. Ticking all the boxes, no?

If only, had it not been for my trips to Austria and Ecuador, which had been in the planning long before I met him. Two days after our first date, I left the country for an entire week; a month later I would be gone for over two weeks. The worry of the first trip was, ‘Will I see him again?’ (yes, I did); but the challenge of the second trip was to really enjoy it, although every inch of my body wanted to be somewhere else. Of course, I know that this is ridiculous – it’s only a short holiday, and to the Galapagos Islands after all – but leaving your heart behind is never easy, right?

So, how do you cope with being love-sick when traveling?

I have learnt, that it is very similar to handling homesickness: the essential part is to stay in the moment. If your thoughts are always focusing on how much you miss your partner, you won’t be able to thrive in the experiences you make. Being miserable for a day is alright, being miserable for a week in a cool place is just a waste of time, money and opportunities. Travel enriches your character, so ideally you will return with even more facets to your personality than before – or at least more stories to tell. Keep yourself busy with activities and surrounded by new people, so you don’t have the time to curl up in your bed crying. Try as many new things as possible, as those will tire you out and you’ll fall asleep before your head hits the pillow. Keeping in touch on FB, Whatsapp or Skype is good, just don’t overdo it – you still want some stories to tell and photos to show when you’re back home. As I’m a very chatty person, I simply told everybody I met our story. That way it felt a little, like he’s just gone to the loo and I’m keeping up the conversation in the meantime. I’m also collecting a little list of activities, places and recipes I enjoyed in particular, things that ideally I’d like to share with him on a future holiday or a way to recreate my trip back home. This somehow makes him part of my experiences already, and he doesn’t seem so far away. Last but not least, always remember, you are far better off than your partner at home – at least you are the one discovering all these new things!

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Like my passport is filled with stamps from foreign countries, my heart is covered with signs of the good, the bad and the ugly love stories that have accompanied me on my journeys. Although some made me go through more pain than I thought I could take at that time, there is no way, I’d do anything differently – every trip and every broken heart taught me important lessons, gave me new perspectives and I learnt how to handle the challenges of love and travel.

Have you ever had a happy or not so happy experience of love and travel yourself? Feel free to share them in the comments – I’d love to hear them and maybe we could start a series with your experiences?