Photos via Arielle Benedek

I’ve been addicted to drugs for the past two years.

Or one drug really...a boy. I see myself as a strong-willed feminist who knows her worth and knows what she wants. However, I had no power over this drug, no self-control, so I got my heart broken once, then twice, and then a couple more times. There’s no real cure for heartbreak, but there is an antidote. For some it’s eating comfort food or watching rom-coms while nursing a bottle of Cab Sauv, but personally I need something a bit more jarring. Something to shock my system so I can get back my freedom of thought and rediscover my love of all things that aren’t him.

My antidote is travel. I book flights to far places, not to escape, but to reclaim my worth and my wants. I often find that I need to change my surroundings and engage with the world outside myself to pull out of the heartbreak and into the next chapter. During this saga, I’ve discovered that different types of trips heal different parts of my soul and bring me back to life one piece at a time.

The First Heartbreak: Venice

When someone you love ghosts you, it breaks you. After this first heartbreak, I spent a couple of weeks wandering around the streets of London listlessly, spontaneously bursting into tears. I’m sure the tourists outside Buckingham Palace must’ve wondered what kind of performance art I was taking part in. To counter an unreal heartbreak, I booked a trip to a surreal place—Venice.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

I know what you’re thinking: you’re going to possibly THE most romantic place in the world after this?! Well, yes. I guess I’m a masochist. Luckily, there is much more to Venice than couples kissing in Saint Mark’s Square, in a gondola, or Lady and the Tramp style over pasta.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

First off, Saint Mark’s Square is very busy and I was more concerned about a pigeon pooping on me mid-flight than catching the eye of some lovers. The gondolas are pricey and the couples crossing bridges over canals are too busy taking selfies. The staple of most meals here is not pasta, but appetizer-sized toasts called “cicchetti”, i.e. food made for one. Cicchetti run the gamut, sporting toppings such as prosciutto, cheese, clams in wine sauce, or vegetables cured in vinegar. I often found myself eating cicchetti while standing in a crowd of people or sitting along a canal, which was very conducive for a newly single person who does not want to dine solo at a table while the waitress judges my situation.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Venice is also the home of the Aperol Spritz. So once I elbowed my way past the crowds and over a dozen bridges I found myself at Osteria al Squero, where I began my withdrawal. You can enjoy the authenticity of Venice much more once you leave the dense city center and start wandering around the outer neighborhoods.

In outer Venice I started to appreciate the simple beauty of sitting in a square drinking a mid-morning espresso and watching people go about their business. Getting lost in the alleys is where I started to rediscover my love for exploring. I spent time imagining what the city was like hundreds of years ago, thinking critically about how pregnant women get to the hospital by water taxi, and wondering how one moves furniture across town (still a mystery).

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Besides the main tourist attractions, Venice has a bustling art scene. Every two years, the world’s top artists and architects flock to the city for the “Venice Biennale”. I happened to go right before the main events kicked off for the art edition (each Biennale swaps between art and architecture). This was prime time because the crowds were still manageable and I got to tour some of the exhibits before they opened including Damien Hirst’s immense treasure trove of statues based on a fabricated shipwreck discovery that spanned two villas.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Even if you miss the Biennale, you can still find refuge in Peggy Guggenheim's permanent modern art collection perched resolute along the Grand Canal as a symbol of women’s badassery. There you can get lost in the cubism of Picasso and the surrealism of Dalí. I spent a couple hours wandering around this collection and remembered that women don’t need men, we tolerate them.

Another reason why traveling is my antidote is that I get to consume all the foods, because fuck it, I deserve it. If all else fails, good food will make me happy, even if only temporarily. I found solace in the squid ink risotto from Da Romano which I still dream about. It’s reason enough to take a ferry ride out to Burano (an island adjacent to Venice) in addition to roaming the streets and checking out the beautifully colored facades.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Getting lost in a beautiful city’s architecture, art, and food can revive the soul. At the very least, Venice cured my tendency to cry publicly in the street.

The Second Heartbreak: Corsica

My big summer road trip in Corsica coincided with a second heartbreak. This heartbreak wasn’t what you think. My heart split open this time because of the passing of my grandmother. Even at 96 she was a force to be reckoned with. Shortly before I left for this trip I visited her in the nursing home and she still had her usual spunk, commenting on the rips in my jeans: "It’s not stupid who sells it, it’s stupid who buys it." I loved her very much.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Halfway through my trip, I got a call from my parents: it was time. I sat on the phone, straining to hear her breathing, hoping that she could hear me. I told her I loved her more than anything and hung up knowing I wouldn’t get to see her again. The only thing I could do was to keep driving. She always repeated this one phrase, which I recited to myself like a mantra, “Live it up ‘til you’re young.” There was no way I would make it back in time for the funeral so to pay homage to this remarkable woman, a Holocaust survivor, and a true matriarch, I did what my bubbe told me...I lived life to the fullest.

Luckily, spending a weeklong road trip with friends on an island, blasting Abba out the open windows is a cathartic, life-affirming experience.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

It also helped that at the end of the week, I attended a wedding between two best friends. There’s nothing like witnessing a marriage between two people who truly love each other, to realize how easy it should be to decide whether or not to spend the rest of your life with someone.

The make-your-own-mojito bar, dancing on the beach, chatting up attractive Europeans, fireworks display, and groom serenading his wife to “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, is nothing to scoff at either. To read more about why you should visit (and probably get married in Corsica) check out this post. I think I would’ve made my grandmother happy, to find joy in sadness, and adventure in life.

Photos via Thomas Carlotti

The Third Heartbreak: Denver

As relationships go, they’re not always over when you think they are…several months later I started taking the drug again. I thought maybe this time things would work out, but doing drugs is not a sustainable habit. It is expensive and comes at the cost of your health. So when I stopped taking them abruptly…I booked another flight.

This time heartbreak led me to Denver where I’d find two of my closest friends, the outdoors, and some great music. Denver is sunny three hundred days a year and full of eager-to-meet-you people.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

If you’re like me, you talk about your relationship problems to all of your friends even though you have a therapist. Each friend has a different tact for dealing with your heartbreaks. Some are more sentimental and caring, while others are tough-love, no-nonsense, rip-the-bandaid-off kind of friends. The friends I chose to help me get over heartbreak #3 are fuck-him-let’s-live-life-to-the-fullest kind of friends. Find yourself some friends who are “yes” people and let them pull you out of the muck.

The first order of business was a couple pitchers of mimosas. These activities persisted for the next three days, with a break for some hiking. Don’t underestimate the value of breaking a sweat and focusing on your physical body when trying to get your mind off things. After a few hours of brisk walking at high elevation in the Flatirons, I could breathe a bit easier.

After a few nights of partying and a jaunt in the great outdoors, we decided to combine the two and go see a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Seeing any show here, especially an artist like Pretty Lights is magical. We took a bus from the city to the venue, where we proceeded to make friends with everyone on board. After a strenuous hike up to the actual amphitheater, we settled into the crowd surrounded by huge red rock walls, with the stage in the foreground and a lake in the distance. As the sky dimmed, the stage lit up and we danced.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Taking a break from thinking about the heartbreak and focusing on the present moment helps you reassess what’s important. If you can find joy in the company of friends, the outdoors, and good music, then you’ll slowly be able to extricate yourself from the pain.

The Final Heartbreak: Portland

I had one last relapse with the drug. I took it knowing it would end badly, but decided to deal with the consequences regardless because at least I’d be able to end this habit once and for all. So after he booked a flight to visit me and then cancelled the night before, I booked a flight of my own.

This time I took a solo trip. I’ve done solo trips before, but usually in a much happier state of mind. I was nervous to be alone in a new city with only my thoughts as company. But I took the trip anyway because I knew that if I could survive a few days alone, then I could get past this.

While fleeting thoughts of him would enter my mind, they would exit just as easily to make room for the new experiences around me. Portland is a friendly city and a beautiful one. It was super easy to start up conversations with shopkeepers and locals. They were impressed that a solo woman came just to check out the city; bonus points for me!

I spent a few days visiting the Japanese gardens, checking out the views from Forrest Park, drinking coffee and dining solo at the city’s premier cafés and eateries. Good food, wine, and a side of cannabis (legal recreationally in Oregon) is a recipe for bliss.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Some tips for solo travelers: pick your accommodation wisely and sit at the bar. I found a great boutique hotel-meets-hostel in Chinatown called The Society Hotel. While it was not as social as the hostels of Europe, it was still a good home base since the lobby is essentially a coffee shop with comfy leather couches and a cozy fireplace. By the way, fireplaces are everywhere in Portland which gives the city a “hygge” vibe.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Sitting at the bar whether for dinner or drinks, is a great way to meet the locals. They are always excited to give you tips on where else to eat, hang out and are curious about you. I got a hot tip for a Nordic brunch spot with fluffy round pancakes called, Bröder Nord. Even if you’re the introverted type, it’s totally cool to bring a book and read by candlelight though it can be a bit dim, pun intended.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Traveling solo can be a daunting experience, but the gains you make in self-confidence and pride are unmatched. Most of us think people are judging us for sitting alone, but what they don’t realize is that loneliness is actually a vehicle for freedom. You can do whatever the fuck you want and that is liberating. While trips with significant others and friends can be lovely and special in their own rite, I don’t subscribe to the idea that you need to wait for others to go on an adventure. Challenge yourself to go it alone, it’s worth it.

The Healing

Photos via Arielle Benedek

After a few days on my own, I met up with my family in San Francisco. There is really nothing like family to remind you what you’re worth and what you value in life. Family will always be there for you after the first and even after the seventeenth breakup. You can trust them to be brutally honest with you, but still let you cry if you need to. Find solace in people close to you because they are all that matters in the end.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

Let’s get one thing straight- it’s okay to sob in the middle of the street in an unknown place because you’re just not over them. Imagine walking past the Eiffel Tower, balling, Empire State Building, balling. It’s almost easier feeling this way in a foreign place because you have the freedom to show your emotion without the judgement of strangers. They will probably think you’re overcome by emotion because of the marvelous architecture. Don’t be ashamed that you’re still not okay, it takes time.

So the next time you’re heartbroken, take a trip. It doesn’t have to be far, it can even be in your own city, but take yourself out of your current circumstances and rediscover the parts of yourself that you love. Know your worth and your wants, and don’t compromise. You’ll get over them eventually.

Photos via Arielle Benedek

For some breakup tunes check out this Spotify playlist: