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Home Road Trip A Solo Road Trip Healed Me After a Breakup. I Still Travel Alone.

A Solo Road Trip Healed Me After a Breakup. I Still Travel Alone.

by Staff

Alka Bhatt went on an eight-month solo road trip after a breakup.
Courtesy Alka Bhatt

  • A few years ago, I lost myself in a relationship. After we broke up, I went on a solo road trip.
  • As I traveled across the country, I learned a lot about myself. 
  • Now, it’s three years later, and I still love traveling alone even though I’m engaged.

In my late 20s, I left my beloved Philadelphia apartment near friends and favorite restaurants and moved to the suburbs closer to my boyfriend and work. Then my boyfriend moved to Texas for a job. After five months of long distance, the pandemic hit, and I started working remotely from his home in Houston.

These choices seemed inevitable. Following cues from media and society for most of my life, I thought being in love meant adapting to my partner’s needs. Though our relationship had been unsteady, I hoped bending to the demands of his life would help repair our bond. The opposite happened: I felt like I was losing myself.

Three months into lockdown, we broke up. I returned to the apartment I had left behind in the Pennsylvania suburbs and immediately felt lost. I passed my ex’s old house on morning commutes to work, and our date-night restaurant was the only Thai place in the neighborhood.

I needed time away to heal, and the time I used to spend browsing for engagement rings online was now spent scanning travel blogs on top US destinations. Over the next few weeks, I loaded necessities into my orange Toyota Corolla hatchback.

With a plan that included a few national parks and states I’d never visited, I started driving west.

Alka Bhatt says her solo trip gave her a love of traveling alone.
Courtesy Alka Bhatt

A solo road trip helped me focus on my own wants and needs

During my eight-month trip, I never quite knew where I would end up and spent most nights at campgrounds or self-check-in rentals reserved only a few days in advance. A month into the trip, I also booked the only remaining spot on a guided, three-night backpacking trip to summit Grand Teton three weeks in advance.

Though incoming storms made a summit attempt unviable, we made it to base camp. I spent three days admiring the peaks above and the valley below covered in stunning white snow.

I realized that traveling without an itinerary and only a few vague ideas of where I wanted to go allowed me to focus every moment on myself.

Alka Bhatt found herself slowly healing as she traveled.
Courtesy Alka Bhatt

I found myself in the small decisions as much as the large

While I still felt heartbroken and lonely at times, I discovered small ways to return to myself. During a stay at Lake Huron, I made white lemon ginger tea with water from my camping stove after an early morning bout of insomnia — a small, nurturing act of self-care. Later that day, I bought five more flavors and continued a daily tea ritual throughout the trip.

Because I was only responsible for myself on the road, I was more attuned to what I needed, and I felt myself beginning to heal. I realized it wasn’t selfish to pay attention to my own needs, it was self-care. Committing to my needs and wants was critical to building confidence and independence.

Alka Bhatt is now engaged, but still loves to travel alone.
Courtesy Alka Bhatt

I’m now engaged, but solo trips are still integral to my life

It’s been nearly three years since my solo trip, and when I got home, I felt ready to date authentically. Rather than mold myself to be more desirable, I listened to my wants and needs and looked for compatibility. Within a few months, I met someone special, and a year into our relationship, I felt he was the one.

Still, I craved the feeling the road inspired. So, one weekend, I kissed my partner goodbye and went car camping alone. On the way to Upstate New York, I stopped at a pizza parlor for a personal pie with mushrooms, a topping my fiancé dislikes. Later, I spent hours climbing a rocky trail toward panoramic views of fall colors painting the Catskills.

For me, traveling alone isn’t only justified when our lives feel unmanageable. Such trips are how I remember who I am. On a weekend trip to DC last month, I took myself out to a fancy Sichuan restaurant after thrifting at a trendy shop. I watched the bartender make me a custom cocktail from a secret menu, ultimately finishing my dinner and novel at the end of the bar with a sense of contentment.

While I often prefer traveling with my fiancé, we both understand these experiences allow me to show up better for myself and our relationship, and I can’t wait to see where these solo journeys take us both.

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