How to Deal with a Breakup While You're Abroad



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By Hannah Smith



A breakup is one of the most emotionally draining things a person can go through, and living abroad can add even more uncertainty and pain to the process. I’ve been through two breakups while living abroad. The first was out of nowhere, as we laid on my pink, Korean bed-spread, staring at the ceiling. The second was a drawn-out break that ended with me sobbing, while he quietly held me in his apartment in Taiwan. Both breakups were difficult, but I dealt with them in very different ways. I’ve come to see there are certain things you can do that will help you heal properly and other things that will prevent you from ever coming to terms with the loss.

What Not To Do:

Mask The Pain

South Korea is known for its crazy partying, cheap alcohol, and large expat community and I took full advantage of the debauchery after my breakup. I drank in excess, preferring to dull my pain than to feel it. I’d see my ex in clubs, as I’d be dancing with whatever guy I’d met that night, and smugly think I’d shown him how little I cared. Instead of focusing on myself and having fun with my friends, I was using other people to try to make myself feel better.

Feeling all the hurt from a breakup is not enjoyable. After my breakup in Taiwan, I spent many nights crying into my pillow and felt as if I would never be okay, but the cliché is true; time does heal all pain. Letting it out and accepting my feelings for what they were wasn’t easy, but it was so much better for my soul (and liver).

Interact With Your Ex In An Unhealthy Way

When you break up with someone, you’re not only losing a partner, you’re losing a friend. The relationships we have abroad can be much more intense than the ones at home because we bond together to face the adversity and unknowns of living in a foreign country. These people often become our rocks or our homes away from home. It can be hard to let that go. I continued to message, see and travel with my ex in Korea for almost a year after we broke up. We refused to let each other go, but we weren’t dating anymore. Obviously, trouble ensued and it was like another breakup all over again.

I believe it’s possible to be friends with an ex, but you need time away from him first. Don’t try to recreate the relationship you had before because that’s asking for someone to get hurt.

What To Do:

Travel And Explore On Your Own

The best way to find yourself again is to be with yourself. Sounds simple, but it can be scary after being with someone else for so long. In Taiwan, I went on weekend trips to Buddhist monasteries, explored cities and went to a beach yoga retreat where I didn’t know anyone. I’d spent so much time worrying about making someone else happy, that I’d forgotten how to make myself happy. Exploring by myself, I met people from all over the world, I laughed, I wrote more, and I remembered how good life really is. Knowing that you don’t actually need anyone else is the most important part of getting over the breakup.

Work On Yourself And Learn From It

It’s very easy to blame the other person in a breakup, but most of the time, it takes two people. Travel is about opening our minds and getting to know ourselves better and part of that, is acknowledging our weaknesses. After my breakup in Taiwan, I talked to friends and family, back home and abroad, and I learned that we all show and understand love in very different ways. I started to see I had been projecting my superficial ideas of what a relationship was on my ex and myself, which put a lot of pressure on both of us. I wanted to learn and change from the experience so I read books about the present moment and impermanence. One idea really stuck out: our whole lives are impermanent. Nothing will ever stay the same, so we must accept that in order to be happy and appreciate every day.

Travel is the epitome of a state of impermanence. The friends we meet, the places we go, and the people we love are fleeting, but they will forever change us. No matter the hurt or pain we experience along the way, it makes us who we are.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a freelance writer from California and has her B.A in Communications from Sonoma State. She has lived in South Korea, Spain and Taiwan, while teaching English and continues to teach and write whenever, and wherever, she can.

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