Change. It's a big word, it can be terrifying but it can also lead us to some of the most transformative times of our lives. Before I get started, let me be clear, this is not one of those New Year New Me posts. Instead, I want this to be an honest life update on why my life has completely changed in the last few weeks and why I want 2019 to be all about chasing happiness.
It seems apt that I'm writing this on the four year anniversary of when I first started my solo traveling journey around the world and one of the happiest times of my life. It's a strange feeling when you're finding inspiration from the person you used to be, but if there's anything I want to aspire towards right now, it's being the real Lucy once again.
I can honestly say, I have never worked as as hard as I have in the last year. Sacrificing travel for a new home and life in a new country, a new job, a new language, the list goes on. It was a year of huge changes and ones that I was really excited to throw myself into. After a few months of saving, I moved to Hamburg and started setting myself up in the new life I had been waiting for. It wasn't easy, but I did it, I didn't just survive, I thrived as best I could. Finding a great job, friends and even amazing blogging opportunities.
My Hamburg adventure has now come to an end, for many reasons. It's a place that I have loved and hated in equal measure, but I will always be proud that I made a life there. There are some times when you have to take a good look around you, and if you're not happy, it's okay to call it a day and make a real change. It doesn't make you a quitter, it doesn't make you weak for not trying. It means you're honest and true to yourself, and what's really in your heart. And at the end of the day, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.
I hadn't realised until the last few weeks, but the last eight months have really changed me as a person. The last eight months have put my mind, and my body, under a lot of stress and that's why in 2019, I want to focus on putting myself first for once. Spending two hours a day commuting to and from work, plus long hours, a real lack of daylight and total exhaustion really took its toll after a while. I pushed my body to its limits, and while I'm amazed at what it has withstood this year and how it has coped and still kept me as a functioning human being, I know that I have been half the person I normally am.
2018 has been a difficult year for my friendships. While I started the year more invested in my friendships than ever, the move made life difficult. It became harder and harder to keep in touch with those at home, and making friends in Germany was much harder than I anticipated. But I did make friends, I have made some amazing friends over the last six months and I am so grateful to them for being a part of my Hamburg life.
As 2018 has come to an end, so have a lot of things in my life and it's become clear that 2019 is a year for change. A change in location, a change in lifestyle, in the people I invest in and where I invest my time. After spending so long putting others first and suffering as a result, I'm long overdue for a shift in focus. So for a start, I'm going off-grid for a while, I'll still be working on the blog and I'll still be online, but I'm taking more time for myself. After such big life changes, it's important to take time to reflect and heal and there's no shame in taking time out to get your head together. I'm setting goals for the year ahead and they involve a lot more focus on spending time with the people who mean the most to me and actually allowing them to look after me for once. Let's hope 2019 brings happiness.
First of all, I want to thank all my lovely readers for their messages and emails lately. Especially to those who have pushed me to publish this post - it was the hardest one to publish for a very long time. It's amazing to get feedback on the posts I write and I feel honoured that so many of you come to me for advice on everything from travelling to relationships. It seems incredible to think this blog started out as a hobby and now it brings me close to people all over the world who are going through the same things, and who are inspired to do the same things I have been. One of my most popular posts has been drawing a lot of new readers to my blog lately and I've had a lot of requests to write more personal posts, it's something I've shied away from for a while because although I've had a lot to write about, sometimes it is difficult to find the words. But one topic that comes up again and again is "how do you cope with heartbreak?" It's ironic that this keeps coming up so often when I've just had a fresh wave of this to deal with, but when better to talk about it?
Having your heart broken hurts. There's no getting away from it. Even if you try to squash it down and pretend it's not happening, it always comes back and hits you with a fresh wave of pain. I remember being in such physical pain after I had my heart broken the first time, my heart actually ached and I couldn't get away from it, I couldn't get it out of my head. Now after this past week, I'm feeling that pain all over again and I remember how hard it was to cope with the first time. It's that hopeless feeling when you know there's nothing more you can do and you can't help but blame yourself. Last time it was in no way my fault, I had no regrets, but this time I can't help but feel I could have stopped this happening even though I'm sure that's not true. Heartbreak makes you question everything you thought you knew, including yourself. I hate that, that feeling that you can't trust your own decisions, that you should have done something to stop it happening. It hurts more than anything I've ever experienced and there isn't a painkiller strong enough to numb it. So right now, I'm officially worn out. My heart hurts and I've lost a lot of my fight and the excitement I had for life. But don't worry, it's not permanent - I've survived this before I sure as hell will again. I'm never one to mope for long and I'm already planning how I'm going to deal with this - two words, Bali & Australia!One thing I've noticed about myself - and I'm not sure what this says about my psychology - is that when things like this happen, when a relationship breaks up or things don't turn out the way I expect, my first instinct is to leave. When my nine-year relationship broke up and left me broken-hearted, my first thought was "I have to get out of here" and just like that, I booked a flight to the other side of the world. Just like now when I've just had my heart broken all over again and it's pushed me to book those flights and get back out there. It's an easy decision to head off into the unknown and I'm never scared at the prospect of travelling solo, let's face it, it couldn't be more painful than what I'm going through at home. It's something I still love about being a backpacker, that if things don't pan out - in relationships, work and life - then there was always the option to pack up and start again somewhere new. Perhaps that makes me sound flighty, or like I give in too easily, but I think actually it's because I know when things are a lost cause. I know when I'm done.
I've come to realise over the years that I have a pretty good gut instinct and that I can always trust it when it comes to making decisions. I know we're expected to stay and struggle through the hard times, that it will build character and something greater will come out of it in the long-run. Well I've done that, I've done it at work, in life, and in relationships. And yes, sometimes it is true, but also sometimes things are just lost for good and there is no saving them. The trouble is identifying whether there is anything left to fight for and knowing there is nothing wrong with just letting go. For me, I knew there was nothing left for me in my hometown both work-wise and relationship-wise so it was a no-brainer to start a new life somewhere else - it wasn't running away, it was the best decision I ever made. Likewise now, I ended up booking my flights to Bali and then back to Australia and have less than a week until I leave, it's not about escaping, it's about going back to my real life after this tiny break.My point is, we're made to feel that running away is wrong and that it is lazy or cowardly to cut ties and leave. But actually, I think it can sometimes be the hardest and strongest decision to make. To be strong enough to cut a toxic friendship or relationship out of your life is hard and you're brave for doing it. To cut and run from a job that is wearing you down is difficult and scary if you don't have a back-up, but this is how some of the most successful people have built an empire. To pack up your life into a backpack and move to the other side of the world where you don't know a single person is incredible. And for me, this was the biggest healer of all. Pushing myself far, far beyond the limits, taking myself out of my comfort zone and jumping in the deep end. Travel well and truly healed my heartbreak - it made me rely entirely on myself, it made me put my own happiness first, it taught me skills and scared me shitless. It brought countless new souls into my life - the kind of people that set my world alight and bring happiness into my world that I never knew existed. It gave me life-changing experiences that turned into stories, into memories that will last a lifetime. It gave me love, a much greater love for myself and for those around me.
Considering how much travel has given me, I don't see it as running away to be leaving again. I see it as running towards the life I should be living. For those who have contacted me lately to ask how they can know whether they should choose a relationship or travel - I can't tell you what to do. All I know is that travel has taught me more than any relationship ever has, it has introduced me to a life where I put myself first and where I'm driven by my needs, not empty wants. I may have less stuff than I have ever had, but my heart is fuller than ever and my head is full of thoughts that revolve around my passions, my ideas, my inspirations. Not about boys or worrying about others. It may sound selfish to some but after living for so many years always thinking of others before myself, it's refreshing to really see the world laying just ahead of me. No baggage. No stress. This is what travel teaches you, this is what healed my heartbreak, realising that you can only live for yourself and not to keep others happy. And realising how short life is, and how huge the world is - that sure puts things in perspective for you.Since having my heart broken I've traveled solo through 12 countries, covered three continents and am actually about to hit my 30th country. I've built a whole new career around a passion, I've sacrificed one phone, one camera and a lot of dignity. I've had epic wild nights out, long days at work, healed myself both inside and out on multiple occasions, nearly died three times, made so many incredible friends, been extremely badly behaved at times, and helped others through some pretty tough stuff, I even fell in love which I really didn't think was possible. I've been happier than I've ever been and discovered what I'm capable of, and what I'm not, and although my favourite word will always be YES, I've not been afraid to say no. In fact, I've not been afraid of any damn thing because life is for living and I'm doing just that. I'm a completely different person to the girl who went away to Thailand two years ago, and I've never been happier or stronger. So don't you try and tell me that travel isn't the greatest healer for heartbreak - I know it has changed my world. Let's just hope this time it will heal my heart as well as it did the last time.
Has travel helped heal your heartbreak? Tell me about your experiences. What are your best cures for a broken heart?