How I Healed from My Divorce Through Solo Travel

Kellie Walton Avatar

Woman Lounging at Etereo, an Auberge Resort in Mexico, on a grassy area overlooking the sea.
Lounging at Etereo, an Auberge Resort in Mexico. Photo credit: Kellie Walton

I never thought I’d start my life over at 28 years old. I had a stable job in my dream industry, a beautiful house in the suburbs, my favorite herbs growing in the garden that supplied my rotating list of weeknight recipes, and a doting husband.

From the outside looking in, I was ahead of the game when it came to life experiences in comparison to my peers. But a peek inside would reveal cracks in the foundation so deep, it was a structural disaster waiting to happen, and, eventually, it all unsurprisingly came crumbling down.

With the help of a devoted therapist and an army of supportive friends and family, I left my job, left my husband, sold my house, and prepared to face a new phase of life on the cusp of my 30s. My biggest passions were writing and travel, so I merged the two and set out seeking stories on a year-long adventure exploring new places near and far, and finding myself along the way.

The healing that took place through my year on the run transcended my every expectation. Whether you’re navigating a major life change or embracing your solo journey through early adulthood, I hope you find this expanded journal entry with my personal takeaways and travel tips helpful in your own healing.

Here are the six biggest lessons solo trips taught me during my Eat, Pray, Love era.

Read More: Unforgettable Vacations for Solo Travelers

Traveling Alone After Divorce - Woman posing alone in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Posing across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Photo credit: Kellie Walton

You can do big things.

Routines are a funny thing. On one hand, having consistency in how you move through your days creates a sense of security and stability. On the other, being married to a routine can allow two detrimental words to take over your vocabulary: I can’t.

For many years, I was plagued by the notion that I couldn’t, be it a solo trip, a job opportunity, a leap of faith, you name it.

How could I travel when I was saving for a home? How could I consider leaving my marriage when social media told me divorce was shameful?

My mindset shift from “I can’t” to “I can” was perpetuated through travel, because when you’re alone in a faraway country facing a completely new-to-you situation, can’t is not an option.

Being forced to figure out ways to communicate when you’re lost, how to change currency when your credit card stops working, or how to stay safe on a solo trip is a trial-by-fire way to force a mindset shift, but the relief, empowerment, and confidence you’ll feel when you conquer your challenge for the first time will stick with you far beyond your travels.

One of the best things you can do to heal is push yourself outside of your comfort zone and discover all of the things you can do.

Read More: Single Mom Vacations: Where to Go and How to Have Fun

Woman doing archery in a wooded area at Windy Hill Farm in Loudon, Tennessee
Archery at Windy Hill Farm in Loudon, Tennessee. Photo credit: Kellie Walton

Say YES.

I’m not suggesting you go full Yes, Man and throw caution to the wind with this recommendation, but I am here to share how saying yes ushered in my new life after divorce.

As a travel writer, I’m privileged to be invited to experience hotels and destinations near and far, but my first post-divorce invitation came with a punch to the gut. For the first time in my career, I was invited to bring a +1 with me for an all-inclusive stay at a small farm resort in Tennessee. Instead of feeling grateful for the invitation, I was overcome with loneliness. After a few tears and a pep talk, I decided to look at the trip as an opportunity for self-care and self-discovery.

With a positive attitude and a journal in-hand, I arrived at the property for a weekend that would entirely shift my perspective. I found solace in my soloness and discovered just how empowering a weekend alone can be.

I befriended the staff, shared s’mores with strangers, went to sleep and woke up at my own pace, and left with a renewed sense of self and a feeling of personal growth.

It was the perfect first trip post-divorce that would give me the nudge I needed to set out solo.

Woman wearing ski helmet and goggles taking a selfie on a snow-covered, wooded hill.
Skiing at Mt. Rose in Reno, Nevada. Photo credit: Kellie Walton

It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

For years I believed I was unathletic, and yet I made it down my first ski run without injury. I hand wrote my travel bucket list that always felt like a pipe dream, and yet I crossed off half of it before 30.

I thought I needed a companion to see the world, and yet I discovered how much self-discovery was possible through solo travel experiences.

It’s easy to get bogged down with society’s expectation to follow a traditional path when it comes to education, a career, and relationships. Once I let go of the blueprint for life I thought was my only option, my entire perspective changed.

I spent most of my first year post-divorce traveling through Europe, planting roots in London and spending weekends and free afternoons on planes and trains whisking me away on smaller getaways.

As a small-town southern girl, this was a drastic deviation from the life I knew. While who I am at my core will always remain, I used solo travel as a way to uncover hidden parts of myself and my personality I never knew existed, and those discoveries helped me become a new and improved version of myself.

Blonde woman posing on Westminster Bridge in front of Big Ben in London.
Westminster Bridge in front of Big Ben in London. Photo credit: Kellie Walton

Get back out there.

The thing that scared me most after my divorce wasn’t solo travel, managing finances, or even navigating the emotions that come along with heartbreak. It was dating again for the first time. I feared I would struggle with connection and that my relationship history would turn away future partners.

Plus, my single friends were quick to share cautionary tales from modern dating. My solo adventures gave me the confidence I needed to get back on the horse, and the takeaway was overwhelmingly positive.

When I was living in London, I leaned into the dating apps (Hinge and Bumble, specifically) to put myself back out there.

I had many first dates in pubs and coffee shops around the city, which not only led me to neighborhoods and hidden gems I wouldn’t have found on my own, but also allowed me to learn about different cultures, upbringings, and lifestyles I wasn’t privy to in America.

My whirlwind dating experience abroad didn’t lead to everlasting love, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me invaluable lessons about what I want (and don’t want) in my next relationship.

View of the sunset and a woman sitting alone in a field at Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee
Sunset views at Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Photo credit: Kellie Walton

Home will always be there for you.

While jetting around the world Eat, Pray, Love-style was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a part of me wondered if I’d fall in love with life on the road and opt to make the nomadic lifestyle permanent. While sipping wine at a cafe in Paris, shopping in New York, hiking a glacier in Switzerland, and lounging poolside in Mexico surely made convincing arguments, my biggest takeaway from my travels was that no matter how far away you run, you can always come back home.

After arriving back in Nashville, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace merging my new life with my old.

The experiences I had in Europe and beyond have led to confidence and independence I never thought I’d feel, especially post-divorce. I now spend my days dreaming up my next solo getaway while also relishing in routine, the perfect convergence of my new life and old.

Kellie Walton Avatar
Kellie Walton is a Nashville-based freelance writer specialized in food and travel. A former hospitality PR pro, she now tells stories of her own adventures (and misadventures), shouts about places she loves, and creates guides to inspire readers to wander the world.
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2 responses

  1. I was married for nearly 30 years when I had a similar experience, and I truly did not think that I would survive. A year later a friend pled with me to accompany her to a family wedding she had to attend in Italy since her husband was unable to attend. Italy was my dream place. The place I had always hoped would be “our” (my ex-husband and our children’s) special getaway since it’s where our families’ stories began. My initial reaction was a hard no as a ripple of pain soared right through my entire body at the thought of traveling to the very spot I dreamed of being with my former husband and our shattered family and traveling virtually without my “anchor” to anywhere in the world. How could I ever handle that??
    With the support of good friends, my children, and prayer (and some real harsh mental internal talking to) I made an 11th hour decision to join the trip on the condition that we could spend a few days searching for my maternal and paternal families in nearby Sicily. I am a true believer that what is meant to be is meant to be… Unfortunately, that was a hard no for her. My friend had planned a short trip due to her demanding work schedule which rarely abated. Within a week of my proposal, and not for positive reasons, her work schedule opened right up and in exactly the right time slot to expand the trip to Sicily after the wedding. I immediately took it as a sign and although I was still so apprehensive I had to have a friend make the reservation for me, Was I really on my way to Italy? Without HIM? I will spare you the drama.
    Fast Forward. Touchdown!
    The amazing journey took us to Rome, Taormina, Bagnara (Reggio Calabria), Librizi (Sicily), Messina (Sicily), Patti Marina (Sicily), Tindiri (Sicily), Vesta Beach in Lombardy, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Foggia. I found myself absorbed in the culture, the warmth of the people, the savory meals, the peaceful landscape, the shade of the olive trees and the warmth of the Sicilian Sun. The more I drove through the countryside or walked through a grotto or sanctuary, the more empowered yet peaceful I felt. Traveling had brought me a sense of grounding I had never experienced before, let alone as a single woman and solo traveler, Although I was on the move, I felt such a connection to the earth beneath my feet. Every step onto new soil was a manifestation of my growth and ability to walk a new unchartered path. Outdoors when I looked up into the heavens, I saw the birds circling or gliding in the skies above and I pictured myself free to fly to new heights and reach destinations I had never thought possible on a solo flight. Yet just like the birds above, with wings strong enough to support myself, and an open sky to inspire me, taking flight will be effortless!!

    1. Thank you for sharing that beautiful story and congratulations for saying YES!

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