New life, new chapter: breaking up on the road

The story behind the separation of Lost With Purpose, plus some love and advice about breaking up while traveling.

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve made some dangerous life decisions.

I’ve traversed one of the most dangerous provinces of Pakistan, hitchhiked along one of the highest roads in the world, backpacked through Afghanistan. Security forces with Kalashnikovs escorted me through towns, drunken men waving knives gave me a ride in the mountains, and chainsaw-laden boys high on opium led me through the jungle.

Despite all that, I’ve never been so scared shitless on the road as I was a few weeks ago, sitting on my bed in a dingy guesthouse in Calcutta. 

There, for the first time in my life, I had to face the prospect of traveling alone.

The end of an era

A couple of weeks beforehand, I broke up with Sebastiaan, my partner and travel companion of almost six years.

Breaking up on the road - Posing as a couple in Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Sebastiaan and I checking out the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan… where we had to pretend we were married!

I won’t go into the dirty details of how and why we broke up. Let’s just say: it was a long time coming for me.

The things you see on the internet don’t always paint the whole picture. Though our lives and love seemed peachy perfect online, we had differences that would never truly be reconciled, so I decided to end things.

It goes without saying, but please respect my decision.

Breaking up on the road - Alex walking into the mist on the Brahmaputra river in Assam, India - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Enjoying the morning mist while cruising the Brahmaputra river in Assam

Breaking up while traveling ain’t easy

It was not an easy decision to make.

I crossed oceans and moved to a new country for Sebastiaan. Together we saved for years, sold everything we owned, and left to travel the world.

During almost two years on the road, we shared the highest highs and the lowest lows. We faced death as we vomited in a toilet for hours after an overdose of Georgian hospitality, and shared the rush of watching a desert sunrise over some of the most incredible buildings in the world.

I wasn’t sure if I was making the right choice. Is it wrong to give up on such a significant relationship? Maybe I’m not trying hard enough to make things work? Maybe something is wrong with me?

Eventually, I realized it needed to happen. To put it simply, I was no longer happy.

Life is far too short to spend all of your time with someone who doesn’t make you happy, history or not. After months of deliberation and second-guessing myself, I bit the bullet and did what I needed to do.

Reality strikes 

At first, I felt free.

I found the courage to do what must be done! I was an empowered woman taking her life into her own hands! I was free to travel the world on my own schedule! Hells yes bitches, fuck the patriarchy!

… but a few days later, reality set in as I sat in a $3 prison cell of a room in Calcutta. Feelings of liberation morphed into to fear about the future.

Breaking up on the road - Alex in Calcutta guesthouse - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Going crazy on the roof of my prison guesthouse in Calcutta. Thanks Katia for the photo!

I needed to figure out how to handle myself on my own. How to tell my family and friends and followers. How to proceed with this blog and business. How to fit my own shampoo and conditioner in my overstuffed backpack.

Most importantly, I had to figure out where the heck I was going next.

Decisions, decisions

Sebastiaan and I were supposed to head to Pakistan for New Year’s. We had train tickets to Amritsar, near the India-Pakistan border, and a visa that would soon expire. At the time, getting a Pakistan visa on the road was a logistical nightmare. Sebastiaan decided to head to Bangladesh instead, but I needed to use my Pakistani visa… right?

Breaking up on the road - Alex alone looking out over Nanga Parbat mountain from Fairy Meadows, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Looking out over Nanga Parbat—the 9th highest mountain in the world—in Fairy Meadows, Pakistan

I love Pakistan to the ends of the earth and back, but it’s not the best country in the world for women, and not the most ideal place to take my first steps as a solo female traveler. (Update 2020: I’ve since traveled Pakistan as a solo female many times and I love it even more now.)

I wasn’t sure I was up to fending off unwanted advances, hanging out with mostly men, answering questions about my lack of husband and/or children, and explaining that, heh, Sebastiaan and I weren’t actually married after all (sorry if I’ve lied to you in the past).

Especially not while learning to travel solo.

Between indecisive fretting, dealing with a variety of (unfortunately timed) health issues, and fending off my mother’s panicked pleas for me to come home, I meditated on what I really, really wanted in the coming weeks.

Greenery. Peace and quiet. Somewhere familiar and comfortable and easy. Ideally sans creepers.

My train to Amritsar left as scheduled. I didn’t. I booked myself a ticket back to Northeast India instead.

Breaking up on the road - Majuli river island at sunrise - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Exactly what I needed!

Island sanctuary 

Weeks later, I have never been so delighted with a decision I made. Majuli river island in Assam was my home for two weeks, and it was exactly what I needed.

I spent mornings lounging on the porch of my bamboo cottage, battling inboxes and writing articles I should’ve written weeks ago. Afternoons were for wandering hither and thither by foot or bicycle. Campfires warmed my feet in the evenings as I chatted with locals and travelers alike. Sometimes I was lonely late at night, but I imagine that’s an inevitable part of solo travel… one I treated with rice beer terrible television and good books.

As days passed without my untimely demise (amazing), I realized I’ll be fine traveling on my own. Finding trains, hauling bags, picking holes in the walls for lunch; I’ve been doing these things for years.

Every day my confidence grows, the fear clears. Maybe solo travel isn’t so intimidating after all!

Breaking up on the road - Bicycling on Majuli river island in Assam, India - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Is there anything better for the soul than a bike adventure on a sunny day? Cheers to Pallab for the photo.

What’s next for Lost With Purpose?

Of course, that doesn’t mean all of the confusion has been resolved. I’m back on my feet on a personal level, but what about next steps for the blog?

Good news: Lost With Purpose is here to stay.

This whole time, I’ve been the voice behind the stories you read on the blog. The hand behind the ramblings you scroll through on Facebook. The eye behind the lens of the photos you see on Instagram. Being alone hasn’t changed that.

Solo female travel - Shooting photos of Rani Ki Vav stepwell in Gujarat, India - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Shooting the epic Rani Ki Vav stepwell in Gujarat, India. Thanks Devanshi for the photo!

You shouldn’t notice much of a change in the content on the blog. Stories, photo essays, travel guides to places no one ever thought about writing a guide for—my mill of a mind will keep chugging away, just as it always has.

The only difference is you might see less photos of me on the ‘gram—I’m too self-conscious to set up a tripod to take photos of myself most of the time! It attracts far too much attention in India anyway.

Going from couples travel to female solo travel - Alex with a family picnicking on Majuli island - Lost With Purpose travel blog

But I’m not opposed to having new friends take photos with me!

Sebastiaan may or may not play a role in the blog’s future. That’s something we’ll decide later on, when decisions can be made based on logic rather than emotions.

In the past, he handled the administrative side of things: answering emails and messages, working with businesses, organizing collaborations. I’ll be gradually taking over that department now. If you notice a lag in response time in the coming weeks, bear with me—I’m notoriously bad at responding to messages, though I read each and every one!

Though things are changing under the hood, Sebastiaan is still writing informative guides for places we’ve both visited. Despite breaking up, we both still want to help out fellow travelers in whatever ways we can.

Over time, I’ll transition from a couples blog to blogging about only me #narcissist, but that should be the biggest change you’ll see. I intend to do it in the near future… but I know I’ll probably procrastinate until I figure out what to call myself. The internet doesn’t need another solo female travel blogger!

(Ideas totally welcome. Will show gratitude with dinner and/or beer when our paths cross on the road.)

Solo female travel - Alex looking out over Balkh, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Looking out over the dusty landscape of Balkh, Afghanistan. Perhaps one day I’ll be bold (or stupid) enough to return here on my own!

An end, a beginning

In the end, all that really matters is that I legitimately love running this blog. It brings me joy to share off the beaten track places and people with you, and though my personal life has changed, that love has not.

It’s an honor to know you all read my words and look at my photos and actually think about them for more than three seconds. Messages of thanks and compliments stroke my ego keep me motivated. The crazy amounts of love and support and advice you all gave when I announced the break up quelled my nerves, and gave me the confidence I needed to stop hiding in bed and get out the door.

Don’t think of this break up as the end of the blog as you know it, but rather as the next stage of the blog’s existence.

A final word on breaking up while traveling

If you’re reading this post just to know what happened between me and Sebastiaan… that’s all I’ve got for you. Thanks for making it to the end of this little ramble, and supporting both us and the blog during this tumultuous transition.

If, however, you’re reading this because you’re also going through a break up on the road, I have a bit more love to share.

Breaking up is never easy, and it’s even more complicated on the road when you’re thousands of kilometers away from friends and family.

I received loads of advice from others when I announced the break up, but the best advice I got was to “be gentle with yourself.”

Before booking my ticket to Northeast India, I felt pressured to carry on with my travels as though nothing had happened. To continue to explore adventurous locales and escape the beaten tourist track.

… and that was silly. Sometimes you need to take time to organize your thoughts, figure out your next steps, and give yourself a break.

Solo female travel - Girl biking on Majuli river island in Assam, India - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Enjoying the peace of Majuli. Thanks Pallab for taking this photo! (No, I’m still not over my aversion to tripods…)

Don’t hesitate to love yourself, to take things easy. Head somewhere familiar, book yourself a nice hotel room, and hide out and eat unhealthy things and watch bad television for a few days. I sure as hell did.

Whatever you’re feeling, however isolated you may feel, know that you’re not alone. Friends and family are just a Whatsapp or Skype call away. Other travelers understand the hardships being far from home, and can be more receptive than you’d expect. Facebook groups like Girls Love Travel are always there to help a lost sister out, or help you find a travel buddy to keep you company.

And, of course, my ears are always open.

Do what makes you feel best. Just remember to take care of yourself, and know that time heals all.

 

Breaking up on the road is not an easy decision to make, nor an easy one to follow through on! Here's my story of breaking up while traveling, with advice to others who may be going through the same.

 

Alex Reynolds profile picture

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

54 thoughts on “New life, new chapter: breaking up on the road

    Christina says:

    Hi Alex,
    I must say it takes a lot of guts to write about the break-up and I admire the fact that you did not remove his photos from the blog. Very classy!
    Anyway, I hope you’re doing better now and you have a friend in Malaysia should you decide to come explore my country! Hope our paths will cross one day 🙂

    CW says:

    Hi Alex, Thank you for your bravery for sharing this on your blog. I first saw your blog when I was researching Georgia, and your blog was one of the few that had done it. Now I was looking at it again because I’m planning a trip to Xinjiang.

    I too an am American woman who broke up with my European boyfriend named Sebastian. It didn’t work out even though we were very in love. So now I’m planning this RTW trip solo, which sucks b/c its’ harder and more expensive to travel alone but ultimately it was the right decision.

    I hope you find healing and happiness.

    Tarana says:

    I just came across your blog googling information for my trip to Georgia this weekend and i got so much more in return! I pretty much drunk in 1/3rd of your blog, hungrily looking at pictures, locations and reading through tips. One of your statements above – not easy to apply for visas while on the road – got me thinking that it would be great to have more insight on how you manage that? As someone who aspires to travel full time and holding an Indian passport, it’s something i think about quite a bit, besides the money angel. Hope you can leave us some tips!

    Great job with what you are doing. Solo or with someone, the crux of your blog is the places you cover and it’s amazing!

    Alex says:

    Thanks for the kind words Tarana! It’s tricky to write about applying for visas on the road, as every passport comes with its own set of challenges and each country has its own rules. It’s much easier for me to apply for visas with my UK passport, for example, than it would be for you to do the same with your Indian visa! Partially because of the sheer volume of paperwork, partially because of rules about applying in one’s home country for certain passports. Alas, the world of travel is complicated at times! I recommend checking out forums or Facebook groups targeted to specific areas for more information… that’s what I do.

    Krystal Laura Espinosa says:

    Thanks for bringing my lover back, [email protected] (yahoo). com.…………

    tyler says:

    awesome read. keep your head high

    Tingting says:

    Hi Alex, I found your blog today when I was searching for information about India weed, they are really informative and well organized. I kept reading and then found this one, it stroke me unexpectedly.

    I broke up with my ex after spending two years of traveling and working together in Australia one year ago. That was quite an experience, I totally got what you said: “During almost two years on the road, we shared the highest highs and the lowest lows.” Australia was the first western country where I visited and lived, and he was my first foreign boyfriend or the first one I was closed to that from a different background (he’s from the States too). We figured so many things out together on the road, even build two campervans in AU. I will always appreciate what he had taught and influenced me, thinking about a girl from China who had never thought about becoming a nomad, not even used Youtube before!

    In the end, I had to go back to China and he decided to head back to Japan (he’s half Japanese). I was miserably lost for a couple of months, besides the relationship, it was more about how could I get out of this country and be freer, physically and mentally.

    Fortunately, after one year’s struggling and self-helping, I finally got the New Zealand visa last month. Although it’s only a one-year work visa, I believe it will be my new start, and I’m confident now that I can create my life as what I’ve been dreaming of.

    Sorry to make my story so long, I’m just so glad to find your post in my current isolated life in China, it’s been hard to reconnect with old friends after my journey. I wish you all the best, doing what you like to do, and be happy 🙂

    Tingting ( Guizhou, China)

    Emma says:

    You should never feel responsible to maintain a relationship with someone for the satisfaction of your viewers. If you do not enjoy how you are putting a message out there, do not change the message, instead change how you get it across to your listeners!

    In Home Dog Grooming says:

    What’s up every one, here every one is sharing such
    know-how, therefore it’s good to read this blog, and
    I used to go to see this webpage everyday.

    Lekzang says:

    Yayhay to Alex ?
    Thats some big decision you took!
    Cheers to your begin for a solo travelling journey.

    DATA-RECOVERY says:

    Exactly what I was looking for, regards for posting .

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Lost With Purpose - Solo female travel off the beaten track
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