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 on the road.

 

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 traveling 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

Deciding to break up on the road

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. As some of you know, getting a Pakistan visa on the road is 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.

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 alone.

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 plane 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 how-to guides for Bangladesh, where he’s currently traveling. 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 on the road

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

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

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

    Anjci says:

    The world didn’t need any couple’s travel blog, either : ) But you guys stood well out. I KNOW you will do well – you are an inspiration! Glad to hear you are coping so well. I wish you every tail wind in your travels!

    Alex says:

    Couples travel, solo travel—I suppose as long as people are enjoying what I’m creating, it doesn’t really matter, does it? 🙂 Thanks lady!

    Sharanya Iyer says:

    Chin up and soldier on like you already are, Alex. You have a wonderful voice and eye for stories, the blog is a delight to read and honestly, I’d read it irrespective of what you call yourself.
    More power to you and hope our paths cross on the road someday!
    PS: Totally sold on heading to Majuli to mend a confused mind that recently broke up with a stable income life 🙂

    Alex says:

    Always a pleasure to hear 🙂 I hope you find the answers you’re looking for in yourself on Majuli, I’m sure the simplicity of life there will help to quell the storm in your mind!

    Ivan says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your breakup. So you know: your blog is hands down the best I’ve come across in a (very) crowded field. Great writing, stunning pictures, easy to follow, informs and educates while also telling a compelling story.

    I know this is extremely hard to do. You must’ve put a lot of care into your work. Just wanted to let you know that I noticed and appreciate it very much! This September, my wife and I are heading off on our round the world trip and this resource has already been invaluable. Thanks for introducing us to northeast India.

    Take care,
    Ivan

    Alex says:

    Everything you mentioned is something I actively strive for… I’m happy to hear I’m hitting the mark!

    That’s fantastic that you’re heading off on a round the world adventure, and I wish you all the best. I haven’t traveled enough to help you with everywhere in the world (one day!) but if you have any further questions about Northeast India or any of the other areas I cover, you know how to reach me 🙂

    Missy D says:

    I loved this post. So beautifully written.

    I’m sorry to hear about your break-up, but I think you’re doing all the right things to start the road to recovery.

    Looking forward to where this takes you next. All the best.

    John Hannan says:

    Good luck and best wishes. I have followed your travels with great interest. A great adventure. Get on touch if you ever get to New Zealand. Kiwi Jay.

    terra @ terragoes.com says:

    I just found your blog and I’m glad I’ve stumbled upon it at this sort of crossroads for you. I think the advice to be kind to yourself is some of the best, and I hope that solo traveling brings you joy. Cheers!

    Elina says:

    I disagree with you – the world can always use more solo female travel blogs if they’re unique and well-written. And yours certainly is! I hope you keep on blogging and travelling, this blog is a great resource for places less travelled!

    I kind of went through the same last year. I was in South America (far enough from my native Europe) when I broke up with my long-time boyfriend. It was the hardest thing and I felt lonely a lot of times when I was travelling solo last year, but I also felt free, and since I’ve come back I’ve realised just how much more better off I am now, figuring out life on my own. I hope you’ll find happiness on the road for yourself too!

    Karen says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you all broke up and the odds of having you within an hour of me have decreased significantly, but I’m happy to hear that you’re taking care of yourself. I really do think you have a great name for a blog (solo or couples) and this blog is so damn good. Be kind to yourself and don’t feel like you need to fit into one box. A box can be misshapen and turned into any shape if you’re creative. Excited to read more of your solo travel adventures in India.

    Khaula says:

    Hi Alex,

    I am from Lahore, Pakistan and sent you a fb message as well. I am sorry Pakistan isn’t really friendly to women and that is true for the most part. Let me know if you still wishes to visit Lahore. I will show you around. Love and hugs!!!

    Tim UrbanDuniya says:

    Wow, what a personal and brave post. All I can say is that I am sorry to hear about this, but at the same time I admire your courage and wish you both all the very best for the future. You’re absolutely right when you say that breaking up is never easy, but I’m sure you (both) will come through stronger on the other side. Safe travels (both on the road and in life), and love from Australia or Pakistan or wherever. Looking forward to the next big adventure x

    Francisco Gomez says:

    Hi Alex, came across your blog this morning while searching for information on the Kalash region of Pakistan. Needless to say, you are a great storyteller, full of life and adventure!
    Breaking up with someone who was a part of your life experiences is difficult (in the beginning), but it appears you followed your bliss toward an architect of the change you desire to see and create; that is, a state of fulfillment and emotional happiness!

    Wishing you health and safe travels, wherever your journey takes you!

    Francisco

    Alex says:

    Thank you for the kind words Francisco! Yes, there have been some challenges in the last few weeks, but I’m happy I took the plunge and did what needed to be done. Take care, wherever you are!

    Beya says:

    Thank you for sharing! So brave of you, and I have no doubt you will do well!

    Alex says:

    Thank you for taking the time to read it 🙂 I hope your words hold true!

    ESKIM says:

    I’ve been lurking your blog and lived vicariously through you as another solo female traveler who can’t take a step into another world right now.
    sorry for what have happened to you, but everything happens for some reasons. hope it lead you to new chapter in your trip, I’m excited about new adventures ahead of you. stay strong and safe! 🙂

    KC McCormick Ciftci says:

    This is the very first blog post of yours I’ve read, and wow, Alex. I so admire your vulnerability, as well as your bravery in continuing to soldier on and even figure out ways to work together with someone who played such a big role in your life, your travels, this blog. Sending you lots of good vibes <3

    tygerwalla says:

    All the best. Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. They have been more than what ordinary offers up. Chin up!

    Alex says:

    I still have much more to accomplish, let’s not get ahead of ourselves 😉 Thanks for the encouragement, though!

    Ms ZiYou says:

    We definitely need more female solo travel bloggers, especially people that go to such cool places as you.

    Alex says:

    Well then, I’ll try not to disappoint 😉

    Catarina Piedade says:

    Hello… I had the same in India in 2013… also broke up a 8 year old relationship… the end of something means a new start! and travel works always as a catalyser in our life!
    I travel in India for a few more months and this took me to a 4 year long travel in Asia and Middle East!!!
    Enjoy the freedom

    Alex says:

    I’m enjoying it already! India is a tough place to be as a lone woman at times, but it’s also a world of opportunity if you’re open to it. Hopefully I can keep on traveling as long as you! Take care 🙂

    Bambi says:

    Inspirational, went through something similar and cannot wait to get back out there and go solo this time.

    All about that self love. X

    Alex says:

    We could all do with a little more self love! Perhaps our paths will cross on the road one day and we can swap solo travel stories 🙂

    Shubham Mansingka says:

    Nothing better than Majuli and the familiar looking path near La Maison de Ananda!

    I am certain you will create awesome content as always. My favourite travel blog 🙂

    Cheers
    Shubham

    Alex says:

    I concur wholeheartedly! Thanks man 🙂

    Pranjali says:

    Alex, I stumbled upon your blog 2 days ago as i was looking for some quality budget travel research on Arunachal Pradesh. I then read this post, and am touched. All the best wishes that a fellow solo traveller can send your way, are coming your way ! Hope writing this post was cathartic to you.
    Meanwhile, I am devouring your Arunachal posts, as i plan my travel.
    How do you manage to book train tickets? Do you just go to travel agents in the town you’re visiting?

    Rebecca says:

    A touching post. I always say that break ups are the best thing in the world – if it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t happen… and if you are meant to break up and don’t, then you are wasting time. (it all makes sense in my head) All the best for the journey forth!

    Johnson says:

    The wonderful article gets to know so many things about the reality of life through your article. Thanks for sharing this article.

    Julie Cao says:

    Hi Alex, I have been reading your blog ever since I came across Journal of Nomads’ posts and she has backlinked to one of your blog post on one of hers. I am a travel blogger myself and I get very picky on reading blog posts, but there were nights I just spent doing nothing but reading your blog. Your writing is so raw and you have a great sense of humor, so do not worry about your niche of being a female solo traveler, just continue write what you feel like as you used to and I will continue reading it.

    I am sorry that you have to go through a break-up, and it is okay to feel what you feel and get waste by watching TV and eat unhealthy food. I would do the same. and you do not have to explain it to anyone. Enjoy your time on the road and look forward to reading more of your travels.

    Nejma says:

    Solo traveller or not, we do not care. You have a different way of travelling, you are travelling with a brain so keep going! The world needs more bloggers like you.

    Emma | The Gap Life Diaries says:

    Sorry to hear this, Alex.
    I loved you guys but you’re so right to remind people that on a blog and behind the scenes are two different things, and if you weren’t happy, you 100% did the right thing.
    Time heals almost everything, and, in my experience, travel has the power to heal pretty much everything else, so you’re probably already well on your way to a new normal.
    Keep on doing what’s best for you, and let the blog become whatever it becomes as a result – you’re a great writer and seem like a super human being, so I’m sure you’ll continue to be a success!
    Sending lots of love and girl power from Italy.

    Alex says:

    Thanks Emma! Yes, you’d be surprised to see how many people have very strong opinions about my personal life and decisions… based on what they see on the internet. Sigh, people don’t think sometimes.

    I’m definitely in a good place by now, and the blog is still afloat, so all must be well! Cheers for your words of support, much love to you in Italy from Bangladesh 🙂

    Mawish says:

    Hi Alex, what striked me most above all was the fact that you are a solo female traveller, and being one of this kind myself, I’d love to meet you.
    If you ever visit Pakistan, let’s roam around together.

    Alex says:

    Always down to meet fellow solo female travelers, especially in Pakistan!

    Farsha Khan says:

    I love you from the bottom of my heart. Come back to United States please. I can’t wait to see you in person!

    Alex says:

    YOU are my inspiration. I’m 18, dreaming of traveling the world, and I just discovered your blog today. You gained a new fan today! Thank you for being such an amazing example of bravery!

    Alex says:

    Aw, thank you! I’m truly honored 🙂 I hope to meet you on the road one day, as I’m sure you’ll be traveling the world in no time!

    Paki on the go says:

    You know, “lost with purpose” has deeper meanings to it. I am sure you know better than me. And that should be the motivation for you and Sebestian too. I wish both of you strength and courage not just to move on but grow from here because you inspire thousands and your reaction to this will be an example for many travelers/people to follow as they look up to you, read your blogs and see the world through your pictures.

    Do come to Pakistan, many female solo travelers from Pakistan need role models like you to build up the courage to do what you are doing .

    Blessings !
    Saad
    Aka
    Paki on the go

    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.

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