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It took my boyfriend eight years to propose and less than three months to tell me that he thought we had made a mistake in getting married. I quickly learned that the time you spend getting to know someone does not correlate with the time you will spend in a happy marriage.

Eighteen months after he said these shocking words, I was officially divorced at 32. As I looked at the legally binding documents, I wondered why it was so much easier to start a relationship than to end one.

During that year and a half between his words and the final divorce, everything changed. I operated on a robotic level to keep functioning. I didn’t talk to my coworkers about divorce for months because I didn’t want anyone to look at me any differently. When I finally told my wedding planner, she cried. I hired a therapist, sold my wedding dress, and moved into a new home in my hometown of San Diego with new roommates.

The decision to end all contact with my ex, quit my job, sell my belongings, and leave for South America on a one-way ticket didn’t happen overnight. It slowly came to life as I pondered my options: stay in San Diego or go and never come back.

It was a terribly important decision, but something excited me about how heavy it all was. I became obsessed with the very idea of ​​walking away and starting over completely. It would be a clean slate. I didn’t have to tell people in other countries that I had been through a divorce… did I?

I became obsessed with the very idea of ​​walking away and starting over completely. It would be a clean slate.

I started to loosen my grip on what my life was “supposed” to be like, because it sure didn’t look like that anymore, and started to see things from a new perspective. I couldn’t control what my ex was doing or saying, but I could control my reaction. Amidst the chaos, I decided it was time to change my life for the better.

I was young, single and nothing bound me. I didn’t own a house. I had no children or animals to look after. I was also heartbroken, directionless and confused. I went from two incomes to one, and I didn’t even like my job anymore.

With nothing more to lose, I decided it was time to stop worrying about what everyone else was thinking and listen to my instincts. When I asked myself what would make me happy, the answer came loud and clear: travel.

I devised a plan to make this dream come true. I sold most of my belongings and returned to live with my parents, saving me $ 1,300 per month on rent and utilities. I continued to work in my business and reduced my expenses. I read books on budget travel and decided that I don’t need a lot of money to live. I saved $ 10,000 and decided to travel as long as it took.

It took six months of planning and saving. Two months after my divorce was finalized, I was on the road.

I quit my job and started mine Eat Pray Love one-way trip to Ecuador. Part of me was running away from something, but the other part was running towards something else. I didn’t know what it was yet.

As I traveled by bus, with nothing more than a backpack, I completely immersed myself in the experience. I was living on $ 30 a day and traveled overland through 10 different countries from Ecuador to Mexico. I wasn’t sure what part of my story I would share, but over the course of these months I started to open up more and more. First to my new friends, then to strangers, and finally to love interests. Every time I crossed a border to a new place, another chapter in my life unfolded. I survived a shootout on a bus. I slept on a freighter. I have climbed volcanoes. The healing was raw and real.

Along the way, I asked myself the same questions: did I see myself living here? What would life be like in Colombia? Guatemala? Mexico? Would I like it? Would I feel safe? I still couldn’t imagine going back to my old life in San Diego. I was scared to run into my ex at the bar, or worse, on a dating app. (I never bought one.) All I wanted was a new place to live, away from my past life. I had already survived a huge change; nothing prevented me from enduring another.

By choosing to take control of my life and putting myself first, I slowly moved from victimhood to empowerment.

By choosing to take control of my life and putting myself first, I slowly moved from victimhood to empowerment. Saying yes and taking this trip has been the most liberating thing I have ever done. Travel was how I started to lay a new foundation. It was the gateway to knowing myself again and proving that I could do whatever I wanted on my own.

When you feel like you’ve lost everything, you have nothing more to lose. There was no reason to hold back from starting a whole new life. It was the perfect time to start over, especially when I felt like I had nothing left to hang on to.

During the months that I was removed from the typical American routine, I was able to experience a new way of life. A place where I felt safe to express myself, free from the fear of judgment for having taken a different path. One where I was challenged on a daily basis, whether learning a new cultural norm or discussing politics in Spanish. There was rarely a dull moment, and if there was, I was happy to spend it napping in a hammock or keeping a journal under a palm tree. Who can say that this way of life is bad?

I have been in Mexico City for almost a year now. I’m sure I learned more about myself from experiencing life in a foreign country than I would have if I had kept my old routine. I now enjoy life on a whole new level. I learned to think and ask myself questions (and listen to the answers). I have developed a new spiritual practice. I found a new community. In Mexico, I really started to heal from my divorce.

It was the perfect time to start over, especially when I felt like I had nothing left to hang on to.

The question I am asked the most is whether I saw this coming. I didn’t walk down the aisle wondering if I was about to make a big mistake. I wrote down all the nerves I had with the typical wedding day nervousness. Maybe there were red flags; I was not yet ready to see them.

I have always dreamed of working and living abroad. Now I am living the vision I had for myself as a little girl.

I’m less afraid of meeting my ex and I accept everything that has happened between us. Turns out I had a million lessons to learn and this relationship was the mirror to reflect everyone. The details of what happened between us during our divorce don’t matter. What matters most is what I learned and decided to do with it. I turned my pain into my goal, and now I’m working to empower other women to create more meaningful lives for themselves and heal from heartache.

The new life I created for myself in Mexico seems more aligned to me than the old one I lived from 22 to 32 years old in the United States. I became a woman with so much gratitude for this 10 year relationship and appreciation for the fraying and impropriety of who I was.

During our lowest moments, we have a choice: to remain as a victim, or to rise above and step into our power. When everything is stripped, where will you decide to go next?

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