Travel After Divorce: How Solo Travel Helped Me Rebuild My Life

Maja Proescholdt is a travel blogger and freelance writer, originally from Minneapolis, USA, although she now calls York, UK her home. Exclusively for Travelista, Maja bravely shares her experience of solo travel after divorce.

In October 2020, my life as I knew it ended. 

In the space of a week, I lost both my job and career in the travel industry, and my marriage. I woke up one day with no husband, no job and no idea what I was going to do. Throw in pandemic lockdown restrictions, immigration complications and the fact that I was thousands of miles away from my family and many of my close friends, and it’s no surprise that I spent the following months barely alive.

I had to start over from scratch, with everything. I had to build a new life for myself, alone, from the ground up. While I struggled through the grief from the loss of relationship, and the pain caused by the person I trusted most, I had to start fresh on every aspect of my life.

Travel After Divorce: How Solo Travel Helped me Rebuild My Life

My Relationship with Travel

Travel has always been my passion and a huge priority in my life. In my early 20s, I was travelling solo all over Europe on my study abroad – jetting off anywhere from Edinburgh to Riga to Moscow by myself. It was always a part of me, before him. 

Although I’m from the US and have travelled to five continents, the bulk of my travel experience is in Europe. I’ve visited every country in Eastern Europe – one of my favourite regions in the world – and love off-the-beaten-path destinations like Albania and Georgia. I’m a budget traveller and a backpacker at heart, although I’ve now learned when to loosen the purse strings for meaningful experiences. Above all else, I love hiking, camping and exploring the great outdoors.

Since moving to York to be with my now-ex-husband in 2016, I’ve also had many opportunities to travel around the UK. One of the things that drew us together was a shared love of travel – he loved travelling as much as I did, and we both shared the same dream of a travel-filled life.

During our marriage, we travelled together regularly – going away for adventures usually every month within the UK, and internationally at least every other month. However, we both travelled solo while we were married.

It was important to both of us to continue having those immensely rewarding experiences that come with solo travel. Time has proved that travel is still a part of me, long after his exit from my life. And thanks to my extensive solo travel experience, I knew I didn’t need any kind of partner to have fulfilling and meaningful adventures.

As I picked myself up off the floor, wept through the pain and slowly but surely began healing those deep, gaping wounds, I turned to travel. I returned to my solo travel roots not only to bring me joy and happiness, but to rebuild my confidence in myself, and revel in my new independence and freedom. It was travel that truly brought me back to life. 

Returning to Solo Travel After Divorce

My first trip was a long weekend getaway to the Lake District, one of my favourite places on earth. It was my first time driving there alone, my first time wild camping alone, my first mountain hikes that I summited alone. I overcame my horrific, crippling driving anxiety on the winding single-track lanes and mountain passes in the Lakes. No one is going to drive me anymore, I thought, so if I want to go anywhere, I’d better just get over it.

I was endlessly scared the entire time, but I did it. For the first time in months, I felt alive. I felt like new breath had filled my lungs and it was revitalising.

Next came trips to Scotland – a destination that I already loved. I felt welcomed by the entire country, and given a newfound passion for exploring different areas and unique islands. Over the following 18 months, I’d end up taking seven individual trips north of the border. It became my happy place – somewhere I always feel a need to return to.

Then, I hiked 84 miles across the country on Hadrian’s Wall Path, my first ever multi-day, long-distance hike. I walked hurtful comments made about my physical fitness out of my mind over six days.

At the finish point, I sobbed – alone – in disbelief that I’d actually done it, shocked at what I’d managed to accomplish on my own. 

In August 2021, I was granted my Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. Becoming a permanent resident was the best thing that ever happened to me – I could finally close the painful chapter on my visa and immigration challenges, and look towards the increasingly bright future. I now had the stability and security to continue pursuing my greatest dreams. Best of all, my ILR meant I could finally leave the UK, and spend Christmas with my family back in Minnesota. My parents, sister and I hadn’t all been together for four (very long) years – getting to be with them again, after so much pain and trauma, was the best gift of any holiday season.

Life continued to throw a few curveballs my way, but the bigger picture was getting better and better. 2022 was full of incredible, bucket-list, dream trips. Nearly all of them were solo adventures.

I never needed anyone to travel with in the first place, and now I’d found true joy in the freedom of solo trips.

After planning on travelling to Greece with my ex-husband twice, and having both trips cancelled, I finally managed to go in September. It was the ultimate 30th birthday, divorce and treat yo’self trip – and it was, simply put, the best.

And when I came back, I decided to take off and move to Australia for a year.

Setting Off for the Land Down Under

It had always been a dream of mine to spend a year in the Land Down Under. As the age limit for Americans on a working holiday visa is 30, I knew this was a now-or-never opportunity. If I waited another year, I’d be too old and no longer eligible for this visa programme. So, I quit my job, put my stuff in storage, moved out of my house, booked a one-way flight and landed in Sydney with absolutely no plan. I’ve done it before, I told myself, so I can move to another new country again.

I hit the road without much of an idea what I’d do – I just started driving up the East Coast, doing it scared. But since leaving Sydney, I’ve decided to go for a full lap of Australia. I live out of my car, driving around the country, relishing the freedom and joy of new destinations and experiences. I’m living my absolute best life, I feel like my most true and authentic self and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. 

I’m becoming the person I’m meant to be. I’m transforming on the daily before my own eyes – into this resilient woman I’m unbelievably proud of. Sometimes it feels scary and it shocks even me, but I’m trusting the process – this feels so right, I know it’s the path I’m meant to be on. 

If I could go back to the girl who spent so many nights crying on the bathroom floor and say just one thing, I’d tell her: it gets better.

To Conclude

Some people may find that the end of a relationship or a divorce sparks a newfound love for travel. Travel after divorce brought me back to my roots. I’ve always been a confident, independent, adventurous traveller – whether I was married or not. And when I woke up with a blank slate to sketch out a new life for myself, I decided to work hard to create my dream life centred around travel. 

You don’t find a happy life – you have to make it for yourself. It takes hard work and dedication. But if you’re starting fresh after a big life change, remember you do have the power to shape your own future.

Here’s to all the adventurous modern women out there, creating their own happy life.

Read more of our Solo Travel articles.

About The Author

Maja Proescholdt is a travel blogger and freelance writer, originally from Minneapolis, USA. Although she now calls York in the UK her forever home, she is currently having the time of her life traveling around Australia. You can follow along with her adventures on her blog, Away With Maja, and her Instagram. To work together on Away With Maja or on freelance commissions, please send an email to awaywithmaja@gmail.com.

Maja Proescholdt is a travel blogger and freelance writer, originally from Minneapolis, USA. Although she now calls York in the UK her forever home, she is currently solo travelling around Australia. You can follow along with her adventures on her blog, Away With Maja, and her Instagram @awaywithmaja.

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