It's no secret that the act of travelling - especially after a particularly difficult time in your life - can help you enter a new, refreshing chapter. Perhaps that's why so many women are now embarking on travelling adventures, or moving to foreign cities to discover themselves.
Chloe Marston, the protagonist in Karen Swan's highly anticipated new book The Greek Escape leaves behind her old life in London for a fresh start in New York at a luxury concierge company, before a terrible accident flips her world upside down. She escapes to a lush Greek island, hoping that it will give her the time and space to decide where her future truly lies. In a similar way, three real-life women that we interviewed embarked on travels post-trauma. Here, they reflect on the exhilarating experience of travelling to unfamiliar places in a bid to find solace...
Laura Jane Williams, the author of Becoming, embarked on a travelling trip around the world after the man she thought she’d marry dumped her and married her friend instead. Ouch. Talking about how this experience shaped her, she said "when you travel, you get to step into new parts of your personality. I don't mean you can invent somebody 'new' to be, but rather travel forces us out of our comfort zones. Travelling for me was a chance to experience how I engaged with the world, and to realise that the people I met when travelling thought I was cool and extroverted and confident and interesting - back at home, I'd forgotten that [about myself]. Travelling grew my confidence, and I continued to feel more at peace with myself after I returned."
She added, "there's research that says the best place to have an argument is in the car, because as the physical landscape changes so does our emotional one. I'd suggest it's the same for travel: I was dumped and heartbroken - if I had stayed where I was, I would've moped in my own misery for much longer. A change of scene meant new emotions to explore, and really helped me process what I'd been through. It's powerful to be alone with your own thoughts and have to endure your own company until you become at peace with it, and then eventually start to actively enjoy it." In some ways, and definitely in Laura's case, travel can be seen as a kind of therapy.
Heartbreak is often a reason that people travel, but it's not always the driving force. Policy analyst Onyeka Onyekwelu decided to travel after she had hit a metaphoric wall in her life. "I had been running on a treadmill for the entirety of my academic career, and I eventually crashed. It was then that I knew I needed a break, and the first thing that popped to mind was to travel and work abroad. I didn’t know the path that it would set me on at the time. I thought I was just getting experience in my chosen field, but travelling and working abroad broadened my horizons and gave me an opportunity to diversify. I returned a new woman.
"When it felt like life was taking jabs at me (everyone around me seemed more content: they were pursuing their passions, marrying the loves of their lives and earning lots), travel offered me some solace away from it all. I could board a flight that took me to a different continent in the same time it took me to commute to work. There, I would learn about new cultures, taste new and delightful cuisines, and meet new people from all walks of life. Travel was my haven away from reality," continued Onyeka.
One woman we interviewed loved her experience of travelling so much so, that she carved a career out of it. Mollie Bylett is a travel blogger and the founder of Where's Mollie Global Travellers, who embarked on a travelling stint after realising that her strive for "perfection, good grades and good jobs" was costing her her happiness. "Going travelling had me experience my first taste of complete freedom. I was able to completely take the pressure off of myself and make decisions based on what I really wanted. It was liberating."
She continued, "travelling can completely take the credit for who I am today. I have been able to learn so many valuable lessons and to meet so many incredible people at such a young age and it has allowed me to discover a very healthy mental headspace. Mental health is something I will never take for granted and travelling allowed me to escape from the pressures I struggled with back at college - it's like therapy for me. Particularly after trauma, travelling can be the best way to open your mind, find optimism and evolve."
As Laura puts it "travelling alone when you have emotional trauma to process is way more difficult than staying where you are - your whole comfort zone is different, and as such you have to buckle in for the ride! It's not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but on the other side, it is so worth it." Ultimately, each of the women we interviewed came home braver and happier than they had before they'd set out on their travels, which says a lot for how travelling can help you find solace and inner peace.
Buy Karen Swan's highly anticipated new book The Greek Escape here.
Everyone wants an escape sometimes, so we've teamed up with Pan Macmillan Publishing to celebrate the launch of The Greek Escape and offer you the chance to win a £750 gift voucher to spend towards an idyllic Greek holiday with Secret Escapes, a pair of £50 TONI&GUY gift vouchers for the perfect summer hairstyle as well as two limited-edition label.m x House of Holland - Sun Edition kits redeemable at TONI&GUY. Enter here: