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“How a Solo Trip Helped Me After I was Dumped”

Writing by Brigita Hare // illustration by Jessie Gu

It happened on a public holiday. The night before, I’d been out with friends. My boyfriend bailed at the last minute but I wanted to stay out with them – which I knew might be an issue.

The next day he was coming to pick me up to meet his family for the first time. I did my prettiest and least threatening makeup look and chose an appropriate white dress with puffed sleeves. I was excited – this was the next step in our relationship. Little did I know that same day I would be sitting in the gutter in my white dress hysterically crying, shocked – and confused. I knew the family event had been a success. l later heard they really liked me. But he dumped me on the way home.

Even as I write this, I feel humiliated.

I hibernated for weeks. I got a haircut. Sometimes the tears would take me by surprise again.

One hungover afternoon, I watched Eat Pray Love with my mum and got inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s solo trips to Italy, India and Bali after a marriage breakup. I got out my phone and immediately booked flights for my first ever solo trip.

A week later I packed a carry-on suitcase and flew to Sydney. It was the first flight I had been on after the years of lockdown and I felt truly elated. I had finally left my childhood bedroom. I dismissed thoughts of my ex and I flew through the clouds listening to Lana Del Ray, smiling for the first time with a sense of possibility.

Because I was alone, I noticed I was having much longer conversations with strangers, relishing talking to new people. Once I arrived at my hotel, I dropped my stuff in my room and got the bus straight to Bondi Beach. I didn’t have to check with or wait for anyone – I just walked to the bus stop. This may seem like such a small detail to some people but for me it felt so liberating!

I swam and read and wandered around. On the way back to the hotel, it started bucketing down with rain and I was soaked through to my skin. In my wet clothes, I sat in my hotel room eating noodle soup and looking out  the window at the pavement being smacked with water and the red and blue lights of the city dancing in the puddles. It was the first time I had felt happy in weeks.

The next day I set out through the botanical gardens and came across a beautiful church, St Mary’s Cathedral. I decided to go in and sit inside  (very fleabag of me!) I looked at the magnificent stained glass windows and the golden arches of the church and contemplated my life. I became acutely aware of my thoughts and how they narrated my life and yet were separate from me.

After this I walked to the gallery and saw Matisse’s Blue Nudes collage. It was exciting to see the original of a work of art I’d had as a print on my wall for years. The print had been a solace to me, always making my room feel beautiful and peaceful.

Through this process of exploring a new city, I reconnected to the things I loved. I was able to see the beauty around me, I was free to embrace my life and I didn’t need anyone else to do it with me.

That night I put on red lipstick and wandered around Sydney’s streets. I loved the simple moments of my eyes seeing something beautiful and allowing my body to follow without hesitation. My eyes took me to a tattoo shop and I spontaneously decided to pierce my nose. It hurt, but the freedom of the decision thrilled me.

After eating dinner alone, I sat in a pub drinking lemon lime and bitters and scribbling down my thoughts in my battered notebook.

I had been worried that I would miss him, or feel sad, or wish I had asked a friend to come with me. But I didn’t. Instead, I was romanticising my life, allowing my interests to guide me and enjoying my own company. I had space for my thoughts to finally surface and they weren’t bad –  they were re-framing the fog that had swamped me since the day I was crying in the gutter, my heart broken. I was reframing the day I thought was my rock bottom.

I came home knowing I can look after myself. That I had liked my life before him and I liked my life now.

I decided from then on to follow experiences and opportunities freely with joyful excitement, and without feeling the need to rely on anyone else for my happiness.

Brigita Hare

Brigita is a Melbourne based journalist interested in people and their stories. A love of travel, fashion, health, politics, spirituality, and the way we live inspires her work. She is committed to sharing authentic and reflective stories.

Jessie Gu

Jessie Gu is an illustrator based in London. Her enthusiasm lies in visual communication, with a special focus on editorial illustration and storytelling. Additionally, she holds a keen interest in graphic design and the art of image composition. Nature and animals hold a special place in her heart, serving as constant sources of inspiration. Beyond her creative pursuits, she remains attuned to global affairs, reflecting her genuine concern for current world event. Find Jessie on Instagram @cumberjessie

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