Breakups can be brutal, heart-rendering and enervating experiences. Even those of us who've had cordial breakups can admit that, regardless of how amiably a relationship comes to an end, it's a mentally taxing process nonetheless. Simply, it's a tremendous change. And so we all handle (or, for some, don't handle) breakups in vastly different ways.
Of course, couples split up for a gamut of reasons — sometimes because the relationship is toxic or abusive and other times because the relationship just isn't working. When the latter happens, some of us can't stand the thought of someone coming into our lives, experiencing life together for as long or as little as the relationship lasts, and then moving on as though it'd never happened. Maybe we know that our intimate partnership isn't a functioning or even a healthy one, but we still respect, appreciate and care for our ex-partner enough that we genuinely want to, at the very least, maintain a friendship.
Others will cut an ex out altogether, hoping that, if they're out of sight, they'll be out of mind. They'll block all forms of communication and make an ample effort to totally forget them (arguably almost always to no avail). Maybe they can be friends down the line, but it's certainly not happening any time soon.
And then there are others who take what's called a "breakup trip" together.
These are the couples who've broken up right before their previously scheduled travel plans or vacation. Despite breaking up
, the thought of wasting all of those dollars and the effort that went into planning seems silly; so, simply, they take the trip together regardless of their relationship status. In fact, some couples actively choose to travel together when things hit the fan in their relationships. For them, some time away from the stresses of home and work, or just away from the unsolicited opinions of friends, sounds like it could potentially be healing — and hopefully lead to getting back together.
Of course, breakup trips may seem tortuous for some of us. I don't personally think I could spend time with an ex on what was supposed to be a romantic getaway together. Situation depending, I'd worry I'd go into it too hopeful of a fairytale outcome, despite being rationally well aware of the fact that the relationship does not work. I'm certain I'd also have trouble recalling why exactly we broke up if things go smoothly, losing sight of what's important. And, simply, I think it'd depress the heck out of me.
But, again, we all handle change differently. And I spoke with six people who have taken breakup trips with their ex-partners — some of whom agree that the trip was insufferable and some of whom feel pretty good about the idea. Here's how they've described their experiences.
1. Breakup trips can be tense.
"It was in Phuket and Koh Phi Phi , Thailand — I was inviting my on-again-off-again boyfriend
of four years to meet me abroad, where I was traveling with my friend," says Savannah. "He was depressed, and I thought it would snap him out of it or at least help. As it turns out, we had seldom really traveled together. And it was a nightmare. He couldn’t eat cheap food, he was against staying in hostels and he was against crowds, etc. I was essentially 'forced' to stay in a honeymoon suite in a five-star resort and leave my traveling ways behind, when I was really there for work (not for him) in the first place. We had very different values, I learned."
Savannah says that the "cherry on top of the Sunday" is when her recorded voice journals started playing on her iTunes. In her journal, she was discussing an attractive “God” she saw on the beach that day. And, when her ex heard that recording, he grew jealous.
"He called me a c*** for the first time, and out came a wrath that only he and my mother have been able to get out of me throughout my lifetime," she recalls. "I leaned over and, without thought, clawed his left arm, leaving a deep incision. It felt great. That’s when I knew. It was officially over for good. And this newfound breakup trip solidified the true end to our relationship. The end to me and a person I no longer knew or wanted to be friends with. And, thankfully (I think), it temporarily cured his depression. It taught me that the most important thing in a relationship is values, which we did not share."
2. They can also be awkward.
"I dated a guy for eight months while I was living in Spain, and we were supposed to travel around Europe together for a few weeks before we went our separate ways," says Monica. "My sister joined us for part of it, and he walked into a conversation when we were giggling because she was telling me how big her new boyfriend's penis was. He stopped speaking to me for a full day in Brussels (while we were still all sightseeing), and he told me that I was 'a liar' for previously telling him that my sister and I didn't really go into detail about our sex lives."
Later that night, Monica's ex was being "absolutely insufferable," so her sister called him out on it, she says. But he then turned to her and said, "I see what you meant about your sister," referring to a time that she had innocently vented about a silly sisterly argument.
"It was like a switch flipped, and I felt crystal clear about being done with it," she remembers. "He left the table, my sister and I changed our rooms and our flights to go to Germany instead, and I never saw him again."
3. But breakup trips can also be fun.
"My ex is from New Zealand but lives in China now and, when I was in Southeast Asia last year, she came out to Vietnam for two weeks to visit with me," says Luke. "We broke up in Mexico after traveling through South America and then Mexico for 12 months the year before that, just because we were both going back to our respective countries after being together for three years. It was pretty sad."
Luke and his ex-girlfriend are still friends. They were always good friends, he says, noting that friendship is the basis of a good relationship for him. So when she came out to Vietnam, it wasn't uncomfortable for either of them.
"She had school holidays and I was already traveling, and it was great to see her again," he says. "It was fun hanging out because she's pretty chill and has a great sense of humor. We did have sex a couple of times, but that was early on in the trip. (Erm... Oops!) If you're both cool and not childish, then yes, I would recommend a breakup trip. It was fun talking about all the crazy things we did together and the experiences we'd previously had."
4. For some people, breakup trips are a nightmare.
"The trip was literally nightmarish: We broke up the weekend before," says Lynsey. "But we had to go together because we could not change the names on the flights. In the beginning, it went smoothly. But the second liquor got involved, things went so south. I had to text my friends to remind me that, if I came back happy, we 'broke up before for a reason.' I wouldn’t recommend a breakup trip to anyone, especially if you ended things recently beforehand."
5. For others, a breakup trip provides the clarity they need.
"We went to Nepal, which we'd already booked and pre-paid," says Melissa. "I decided to go because, deep down, I didn't know how confident I was in ending the relationship. I thought maybe, just maybe, the trip would help me solidify one way or the other how I felt about ending an eight-year relationship."
While the experience ended up being mostly a good one, barring the fact that it was Nepal's hot and rainy season, Melissa says that she and her ex did argue a little about the relationship ending and shared some "sad reflective moments."
"I guess you could say that the umbrella of 'holy s*** this is ending' was hanging over our heads," she explains. "But I also felt a lot lighter on the trip because I felt like 'damn, I finally ended this or at least made movement on figuring out if it should end.'"
Melissa admits that she thinks her ex had approached the trip as a chance to win her back, which is why she wouldn't do it again, she says. But she adds that, if you're aware of the situation going in (i.e there will likely be strings attached), then a breakup trip can be good.
6. And then some breakup trips just feel necessary for everyone else's sake.
"I had a family trip to Mexico booked when my ex and I agreed to get divorced, but we didn’t want to ruin the trip for [my son], my mom or my niece and nephew who were going with us," says Anthony. "So we literally played 'house' for two months to keep up appearances and went on the trip. I told my mom that she and I should room together so she could stay with kids because, honestly, I didn’t want to be in the same bed with her — and asking for two queens while on vacation would have raised suspicion."
Anothony says that he and his ex went entire week of vacation faking it. That said, he managed to have a good time because he wasn’t going to let her ruin the time off with his family for him.
"Before we left I told my mom what was happening and she agreed that it was better we didn’t say anything because the kids didn’t deserve to deal with the drama," he says. "And, as soon as the plane touched down at the airport, my ex turned to me and said, 'So I should expect you out by what date? And when shall we tell our son?'”
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.