After an emotionally abusive relationship, travel saved me

This article was created for The Travel Project by Nathalie Kiaos, a 22 year old Australian girl who has found a huge love for travelling after making friends for life on 2 Contiki trips.

If you told me 2 years ago that I would be living in Canada by myself I would've laughed at you. There was no way I could handle being by myself, let alone in a whole different country. That would be out of the question.

Skip forward to 2017, and travelling solo has been the best thing I have ever done for myself.

2 years ago I was in a rut. I was severely depressed and anxious. I had just gone through a bad breakup that turned emotionally abusive. My ex partner at the time told me he needed to “travel the world alone” and “find out who he really is”. I tried to be understanding, but it made no sense to me why he couldn’t travel the world with me. After all, we were madly in love – wouldn’t you want to travel the world with the one person who makes you feel like no other can? I was told he was in love with me but couldn’t be with me because the ‘timing wasn’t right’. Despite this, the lack of respect and love I had for myself at the time resulted in a toxic cycle of going back to him for another year.

I am a huge believer in that everything happens for a reason, so I couldn't quite understand why I had to go through this hurt and confusion for so long. 

One day it got to the point where I told him I didn’t have a care in the world if I died. There was nothing left for me; if my boyfriend didn’t love me, what was the point of living? It’s ridiculous how you can get into a mental state that bad. Wanting to die just because of one person not loving you. I don’t know how I managed to get in that mind set – I guess it’s easy when you’re already a very vulnerable person.

RELATED: TRAVEL – THE ULTIMATE MEDICINE FOR A BROKEN HEART

I’ve been dependent on other people for my happiness since I was 15. I never learnt self love, I never learnt that I could make myself just as happy, if not happier. While I was hurting, I was in turn hurting myself. I was trapped in a cycle of self destructive behaviour. I was trying to numb the pain, without realising that I was making it much worse for myself. And on top of this behaviour, I was working full time at a medical research institute and studying biomedical science. I was overloading myself, and began failing my subjects and having mental breakdowns at work.

RELATED: CAN TRAVEL CHANGE YOUR STATE OF MIND AND IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?

At the end of 2016 I’d hit a brick wall. Anxiety had taken over who I was. I needed a break, and I needed to be far from home. So I grabbed a map, closed my eyes and drove to wherever my finger pointed to. I took 5 days off work and drove 10 hours to a little town called Jervis Bay in the ACT area. I had no plans, I just booked my Air bnb and headed off. Everyday was unplanned. If I drove past a national park, I would stop, park my car and spend the day exploring. Even in the rain. I found myself starting to enjoy time alone. I found myself asking, what have you done with Nathalie? Is this really her? Is she actually enjoying time completely alone?

And yes. She was.

Have finally made it to Jasper ???????? #contikialex #noregrets #canadaandtherockies #contiki

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Ever since that road trip, I started to feel this urge to travel alone. Another bad week at work led me to book flights to another state to explore it by myself for a few days. I wanted to find myself again, and forget about work and university stress for a few days.

This became a new part of my reality. As nerve-wracking as it was, it was incredibly rewarding. Nothing else can beat it, because you never return the way you left. It changes you in such a positive way, clears your mind, gives you new challenges and experiences. It changes your energy and perspective of the world. You learn to love leaving your comfort zone.

Experiences are more valuable than things. This is what travelling is all about.

It’s about hiking up that freezing mountain where your phone doesn’t work but the view is life changing. On one side you see the sun setting and on the other you see the moon shining bright. The colours on each side of the mountain being incredibly different. It’s about getting lost. It’s about hiking 30km just for that view that photos could never do it justice. Its about agreeing to hold the tarantual in Sedona because you have never held a spider before. Travelling is a journey, and for me it’s a journey from lost to found.

Saw a mountain lion today and hiked up Vernal falls footbridge. Nearly died from how huge the hike was but hella worth it⛰

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I have fallen in love with travelling by myself –  and I never thought that could happen. I’m now living in Canada by myself, in Canmore, AB. Most of my inspiration to be here was from Cheryl Strade’s book “Wild” That book was honestly life changing. She is a truly inspirational woman – my role model. She hiked the PCT by herself, a journey from lost to found.

I want to learn different languages, I want to keep exploring, I want to make people happy and share beautiful experiences with them. I want to help people with their mental health and share my experience. My mental health is at its best it has ever been, and I’m doing what I love.

Has travel helped you break out of a toxic relationship, or actively changed your mindset from negative to positive? Share you stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…

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