My bad trip – I took a voyage of self-discovery, but the self I discovered was a total buzzkill

Getting dumped right before a solo overland journey from Barcelona to Beijing derailed my bid to rebrand myself as a woman of the world

It was meant to be a voyage of self-discovery. But two days before I left, my boyfriend dumped me. The self I discovered was a total buzzkill.

“It’s not you, it’s me,” he swore, but I was crying my 21-year-old heart out in the front seat of an Uber as we wove through East Fremantle – a panic attack playing peekaboo in my gut.

My driver’s name was Ricky and he wore an Akubura with hanging corks. Ricky said I was better off without the ex. He was right – unequivocally so. But at that moment, my glass was half empty.

A year earlier, when I planned my solo overland journey from Barcelona to Beijing, I was certain if I looked wistfully out enough train windows and sipped enough home-brewed eastern European spirits, I could officially begin a rebrand. Forget the awkward girl hiding behind a thick fringe and meet the new me, a woman of the world.

I had dropped out of university and worked two jobs to make it possible – including a stint squeezing maggots from a dishcloth at an ice-cream parlour – so I am usually hesitant to describe those four-and-a-half months as anything but perfect. But in reality, I was emotionally unhinged.

I mostly travelled alone and was excited to get to know myself away from my usual crowd. Disappointingly, I found I was a person who would cry in a 14-bed dorm room, set off by a text from my ex about cheese and crackers. A person who would go clubbing in Mykonos with a bad cough to avoid being alone and who would unload my emotional baggage on to anyone who would listen.

I got bed bugs, pneumonia and fleas. I missed an expensive flight. I got in several fights with men who couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. I blew through my budget. I had a credit card for emergencies – but the word emergency quickly widened well beyond its dictionary definition.

However, without question, the biggest enemy to my backpacking bliss was myself. My self-pity was tangible. It was syrup and I bathed in it.

I’d love to say I eventually had a thrilling love affair with a Bolshoi theatre ballerina or that the Gobi Desert single-handedly rebuilt my self-worth with its vastness. But in reality, I was still a mess on my flight home from China, cry-watching The Fault in Our Stars from the back of an economy-class seat.

Lisa Favazzo looking for love at the Bolshoi theatre.
Lisa Favazzo looking for love at the Bolshoi theatre. Photograph: Lisa Favazzo/The Guardian

I did learn how to strike up conversations with strangers and how to shuffle cards the cool way. I met a French man who softly shamed me into loving red wine and a girl who seemed to know nothing about the world outside the United States other than how to appreciate every moment she spent exploring it.

I spent a few weeks travelling with a Swiss German accountant whose defining features were his love of techno and kindness. Although completely platonic, we swapped rings made from toilet paper and had a fake wedding on a sleeper train. While he didn’t teach me how to heal a broken heart, he did walk me through my first snow fight.

Swiss German accountant with Lisa Favazzo
‘I spent a few weeks travelling with a Swiss German accountant whose defining features were his love of techno and kindness.’ Photograph: Lisa Favazzo/The Guardian

I returned home and was still just an awkward girl from Perth struggling to cope with a breakup. Only with passport stamps, cool stories and credit card debt.

Not everyone gets to spend months accountable to nobody, sleeping in a new country every second night. I am grateful I got the chance and probably never will again. But learning to handle romantic rejection is really hard. No amount of gallivanting could have done it for me, a fact conveniently left off the brochures at Flight Centre.

It’s been almost a decade and my chic international rebrand is still in the works. Is anyone up for hiking to Machu Picchu?


Lisa Favazzo

The GuardianTramp

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