FROM THE ARCHIVES: Dealing With Heartbreak at 35,000 Feet

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Dealing With Heartbreak at 35,000 Feet

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Three days after my birthday I got dumped. Plain and simple. I was about to leave for a month in Germany, followed by a more permanent residence in Alabama for graduate school, when my boyfriend said he wasn’t prepared for the distance. It hurt, I cried, and then I drank more wine than I should have.  

I spent the time leading up to my trip to Berlin thinking about the what ifs: What if I wasn’t leaving for half the summer? What if I could stay in Nashville? Would things change? Three weeks of driving myself crazy with questions made me realize that I needed to go to Europe, if only to provide myself with a distraction from neurotically checking my ex’s Instagram. I packed my bags and in mid-May settled into seat 27C on a flight from Dallas to Frankfurt, thinking that maybe this was a good way for me to take a break from the breakup.

If you’ve never boarded an airplane with a broken heart, let me tell you something: There are a lot of things to do at 35,000 feet, but focusing on your ex isn’t one of them. The moment you enter the plane you are physically blocked from contacting that jerk who called things off. You sit in your seat, get into whatever pre-flight routine you may have, and then put your phone on airplane mode. Thus begins the journey from tears to moving on: contact has been blocked. Pretty seriously. If you are desperate enough to purchase wifi on an international flight in order to either contact or stalk an ex, then you’re in too deep for this blog post. However, for those of us not willing to see a $25 charge on our next credit card statement because of Delta’s in-flight wifi, this is your one shining moment to be cut off from the world. I recommend you take advantage of it.  

After you put your phone on airplane mode, settle in and prepare for takeoff. Listen to the roar of the engines. Focus on that strange beeping noise coming from above you. Get in tune with your inner crippling fear of air travel—these flying-related neuroses are about to pay off, friend. The post-breakup pain will soon be forgotten once you realize you and 300 strangers will be hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles an hour in what is essentially a tin can. Yes, heartache hurts. You know what else hurts? Realizing you forgot your Xanax and will spend the next ten hours attuned to every single noise that a Boeing 777 emits. Turbulence, mixed with unmedicated anxiety, does wonders in the distraction department.

For those of you that don’t have travel-related fears: congratulations! There are other ways that boarding a plane can distract you. No matter where you sit on a flight to Europe, you’re going to be surrounded by at least three things: entertainment, food and a potential environment in which to sleep. I know people that are lulled to sleep by the sound of an airplane taking off. I hate those people. However, if you’re not anxious and can easily sleep on planes then this is yet another opportunity to forget about your ex. Go to sleep for two or nine hours. Wake up in a beautiful country thousands of miles away from the person who hurt you.  

Can’t sleep? Find out what movies are on demand. Cry your eyes out to The Notebook or enjoy the family friendly film being projected for all of coach. Hungry? If you’re in first class, then I also hate you and your hot towels, but for the more budget-friendly travelers, you can reach for the chicken or pasta being handed out. Feel free to tell your breakup sob story to a flight attendant and they might be a little more generous with their pour of sauvignon blanc at dinner.  

If the combination of several distractions and being temporarily forced off social media/iMessaging can’t help you, I encourage you to seek more advanced steps in which to move on from being broken up with. In most cases, though, I think there’s something to be said about allowing yourself to be alone with your thoughts. This is the other alternative to spending half a day in an airplane; you pick what you get to do. On my flight to Frankfurt I enjoyed two movies and then realized I needed to think about what I was about to experience. Did I want to waste the next month of travel wallowing in pity over a breakup that was, in hindsight, eventual? I had schnitzel and spaetzle to eat. There was German beer to drink at biergartens in sunny, 75-degree weather. The beauty of travel is that an airplane picks you up from home (or relatively close to home) and drops you off in a world you had previously only dreamed of. All the smells and sounds you’d imagined come to life. There’s an entirely new culture to explore, trains to hop on and off of and taxis to chase down in the pouring rain.  

I will be the first to admit how hurtful it is to think that someone you cared about wouldn’t want to be with you. Unreciprocated feelings suck. It’s easy to dwell on these feelings at home, especially if you happen to be in the same city as your ex. This is the time to pour yourself into something exciting and slightly more constructive than writing passive aggressive tweets. The definition of “adventure” is an unusual and exciting occurrence or activity. What better way to forget the breakup and take a little time to relish in the fact that you’re a single, liberated person, than being involved in that kind of experience of adventure? 

May all your post-breakup experiences be filled with some sort of adventure; be that traveling to a new city of trying the recently opened Mexican restaurant down the street. And may all your flights involve minimal turbulence, last minute upgrades, and a seat next to a tall, dark, and handsome stranger.

[Photo by Julie Bloom.] 

[This post was originally published on July 16, 2016.]


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