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How to Heal a Broken Heart in Puerto Rico

Story by Carly Milne 

Broken hearts - we all have a way to deal with them. Some women tuck into a tasty container of Ben n' Jerry's ice cream, others resort to chick flicks and pajamas on the couch, and then there's the tried-n-true girl's night out. But for my last heartbreak, the usual wasn't going to do. Instead, I hopped a plane to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico in search of sun, sand and solace.

It was hot, and the sand wHeal a Broken Heart in Puerto RicoHeal a Broken Heart in Puerto Ricoas powdery and white... but I was surprised to find that the peace I was seeking wasn't at the bottom of a margarita glass on the beach. It started early with breakfast, and then I went to the Guernica Dry Forest for a hike.

I was supposed to be bird watching, but there weren't any to see. Instead I learned about the vegetation, played with lizards and millipedes, and tried avoiding bugs that bit. I wasn't so lucky at that one. By the afternoon I had a goose egg-sized bite on the inside of my knee, which the adolescent boy in me decided to start squeezing, much to one of my travel mate's dismay. "Don't, it's going to get infected," she wailed. I laughed. (Of course, that probably says a little more about my subconscious psyche in that moment than I'd like to openly admit.)

The weeks leading up to my trip were hellacious. I was still feeling a certain amount of pain and fear as I moved through it, and in little ways it was comforting to go back to old habits. And one of those old habits was how I kept re-breaking my heart, convincing myself that things could work with him - that I could find a way to make it happen. And as my trip has gone on I realized I'd been doing it a little more and a little more. And it wasn't helping me in the slightest.

So when I hiked up to the Guarya Centranino - a tree that is 800 years old - and the guide told me that it was purported to have healing vibrations, I went and sat on one of its exposed stumps, hoping to feel something. Everyone else on the tour sort of followed suit. I wasn't getting anything out of it, so I climbed up further and leaned my back against it, and closed my eyes to help me slow down my brain and get into a bit more of a meditative state. Help me heal my heart popped into my head, and I felt strange saying it. I mean really, for as woo-woo as I am, asking a tree to help me heal my heart is certainly out of my realm. But there I was, leaning against it, breathing slowly, trying to find... something. Anything to get me out of that mindset.

And then I felt it - subtly at first, but there was this surge through me. My heart began to race even though I'd been standing still for at least 15 minutes. I breathed through it and held on to the thought of healing myself. Slowly the feeling subsided, and I let go of the thoughts of how ridiculous the whole thing would seem to the outside observer. I didn't feel like a million bucks, and I wasn't ready to run a marathon or anything like that, but there was something that happened to help calm me a little more. There was a sense of peace.

I hiked back up the trail to the van and went about the rest of my day, which I spent mostly silent. When our group stopped for lunch, I spent more time watching the turquoise waves crash against the pier a short ways away from us rather than engaging in conversation. My subconscious brain was working things out for itself. I just needed to occupy the conscious while it did so.

I checked into my second hotel of the trip - the beachside Copamarina - in the afternoon, and dashed off to my ocean view room to settle in and check some e-mail... which I did from my balcony in the tropical breeze, palm trees swaying, a bird landing on the table next to me - before changing for dinner. I wanted a few moments to myself before I ate, so I headed down to the water and walked along the beach as the sky went dark. There was no moon out and clouds left over from an afternoon storm were hanging in the air, so I couldn't see any stars.

I sat there in silence, my toes in the sand and water, which was still warm like bathwater. And after a while I came to the conclusion that I had to gain more control over my runaway brain when I'm in stressful situations that tempt me to go back into old behaviors. Not that I backslid to the point where I didn't recognize myself in the mirror - I caught myself before it got to that point. But ultimately, I needed to find and hang on to the courage to heal myself. Nobody else was going to do it, not that I wanted them to. But in the past I'd looked to other people to help make things better when I needed to be looking to myself. The ocean wasn't going to do it. An 800 year-old tree wasn't going to do it. I had to. It was all me.

After dinner, things seemed lighter again. I understood. I got it. So at 12:30 at night I went outside in the comfort of my t-shirt, underwear and a towel, and walked down to the water again. I dropped the towel and walked through the waves a little, but something about it seemed so inauthentic. So I took a quick peek around and determined it was safe to strip down and jump in the water. And I did. As I sat there with the waves gently drifting around me, through me and past me, I looked up to the sky and saw one single, solitary star shining through the clouds. And I said, "Thank you."

All of these events make up the reasons why I love to travel.

Read more of Carly's articles on GoGirlfriend:

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Hi, Carly: Great, heartwarming story about Puerto Rico. Thanks again for your great blog -- and happy travels! Cheers,

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