For women who wonder how the pain stops, just know that it took three years to heal so I could finally land in the arms of the ultimate love affair.
It took three whole years.
Crying on the kitchen floor, excessive drinking, midnight calls to my girlfriends in tears, going back and forth with the relationship. Three torturous years of rebound relationships, jam-packed schedules of parties as distractions, making new, but pretty and superficial friends. All to hide the excruciating pain of missing him – the person I had imagined having children with. It took three years to see this man fade at the end of my imaginary walk down the aisle.
Infatuations are easy. But I’ve only romantically, deeply and profoundly loved two men in my life. Once in my teens, a puppy love which, I’m certifiably sure, doesn’t count. But the other was in my late-twenties. We fell madly in love in, of all places, Paris.
I went to Paris at twenty-seven to be alone, to live a life that was easy yet foreign. The second year was a walk on clouds. One can underestimate the power of falling in love in a city that breeds eternal romance. Imagine a spontaneous stroll through Le Louvre in the afternoon just because we felt like looking at the Mona Lisa, a picnic at the clock tower in the 5th arrondissement, getting rotisserie chicken at the farmer’s market. I thought this kind of love only came around once in a lifetime.
When it concluded, I couldn’t possibly piece myself back together. Even if breaking up was the right decision. Somehow because it was “right”, it felt deathly wrong. I still remember crying myself to sleep every night. It wasn’t three, but just two years that I would wake up still drenched in my own tears.
It’s not easy writing all of this. Although it took a lot of courage, for many reasons, I shouldn’t have written about it at all. As public as Jetset Times is, there are still some things I keep only for myself and for my family. But I knew I needed to write this, for the women who send me emails about their breakups and eager to search for love again. Everyone wants the ultimate answer: how to stop the pain?
The thing is, in those three years since the demise of my ultimate love affair, I was working vigorously hard to love again. Not to love my ex-boyfriend again, not another man as a replacement, but I fought incredibly hard to love life. Some days I would work on the tangibles: drink a great bottle of wine (which led to no good as it also ended in ridiculously embarrassing and unnecessary drunk dials), or purchase a beautiful home. But I quickly learned, the tangible things I loved didn’t stop the bleeding process because as I sat in my new home with a delicious bottle of Côtes du Rhône, my entire heart and soul were still in throbbing pain.
With the help of family and friends, I decided to work on the intangibles. First, quit a job that I absolutely hated then fled to Israel, Palestine and Jordan on a family vacation. That year, I kept flying on my own. I rediscovered Shanghai and hung out with some DJ friends, I went to Portugal and relaxed in small but heartfelt cities like Sintra and Lagos (see photo, right). Most importantly, I kept going back to Paris. At first, it stung badly. The view from Sacré Cœur where you can see the entire skyline made me sob like a baby. But I needed my city back. Years ago, I arrived in Paris for me. The city was mine for a very long time. Then, it became “ours”.
Every trip back to Paris hurts less and less. Last summer, I only spent two nights crying in the arms of my best friend Mathilde. For hours, I sobbed and couldn’t stop. That’s how much I loved him. But it’s also how much I love Paris. There will be a day when I return again, and it will solely belong to me, like it always did.
There is no doubt that Jetset Times determinately yanked me out of my misery. Without the breakup, I couldn’t have unearthed the courage to start something anew. Especially a project that requires so much of my presence, but a project that needs and breathes an endless love for a lifestyle that saved me.
In fact, it continues to save me every single day. It has led me to meet some of the most inspiring talents in the world. There’s nothing like tasting Chef Albert Adria’s “Enchanted Forest” dessert as the gastronomic finale to twenty-two delectable tapas in Barcelona, then to sit down with him and understand his analogy of cooking and football. I remember being in Panama with Lena Kazer (Jetset Times’ Creative Director) in December and seeing her entire mindset evolve throughout the trip. Nothing else brought me greater joy than to witness her spirit unfold daily because of the hotels we stayed at, the chefs we met and the indigenous children we played with. Being a part of this young woman’s growth rescued me everyday from a heartbreak that I was slowly letting go of.
Lena’s only one out of an exquisite group that pushes me to love life once more. It was evident in all the articles published leading up to Valentine’s Day this month: Lizzy Monroe’s smart take on “5 Ways to Embrace the Single Life While Traveling”, Allie Cooper’s “A Story of Self-Discovery: Finding True Love Abroad” touched a nerve and took on a viral life of its own. Nadia Cho’s brilliant tips in “Shh! The Do’s and Don’ts of Hooking Up on Vacay” and Lena’s witty “A Pretty Serious Guide To Long Distance Relationships” are all precious lifelines that remind me of a mindset, not a man, worth being passionate for.
Last week, I was in Iran and saw Afghanistan refugees sleeping on masses of Persian rugs inside Khomeini Memorial Mosque. These were grown men, who probably have children, wives, mothers and fathers. Reunions are most likely distant from their futures. My family and I had just landed in Tehran hours before, my mind was already blown in a 180-degree shift. I had completely forgotten that three years ago, I was crying on the kitchen floor, where I couldn’t pick myself back up.
In this month of love, we’re taking you to the city that gave me the greatest love affair of all. In Guide to Getaway – Paris, you’ll find footprints in the shops, restaurants and sights where I lost myself in wander, with much joy. A few weeks after, Guide to Getaway – Iran will surprise you just as much as the trip had startled my spirit. Nothing could have prepared me for screaming Iranian school girls, swarming around to take photos with me because they hardly see Asians outside of books and films. Combine that with learning about the Persian Empire firsthand, I was left with butterflies in my stomach and a beating heart, captivated by a lifestyle I’ve created on my own.
I’m now hungry again. I’m ready to fall once more. I’m so romantically, deeply and profoundly in love…with life. The ultimate love affair is no longer in the shadow of a struggling man but the history of a culture, respect between strangers, beyond borders. For women who wonder how the pain stops, just know that it took three years to heal so I could finally land in the arms of the ultimate love affair.
And this one feels pretty damn good.
To a life with love,