Why I Took A Rebound Vacation

Photo: Getty Images.
For more than a decade, I felt most at ease living out of a suitcase, never quite sure where I might wake up from one day to the next. I found comfort in an automated wake-up call or a knock at the door followed by a familiar "room service!" greeting. I’ve also wandered more than a few times when I’ve felt most powerless. To go someplace new, free of baggage and bullshit, meant I could be anyone I wanted. A passport stamp gave me the power to find happiness in the face of Big Life Shit, if only for a few days. Travel has provided respite and solace that no therapist or pill ever could. It’s hands-down my drug of choice.

As much as travel has sometimes served as a form of escapism, it centers me. Sure, it’s nice to “leave it all behind,” but these days, I’m rarely on the lam when searching for perspective. Still, when a recent invite to travel to the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino — admittedly, one of the perks of being a travel writer — was extended to me in the wake of a major breakup, I leapt at the chance to indulge in some sun, fun, and, hopefully, healing. My 72-hour jaunt did not disappoint.

Within minutes of checking in to the Tradewinds Club, the adults-only floor of the resort, the indomitable concierge Jackie had an icy cold, local Balashi Pilsener in my hand.

As I sat watching stand-up paddle boarders brave the waves at Palm Beach from the club’s balcony, I almost forgot that I had been in a state of grieving just hours before. There is no universal prescriptive for how to cope with a breakup. (And depending on your situation, it may be smartest to consult a professional.) But for me, a rebound getaway helped a tough transition in my life suck slightly less. Here's how.
Photo: Courtesy of Aruba Marriott Resort.
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I found solitude.
First things first. I needed to get far away from the noise in my life — texts from the ex, worried voicemails from my BFF, and, above all, every screen in our way-too-connected world of tech. To find peace in my own company, I had to turn it all off. Being unplugged? It worked! I found countless moments of Zen at the adults-only pool at Tradewinds Club. There’s something to be said for soaking up some vitamin D in a kid-free (a.k.a. quiet) environment. With no distractions or deadlines, I was able to sit with my feelings. And although they weren’t always comfortable, it was necessary. If you want to heal a broken heart, you have to show up, take part, feel the pain, and, hopefully, eventually, let it go. To start, though, you need to go to your quiet place.

I let myself wallow in it.

The healing process is never pretty when I bottle up my emotions. (I learned this lesson in my mid-20s after the loss of my mother.) I had ample opportunity to sit with my feelings on my 100-square-foot oceanfront balcony. My room gave me a front-and-center seat for idealistic sunrises, sunsets, and otherwise long stretches of staring at the Caribbean Sea. The healing power of water is huge for me. Ditto for girl-power anthems. On my balcony, I sobbed, felt sorry for myself, and spontaneously belted out “Run the World (Girls).” All hail Queen Bey. I was not afraid to let it all out.

I found my groove.

Does music have healing powers? I think so. I’m not talking about crying along to a playlist made for heartache. “Listening to music that you love can alleviate some of the hurt in your heart,” writes Cristalle Sese, PsyD. For me, music that makes me shake my booty and work up a sweat is the best wonder drug for sadness. The pulsing Thursday night Carnaval Show at La Vista more than fit the bill. Filled with more feathers and sequins than you can imagine (I’m a sucker for all things sparkly), its festive vibe did more than lift my feet, it lifted my spirits. When the night was over, I wanted to keep dancing to its percussive, drum-driven beats. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep swaying my hips.
Photo: Courtesy of Aruba Marriott Resort.
I made new friends.
It takes a lot to woo me from my comfort zone. Even then, I’m quick to judge whether or not someone is worth getting to know. When I met fellow writer and traveler Angela from Los Angeles, I knew immediately that we were like-minded souls. With an unfamiliar-to-me ease, we swapped stories of life, loss, and grief — always common bonds — along with stories of love, joy, and success. She provided more comfort and joy than she knows.

I found joy in food.
There’s no shortage of deliciousness to be had in Aruba. On my first night, I indulged at Atardi, the hotel’s swank beach pop-up. From the first sip of my Aruba Ariba (vodka, rum, banana liqueur, and fruit punch topped with Grand Marnier) to my last bite of my sea bass entrée, the toes-in-the-sand dining experience was a total knockout. The picture-perfect sunset may have helped, too. The following day, I camped at a picnic table on a pier at Zeerovers and feasted on baskets of shrimp, swordfish, and fries cooked to order. Back at the hotel, executive chef Teddy Bouroncle taught me how to make Keshi Yena, a decadent, Gouda-based local dish. I nearly polished the whole thing off — and enjoyed every bite.

Travel has provided respite and solace that no therapist or pill ever could. It’s hands-down my drug of choice.

I forced myself to be active.
For me, there’s no better way to work out angst than to engage in a little high-impact activity. I signed up for something called the Natural Pool Land Rover Adventure. As Richie zipped us around the island, I took in the extreme beauty and landscape of Aruba. We braved a bumpy downhill ride en route to our hard-to-reach destination and then hiked down a steep hill to a crystal-clear natural pool. As waves crashed around the protected space and I snorkeled amongst a kaleidoscope of fish, my heart thumped with happiness — adrenaline-fueled happiness.

I flirted with the idea of a fling.
I didn’t have a sexual agenda when I went to Aruba. If something fun, safe, and spontaneous happened, great. If not, no big deal. Still, my laissez faire attitude didn’t stop me from scrolling through Tinder. Let’s face it, the Dutch are sexy. (Aruba is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.) I was met with a sea of twentysomethings with names like Hans and Gunther. For a hot second, I entertained messages from a 26-year-old wrestler who was six miles away, visiting his uncle from Holland. But I’m 43 and have a hard stop at a 15-year age gap in either direction. As much as I love enthusiasm, his “Okee!” eager-beaver attitude and hasty “Let’s meet in an hour!” proposal killed it for me. I didn’t make a love connection, but I was living in the moment and open to spontaneous adventure. In my book, that brand of enthusiasm gets partial rebound credit.
I embarked on my island adventure with the bare modicum of hope that my travels might help me feel slightly better. Instead, I embraced Aruba’s “One Happy Island” vibe and all its peaceful powers. Given my usual get happy go-tos of therapy, pills, marijuana, and meditation, it’s pretty amazing what 72 hours of R & R in the right destination can do. I arrived feeling less-than-stellar, but left relaxed, sun-kissed, and full of hope. And I was reminded that a plane ticket and a change of scenery truly can soothe the soul. Thank you, Aruba, and the almighty healing powers of travel. For me, it’s the best balm to mend a broken heart.
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