I guess this is kind of my own “eat, pray, love” episode. Girl has heartbroken, decides to go on an epic adventure and falls back in love with life. Cliche, I know, but this solo motorbike trip across Vietnam literally changed my life. One of the most challenging experiences when living as an expat, or for those backpacking, is a breakup. Suddenly you’re alone; single, heartbroken and abroad. With little to no support system, no idea where to go or what to do. It’s in these moments that looking inwards and evaluating what truly makes you happy will change your life. For me, that meant travelling. Despite being terrified of solo travel after years of always having someone to share adventures with, I took the plunge and planned a bucketlist trip. It was during this trip, as I motorbiked Vietnam solo, that I was able to heal and figure out a direction for my future.
Before I dive in, here are resources that might help you out if you find yourself in the same situation as me, abroad and suddenly solo:
Let me give you a lil recap
Over the summer of 2018, I motorbiked a whopping 1,990km plus some, from my home in Saigon to Hanoi. Solo. This road trip had been a long-time dream of mine, but I had never considered driving solo across Vietnam. Let alone on my very own vintage bike. But somehow there I was, on the 7th of June strapping all my things onto the back of my shiny new bike and setting off from my adopted home in Vietnam, on what I soon realised was the best decision of my life.
Going through a break-up abroad
The plan had always been to do a Vietnam motorbike trip in 2018, but I was actually meant to do it with my ex. Just weeks before our set departure date, our 4 and half year relationship crumbled. I was utterly heartbroken; I felt lost, devastated and was really struggling with being so far away from home. As if going through a messy break-up on the other side of the world wasn’t enough, there was the added pain of all my travel plans disintegrating (we had a whole route mapped out for conquering the rest of Asia).
I remember feeling like salt was being poured onto my wounds when he set off, quite the thing, to do the motorbike trip we had planned together, with friends that had flown out to be by his side. It felt like my future had been snatched away for a “lads trip”.
Well, they always say you should turn your weaknesses into your biggest strengths and if there’s one trait I am sure to have, it’s determination. If he was going to do the trip I had been daydreaming about and planning for months, then I sure as hell was going to do it too.
So I picked myself up (not without a lot of crying to friends, and hella money spent on self-care). I bought myself my dream motorbike. I scratched all the plans I had previously made, and I started planning from the beginning with a new solo mentality.
Motorbiking Vietnam Solo
There’s something about motorbiking that is magical. I think it comes down to the journey being just as important as the destination; you don’t motorbike the length of a country just to visit a new city. You do it to truly experience the country. To get out into the sticks, where travellers are rare, and life simple. My mum is going to roll her eyes so much reading this (and no doubt call me to tell me I’m turning into a hippy) but when you strip life back to only what you can carry, and transition your days of sitting in front of screens into watching the countryside flit-by, you really start to appreciate life more.
It’s also scary, in that you have to be entirely reliant on yourself. This is one of the reasons I believe this trip pushed me to move on and it reminded me that I am capable of doing life on my own.
Hours spent driving country roads, music ringing in your ears, sun-shining down and local children waving as you pass. It’s impossible to be in this position and not feel grateful for the world around you. As my km count grew, my view of the world started to shift and become a little clearer. Vietnam is beautiful. The people are amazing. And I was so lucky to be exploring it on my own terms, at my own pace, on my own two wheels.
Motorbiking Vietnam solo gave me a newfound freedom that I’d never experienced before, and I don’t think I will ever experience quite the same. Ultimately it was this freedom, this ability to pack up and leave whenever I wanted to, to jump on my bike and get lost exploring random villages, to order dinner through gestures and broken Vietnamese, to spend hours on my own marvelling at the views around me, that helped me heal my broken heart. These were the moments that changed me.
If anything, I want you to come away from this post knowing that while going home might feel like your only option when you’re heartbroken abroad, it is not. The world is your oyster. The universe has set you up to receive what you deserve and if you’re going through a rough patch, something beautiful is coming your way. You just need to be open to seeing it and say yes to the adventures that present themselves. Be that motorbiking Vietnam solo or another adventure that your heart is calling you towards.
✍️ For more information on motorbiking in Vietnam, check out my Complete Guide to Motorbiking in Vietnam.