As the airplane approached my final destination, the flight attendants passed out state forms that collect information about its visitors: age, whether you’ve visited before, your reason for travel. The top two choices for the latter: to get married or to honeymoon.
Less than 12 hours earlier, I’d stood outside the airport, saying goodbye to the only man I’ve ever loved. I’d met him at that very same airport, almost 11 years before. We started dating shortly thereafter, and, now, only five weeks into life without him, we’d parted in the same place we met. I still don’t completely understand what went wrong, but my response was to plan a trip far away from Toronto, the city we called home together. So here I was, searching for a check box that said To heal a broken heart on the state form for one of the most romantic places in the world—Hawaii.
I have always been one to wander the globe, and I hoped that travelling solo would give me an opportunity to reconnect with myself, as well as provide some distance, distraction and freedom from my sadness. A quick Google search told me that the road to wellness involves a remedy of exercise, adventure, enjoying the outdoors and meeting new people. Hawaii, specifically the islands of Maui and Molokai, promised all that and more. I would soon learn Hawaii also had a strong spirit and culture of healing that would be an important part of my journey.
I began my week-long stay by surrounding myself in greenery and going hiking on the remote island of Molokai, through the Halawa Valley, which started with the custom of asking the area’s cultural advisor for permission to traverse the land. I went to the five-star Ritz and Fairmont spas in Maui, where I received a body scrub using local ginger and honey, and a traditional lomilomi massage, a practice of native Hawaiian healers: the practitioner uses palms, forearms, knuckles, elbows and stones to knead out pain from the body. I spotted whales from a Hawaiian Paddle Sports outrigger canoe (or wa’a), which is launched into the water following a ceremonial chant and blow of a conch shell asking for guidance and protection.
I know you want me to tell you that, yes, travel is the magic cure for heartbreak, but I think I knew all along that no magic cure exists; that what really heals pain, loss, a broken heart, is time. There were a few moments of sheer relaxation or excitement when I was genuinely distracted, but for the most part, my ex was on my mind. I was waiting for that moment when I would realize that I hadn’t thought about him in a few hours, but it never came. I was always acutely aware of why I was at the spa or on the water.
Then I was invited to a private E ala e sunrise (Hawaiian cleansing) ceremony with Clifford Naeole, the Ritz-Carlton’s cultural advisor. I stood knee-deep in the ocean at six o’clock in the morning, fighting hard to keep my balance in the crashing waves. I listened to Clifford sing and chant to Hawaiian ancestors and spirits, calling on them to provide me with direction, peace, a new beginning (the ceremony is often conducted for people who have lost a loved one). He instructed me to quietly ask the universe for what I needed. So I asked to let go.
The next thing I knew, a wave knocked me flat on my back. I let go of the urge to stand up against the waves, stand up against the pain. I know it was just a wave, but to me, it represented so much more. I moved forward on my trip in Hawaii (and beyond) less focused on the past, and more open to possibilities in the future. I call that healing. Add that to the visitor card, Hawaii.