The best cure for a broken heart that I know of is international travel. There is something purifying about the nerve-wracking rituals of getting on an airplane and flying across an ocean. Unfortunately, this is a cure available only to the rich, or at least to the employed, the employed who get 2 or 3 weeks of vacation time.
My heart has been broken several times, and although it has been fully refurished and restored, if you look under the brilliant new paint and clever plasterwork there is still a scar or two. However, I was able to heal up some wounds very quickly by simply going on vacation.
My first international trip by myself was to Italy, a place for which I had longed since I was six years old and had first seen pictures of Florence. But my interest in that country really blazed up when I took Italian classes in secondary school. So when, at last, in my twenties. I had enough money to go, and an achy-breaky heart to heal, to Italy I went. I booked a tour with a youth travel company.
There are those who can travel the world with a backback, sleep anywhere, and make friends wherever they go. I have never been among them. So I was grateful to have the company arrange not only the carrying of my luggage and my bedrooms, but my company.
The one difficulty was that my company was intensely conformist. The average person on this tour was American of Italian descent, who spoke no Italian and was terrified of the South. The girls on the bus, apparently warned by grandparents of goodness knows what horrors, almost shook as we approached Sorrento and rushed from the bus straight into the hotel. They would only leave it in twos and threes.
The star of the group was a stockbroker from Manhattan: the attempts of the American girls to charm this matrimonial prize were comical. I wonder how far they went? (One American girl and one Australian boy embarked on a very noisy affair, so we all knew how far they went.) The ticket to the "in" crowd, for the tour group was so intensely high-schoolish as to have an "in" crowd, was to join in the courtship dance around Mr. Manhattan. I refrained.
The Canadians angered the Americans by making rude remarks that absolutely floored the latter. I think it must have been their very first introduction to the anti-Americanism widespread outside the USA. Keeping out of such unneighbourly battles, I nevertheless managed to anger the American girls on the tour by brazenly chatting (in Italian) with Italian men who haunted tourist bars, even in the dangerous South. Strangely, although just as guilty in this as I, a very pleasant Italian-speaking Australian girl did not suffer the same censure from the others. I think, however, that she was more companionable and less likely to run away down quattrocento alleys on her own.
I had a goodly number of adventures in what could not have been more than 10 or 12 days. It would take a very long blog post indeed to do any one of them justice. The juiciest ones occured in the dangerous South, where the Australian girl and I had many Italian conversations, including with two intensely handsome plainclothes police officers in a bar. (One was a dead ringer for Marcus on Babylon 5.) We asked them to prove they were police, and they showed us their firearms. Then I got hopelessly lost on the island of Capri, sought rescue at an auto repair shop, and was driven to civilisation by a handsome, bespectacled, mechanic on the back of his motorcycle as a dozen mechanics, milling about like children, cheered. It was the first and last time I have ever ridden a motorcycle.
When the trip was over, I left Italy determined to go back in some long-term capacity: perhaps to graduate school. This I never did, although after another romantic disappointment, I rushed off to Florence for a week. And, after that trip, I did not go again to Europe, until five or six years later when I got funding to study for six weeks in Germany. And that trip was also balm to the heart, only this time to a heart battered by disappointments of a philosophical, not romantic, nature.
Lately, I am combatting stress over the release of my lovely book by taking bus rides all over Edinburgh. For only 3 pounds, anyone can climb to the top of any city bus and explore the town thoroughly from a great height in perfect comfort. Truly, travel is a great medicine and takes you right out of yourselves towards the sublime.