After Suzanne Nilib's divorce became final five years ago, it took a year before her friends were able to pry the forty-something stressed Florida mom away from work and the responsibilities of caring for four kids, then ages 7 to 20.
Time to herself, especially for fun, was simply nonexistent during her marriage, but after nearly a week of skiing and celebrating her freedom in Park City, Utah, Nilib decided to make getting away with her friends an annual event.
"It was five days of pure mindless fun, especially after they took my cell phone away from me on day two," Nilib says with a laugh. "When you are suddenly single and live in a world that feels like it is designed for couples only, it can be depressing. It's nice to get away and feel alive again. It's great therapy for your soul."
Karen Schaler agrees.
"Traveling is an ideal way to reboot and refresh after a divorce because it gives you a chance to physically and mentally get some distance from your ex, and look at things in a whole new light," says Schaler, author of "Travel Therapy: Where do you need to go?"
Schaler, who once spent five nights in a Vera Wang-designed honeymoon suite in Waikiki with her mom after deciding that her boyfriend at the time was not worthy, says taking the right trip after a breakup is all about inspiration and garnering the power to create a fresh start "so that you're looking forward, not backwards."
In addition to missing out on a super-romantic trip, Schaler says her then-boyfriend also lost his airfare. Meanwhile, she gained a personal travel ritual: "It turned out to be one of the best trips I've ever taken and a new tradition for mom and I to do a special trip together every year."
If you're looking for a change of scenery to inspire a shift in mindset, consider these five ways to say hello to the rest of your life.
Take a dare
Six months after a nasty breakup, one 39-year-old woman from Boston (who asked not to be named) found herself flying, literally, in an indoor wind tunnel.
At the suggestion of a friend, she signed up for a bodyflight lesson while on a business trip to Salt Lake City. "I didn't realize how much I was still holding onto until I was forced to concentrate completely on something else," she said.
Indoor tunnels are used by professional skydivers around the world to improve or practice their skills, and they offer "flying" experiences (usually one or two minutes long) for anyone who wants to feel the thrill of skydiving in a protected, controlled environment.
Schaler is a big fan of taking the leap to leave your past loves behind. Her recommended "dare list" includes trapeze school and driving a few laps on a professional racetrack to help leave memories of an ex in the dust.
Trying anything you've never done before can work: Schaler and her mom took surfing lessons during their "romantic" Hawaiian holiday. It was a challenge she couldn't resist, since the lessons were included in the hotel package, plus, surfing was on her mom's bucket list.
A cruise vacation is one way to send the blues sailing, and it's a top choice for the newly single, "ready to mingle" crowd, according to travel industry veteran Bob Diener, co-founder of Hotels.com/Getaroom.com.
For those on the fence about how much to mingle, cruises offer a cornucopia of activity, or the option to stowaway in your cabin.
Diener says sites that cater to singles such as www.singlescruise.com are a big reason vacations at sea are gaining popularity with the freshly divorced, and he expects to see more programs developing to serve the demographic.
With sunshine, sand and solitude often high up on the must-have list for post-breakup departures, Diener cites Cancun, Hawaii, Jamaica, the Caribbean and South Florida as destinations popular with the suddenly single, whether by cruise or otherwise.
Help someone else
Nothing ends a pity party faster than coming face-to-face with those less fortunate. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity have proven track records and opportunities all over the world; or choose something dear to your heart, whether it's volunteering at a school in Africa or working with animals at a local shelter.
Sometimes you can combine a thrill ride with a charity mission, such as the annual "Klicks for Chicks" event at Montana's Triple Creek Ranch. On this all-girl getaway, women saddle up for a three-day, 100 kilometer (62 mile) trail ride into the wilderness and the ranch donates a dollar to Parkinson's awareness for every kilometer completed.
Ranch manager Leslie McConnell says the Klicks for Chicks weekends are ideal for emotional healing, because riders take on a "physically demanding, emotionally purgative wilderness adventure where one is focused not on one's deep-seated problems, but instead on one's seat in the saddle."
Hopefully, a divorce departure is a once-in-a-lifetime scenario, so if you have the funds, go ahead and splurge (and skip the guilt trip). Check in at a destination spa such as Canyon Ranch or Miraval, where achieving precious "me" time is a priority, and the search for life balance is conveniently woven into everything from meals to massages.
Or disappear into the cosmopolitan scene of a big city with a glamorous stay at a hotel with plenty of perks, including fabulous views and a prime location. The Mandarin Oriental in New York or The Roosevelt in New Orleans fit the bill, with fabulous spas to match.
For those who prefer a countryside getaway, Barnsley Gardens Resort near Atlanta has a staff Fairy Godmother on hand to help with the healing.
"Broken hearts are serious business," says the resident fairy, Denise Webb, who has managed countless girlfriend getaways for the recently divorced and insists that pampering comes in many forms. Sometimes it's a scavenger hunt for hidden bottles of champagne, other times it's a poolside margarita party. Still other women find themselves with a rifle in hand on the sporting clays course, where they can take out any remaining resentment by shooting at clay targets.
If you're coping with aggression, tackle something that will exhaust you physically, but also make you feel like you're on top of the world. Grab your loyal allies and head for the challenging slopes out West. Cruise down a mountain bike trail through the wildflowers in summer or race down some fresh powder on a black diamond run in winter and soon you'll be on your way to full-body wellness.
"As an alternative to buying all the self-help books at my local bookshop I began planning a trip that would allow me to embrace the change and reconnect with my childhood," said Belinda Lovelace of Louisville, Ky., describing a ski trip she took after finalizing a bitter divorce.
"I lost so much of myself in my marriage and even stopped skiing," she said, noting that finding wellness on the slopes had been a big part of her pre-marriage life. After four days with her mom and sister in Deer Valley, Utah, she says she was ready to face her new life. She now takes an annual trip to celebrate her "un-niversary."
If you are SCUBA certified, a shark diving experience might be the ticket to getting a close-up reminder that there are other fish in the sea. That's the escape that Schaler recommends for anyone with the phrase "bite me!" resonating in their head. An extreme underwater adventure could be just the right move to break that mental audio loop.
Dos and don'ts for breakup escapes
Do leave the ex at home, in every way possible. That means no photos, no phone calls, not one single text message or Facebook shout out. Delete those photos on your phone and tablet while you are sitting at the gate so you aren't tempted to do any electronic wallowing, especially after a few cocktails. Schaler reminds those tempted to contact an ex during a vacation for any reason, "Move on! Even if you broke up on good terms, done is done. This trip is for you, period."
Do not go to a place with ghosts. Not the kind that say boo, but the ones that make you feel like boo-hooing when you walk by that favorite restaurant, dance club or the playground where he romantically carved your initials into a tree on a starlit night. Just say no to any destinations where you went with your ex, no exceptions.
Do choose your travel partners wisely -- or not at all. Should you go solo or travel with a dependable shoulder or two to cry on during this transition time? If the breakup is fresh, running away is probably better done with at least a small cheering squad. "A smart choice is to take a great friend who is always upbeat and fun and won't let you get away with any whining or reminiscing. Don't take anyone related to your ex, no matter how good of friends you are," says Schaler.
If you've firmly closed the door on your past and are ready to strategize for the future, traveling alone usually means more time for reflection. When you're done having those conversations with yourself, take a confident step forward and opt for a trip designed for singles -- you'll be in an ideal position to meet your next Mr. or Ms. Right.