The road to transformation


When I was 16 I had a tiny little black heart tattooed on my left hand. That was half my lifetime ago. Now the heart is more of a blue/grey splodge; a ghost of its former inky-black self. It is battle-scarred and worn, forever changing with the passing of time… and I like it that way.

People sometimes ask if I ever think about getting it re-done, but I never would. There are some things you just can’t change; they are meant to be imperfect. To me, it shows on the outside what my heart looks like on the inside.


When I was 18 years old, I met a man and fell deeply in love with him. Maybe even a little too deeply, as I lost myself completely in the murky depths of our relationship. Somehow I gave myself up to the role of being a girlfriend, and let go of who I was beyond that. It was wonderful for a while, and then it was just comfortable – a habit neither one of us seemed capable of breaking. Then after nearly a decade together, another woman came along, and it finally broke.

And I broke with it.

I had been so wrapped up in my relationship that I no longer knew who I was outside of it. The pieces of myself that lay in tatters across the floor were unrecognisable to me, and I had no idea how to put myself back together again.

I had to start from scratch.

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I booked a flight to Costa Rica, and spent six of the most incredible weeks imaginable getting to know myself again. It was a trip that changed my life. From that moment on all I wanted to do was travel, and just a few months later I found myself on the road again, this time to India.

It was another trip that left me forever changed, but in a completely different way.

Sitting in a little beach shack in Goa with my sister, I saw two men walking along the shore wearing kilts. I nudged her and pointed – Look at those two idiots down there…

Famous last words.

They say that love comes along when you least expect it, and boy are they right. I couldn’t have expected it any less than I did, but there it was all the same.

Lee, a confident Scotsman, was at the start of a year of travel, and I was on the last day of my holiday. Though it wasn’t exactly love at first sight for either of us, in the mere twenty four hours that we shared together there was a connection that we both felt, and couldn’t ignore.

We became Facebook friends as our only source of sharing our worlds, and over the next year and countless emails, we became a part of each other’s lives.

I flew out to join him in Bali and Australia, and began to open my heart to new possibilities. I was truly myself for the first time in years, and that was the person Lee wanted to be with.

It wasn’t easy for me to let love back into my life, believe me. But now I have learnt to give and receive it on an infinitely deeper level, and am grateful for the destruction that brought me this peace.

I am happier than I ever dreamed possible.


My past is not something I like to dwell on, but it is still a part of me, and I recognise the role it played in the life that I am now living. Five years on, I have the clarity and awareness to see it for what it truly was. A gift.

It has shaped and determined the life that I am currently living, and set me on course for a future full of adventure and ever changing landscapes.

Love is a journey that you map out for yourself; you have to learn to use your heartache to help build a new path. The cold, hard rock of pain that presses against your heart – find a way to reach inside yourself and pull it out. Use that rock to pave your way forward, and as you walk over it, leave the pain behind.

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.
– Frank A. Clark

No, I would never change my heart, tattooed or otherwise. Perfectly imperfect; deeply scarred, yet beautiful and strong, it beats out its own unique rhythm, and I happily march forward to it.


Today’s post is a slight break from the norm, and was written to help the lovely Therese Schwenkler over at The Unlost celebrate her one year single-versary. She asked me to write about love and heartbreak, so as Therese’s words have been such a gift to me, I am offering mine in return. Happy single-versary Therese!

You can check out her love/heartbreak post and those of my fellow invitees here:


{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Savvy Scot June 4, 2012 at 14:44

Thanks for sharing that story! You made me laugh at the reference to the men in kilts on the beach!! Makes me think of Thailand a few months back when I got married!

In fact…. Kind of regretting not taking my Kilt with me to Roatan now 😀


Savvy Scot June 4, 2012 at 14:45

Savvy Scot recently posted..Paradise Exists


Hannah June 4, 2012 at 19:01

Yeah, I’ve learnt to love a man in a skirt 🙂


Therese June 4, 2012 at 15:21


You already know how I feel about this post! Honestly, it made me cry (in a REALLY GOOD WAY!). Thanks so much for sharing. Beautiful and so true.
Therese recently posted..Why I’m Still Single (Rewriting the Great Love Stories of Our Time)


Hannah June 4, 2012 at 19:48

Thank you Therese! I am seriously honoured that you invited me to be a part of your single-versary post, and am so very grateful 🙂


Patricia GW June 4, 2012 at 16:46

“My past is not something I like to dwell on, but it is still a part of me, and I recognise the role it played in the life that I am now living.”

Touching, powerful message of wisdom. Your post stirred so many emotions in me. It’s only as we step back and see across the past that our scarred but resilient hearts see how much we have changed. I am so glad you found love/found Lee, and more importantly found yourself xx


Hannah June 4, 2012 at 19:52

Thank you Tricia, I’m so glad it resonated with you. There’s a quote I love that I think you will too – “Let your past make you better, not bitter.” I don’t know who said it, but they are very wise 🙂


Carmel June 4, 2012 at 19:08

So beautifully expressed…yet again! I can completely empathize with your situation in many ways. I spent a year with someone I initially didn’t want to date seriously and then managed to lose myself in his life very quickly, along with me, my life and friends. Thankfully, my true friends stuck by me when I emerged from that madness and I learned a lot about myself and how I wanted to function in a relationship.

I’m reading the new Augusten Burroughs book, “This is How” and he has this amazing part that talks about loving someone so much it makes you calm. That’s how I feel. I feel like myself with him and I know it’s because he wants me to be exactly who I am. What a gift. And, much likes your experience, didn’t come without some blocks in the road first. But was it worth it? Hell yes. That’s why I always tell my single friends not to settle for potential!
Carmel recently posted..Parsley & Walnut Pesto


Hannah June 5, 2012 at 21:27

Thank you Carmel. I love the thought of loving someone so much it makes you calm. Lee drives me crazy, but he has also shown me happiness on a whole new scale, and wouldn’t love me as much as he does if I didn’t love myself equally. I’ll have to check out that book, it sounds very interesting 🙂


Sarah Somewhere June 5, 2012 at 04:39

Hannah, this is such a beautiful, inspiring post. I love reading your words and the beautiful, poignant quotes you include! Yeah, I know all about losing myself in someone, in fact I think I am at a major turning point in my life with all of that, even though I am almost six years into a relationship!
I just have to remember that it is up to me to be the person I meant to, it’s not up to someone else to ‘create’ me. Of course there has to be some element of sacrifice in a relationship, but as long as it goes both ways then it’s actually a good thing.
I love that image of you seeing Lee on the beach in a kilt! Those first impressions are priceless, even if they are not ‘love at first sight’ moments. You’ll never get that moment again, where you know nothing of him or yourself with him, but I know you have had so many more special moments. Here’s to many more!!! 🙂
Oh and I look forward to checking out ‘The Unlost’ 🙂
Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Realising A Dream At The Elephant Nature Park


Hannah June 5, 2012 at 23:38

Thank you so much Sarah. It’s funny, I went from being too wrapped up in someone, to being almost too independent. Now I have a tendency to neglect my relationship at times, and often have to remind myself that you have to put in as much as you wish to get out of a relationship. I guess love is a constant balancing act 🙂


Jeremy or IHeartTravel June 5, 2012 at 21:22

WOW truly powerful stuff Hannah! This post so eerily reminds me of the path that was once my life, and to the one that has come to be because of it.

I too lost myself for a while. Lost within a relationship, and a reality constructed by me, to be someone I thought I needed to be.

Much like your tattoo I also have a reminder of my past life. She is not a mark on my body, but a living person…my daughter. She was born during this time period. She is a constant reminder of what was, but also the most welcoming gift of what is going to be our future.

She is the love of my life, and the main source of inspiration for the new path I walk on today.

Much like you, I walk a path no longer unaccompanied, today I walk a path consisting of a bad-ass traveling duo made up by my daughter and I, and quite frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂
Jeremy or IHeartTravel recently posted..DO NOT WAIT


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 20:53

Jeremy, I love the fact that you have drawn such strength from your past, and have emerged all the stronger for it. You truly are walking the right path, and it is so wonderful to see the love you have for Avi. You are truly an amazing father, and an inspiring friend 🙂


izzy June 6, 2012 at 03:18

Love and heartbreak are crazy. I for one, am a believer that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

For me, when I have left relationships those have been moments of very intense growth. I think it is due to the very nature of it all. It sucks being in pain and struggling so I want to fix it. It forces me to step back and really look at my life.

I guess the same can be said for love when it is great. It allows me to see things in a new light and be open to new opportunities.
izzy recently posted..Breaking News: The Best Way to Make Money.. EVER!


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 20:55

I totally agree with that sentiment Izzy, and am happy to have loved and lost. I wouldn’t be the person I am now had I not done so. I’m glad you have also been able to grow from your own experiences 🙂


Klaus Kommoss June 6, 2012 at 17:31

“It has shaped and determined the life that I am currently living, and set me on course for a future full of adventure and ever changing landscapes.”
Very beautiful insight. We are indeed not the sufferer of pain, we are the knower of pain; the suffering is just an option we unfortunately sometimes choose but don’t have to, the knowing is pure, impersonal, and inconsequential. We are always free to choose, no matter what happened before.


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 20:57

Thank you so much for your insightful comment Klaus. Your own love story is deeply inspiring to me, and I have really enjoyed reading about your incredible marriage 🙂


Kim June 7, 2012 at 02:55

Hannah, another beautiful post. I’m so glad that circumstance or bravery got you out of that old relationship. You are a beautiful and brave woman and you deserve all that is coming to you.
Kim recently posted..Buttes and Spires in Badlands National Park


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 20:58

Thank you Kim, that means a lot x


Vacay Girl June 8, 2012 at 02:00

Awesome! All I can say is awesome! And definitely gives hope.
Vacay Girl recently posted..Helping A Fellow Traveler Along Their Way


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 20:58

Thank you so much!


Becki | BackpackerBecki June 8, 2012 at 11:08

Beautiful post and I’m a firm believer that things come along when you least expect them to… and that some things are meant to be. I’m hoping I ‘stumble’ across a great love affair on my travels 🙂 I’ve made a heap of mistakes, but rather than regret them, have used them as a learning curve. And without those mistakes I wouldn’t be about to embark on my indefinate sole RTW travels! Fate is a wonderful thing, and I can’t wait to see what other surprises are around the corner. Being single has literally been the best thing that ever happened to me.


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 21:01

Thank you Becki! I love the way life works out like that too. I’m sure you will come across a great love affair, and can highly recommend men in skirts 🙂


Alex June 8, 2012 at 15:48

I love and appreciate your honesty in your blog. Can’t wait to follow you along your upcoming journeys!


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 21:01

Thank you so much Alex, it’s so great to have you along for the ride!


Susan @ Travel Junkette June 9, 2012 at 04:01

Aw, love this. So happy for you, and so stoked for what lies ahead!
Susan @ Travel Junkette recently posted..I Moved To Alaska!


Hannah June 11, 2012 at 21:02

Thank you honey, I’m pretty stoked myself!


Alex June 14, 2012 at 16:09

I am in the midst of recovering from a particularly brutal breakup myself, and this post brings me to tears. I can only hope to write something like this someday when I am through the fog…
Alex recently posted..Bangkok’s Hippest New Museum


Hannah June 18, 2012 at 21:38

Hi Alex, thank you so much for your comment. I know it is so hard to imagine that you will ever get through this, but believe me, you will. Though you may emerge from the fog forever scarred, you will be stronger and more self-aware, and all of this will make sense. Until then, just keep moving forward, and eventually you will be able to write the words you long for.

I can’t wait to read them xxx


Adam Alvarado June 15, 2012 at 17:31

Ah I look legit in kilts too, haha. Awesome post though, Hannah, and so true. The past isn’t just a part of you, it IS you. All those past heartaches and challenges led you here, and all are as important as the life you love today will be to the life you’ll enjoy tomorrow. Like they say, everything happens for a reason…
Adam Alvarado recently posted..Why Your Mom Brings Home Trash (Or is it YOU?)


Hannah June 18, 2012 at 21:42

Thanks so much Adam. I love what you said about our pain being as important as the life we love today will be to the life we’ll enjoy tomorrow. So true, and very well said. Everything does indeed happen for a reason 🙂


Giselle January 16, 2013 at 13:24

“You have to learn to use your heartache to help build a new path. The cold, hard rock of pain that presses against your heart – find a way to reach inside yourself and pull it out. Use that rock to pave your way forward, and as you walk over it, leave the pain behind.” — AWWW I needed these words today.

I am still struggling to let love back into my life though but I am positive that one day I would be able to do it. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Giselle, Philippines (Come visit Philippines! =D )


Hannah January 18, 2013 at 15:01

I’m so glad those words were able to bring you some comfort today Giselle. I wish you much happiness, and will certainly be visiting the Philippines at some point, possibly even later this year 🙂


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