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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

My Romantic European Vacation Ended In Heartbreak, But I Don’t Regret It One Bit

Summer’s around the corner which means it’s time for bikinis, BBQs, and the European vacay. If your Instagram feed looks anything like mine, then you’d know that everyone and their mother is in Europe. Like seriously… it seems like every couple has a full-blown vacation for months, and I’m left wondering, how tf did they get that much PTO? 

Now, don’t get me wrong — nothing sounds better than a European summer with your bae. At least that’s what I thought when my boyfriend at the time and I were planning ours. The thought of a whole month alone exploring some of the most beautiful and historically rich countries in the world sounded like a dream. But that’s the keyword, sounded  — because in actuality, it felt a whole lot more like a nightmare. 

After much reflection, I’m convinced there is a correlation between the European summer and the end of a relationship. “The Silent Relationship Killer” is what I’d like to call it, because I had my romantic European summer last year… and ended up heartbroken after three days back in the States.

Since it’s been about a year since my ex and I embarked on our European summer, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. Countless journal entries, therapy sessions, looking through the photos — I relived the whole thing over and over again from the confines of my bedroom, bars, and the floor of my bathroom.

We were both in a better headspace, had matured, and even planned on getting married. But Europe had other plans.

My ex and I dated on and off for eight years (cue So Long, London). We started dating when we were in the eighth grade and it lasted until right after his college graduation. Of course, there were bumps in the road (remember, I said on and off), but overall I figured we’d last, especially after we got back together for the last time. We were both in a better headspace, had matured, and even planned on getting married. But Europe had other plans.

One thing we had in common was both of us really enjoyed traveling. We had gone on multiple trips before this: London for my 22nd birthday, New York City where he surprised me with tickets for one night only for Harry’s House release (this was a slay), and multiple cruises. So ultimately, an extended trip to Europe was something we had talked about embarking on together for years. But with the restrictions of school and summer internships, we never had the time to go. So, when his graduation was approaching it seemed like the perfect time.

We started planning our Europe trip right after we got back from London in 2022. I’d get off work, and him done with classes for the day, and we’d drink wine and fantasize about how we couldn’t wait to sip an Aperol Spritz at a restaurant overlooking the Amalfi Coast, run around the museums in Amsterdam, and drink way too much Limoncello lying on a beach somewhere. I could barely contain my excitement. 

But something about the trip to Europe really made both of us the worst version of ourselves.

One thing I’ve learned is that, unfortunately, you can’t make someone talk to you, no matter how badly you want it.

It started at the airport. We were both newly graduated broke college kids, so we had horrible flights because they were the cheapest options. It took us over 24 hours to even get to Amsterdam, so I wrote off the bickering as we were both just exhausted. We’d sleep it off and then the next day, we’d fulfill all my European fantasies. 

In Spain, the constant bickering started — and what I thought was just a bad few days certainly manifested into the rest of the trip. We’d argue about where to eat, what we were going to do, and what outfits we should wear (mainly me to him, I’m not proud). Looking back, it was a deeper frustration we both had with each other and it was manifesting in the most minuscule ways. I remember even faking being sick because I desperately needed time alone to figure out what TF was wrong with me while he just went to a pub to watch sports. Bad, I know.

To be fair, we hadn’t been seeing each other consistently since I had moved home for a bit while he was still at school. Maybe every other weekend we’d hang out, but we were absolutely not together 24/7. Going from a lot of space to being glued at the hip for 30 days straight probably wasn’t the best idea, but what can I say? You live and you learn, I guess. 

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It was hard because we were in Europe on vacation and, obviously, wanted to have a good time. I didn’t realize how negative I’d been until we ran into two of our friends from home. We happened to all be in Rome at the same time, so we met up for drinks and antipasti. He got up to use the bathroom during the outing, and as soon as he left the table, my girls said to me “What’s going on? You literally both seem miserable.” 

Now, you’d think this would make me sad but honestly, I was relieved. Thank God someone else noticed what I’d been feeling this whole time. They couldn’t believe the tension between us, even going as far as to say that everyone expected him to pull out a ring on this trip. I remember literally laughing, assuring my friends that there wasn’t going to be a proposal in Italy. How could there be? We’d been at each other’s throats the whole trip, I couldn’t imagine either of us wanting a ring at this point.

Seeing my friends really put things into perspective for me. Something was very wrong, and it stemmed way deeper than trivial stuff like not agreeing on how we should spend the evening. After that, I tried to have deeper conversations and really dive into what was going on with us but his response would always be something along the lines of “We should just enjoy the vacation.” 

OK, fair. We paid so much for this trip, of course, we wanted to enjoy it. But if you’re anything like me, if I feel “off” it’s so evident. I can’t hide my emotions for the life of me.

Vacations are also supposed to be fun and relaxing, that’s literally the point of a vacation. So knowing that, I think we felt extra pressure to make it a “perfect vacation.” I think this extra pressure just added to the frustration — like, why weren’t we having fun or relaxing?

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photo by avery worley

One thing I’ve learned is that, unfortunately, you can’t make someone talk to you, no matter how badly you want it. And instead of me just moving forward, I was annoyed. I couldn’t understand how he could move through the day when everything felt so off. 

Of course, we had good days filled with laughs — and regardless of it all, he was my best friend. But no amount of laughs could cover up the feeling of dread I had as our trip inched toward the end. I felt like I was just waiting for something to die. Yet I couldn’t get to the root of it because he wouldn’t talk to me. 

After Rome was really where it got worse, anything I wanted to do was met with eye rolls and explaining how it wasn’t worth it. I remember planning a whole day trip to Lake Como: I was so excited this was what I’d talked about wanting to do since December. And if you’ve never been to Lake Como, you’d know it’s a real hassle to get there: You have to take the train from Milan which takes an hour then get on a boat ride to the lake And, of course, we were late and got the worst boat option that stopped at so many places that we were on the boat for literally two hours.

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Once we finally got to Lake Como I was so excited to explore and take pictures. It was gorgeous, and I wanted to explore it all. But when we sat down for lunch, he explained that he wanted to leave to go to a soccer match. I was so confused. I mean, it took so much effort to get here, the day was solely planned for Lake Como, and now he’s mentioning a soccer match we have to go to. He explained why couldn’t we compromise: We did Lake Como and now he wanted to go to a game. 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand compromise, but there had been multiple soccer games the days prior to Lake Como that he had never mentioned once. I couldn’t understand why now all of a sudden, when we were at the one thing I was most excited about, he wanted to leave. But since I was trying so hard to be agreeable and save the relationship, I agreed. As I mentioned, it took like three hours to get to Lake Como, so with these time restraints to get back we spent an hour at Lake Como before making the trek back to make it in time for the soccer game.

The trip ended shortly after that and this was the first time I wasn’t begging to extend a vacation so we didn’t have to go home. My bags were packed the night before and I was up before the sun calling the Uber to take us to the airport. 

I watched as he drove away and ran into my parent’s bedroom crying like I was six years old again. They couldn’t understand how the plans we had been talking about for years were over just like that. I didn’t get it either. 

We talked during our travel home about really reflecting on the trip, but overall we wanted to make our relationship work. I was leaving for a program in New York about three days after we got back from Europe, so we both knew we’d have a month of space and thought this would be a great time to reflect and figure out what was the root of these problems in Europe. Why did we have such a bad time?

The night before I left for my NYU program (one I had been nonstop talking up about since I had been accepted in February) he came over to watch a Harry Potter movie and eat pizza. Or so we planned. This lighthearted night quickly turned into him saying things he couldn’t take back. 

He wasn’t sure about us anymore, he didn’t want to move to New York after my program (which was always the plan) and he didn’t want to do long distance. Funny enough, even though Europe wasn’t great, I was blindsided. Three days prior, you wanted to take a beat and make it work, and then all of a sudden, this relationship isn’t what you want? Right.

I was devastated. I watched as he drove away and ran into my parent’s bedroom crying like I was six years old again. They couldn’t understand how the plans we had been talking about for years were over just like that. I didn’t get it either. 

We were both open to picking up where we left off, and after spending two weeks together, we came to the same conclusion.

He never called during my NYU program. So, I did what I do best and made an impulsive decision to stay in New York. It was always my dream, and just because he wouldn’t be there didn’t mean I couldn’t try and build the life I always imagined. 

I heard from him the day I moved into my shoebox room with my mom helping me unpack the little belongings I had. He couldn’t understand where our relationship was at due to my lack of communication. To say I was livid was an understatement. After all that, I even ran into him during the holidays and we both wanted to rekindle things. We were both open to picking up where we left off, and after spending two weeks together, we came to the same conclusion: we’re not meant to be.

As I mentioned, I’ve looked at this situation backward and forwards over therapy sessions, old texts, drunken rants, and sleepless nights —  and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions:

  1. Our European trip wasn’t the reason we broke up. If you’re supposed to be with someone, you’ll survive a European summer. However, we weren’t supposed to be together, and the Europe trip certainly escalated our break up.
  2. If we couldn’t handle being with each other 24/7 for a month straight, I don’t know how we ever could’ve gotten married. (Did I mention we did long-distance for four years?) The Europe trip certainly just shifted our dynamic, but in a way, we discovered we weren’t meant for forever.
  3. A year later, I don’t regret the Europe trip. Sure, I wish it had gone better, even sometimes (mainly when I’ve been drinking) I wish there would’ve been a ring. I had spent so much time and effort with him that I couldn’t help but feel like I failed. If this man, who had known me for over half my life, didn’t see forever with me, who would?

Let’s just say I wish I could go back to those months after our break up and give myself a hug (and maybe a loving slap in the face). Someone’s rejection of me doesn’t determine the outcome of my love life. We weren’t meant to be, but that doesn’t mean I’m destined to never find romantic love again. After that experience, it solidified that I know I’m going to find love again, and when it happens I’ll welcome it with open arms.

Avery Worley is a national writer for Her Campus. She has written across all verticals but takes a special interest in the wellness section, especially mental health, sex and relationships, and all things astrology. Beyond Her Campus, Avery attended New York University's Publishing Institute and is getting her Masters in Mass Communications from the University of Florida. When she isn't writing, you can find her exploring NYC with her latest romance novel in hand and relating way too much to "mirrorball" by Taylor Swift. If it's the fall, she's definitely rewatching Gilmore Girls.