bigstock-130517456For twelve long and painful months I watched my marriage of 8 years and partnership of 15 years, distort and disfigure into something I no longer recognized. Despite all effort, despite all desire to keep our marriage together, short of any other options, I moved out of our apartment and into a sublet.

Six months before, things had completely eroded between my wife and I and instead of vacationing together that year, it was decided it would be best if I went alone. I traveled to my dream destination of Scandinavia. I started in Denmark and enjoyed navigating alone through the beautiful cities of Copenhagen and Roskilde. But it was in Stockholm, Sweden that I felt something I never expected to feel, the least not while on vacation — I felt like I’d come home. It made no sense; I have no Swedish ancestry and no Swedish connection except that I’ve always loved its music, its folklore, and its landscape. After spending just a few days in Sweden, I immediately knew I wanted to come back (In fact, I even felt sad leaving Sweden to continue the next part of my adventure to Norway).

Separating from my wife is the single biggest challenge I’ve experienced. The grief cannot be overstated. In fact, I had nightmares every day for the next year. However, my time in the sublet became a time of deep reflection and excavation, and, instinctively, I started exercising 5 days a week, meditating, and journaling 2-3 times a day. I also threw myself into learning Swedish — anything to keep my mind occupied. While simultaneously working through the exercises in Tal Ben-Shahar’s book Happier, I came to realize that much of my personality and my values were actually very Swedish. Even more fascinating was the more I learned about the country, the more I learned about myself and my values.

In many ways, Sweden became my lifeline. I started watching Swedish television, listening to Swedish radio, and mapping out my next trip. I was, however, also aware that my preoccupation with Sweden was helpful in keeping my mind busy and having something to aim for. I knew that having a goal to focus on was important but also that no one or no thing could magically take away the pain of my separation. But I also couldn’t deny the fact, it felt authentic and exciting to me.

What I’ve learned in the past two years is that using your internal compass is the best thing you can do to navigate through life after separation or divorce and to start rebuilding your life. Your instincts might not make logical sense but listen to your gut. It’s common after a long term relationship to discover you may have different wants and goals than the person you were at the start of the relationship. Take the time to explore.

After ten years in Los Angeles and the end of my marriage, I left to explore life in Sweden. The time I spent exploring myself has led me on an extraordinary journey personally, professionally, and, physically. While things are still in motion, I know the direction in which my compass is pointing — home.