Vacationing is a proven salve for much of what ails us: work burnout, boredom, family stresses. Oddly, we don’t often think travel as a way to relieve our grief.
Why would we? When we’re dealing with a major loss – like the death of a family member or friend, or a divorce, or the loss of a job – splurging on a trip doesn’t seem like great fun. And sometimes, the grief can be so earthshaking that it’s hard to do basic tasks, like get up in the morning and start your day.
Still, there are benefits to changing your surroundings. As Joni Eareckson Tada wrote, “Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life.” Sometimes, traveling to a completely new place is enough to stir up some new perspective, and kick-start us on the journey away from grief and towards healing.
Travel certainly won’t cure you of your shock, your sadness, your anger. It won’t catapult you directly into acceptance, the final stage of grief. But what it can do is provide two-fold relief for your wounds: the ability to escape, and the room to process your feelings.
It’s difficult to show up at work and concentrate for a full eight hours when you are upset. Likely, you’re more distracted. The same is true of life during grief. It’s difficult to function as you normally would. Getting out of your routine and doing something different can be transformative. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change,” said Wayne Dyer.
Last year, a woman dealing with grief over the loss of her grandfather, a man she thought of as her father, wrote an article about her travel while grieving. In her piece for Travel and Leisure, Laura Delarato recounted her long-weekend trip to the Midwest. “I was finally able to breathe in the wake of this sizable loss,” she said.
Did she go on a hippie-dippie meditation retreat? No. Did she go for a workshop on grieving? No. Did she spend all day in bed, feeling guilty for her choice to take an escape? Not at all.
Delarato sat on a floating dock on the lake and sipped on cheap beer. She swam. She ate cheese curds. She relaxed and she felt her feelings.
“There’s nothing like the ocean, some mountains or a change of scenery to contemplate your one precious life,” says life coach, writer, and advisor Susie Moore. “We need to feel our feelings. We can’t just skip over them.”
And Delarato wasn’t skipping over them, even though she had flown from New York to Wisconsin to stay with at a friend at her family’s home. She recounts that her trip allowed her to break away from her depression, and to gain a different perspective when she got back to her daily life in Manhattan. It wasn’t a cure, but it was good medicine.
“Travel is really an effective tool when you’re trying to heal: it changes your routine, pushes you out of your comfort zone, forces you to see some light when you’re surrounded by so much dark, and allows you to take a break from it all,” said Delarato. “A healthy dose of escapism works wonders.”