Five things I’ve learned about solo travel as a way to work through grief

Clearly, I think travel is therapeutic and a way to manage and move through your grief. In the nearly one and half years since Vince passed away, I’ve been on about a half dozen trips and they’ve all played a key role in this grief process (please, please don’t call it a ‘journey’).

Just because I think it’s therapeutic, doesn’t’ mean that there aren’t potholes along the way. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what travel looks like now that I’m not doing it with Vince.

A few things I’ve observed along the way:

Repeat vs. New? For me, my solo travel needs to be to places my husband and I did not visit together. I just don’t think I’m ready to layer on that additional trigger of remembering a certain café, loving a certain bridge. Bummer because that means I won’t see Italy for a long while. We have amazing memories there and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ready to explore the old favorites of Lucca, Bologna and Naples.

On the bright side, it forces me to explore the many, many places that have long been on the list—and I’m looking forward to working through them all!

Honor your traditions. We always brought a travel journal along. I’d say we wrote in it about 1 out of three days—it was such a great way to document the trip. There was nothing formal about it – sometimes we wrote about the hotel we were in, other times we wrote about the gnarly driving experience we had—but I am so glad that we kept those journals. I love flipping through them from time to time to remember details of a place, restaurant or mood.

When I took my first solo trip I wanted to continue that tradition, but wasn’t about to use the remainder of our last ‘together journal’. Instead I had a journal made (think Shutterfly) with some of our favorite travel photos on the cover. This was a two-fer: it acted as a bedside photo and gave me a reason to want to pick it up (I’m not the best at journaling!).

Lookout for your traditions. I wouldn’t have identified this as a tradition, but now that Vince is gone, I realize how habitual we were about this: we both had very distinct ‘first thing’s we did when we got home from a long vacation. He dove straight into the mail, sorted all the magazines (he subscribed to dozens!) and spent hours poring through them. And I uploaded the photos from the trip to sort and order.

Why do I say ‘lookout’ for this? Again, it’s nothing I identified as a tradition, but when I came home from my first solo overseas trip, I found myself not even taking the mail out of the USPS bin they deliver. Literally, I’d dig out bills one-by-one as I realized they were due. And I still haven’t fully gone through all of my photos from that trip. I was avoiding both without really realizing it.

Play to your strengths. I shine when it comes to choosing places to stay, but Vince was the uber planner. I’d choose the apartment we’d stay and he’d have day trips, meals and winery visits covered. So, my solo trips have included perfect-for-me lodging, but the planning has gone from “Half the fun is in the planning” to “Oh shit, I haven’t planned that”. It’s part of why I round out some of my solo travel with hiking groups (they do all of that planning for you!). Outside of the group thing, I rely heavily on friends and blogs for advice on best ways to explore new places.

Do what makes you happy. That’s what this blog is all about. Having just returned from another big trip, I’ve found it incredibly therapeutic to write about my experiences. So, I’m deciding to share them. It’ll be a bonus if others read them. Extra credit if they find it helpful. But for now, just getting all these thoughts out makes me feel oodles better.


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