I get it. When your loss is feeling so raw, the nitty gritty of travel details may not be high on your list. But, if you’re looking for a way to change your surroundings, shake things up a bit, solo travel could be just the thing. Why it worked wonders for me:
Perspective. Travel to new places always humbles me – it provides such perspective on how each of us fit into this amazing universe. How small we are in relation to the nature and beauty that surrounds us. I don’t mean to minimize the grief we’re experiencing, but there is value in surrounding yourself with a little awe. Taking in the beauty of a lake, intrigue of a canyon, awe of a mountain can help you reflect on just how amazing life—however short—is.
When we were both well (and younger!), Vince used to say ‘People go through loss every day. The trick is to enjoy the everyday moments while you can. Really enjoy them—don’t take them for granted.” He was the one to make sure I stopped on the hike to take it all in, enjoyed the way the light was hitting the trees, or made us stop in our tracks to really watch the sunset.
No ‘everyday’ triggers. When you lose your spouse, the non-stop triggers can be overwhelming. You shared your space, your residence, your life. Some people move to a new home right away, get rid of all their loved ones’ clothes, or sell off their spouses favorite ‘collections’. I did none of those things. For me, it wouldn’t have mattered. I would still pick up the mail and see a ‘We miss you’ magazine subscription plea (Miss him? Yeah, you and me both.), find notes/shopping lists he’d left in books, have to explain to the cable company (for the bazillionth time) that no, I don’t have the password, and no, I can’t get if from my husband.
Being in new surroundings removes many of these daily triggers and allows for time to meaningfully reflect (or deflect – your choice).
Anonymity. For all the right reasons people are constantly asking how you are and do you need anything (yes, we need something – and no we can’t think of what it is right now, so please just do something, anything!).
Answering people in a way that doesn’t cause those awful pity-inducing reactions can be exhausting. Solo travel means you can be however engaging or not engaging as you want. Not feeling social? Dinner with your nose in a book sounds perfect. Feeling like interacting with fellow travelers? They don’t know (or want to know) your life story, so there’s no need to share your recent loss unless you want to.
Sense of accomplishment. Whether you’re checking something off your bucket list—or trying something new for the first time—solo travel can give you that sense of accomplishment that feels so good after a loss. Don’t get me wrong, Vince and I felt like we accomplished a lot that last year. We got him through the final stretch of his illness with a fair amount of grace and humor. But the sense of accomplishment when you travel can be anything from “I can’t read the language, but I did find my hotel” to “Look at me, I just summited this mountain”.
In the early stages of a loss, finding your pants and brushing your teeth can feel like big wins (yes, I’ve left the house without one or both at least once). When you’re out of this phase, solo travel may be just the right thing for you.