My husband died on June 6, 2019. I emailed my principal and informed her I would not be coming in for the remainder of the school year and then I did all of the immediate tasks of grief. I planned a funeral and got paperwork in order and called insurance companies, but after all of that the summer still loomed ahead of me full of so much empty time. So I did what any reasonable person would do, I made a bucket list. Like, a literal list, grouped by category, on poster board-I’ll post a picture on the instagram sometime this week.
The list had categories like Hikes with Dany, Concerts and Shows, Hard Stuff, and Visit With, but the biggest and most important category was travel. Part of the appeal was the chance to run away. It didn’t really matter where I went I just knew I couldn’t be here any more. I couldn’t be in the house we partially renovated together, couldn’t look at his side of the bed, couldn’t look outside and see where he had taken his last breaths-where the paramedics carried him out in a body bag. No, I needed to be somewhere else. And so I went.
Traveling throughout that summer was both the wisest and the most foolish choice I could have made. Foolish because I would pack a suitcase and immediately forget what was inside. I felt so focused and alert while packing-like I was really thinking through everything I needed but as soon as that bag was zipped you could offer me a million dollars and I would not have been able to name a single item in that bag. And it was in that mental state that my supportive, but probably freaking out, family dropped me off at the airport so I could be somewhere else for a little bit.
So yes, it was a little foolish to gallivant about while I was still in such shock, but it was in these trips that I was able to start finding myself again. Those trips proved that I could be more than the widow, that I may be shattered now but I would not always be. Most of these trips were to visit family, and I am forever thankful that they opened their doors to me without hesitation, but some trips I took by myself. It was in these solo trips that I began to realize I could actually do this-I was going to be ok.
I love airports. A friend of mine recently told me that airports are an excellent example of good information design because they are navigable by people from all different areas, including those who may speak a different language. So call it good information design but I have always felt extra empowered in an airport. I look at those information boards and realize I could go literally anywhere in the world from this one spot. It’s amazing! Simply being in an airport, making it through security, finding my gate, boarding the plane-all of these things reminded me that I wasn’t completely hopeless. I was still at least a little bit capable.
Once I got to my location…well I could do whatever I wanted. If I wanted to stay in my tiny house Air B&B all day-great! If I wanted to spend 20 minutes staring at one painting in the art museum-awesome! If I wanted to order food from 4 different food trucks because I couldn’t decide-fantastic! I didn’t have to be the widow if I didn’t want to be. If I felt sad, I could be sad-there was no pressure to present myself any certain way because I was the only person I needed to take into account. Solo travel helped me find my footing as a new widow. It reminded me that the world was and is so much bigger than me and my problems. And I don’t say that to diminish the enormity of my problems-my problems were huge. But solo travel let me look beyond my gigantic problems for a couple of days and it gave me the fuel to come back and spend some more time facing those problems.
I still love solo travel. I’m not particularly interested in telling you what to do with your life but I would recommend everyone take a solo trip-even if you’re not as introverted as I am. There is something wonderfully freeing in only having yourself to think about. There is something incredibly powerful in going to a new location and experiencing it by yourself. There is something tremendously life-affirming in being solely responsible for your own pleasure. What a privilege it is to gather these experiences. You really should try it.
PS. Keep an eye on the Instagram this week to see some pics from my solo trips.