Several years ago, during a visit to my favorite uncle, my husband, Ed, and I received an essential piece of advice. We were in Boston, at the most amazing Christmas Eve party we had ever seen. It was loud and chaotic, with so much love and happiness, and the food had been prepared with that same joy and affection. As two introverts, we sat there, overwhelmed, but happy to be in the thick of it all. In the middle of all of this, Uncle Bill leaned over to us and said, “Don’t wait until you are retired to travel — do it now, while you know that you can.” Because this came from Uncle Bill, and because he had been urging me to take bigger and better travel adventures, Ed took this to heart. From that point on, anytime I hesitated about taking the time for a trip, or spending the money for a trip, Ed would look at me and say, “Remember what Uncle Bill said.” And they were both right!
We had some incredible adventures together. Each year, we would decide if it was a smaller trip year or a more significant trip year. Shorter trips were mostly within the United States. Bigger trips were more expensive, involved more time, and took us to locations such as Tahiti, or Italy, or Thailand. What a great time we had. And we planned to keep going, for as long as we could. When our time together ended in 2014, I never regretted any of the time or money that we spent on travel.
Right after Ed died, a close friend kept urging me to take off — to take a trip and relax and have some fun. While it was clear to me that this was not the right time for a vacation, and that being away from home during these first few weeks would be harmful to me, it was also clear that in some way he was trying to protect me from being sad. He honestly thought that a vacation would be a diversion that would help cheer me up. For a while, I put the idea of travel away. Travel belonged to my past life.
About a year later, I was sitting in class, and our professor started discussing a conference, and how it would be nice if some of us would attend and give presentations. I was sitting next to a friend, and she was going. She turned to me, grabbed my arm, and said, “You should come with me.” At first, I thought to myself, “I can’t go to Vietnam.” But before I said no, another thought quickly replaced “I can’t go to Vietnam” with “Of course I can do this.” And so we went. It was a good distraction for me, and it helped to deepen our friendship.
The trip to Vietnam encouraged me to go on other adventures. I joined a group of entrepreneurs in the Philippines, and on the way home, I enjoyed a few days in Seoul. The Korean women that I met were delighted to meet a woman who was traveling on her own. They admired my independence. I was able to laugh when the woman who tidied up my hotel room put out two pairs of slippers each evening, one in a woman’s size and one in a man’s size, even though she knew that I was traveling by myself. Just for fun, I took turns wearing the different slippers, moving the man’s slippers across the room. Maybe she thought I had a secret boyfriend.
I flew across the globe, leaving friends in Taiwan to catch up with others at a conference in London. Now, I visit San Francisco for a few days every year, and soon I will meet friends in Singapore and then continue to Bali.
Ed and I had decided that we would travel, and there is no reason for me to stop. Early on, I would repeat to myself my mantra of “I am not the one who died.”
Traveling has helped me feel free to move forward, while remaining connected to the one I loved. It has helped me to rediscover and renew my strength. It recharges my creativity and brings joy into my life.
In the spirit of my mantra, I needed to live, and to figure out what my new life would be like. Travel has continued to be an essential part of that life.
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