Navigating Grief While Traveling

One of my biggest fears prior to starting my travels was being so far away from my family. Not in the sense that I would never see them, I have seen more of my family in the last year than I did all four living in Ohio. More so, should anything happen, I couldn’t as easily get home and not nearly as quick.


After talks with my family and my therapist, it was decided that I couldn’t base my future plans and goals on the what if. In all reality, something tragic could happen whenever, wherever. 


Guilt was the strongest emotion that I felt every time I would have to say goodbye to family and friends again. It has been so incredibly difficult wanting to be near the ones that I love the most but not wanting to be where they are. 


This is something that I still struggle with everyday. No one talks about putting yourself first and the sacrifices that come along with the decision to do that.


The person I was most nervous to be away from was my Grandma Mae. She was my best friend. My biggest supporter. My person. Some of my fondest memories with her are eating a hot fudge sundae with extra hot fudge at House of Flavors, going with her to get her hair done and watching any MSU sporting event with her.

 

At 93 years old and not having a very adventuresome spirit, she couldn’t rationalize or understand why I was wanting to travel and be so far from home but she was happy for me nonetheless. 


I shared pictures and stories with her both in person and weekly on the phone of my travels and adventures. She loved seeing me out living life and always commented on how brave I was.


I had even gotten her a large map so we could place a sticker on the location I would be traveling to so she could have an idea of where in the world I was at.


I would call often and FaceTime as much as I could but nothing was comparable to spending time with her in person. Which I did as much as I could and enjoyed every minute of it. 


Just like yesterday, I was bright eyed and exploring the white sand beaches in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It was early in the morning as I wanted to watch the sunrise and be near the ocean as I had just relocated to this spot a week prior. When I received the phone call that I had dread receiving. 


My Grandma had passed away and I was a world away.


At that moment my world stopped spinning. I fell to my knees and audibly sobbed. In the one place in the world where most of my problems feel at bay, the one thing I was most afraid of happening, happened. 

 

Grief is an unexplainable emotion. You feel everything and nothing all at one. 

 

I had to not only navigate the emotions that came along with receiving news like this but how I would get home, as quickly as possible, to be with my family. 


There is something so surreal about life and situations making you feel so small and insignificant. Here I was, unable to keep it together in the TSA line in the Pensacola airport while the people behind me were talking about the holiday they were headed to in Palm Springs. 


Not once did anyone stop to check on me or see if I was okay. I think that is what was the hardest for me in the first few days. My world has stopped turning while everyone around me was continuing business as normal. I had nothing but myself and my raw emotions to lean on until I made it home to be with my family. 


This was the reality of being a solo traveler. .


I have battled with the continued, and now exaggerated feeling of guilt. If my desire to travel and be away from my family could have been postponed for 6 months I would have gotten that much more time with her. That if my desire to travel wasn’t there I could have moved home to help care for her in her last months with us. 


The thing is, I couldn’t have known. I shouldn’t have known. In my heart of hearts, I do not think that would have been her wish for me. 


Not a day goes by that I do not miss her dearly. I think that the saying “time heals all wounds” is utter bull-shit. You just learn how to better navigate your world with a Grandma Mae sized gap in it. Which let me tell you, some day's feels like an endless black hole. 


After her funeral I made my way back to Florida to live out the last few weeks of my lease. While I sat on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico looking out into the deep sea, I spent time with myself and began the journey on the long road of the grieving process. There is truly no other place I would have rather been to go through something like this than by the ocean.

 

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt a deep connection to the water, a deep sense of peace and grounding. This location allowed me the space to feel and to be. 

Here we are a year later and I find myself on similar shores. I cannot help but to think that the timing of my stays near the sea are somewhat more than a coincidence. 


Grandma Mae was not a worldly woman and we often used to joke about how she was lucky to visit Ludington after not venturing very far outside of Filer City where she grew up. So, for both her and my sake, I would like to think that I am making her proud by continuing on my journey. 


All while wearing a charm that she once wore so she can now see the world alongside me.

 

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4 comments

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Gary

Beautiful beautiful story. I am sorry for your loss and time does heal♥️

Margaret Chaaban

Thank you for sharing this! It’s beautiful the way you honor your Grandmother

Sariah Folston

Very lovely said. She was loved by you

Grandma Marilyn

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