“Something crappy happened at work – I need a vacation!” How many times have you heard this from colleagues, or thought it yourself? But what about, “My husband cheated on me and I left him. I need to go to Egypt!” Or, “I can’t get over my daughter’s death. I’m going to Bali to scatter her ashes.” Sometimes pain is so strong and so deep that the only way to heal it is to travel, just leave everything behind and give yourself the space to get over the hump so you can begin to move forward.
I have led an Eat Pray Love tour to Bali for over five years, which attracts women from 25-70+ who are all seeking… something. The book is about an outward journey as a passageway for an inward one—growing, healing, and taking a spiritual path to become your best self. It has subtly urged millions of people to use travel as a balm for healing and as a powerful tool of transformation.
One of the women who came on this journey, Sylvia, had lost her husband, Henry, almost a decade ago. She was able to connect with him on the trip; not the sad, sick version of him that marked their final year together, but the true essence of him: the passionate, deep and caring partner she married and loved. Sylvia was able to ask Henry’s forgiveness and more importantly, accept it. She was able to forgive him as well, for leaving her too soon.
We don’t like to think of being angry at our loved one for dying, or blaming them, but we do it all the time. After all, we are the ones who are left here, feeling helpless and lonely. We are the ones who have to suffer through the emptiness. Maybe the person who has died is now off living some great adventure, and isn’t even bothering to call to tell us about it—that’s how we sometimes feel. Then we prickle, selfish and angry with ourselves for our ridiculous feelings. It sets up a dark cycle that allows us to spiral further down. I have seen women who have fed this anger until it is their main source of solace, replacing the love they once had.
Breaking away from routine, getting completely away—even through a trip as short as a week—and being ready, inviting healing in, can be that vital catalyst that sets you back on the road to wholeness. No, you’ll never be the same, and yes, you’ll have only memories and photographs where once there was a person who made you feel more alive. But you can start down a new path, just as the journey you undertook pulled you out of your comfort zone long enough and far enough away to help you see that it was possible.
A week after I returned from Bali that year, Sylvia called me from her home, two continents away. It was her wedding anniversary, and she wanted to say that it was the first time since Henry had died that she could celebrate his life instead of mourning his passing. She had traveled, not only physically, but into a new place within herself where Henry can live and Sylvia can move forward in life—her longest, best journey.