What got me through this painful year, in this order: God, family and friends AND planning a trip to Europe (and then traveling to Europe!).
Backpacking trip, 2007
Yes, you read that right: ranked right behind my Lord and closest community, TRAVEL (and the year of planning leading up to travel) played the greatest role in my healing. I spent the summer after college graduation dealing with the split, prepping for law school - and beginning to plan for a backpacking journey the next summer (which meant checking out European travel books at the local library, binge watching Samantha Brown's "Passport to Europe" on the travel channel AND drafting multiple "possible" schedules for my upcoming adventure) Throughout that first year of law school, especially the spring before the trip, I would sometimes take study breaks or spend Sunday afternoons doing research for my voyage. The planning provided me with a chance to balance grieving and stress with hope and excitement for the future. And the trip, itself, provided, much needed rest and celebration after surviving such a difficult year.
Niagara Falls, 2014
My European backpacking adventure was not my only encouraging time of travel. Other trips have also provided respite, change, rest and healing throughout my life. A Disney trip with friends to kick off the start of law school. A second trip to Europe to celebrate after a year that included the bar exam, job searching and my first 6 months of working. A daddy-daughter journey to Arizona to watch my Auburn Tigers overcome years of adversity and finally win another National Championship. A New Years Eve in Dallas trip with single ladies to celebrate friendship and freedom! A honeymoon getaway to SF and Napa with Dave after his stressful last year of architecture, his job search and our impending move. A late first anniversary trip to Canada after a first long hard year in a new place -- me looking for a job, adjusting to new jobs and married life and living far away from friends and family.
Europe with my friend, 2010
San Fran Honeymoon, 2013
Redwoods on Honeymoon, 2013
2010 National Champ Game in Arizona
Disney trip, 2006
The world is huge, full of places and people so different than me! The size and diversity can be terrifying at times, making me feel small and inconsequential - but, it's often times when allowing myself to feel so tiny in God's big world full of wonderful experiences that I feel rested and rejuvenated, close to the Lord and others and encouraged to rejoice in spite of mourning! If we are willing to let it, travel can be a healing experience.
Malawi trip, 2009
Here are some of the ways that travel heals us:
(1) Travel distracts us.
Perhaps the most obvious way that travel provides rest and healing is the reality that venturing to other places allows us to get away from our environment for awhile. We all need an escape from daily stresses and worries - and sometimes a change of scenery can provide a break from our struggles - or at the very least, a beautiful location with free time to slowly work through them!
(2) Travel (and planning for travel) reminds us that there are still good things to look forward to in our future.
That summer after college, I needed something wonderful to look forward to, something good that I could daydream about and anticipate. Planning that adventure pointed my eyes forward and reminded me that good exciting things remained in my future. I came back from that trip, still limping, but with a little more confidence that my future still held many wonderful experiences, people and places.
(3) Travel gives us reason to celebrate!
Vacations give us an excuse to celebrate and live the good life: an extra glass of wine, ice cream at 3 pm just because, sleeping in, splurging on a new dress, a fancy dinner out with your spouse or best friend. Sure, splurging too much could be a bad thing, but a little indulgence can remind us that life is not all battles and schedules and work and diets and heartache. Occasionally when life has been hard or busy or stressful, what we need may be a weekend getaway with margaritas, a good book, rich desserts and lots of laughter. Travel reminds us that we have blessings and reasons to celebrate!
(4) Travel often gives us free time to think, pray, recover.
Not all trips provide alone time. I recognize that some trips are romantic in nature or fun girls getaways. But, often, trips provide time to pray and wrestle through issues - whether it be during train rides across European countryside or a beach walk in Florida. Sometimes, my biggest lessons were learned and embraced while away from my home. A change of scenery and schedule helped forge the way for a change of heart.
(5) Travel also gives us a chance to reconnect and enjoy fellowship.
Sometimes, travel provides a chance of healing and recovery for groups of people - thus, the idea for family and marriage retreats! Dave and I loved being able to get away to Canada last September and enjoying each other's company without our normal everyday distractions. After surviving our first year of marriage and some unexpected stresses, it felt like a chance to celebrate, reconnect and escape. Girls getaways during my 20's often returned me home feeling loved and not alone. Sometimes we need to feel like we are a part of a team with people in our corner, cheering us on. Escaping to the beach with your girlfriends or New York with your husband can provide community and fellowship for tired lonely souls.
(6) Sometimes, travel can open our eyes to other's pain.
Travelling to places internationally and domestically - whether for pleasure or volunteer work - can open our eyes to pain and struggles across the world. Seeing poverty and devastation should remind us of our blessings and motivate our hearts to serve in the same way Christ served us. Nothing leads to healing more than gratitude, and travel often opens our eyes to all we have received.
(7) Travel reminds us how small we are and how big God is.
When seeing the natural beauty of an ocean sunset or the historical loveliness of centuries-old cities, I can't help but feel awed (and slightly scared) by how tiny I am in this world. But, while praying in a monastery in Spain or wondering the busy streets of Manhattan or staring into the emerald shores of the Florida gulf, I realize that (1) I am not the first person to face whatever problems I currently face (whether it be balancing schedules or mourning a death or facing a breakup) and (2) I serve a God who is master of all these places. We need to see the world and realize how inconsequential we might seem, to truly realize how powerful the One we serve is - that He cares about all the people in all these places, including us. He commands the 7 seas and watches over the city that never sleeps and was the same God in ancient Rome as he is in 2015. He rules the whole world and all of time, yet He still sees and cares for me, a small town Mississippi girl, living in DC in the 21st century. While travelling by train through European countrysides, still brokenhearted, that's what hit me the most: my tiny heart with it's worries, joy, stories, aches and pains mattered....and God saw and loved that heart, whether in Oxford, Mississippi or in Venice, Italy.
Safari with my sister, 2009
Dancing in FAO Schwarz, NYC, 2006
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, NYC, 2014
Travel heals us. It gives us a chance to escape and reconnect with God, others and self. It opens our eyes and reminds us of our blessings. It challenges us and encourages us and reminds us that life is worth celebrating. Dave and I both agreed, early in marriage, that travel was a necessity for us - and that it was worth cutting money in other ways to ensure we could see the world. Last year, we went to the Smokies with his family and Canada on our own. This year, we venture to Florida for my family vacation and then Paris and Normandy for our own little getaway. And, just like the past, travel and the anticipation of travel help me walk through the hard times, mundane daily routine, and any disappointments life throws my way...because come June and September, I have the chance to celebrate and to enjoy beauty and fellowship and an escape from the norm. The truth is, every year will have its rough spots -- so each year, we will likely need an escape from some trial - whether to a nearby town or a foreign country - to reconnect, celebrate and heal.