Where My Path Leads: Grief and Travel
I’ve spent a few days trying to decide if I would write this post. It felt somehow inauthentic, planning key words and tags for a post about my grief. At the same time, this is as authentic as it gets. Which is why I decided to write this piece after all. How can I call myself a storyteller if I neglect to tell my own story?
My Story: Grief and Travel
Five years ago today, my dad died.
He was young, only forty-five, but it turns out cancer doesn’t care.
Five years might sound like a long time, to you. Or it might sound like a short time. The reality is that when you’re slogging through grief, it’s neither. Time loses relevance. Sometime during those nebulous five years after my dad died, I began to travel.
I’d done some traveling before. My family moved across the country when I was fifteen and I got to see quite a bit of the U.S. from the passenger’s seat of a Penske truck. My dad drove. We stopped at the Grand Canyon and at the World’s Biggest Tumble Weed and a couple of other places, I’m sure. I also spent two weeks in Northern Ireland when I was sixteen. I think that’s when the travel bug really bit me. But traveling after my dad died was different.
Traveling with grief is different.
I’m not traveling to escape my grief. I know that travel is often marketed as an escape from whatever shittiness life’s handed you. But there aren’t enough white sand beaches or soaring buttresses or breathtaking sunsets to escape losing my dad. Because it’s part of me.
Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy myself. Please don’t think that I spend every moment of my travels (or even of any given day) mired in grief. But it changes how I look at things. I weep when I visit St. Peter’s in Rome. My dad was a great artist and art lover and it breaks my heart to know that he will never see that beautiful place. Everything that I love about travel – food, wine, art, music, culture, history – I learned from him.
So no, travel is not an escape.
If anything, I think about my dad more often when I’m traveling. But that’s not a bad thing. Hell, grief’s not a bad thing.
People always say “it gets better.” It doesn’t. It just gets different. But that makes sense, because I’m getting different.
I travel because I love it. And I grieve for my dad because I love him. Grief doesn’t mean I’ll always be sad, just like traveling to fascinating new places doesn’t guarantee I’m going to have a great time. They are both a part of the same path and I’m finding out where that path leads.
I love you, Dad. I’ll see you on the road.