Travel Therapy

In the early months after John’s death, I would have a Forrest Gump urge to start walking across the country, never stopping until my toes were in the chilly waters of the Pacific.

Or, I’d daydream about driving, driving, driving across the country on an endless road trip in an endless summer. Chasing that glorious setting sun with windows down, warm air tumbling, odometer clicking forward while my mind & heart were given space and time to heal.

Or I’d imagine a tropical island where I could just walk out of a beach cottage every morning, open my chair, tunnel my toes in the sand, and endlessly watch the waves. Waiting. Waiting for my life to reappear.

Wanderlust is real. Only recently did I begin to understand why I crave it. It has to do with the temporary relief it brings me from my new reality.

My life with John meant that my future had trajectory. It followed his career, his life. By mutual decision, our marriage was traditional, old school: I chose to defer to his life’s direction, and I chose to devote my life to our family and children.

When his job changed, we moved. When money was tight, we chose frugality and squeezed in another job. When his job was stressful or miserable, or both, I prayed and supported him.

Many of you have done life like this, or are doing it now. Marriage is designed to be a beautiful partnership that gives mutual meaning and purpose. Every day. Every year.

March 8, 2012 was a life derailment. The track of my life disappeared. My functions as a mom remained, but that was about it. Every other way I knew life with John vanished into thin air.

It took my breath away.

It also took my purpose and my natural assumptions of my future.

For the past three and a half years, I have been in the painful process of grieving many things, including the fact that my life’s momentum is significantly altered. My primary commitment to loving and raising our children is still in place, but I’ve always known that after they left, my purpose as John’s wife and support was still going to remain.

But that all disappeared when he did.

Now, I find myself not redefining my purpose, but actually seeking it. The Lord is patiently leading me through this confusing maze of options. Moving was a big first step.

In the meantime, I savor those moments when my life gets really defined and streamlined. It happens when I travel. 

When I travel my very vague life becomes defined. There is a point A and a point B and I can see them on a map. Travel reduces and simplifies my life to the bare essentials; I pack my bags with what I really need for life.  All the stuff that is home is left far behind.

Hotels are lovely too- impersonal, yet predictable. No visual clutter to process or feel guilty about (ie. no piles of mail, bills, laundry, dishes, yard, the undone to-do list etc). In fact, I am an “out of sight, out of mind” girl. When I leave home, I am completely absorbed in the new places I am landing.

And, then there is the rental car (on trips that don’t rely on public transportation). Ahhh! A perfectly clean car, new and reliable. Someone else has made sure the oil is changed, the tires are inflated, the alignment spot on, the systems all go. Of course, on my most recent trip, I didn’t even know how to start the car so sometimes the cars are too new!

It is really quite delightful. Blissful, in fact. 

And, I love knowing that for a few days, my life’s trajectory is defined and knowable.

And, I love how travel gives me a confidence-boosting field trip, even when it pushes me beyond my comfort zone: I can take my children to new places. We don’t have to live subdued by our story and cowering without John. We can go boldly forward into life knowing that the Lord loves us still, and He goes with us. Nowhere we could ever go takes us out of His presence.

Besides, there is an incredible, beautiful planet He has made that I truly believe He enjoys us seeing and praising Him along the way. Sometimes it embarrasses my kids if I want to belt out the doxology under Natural Bridge or exclaim a little too loudly over the glory of the skies when we fly. But, it makes us all laugh and we make memories together that knit our hearts closer.

We see the world anew with fresh perspective. It is all His.

And, it doesn’t escape me that Jesus was a traveler. Always moving. Always on the go. And, his final command to us begins with “Go into all the world…” Going into all the world requires faith, just as much then as it does now. Will He get me there? Will He be with me, even there? How will He suprise me along the way? Will He bring me home?

The act of going is my faith exercising.

Life is beautiful spent traveling with Him, the ultimate tour guide. And, one day there will be an even more spectacular, glorious place for the Lord to show me: our forever home.

Until then, I savor those respites when I get glimpses of His creative beauty and my life makes sense. They have made me wonder for heaven and given me sweet days of grace.

At home but never for too long, please-

Maria