Vacation Mentality

Who we are when we're on the road

The Things We Carry

Does travel help us deal with pain?

A recent post on Kristine Hansen’s Travel In Mind blog discusses why traveling while grieving can be beneficial. Taking a trip after someone dies, she reckons, could be away to begin working through internal chaos. She shares the story of author and therapist Claire Bidwell Smith, who took trips after the deaths of each of her parents over a seven-year period.

Death of a loved one isn’t the only life trauma that spurs people to pack their bags and hit the road indefinitely. There’s a subtext to many otherwise bubbly, adventure-packed travel blogs that speaks of trying circumstances back at home: mentally or physically ill parents; drug-addicted siblings; poverty; break-ups; or just a general inability to get along with family. Some of these situations result in the traveler constantly going from country to country or moving abroad permanently. Of course, it's a problem if a person hits the road only to indulge in unhealthy escapist behavior and not to eventually deal with the trauma.

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While travel that results in this state of mind might be a true form of “running away,” other travelers are trying to run toward a better future. Sure, there are duties when someone dies or a family member is in need—but there’s also a duty to self to chase happiness and health, something that Bidwell Smith’s father knew his daughter needed to pursue after the death of her mother. And its certainly understandable to want to escape an abusive, bitter or otherwise unstable family environment if that is the situation at hand. The point is for the traveler to experience some enlightenment and eventual healing in regards to the painful thing that has haunted him or her.

Have you ever traveled during or after a particularly difficult time in your life? How did it help you?

Lauren Fritsky has written about health, relationships, career and travel for AOL, CNN, USA Today and Weight Watchers magazine.

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