Travel Gram: Essays by Eileen Detlefsen
Family structure is subject to changes through the years. Among the most monumental alterations: the addition of a child; the departure of children for college or work; the marriage of children and the establishment of new families; new jobs; relocation; loss of spouse; loss of child; divorce.
As such changes may come about in our lives, we have a choice: Let them unsettle us, perhaps to keep us sad for an awfully long time, accept them as permanent conditions. or to meet them with courage and go on, with a sense of joyous expectancy of sunnier days ahead.
In my case, an abrupt change came when our youngest daughter suddenly passed away as a young adult. My husband and I were devastated.
But an even more devastating change came for me less than five months later, when my husband suddenly died.
He and I had been especially close. Our children were grown and had established their own families, and, after many full and happy years of publishing our family newspaper, we had welcomed a time to be together. Without work or deadlines.
His sudden passing was in some ways more difficult for me than the earlier sorrow. I had been a mother, wife and professional person. Suddenly, I was alone, in a new role. Solo.
It was clearly time to assess my future and decide how I could retain my innate love for life and sense of adventure in the years ahead. It certainly wouldn’t be by hanging on to a feeling of loss and aloneness.
There were some decisions to be made. Should I sell the house which had been home to our children for 30 years, and move to another place, possibly a seniors' community? Or should I pick up the pieces and start out in a new direction?
I thought about how both my husband and my daughter had enjoyed foreign travel–he as a WWII soldier in France, and she as an international college student in Germany. Both had been forever changed by the experience of travel. They had been exposed to life in a larger world, and loved it. They had seen the "big picture." They liked what they had seen.
Travel as an Antidote
And so I came to think of the possibility of experiencing the joys of travel in a foreign country, to taste a bit of what had brought them such happiness. Surely this would be an antidote for my sorrow.
I recalled the fulfilling time two years earlier, when my husband had encouraged me to go on a study tour to the Holy Land. This trip had transported me into a fascinating world both new and old, a world so unlike the one I knew. What an exciting and inspiring adventure that had been! So why not recapture that enrichment of foreign travel now, when I most needed it?
So I signed up for another Holy Land trip, this one of longer duration and greater range. The earlier trip had paved the way for this new adventure, and allowed me to appreciate more fully what I was seeing and learning. Best of all, I found that the other participants were people of my generation. They had a desire to learn, to see, to listen and to absorb. They were strong, energetic, eager, open minded. They were companionable. They shared life and travel stories. And they loved the idea of exploring a world new to them.
That experience opened me to the joys of foreign travel, and I haven't looked back. Without a doubt, the joys of travel have helped me meet other changes in family structure that have come through the years.