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Why I Travel

by on September 29, 2015

It’s been exactly one thousand one hundred and ninety three days since my 7-year-old was first diagnosed with leukemia. In June 2012 our lives took a dramatic turn, my role as a mother and a caregiver took on new meaning, and my reasons for traveling solo shifted.

The quiet stillness of Lake Arenal in the Arenal region of Costa Rica.

The quiet stillness of Lake Arenal in the Arenal region of Costa Rica. Photos by TawannaB of Mom’s Guide to Travel.

Life’s Challenges

For the first thirty days after my son’s diagnosis, I stayed by his side, refusing to leave the hospital even for a short break. His bed was my bed. His diagnosis was my diagnosis. His bathroom was where I cried daily, wishing I could take the chemo for him to save his 4-year-old body from the violence it was enduring.

The induction period for a cancer patient is both physically and mentally grueling. For the parent of a pediatric patient, the pain manifests in a different way. It’s hard to deal when you’re helpless and have zero control.

When we finally moved back home, my husband and I agreed that I needed a little break. That first trip away revealed to me just how much continuing to travel was necessary for my well-being.

Hot springs made for a perfect place to take a load off.

Hot springs made for a perfect place to take a load off.

Traveling for Respite

In the first year of our leukemia journey, my soul, my mind, and my spirit desperately needed quiet time to find peace and re-charge. I confess to loving going to the spa, however, my getaways weren’t just about spa weekends. I traveled to several destinations where I didn’t give a single thought to laying in a treatment room. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to turn down a spa day, but it really isn’t my sole motivation for respite travel.

My mother used to say, “When you think you’ve got it bad, there’s always someone who has it worse.” When I travel on my own, I’m able to not only take a deep breath but I’m also able to gain perspective.

Travel teaches you to be Grateful

No, motherhood has not been easy, but when I travel, I’m constantly reminded that others have it much worse. I am thankful that my son has survived. I’m also grateful that I have the good fortune to travel. Many families facing mounting medical bills for cancer or autism (yes, we’re dealing with that too) are limited to weekend visits with relatives.

During my travels I’ve met people who’ve lost children. I’ve flown on planes with moms who looked like they needed a break. I’ve passed by locals selling items on the side of the road. And I’ve chatted with cab drivers yearning to travel the world.

Exploring: In my happy place.

Exploring: In my happy place.

I take note of each of these encounters. They’re reminders to be grateful. Life might not always be pretty, but, through these little moments, I can appreciate what I have. And travel makes me happy. When I return home, I’m more centered, relaxed, and patient.

The challenges are still there. Those don’t go away, but because I practice self-care travel, I can perform like a ball player after half-time, playing hard until I can next catch my breath.

This post was written on behalf of Findery by Tawanna Browne Smith, a consultant and Editor-in-Chief at Mom’s Guide To Travel where she shares travel planning tips while helping caregivers and moms plan and strategize how they can make travel an integral part of their lives for transformation, enjoyment, and respite. You can find more of her notemaps on Findery.

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