Grief-Cation- How Travel Helps with Grief

At the time of writing this, a gloomy dark cloud hangs over the country and no, it has nothing to do with the cold month of July. Rather, the sad passing of one of Kenya’s most beloved expatriates, Bob Collymore. As the country takes a moment of silence to reflect on close to a decade with Safaricom’s charismatic CEO, we take the same moment to highlight the importance of grieving and how traveling can help.


Travel to Escape

Someone once eloquently stated that ‘We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.’ However, in times of grief, traveling to momentarily escape a life littered with the memories of a deceased loved one may not be such a bad idea. In the aftermath of the loss of someone close to us, everywhere we turn to we see them.


Where they used to sit. The way they opened the door in the evening when they came home. Their voice still echoes through the house. Their clothes are still warm with the scent of their favorite perfume. All this can be overwhelming. We become attached and cannot let go. We cannot move on.


A stack of books near the ocean


Sometimes moving on means physically moving oneself from one place to another. Travel to a place of solace and serenity to reflect, gather your strength, and make peace with reality. Yoga retreats, for example, can provide the peace of mind necessary for processing loss.


Long walks on the beach or in nature can be uplifting as well. Such escapes allow one the space to be alone with the memories of a loved one. To say a personal goodbye and return to everyday life with, at the very least, a semblance of inner peace.



A Trip Down Memory Lane

On the other hand, when a loved one passes away, we may inwardly wish for just one more day with them. We may fondly recall a memorable trip they took with us. Perhaps it was a honeymoon or a family vacation or a road trip with friends. Instead of traveling to escape their memory, one may embark on the same trip to relive the moments shared together. To remember them even more vividly when they lived their best life.


A beautiful yellow-orange sunset in the forest with people hiking


Simply make plans to go on a similar trip like the one you took together. Stay in the same hotel, even in the same room that you shared with them. Visit the same places the two of you visited. Do the same activities. At the end of the trip, say goodbye and leave them behind in that happy place.



The Trip That Never Was

Maybe you did not have the chance to go on a trip but perhaps there were plans to take one together. However, work got in the way. Responsibilities at home with the kids had you preoccupied. Maybe limited finances meant you kept postponing that trip. Oh, how fun it would have been but life happened and those plans ended up being just that, plans. Now it’s too late. Life robbed you of moments you could have shared with a friend, a spouse, a sister, a brother, a parent, a son or a daughter.


But you remember those plans quite clearly. You talked about taking amazing pictures on your trip or doing something daring like skydiving. Well, you could go on that trip in honor of the deceased loved one. Have them in your heart and in your mind the entire trip. You know them so well you can even picture the excitement on their face and what they would have particularly enjoyed the most.

Sky diving


Go On a Pilgrimage

A pilgrimage is simply a spiritual or moral journey, physical or otherwise, in search of meaning or significance. And boy don’t we need answers in times of grief. Our religious beliefs come to the fore during difficult moments. They are often challenged by poignant events such as the passing away of a loved one. We need to steady our beliefs and draw strength from our spirituality.


As unconventional as it might seem, taking a trip to a place of spiritual significance may be exactly what one needs to restore their faith when grieving. If resources allow, traveling to Mecca, for example, if one is a Muslim may be one such pilgrimage. The Vatican is the holy city for Catholics and would be a great place to travel to for spiritual nourishment.

A long winding road


Simpler steps such as talking to a spiritual or religious leader may be taken to serve the same aforementioned purpose. Remember, a pilgrimage does not necessarily have to be a physical journey. Therefore, taking some time to commune in your local place of worship is equally helpful.


Visit Family and Friends

Last but certainly not least, traveling to be with your family or friends should be the default reaction in times of loss. This is when a trip upcountry is truly needed even more so than during Christmas. East or west, home is best and home is where your loved ones are. Forgive the cliche there but the value of being comforted by family and friends cannot be overstated. They, more than anyone else, understand what you may be going through and know exactly what to do to steer you through such a trying ordeal.


The right words will come from all corners when in the comfort of family and friends. One’s financial burden when planning the burial of a loved one is lightened by the support of family and friends. In fact, traveling to stay with a relative or a friend may help one escape the painful memories brought back by staying at the house where you and the loved one in question shared a home. Sharing one’s grief lightens the load and helps one realize that they are not alone.

In loving memory of Bob Collymore and Joe Kadenge


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