Can travel heal trauma?

Airplane Wing” by Arnold Lee/ CC0 1.0

I’m flying to Europe today.

Usually adventures, the thought of going somewhere new, fills me with excitement. And as I’ve planned this trip over the past two weeks (yes, it’s kind of spur of the moment), I’ve been super excited. I’m traveling with my youngest daughter for a month in Europe. We are heading to the UK, the Netherlands, France and the Czech Republic. We will see beautiful places and catch up with old friends and people we love who we haven’t been able to see for years.

But now that the bags are packed and everything is ready, I woke up nervous this morning – which isn’t like me.

So I got quiet and asked my body what’s wrong. The answer surprised me. She’s scared. I’m scared. And that’s not like me. Anyone who knows me, knows travel and adventure are my middle names. So I knew there was something deeper than just being scared of a trip.

As I sat with the fear and surprise it dawned on me. The last time I travelled internationally was also with a short deadline. My daughters and I raced to get from Australia to Michigan in the US to be able to be with my dad as he lived the last few days of his life. We made it in time to see him, but the journey was traumatic for all of us to get there. We missed our original flight in Canberra due to COVID regulations and once we eventually got to LA we were detained by immigration due to passport mix-up. Then after a red-eye across the country, got stuck in Chicago as my credit card was declined when I rented a car. Once we got to Michigan, the entire family ended up with COVID which drastically affected how my dad could be cared for in his last days. And my mom was so sick that I was afraid we’d lose her before Dad. Miraculously, she recovered in time for Dad’s funeral. But the day after the funeral, she had a major incident with her heart and I ended up having to stay in the US for an additional three months to care for her. I developed heart issues of my own due to Long COVID and when I eventually returned to Australia, had months of rehabilitation before finally getting the all clear last week.

So my last trip was traumatic. My body has undergone a significant amount of trauma in the last year. And remembers it, if the panic and fear I’ve felt this morning is anything to go by.

I keep reassuring myself that I am now safe. A trip to Europe with my youngest is different than the trip last year to the US. Traveling post-COVID is different; I am different.

I am more aware. Aware of my surroundings, aware of my body, aware of what I can tolerate and what I can’t, aware that long COVID stole months of my life away and I don’t want that again.

My trip to Europe has two purposes. One is to spend time with my 18 year old youngest daughter. I travelled to Peru with my elder daughter in 2019, just the two of us, and it was a magical experience. My youngest has wanted to do a similar trip to Europe with me but with COVID and then everything that happened last year, we couldn’t get there. The perfect timing has finally lined up and I’m looking forward to spending the next month with this amazing young woman who always has much to teach me.

Secondly, I’m following my intuition and listening to an inner calling to further my research into my mother’s family who originally came from Bohemia – now the Czech Republic. A deeply traumatic incident occurred in my family 100 years ago this May. One of those things that families hide in the closet and don’t talk about but the trauma gets handed down intergenerationally. I only discovered the truth about this secret a couple of years ago and ever since I’ve been on a mission to learn more. I’m heading to Bohemia to look for clues and maybe find some answers (or maybe find more questions, who knows?)

If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that trauma stays in our bodies unless it’s processed and released. According to Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, trauma reshapes our bodies and our brains, but there is hope for recovery if we allow it.

I’m hoping this trip will assist me in my own recovery as well as be a step towards healing some of the intergenerational trauma of my family.

Writing is balm for my soul. It helps me process what I experience and see. Just writing this post has made me feel better. I’m less scared and ready for the trip. The excitement is returning. I’ll keep you posted as the trip progresses.

3 thoughts on “Can travel heal trauma?

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  1. Have a fabulous time, I’ll be interested in the answer to your question We’ve had so much trauma in our lives this past 12 months and we’ve booked to travel to Europe next year, hopefully it will be a healing experience for us too. Enjoy your time together, it’s s precious time for you both xxx


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