Where I Go to Heal a Hurting Heart

When I'm grieving or just in a funk, I head for the hills (literally)

My mother shared her love of gardening with me when I was young, and when she died after a long illness, I planted myself in my garden to tear out weeds and wail to the winds. But I’m not one to wallow in sadness for long. I learned long ago that the fastest way to drown my sorrows is to take a trip. Traveling helps me recenter, and it reminds me how much I can do, how much I can give, and how much beauty there is in the world.

Two months after Mom’s death, I tacked a few hours onto a business trip in Los Angeles to make a pilgrimage in her honor to the glorious Huntington Botanical Garden in Pasadena, Calif. I’ve always felt gardens are a powerful place to lose yourself for a while and rediscover a new, stronger you.

Because Mom instilled in me her passion for roses, I wandered through the 104-year-old rose garden. Closing my eyes, I felt her presence as I inhaled the sweet fragrance of our favorite roses: Peace, Double Delight and Just Joey. Just being still among the roses with Mom was therapeutic in a way her funeral never could have been.

When my brother died after a long battle with cancer, I knew what I had to do. I grabbed my backpack and hiking boots and set off for the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Hiking has always been a direct, physical way for me to release my rage, sorrow and sense of helplessness. Nothing puts my life and mortality into sharper perspective than hiking in the grandeur of mountains and forests. Something about the power and resilience of nature helps me push my life’s difficulties to the side and connect me to something bigger than myself.

But when my spirit starts to flag or I’m in a funk (those “menopause moments”), my foolproof remedy is a road trip with my closest girlfriends. Roll down the windows, crank up the tunes, sing or talk it out and let the miles of highway roll behind you.

Nothing compares with the companionship of women who are close friends — from childhood or college, or newer friends. I need the adventure, the laughter and healing power of “girl talk.” I’m fortunate to have a husband who encourages me to travel with my friends so I can “talk it over and talk it out” and return to him uplifted and revived.

I’m also lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay area, an easy launching pad for long weekend trips to Canyon Country in southwest Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, where I feel my deepest spiritual connection with red rock canyons and moonlike sandscapes under blindingly blue skies.

One of my favorite pick-me-up road trips is the Grand Circle Loop. Driving through the red rock pinnacles and buttes, thick Ponderosa forests and wide-open desert gives me a sense of liberation unlike anything else. Depending on how much time I can steal, I might stop in Zion, Bryce or Grand Canyon national parks, or Arizona’s Monument Valley or Colorado’s Mesa Verde.

Sometimes when I’m in need of some deep pampering, I head to a spa and rely on the kindness of strangers for my healing. But my preferred path to healing will always be to immerse myself in the raw beauty of nature, with its vast spaces and silences. For as many reasons as there are to need healing, there are at least as many ways to heal. It’s why I say I’ll keep traveling until my heart stops.

Marybeth Bond
By Marybeth Bond
Marybeth Bond, an expert on world travel (gutsytraveler.com), has visited more than 90 countries, written 11 travel books with National Geographic and Travelers Tales and has appeared on The Oprah Show and CNN. When she's not talking about her children, she enjoys riding her long-distance, endurance bike ("Lightning") across the USA for challenge and charity.

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