When planning for any trip, the absolute last thing that you want to think about is what if something happens to your loved ones while you are gone. Unfortunately however, life doesn’t always work out the way that we hope so the best thing to do is be prepared (mentally & physically) for every possible situation and hope for the best.
Going into our trip, I knew that I would possibly have to face the reality of losing a family member while I was thousands of miles away from home. When we left at the end of July, my grandpa had been off and on sick for a month, and was in and out of the hospital for various reasons. So, at the end of August when my Mom told me that he had been admitted to hospice, while I wasn’t surprised, I was still devastated. I was so far from home and there was nothing that I could do to help or to comfort my family. In the early morning hours on Monday, September 5th, my grandfather passed away at the age of 92.
Receiving this news would have been devastating regardless of my physical location. Before this trip, I lived in New York City, which was 900 miles from my family. My worst nightmare was that something would happen at home and it would take me too long to get to my family. It’s everyone’s biggest fear when they leave their loved ones, I’m sure of it.
But when you are thousands of miles and 6 time zones away from your loved ones, getting bad news is definitely worst case scenario.
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on dealing with grief, but I have compiled some of the things that helped me to cope after my grandfather passed. Like I said before, I hope that you never have to even think about this while you are traveling, but if you do, I hope these help.
1. Travel Insurance
Take a family death out of the situation, travel insurance is a 100000% MUST for anyone planning a long-term trip. It might be a pain in the ass to pay for, and hopefully you never have to use it, but if you don’t have it and come to a situation where you need it, it will cost you a whole lot more than the insurance policy would have.
We have travel insurance through World Nomads and for a few dollars a day, we are protected if anything happens on our trip. This includes (but is not limited to) travel delays, lost luggage and yes, a death in the family. If you have a death in your immediate family, travel insurance will cover the cost of your travel arrangements home. One less thing to worry about when you are trying to get back to your loved ones as soon as possible.
2. Technology is your best friend
For reasons that I won’t explain in this post, it didn’t make sense for me to fly home. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to be there. The absolute hardest thing for me was not being with my Mom while she coped with the loss of her father. All I wanted to do was give my Mom a hug and make sure that she was okay.
Thank God for technology like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. Being able to connect with my family and actually be able to see them made me feel 100 times better. The same weekend that my grandfather died, we also welcomed my 2nd niece into the World and I was able to video chat with my brother from the hospital.
It’s nowhere near the same as being face-to-face with the people you love, but it’s pretty freakin’ cool that I can see and talk to my family whenever I need to.
3. Take time to grieve
When you’re traveling as fast as we are (a different city every 3-4 nights), it is difficult to allow yourself minutes/hours/days of down time. You feel like you need to make the most of every city you go to and what’s the point of traveling the World if you’re just going to sit in your hotel room, right? While I would normally agree with this point of view, if you are dealing with a personal loss, you need to take some time to disconnect and process your feelings.
Thankfully, I was in Greece at the time and I can’t think of a better place to mentally & emotionally disconnect and recharge for a few days. So that’s exactly what I did. I sat on a beach chair, drank some wine, read a book, and I even cried a little.
Also, it should go without saying that talking to someone who is actually with you is really important. While technology is great for reaching your family on the other side of the World, time zones are a bitch and your parents might not want to talk at 3am their time (weird, I know.) I am very fortunate that I am traveling with my best friend, who has been a constant level of support since we left the States. He sat with me while I cried, listened whenever I needed someone to talk to, and even helped to cheer me up by buying me a banana split one day while we were out to lunch. It was a small gesture, but it meant a lot.