I remember my first vacation after I learned that my marriage was ending. It was a family vacation I had planned while happily married months prior. I had a beautiful trip planned to visit the coast of Portland for the Thanksgiving holiday. I reserved a lovely house on the beach and imagined all of us sitting by the fire, doing puzzles and taking long walks on the beach.
About a month before that trip my then husband made his announcement that he would be ending the marriage. Caught up in the whirlwind of that trauma, I forgot to cancel the reservation. I then had to decide to either forgo the lost deposit or embark on the trip with my two kids alone. I decided to do the latter in spite of my fear and the uncertainty of how any of us would feel. I packed up my two children, got on a flight and found my way to the house.
Traveling (even with children) after a divorce can be both invigorating and challenging. What I have come to learn from my experience is that it’s also absolutely essential. If I were to list ten things anyone should do post-divorce, it would be to take an adventurous trip somewhere you’ve never been. There’s something about the empowerment and virility of setting out into the unknown with nothing to lose. The risk feels good and it harnesses any bit of courage left in your body.
That being said, it’s important to be mindful about where you go, how you arrive and how present you are while there. Vacations have a beginning middle and end, just like most of life. When you can embark with full consciousness, you increase your chances of having a successful trip and you also benefit more because you’re aware and awake through the journey.
Whether you're taking a trip in spite of the divorce (like I did) or you’re intentionally planning one now, there are a few things you’ll want to do to prepare so you have the best vacation possible.
1. Go somewhere healing
The word "healing" is used loosely here because everyone finds different settings to be healthy. If the frenetics of a city are your way of finding peace, then that’s where you should go. If it’s a beach or nature, then this is your choice. Just make sure it’s somewhere you can feel better than where you are now, and that it will offer space for healing to take place.
2. Set an intention
Take a few moments to really reflect on why you’re taking this vacation. Is it to escape your struggle? Are you going as a right of passage into your new life? Is it a pilgrimage to uncover something about yourself? Getting clear about your intentions will deepen the meaning of your trip, and it will set you up for a more mindful experience. Intention lays a foundation that connects you more deeply to the purpose and desire for your travel. This is a beautiful way to start the process and it might even help you choose the best place to visit.
3. Bring a journal.
If you’ve been going through a divorce, then I hope your journal has become an extension of your arm. If not, be sure to pick one up for the trip. Everything you experience will be part of your journey into your new life and documenting all of it will be something you won’t want to regret. You’re actually building memories - not trying to escape a life you don’t want - so be sure to keep track of feelings, adventures, places visited and special moments.
4. Make a playlist
Music beautifully sets the mood for anything we do, and this will be particularly important if you’re planning a road trip. Put together some music that speaks to your future and where you want to go. You might decide on a theme or era, but develop a playlist that makes you happy and leaves you feeling inspired. You can use your intention as a guidepost here if you’re struggling to even know what you like.
5. Go off the grid
Commit to leaving as much technology as you can behind and make yourself unavailable except for emergencies. If you travel and bring your unwanted baggage with you, you’re really limiting your opportunity to get a reprieve. If you have to check-in with kids, that’s fine, but omit or limit contact with your ex or anyone who brings the negative into your present positive experience. Checking out to check-in is wonderful practice in any setting.
Vacations after divorce often represent new beginnings or a clearing of bad energy. This vacation will be special because you’ll never take a first vacation again in this way. Be present, intentional and mindful about what you’re doing, and really use it as the healing opportunity it is.