After my husband died and the widow fog started to clear I began to feel anxious about doing just about everything. I wanted to get out and travel. I wanted to not be a sad and lonely widow. I just had a difficult time taking that first step.
I had always made the coffee in the morning but suddenly found the process overwhelming. Did I make the pot for 8 cups or only 4 now?
Going to the grocery store while usually mundane became a mine field of memories and panic would set in. What is it that I like to eat? I had been cooking for 4 and now it was just me.
One time when I decided to “be a good mom” and fill up the car with gas for my son’s trip back to college, I was surprised to discover both the inspection and registration were overdue, there was a nail in one tire causing a slow leak and the car needed an oil change too. Thankfully the station helped me take care of this but you can see how one begins to lose confidence in handling life after the death of a spouse.
The to do list had been ignored since I had trouble thinking but slowly I started to do what needed to be done. I began simply by writing a list of only 3 things to do each day. I figured I could manage 3. Sometimes I would put walk the dog on the list. He liked that one and I did too.
Fear was a constant and I avoided being alone. I made an effort to accept invitations and visited with my neighbors on a daily basis.
But at night I had trouble sleeping. I would relive that last day over and over and try to change the ending. If only I had done this… or why didn’t I do that. The guilt can be devastating.
The first holiday after my husband died was the worst. I planned ahead to avoid being sucked into sadness. After realizing how difficult the holidays could be after the death of a spouse, I was bracing myself for the upcoming milestones. There is the first birthday without him, our wedding anniversary date and of course the one year anniversary of his death.
For his birthday I planned a family reunion away from home to Cape Cod and New Hampshire. We could drive there and spending the week in a different place surrounded by loved ones seemed to be a good idea. It worked out well and other than the time when my mom decided to take photos of all the couples at the adults only dinner, the trip was good.
But I really started to get anxious about the one year anniversary. I had plenty of time to be sad and cry. I had been grieving just fine but I wanted to runaway. I wanted to avoid the pain and do something totally different. I would do it all by myself and have time for some soul searching.
So I planned a trip to Thailand.
Thailand is on the other side of the Earth from my home in New York and I found an adventure tour that would take care of my hotels and transportation within the country. G Adventures offers trips to multiage groups and many single women travelers take the tours because I believe it gives you a sense of security while still enabling you to have an an adventure while traveling internationally. G Adventure tours provided a variety of fun adventures from beaches to jungle trekking, bathing elephants to cooking classes. I was roomed with another woman to save on expenses and our guide led us on vans, trains and planes throughout the country.
Having suddenly and tragically lost my husband I realized there is no time like the present to embrace life so I packed a bag and started a blog to let my friends and family know I was OK.
When I arrived in Bangkok I was met by someone from the tour and taken by taxi to the hotel. For the first 2 days I was alone and bravely took public transportation to some of the places that were not part of the tour. I say bravely because the language is so different and not too many people speak English. With my map and a smile I did ask for assistance, especially when I got on the wrong train. Everyone I met was more than willing to try and help me. Read more about my trip here: Solo Day in Bangkok
That was the first year and I am still healing by challenging myself to go out and embrace life, have adventures and make memories.
Believe me there are still days where I feel sluggish and would rather lie in bed. And sometimes I do just that. I learned early on that being gentle with myself was key to my healing. But generally I have always liked to make plans and have something to look forward to so planning trips has been a way for me to move forward in my new life as a widow.
I looked into some different “Meet Ups” and those were interesting and a nice diversion. One time I went to the Bronx Zoo and had a private tour with some people. I could have walked around by myself but joining a meet up group often leads to more outings and new friends.
I had tried yoga classes which I enjoyed and another time I signed up for a breathing class. I figured that trying new things would help me not feel lonely and I was right. The breathing class was a bit weird but also therapeutic.
I didn’t know anyone else doing these things but when you go out and try something new it helps build confidence.
My son studied abroad in Japan so I traveled solo to visit him. I wanted to make the most of my trip so once again I signed up for a small group tour of Japan. I did lots of sightseeing with my son and then we joined the small tour group called Inside Japan Tokaido Trail. . Our guide led us around Tokyo, then to the city of Hakone where some people climbed Mount Fuji, then onto to Kyoto and finally back to Tokyo. I find going on the tour a great way to learn more about the country while still having some time to explore on my own.
One morning in Kyoto we all had a free day. We could use our rail and bus passes and go anywhere. I woke up excited to see some sights and my son decided he needed more sleep.
I could have read a book and sat around waiting for him, or I could go on a solo adventure and meet him for lunch. Which did I do?
The adventure of course!!
I packed my backpack with water and a map and headed over to the train station. I knew what I wanted to see but wasn’t sure how to get there so I stopped at the information center in the clean Kyoto station. The ladies there spoke fluent English and gave me a bus map and guided me to the right bus terminal. I got off 2 stops early so I would have a chance to walk through the neighborhood.
I could tell by the crowd that I was near the Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji.
This Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan was originally a villa owned by a shogun and completed in 1397. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955 and is covered in gold-leaf coating. The reflection on the still pond is impressive.
As we entered the grounds you could hear the gasps of awe as we set eyes on the shimmering gold leaf landmark. I’ve never had a building take my breath away but this one did. What is equally fascinating is the reflection of the pavilion in the still pond. The gardens surrounding the pond with the well maintained islands bring such a feeling of peace and tranquility. I could have stayed here all day.
But alas I had a lunch date and needed to get back to the hotel. I found the nearby bus stop and even got on the express bus back to the station.
My smile stretched widely as I greeted my well rested travel partner. I’m glad I challenged myself to a solo adventure in Japan despite the language barrier.
Nothing like facing challenges to help you gain confidence.
Travel has been so healing for me. I love to see new places. The research and the planning before the trip are exciting too and if possible I like to find a fictional book to read that that takes place in the site I plan on visiting.
For more adventures from my trip to Japan click here: One Day in Hakone Japan