Wonders Unknown: Transforming Grief Through Travel
by Paula Meyer
I love traveling, I love organizing events, and I love meeting new people and new cultures!
For nearly 12 years, from 2007 to 2019, I worked for a well-known author as an event director and organized amazing events for him. I learned so much, met extraordinary people, and got to travel to incredible places. This experience was the beginning of my interest in traveling around the world. By 2012, I had traveled a bit with this job, mostly in the United States, and I wanted more! The intention I began incorporating into my meditations was: I Am a World Traveler.
And boy, did my future come true!
Since then, I have traveled to 20 countries and 42 U.S. states. I have been blessed with so many wonderful adventures! My beloved husband, Gary, was able to travel with me for many years and we created so many memories that I treasure, especially after he died from a courageous battle with throat cancer on June 1, 2018.
However, it only happened because I took action! Intentions don’t become reality without action. I believe that when you state your intentions to the Universe, the Universe waits to see if you are really serious by the actions you take. For me to become a world traveler in 2012, there were some things I had to do: get a passport, buy luggage, discuss with my family, discuss with my boss. Once all these action steps were completed, the Universe knew I was serious and gave me the final stamp of approval to become a world traveler!
I began a new adventure in March 2019 and left my job nine months after Gary died. The goal of this new adventure was about redefining Paula without Gary. Learning how to cope with the loss and overwhelming sadness. I chose to take a break from work in order to heal my heart, heal my body, spend time with family, nurture my soul, and find joy again. Work was a great and necessary distraction in the months after Gary passed, and it was time to let those distractions go to find “me” again.
What did I call this new adventure? Let’s consider a few words, as defined by Merriam-Webster:
Definition: A break or change from a normal routine (as of employment): We tend to think of a sabbatical in academic terms, as a school year free from teaching duties that can be devoted to research, travel, and writing. Traditionally, this occurs every seventh year. We trace the origins of both sabbatical and Sabbath to the Greek word sabbaton. Sabbaton itself traces to the Hebrew word shabbāth, meaning “rest.”
Kind of, but this implies that after some point in time, I go back to my previous work. The educational aspect of it certainly is appropriate given the fact that I’m navigating this journey of grief and learning how to recreate my life without Gary. And yes, REST is the key word!
Definition: A period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted.
Sort of, my program called “working” was being suspended for a while. But again, it implies when the time is up, I go back to what I was doing before. I love that a synonym for hiatus is “void,” and I certainly was jumping into the void!
Definition: A withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.
Probably more appropriate since there is no implied timeframe or return to something. It’s open-ended.
Instead, I coined a new term for me: Wonders Unknown.
Definition of wonder: A rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience.
Adding in the word unknown created a great phrase when I began this new journey into widowhood.
Let’s be perfectly clear, I don’t want to be a widow and it’s so unfair to be one at such a young age. I was 54 when Gary died at only 62. I feel cheated of 15-20 years that should have been ours to share and to experience each other in a new phase of life. And I don’t want to be labeled as a widow, but the truth is that’s what I am.
So, I’m embracing it. I am forever grateful for the 21 years we shared together. I’m choosing to see this unfortunate place I’m in as a very fortunate experience that will propel me into wonders unknown, where Gary will be looking on and supporting me where he can, laughing at me when I do silly things, sending me signs when I’m sad, and more importantly sending me signs when I’m on the right track.
A widow’s wonders into the unknown. My version of wu-wu!!
Who is Paula now? That is the looming question! From March 2019 to March 2020, I was on a traveling journey! I visited eleven countries, took a cruise, and made a few cross-country road trips. Then Covid hit. It was another opportunity for me to slow down and go inward. To really get to know myself. That’s when I wrote my book! Spirit urged me to share my story of navigating grief. Because everyone was suffering grief in one form or another because of the pandemic. We still are grieving.
Travel is a great way to heal, and I plan to continue my vagabond lifestyle! My goal is to find joy and wonder in every place I go. I want to find the uniqueness of each place, its essence, not just the usual touristy stuff. I will be watching for signs of the divine, keeping my eyes open for the beauty all around me, and being present in order to experience them fully.
A life of joy and purpose through travel, this is what Gary would want for me. And it all started with that intention in my heart many years ago: I Am a World Traveler! Without knowing it, I created a way for me to cope with my future loss. My goal is to get to 30 countries and all 50 U.S. states by the end of 2025. Isn’t life grand!
Dive into wonders unknown with me, the water is perfect!
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Paula Meyer, widowed at age 54, is the author of Great Loss, Greater Love: The Art & Heart of Navigating Grief. She has traveled to 20 countries, some multiple times, and 42 U.S. States. Her goal is to visit 30 countries and all 56 U.S. States and territories by the end of 2025. Learn more at greatlossgreaterlove.com.