Should We Feel Guilty for Grieving Travel?

Today, I was supposed to be boarding a flight to Rome. Friday, I was supposed to be getting married in Santa Maria in Trastevere. No, my wedding was not canceled because of Coronavirus. It was canceled because my relationship came to a sudden end three months ago. I’m pragmatic though. I’m not the first person in the world to experience this and certainly not the last. So, I decided to do what I do best – project plan my grief – to step outside of my emotions and manage them the way that my family, friends, faith, science and therapists tell me I should…

  1. Don’t make any sudden decisions.
  2. Avoid contact with aforementioned ex.
  3. Give yourself space and forgiveness to feel your feelings.
  4. Focus on the things that make you fulfilled and whole.

The good news is that a global pandemic took care of steps 1 through 3. However, it brought step 4 to a screeching halt as travel is a large part of what brings me personal fulfillment – and right now I needed it more than ever. Within days of my breakup I was planning trips – Vancouver in April, Puglia in June, Oaxaca in October. I planned to fill the fiance-sized hole in my life with new experiences until I remembered that life is so much bigger than a bad breakup and that I could again feel fulfilled.

So what happens when the project plan doesn’t pan out? At first, I felt overwhelming anxiety. Next, I felt ashamed. As I lost my ability to travel, others lost their jobs, their health, and their stability. So I came to this question: should I feel guilty for grieving travel?

Pondering an answer led me to better understand why travel is so important to me and probably you too if you’re still reading. Travel challenges me…

  • To try new foods.
  • To learn new histories.
  • To solve problems in foreign situations.
  • To understand ways of living different than my own.
  • To navigate, really navigate.
  • To drive on lawless roads.
  • To address a stranger using a foreign language.
  • To open my mind to new perspectives.
  • To empathize.
  • And perhaps most challenging – to be truly present and at peace.

Ultimately – travel makes me better at being a human. But what is probably most human right now is understanding that not only is my travel grief ok, it is not unique. Coronavirus has made the world smaller than ever. Every person on the planet is grieving something in this exact moment. And so there has never been a better time to practice empathy for one another and remember that absolutely no one is suffering alone. And while we could probably always find someone who’s worse off, it doesn’t invalidate our feelings.

Many cling to the hope that soon they will be able to return to their life before Coronavirus. The life I was living before Coronavirus no longer exists. Two months ago, that thought made me gasp for air. While I would be lying if I said my chest didn’t feel tight at the thought now and again, I now primarily see that one bad breakup + one global pandemic has provided an incredible opportunity for a life reset. I can refocus on my values, practice gratitude, redefine my goals, start this very blog and of course – plan my next adventure. Most of us cannot change the situation we are in during this time. But we can change the person who comes out on the other side.

So where does this all leave me? It leaves me gainfully employed, healthy, and virtually surrounded by the support and love of family and friends. It leaves me thankful for the many blessings I do have, and more excited than ever to take my next flight. If you’ve made it with me to the end – I have a hunch that you’ll be hopping on the next possible flight as well. And when we arrive at our destination, we will be more grateful and more fulfilled by our ability to travel than ever before. Until then, it’s ok to miss it.

Photo by Meg Dillon


  • Ronda

    You are so right Hannah! We are doing a global-wide reset. Your words definitely resonated with me and I’m sure with so many others. We all need a change in latitude every once in awhile. I want a first hand look at the clearer ozone layer soon! Thanks for sharing!

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