Why I Travel: Silver Linings After Experiencing a Loss

by AdventureWomen Ambassador Kristen Martel

“We all have defining moments that shape our life. Some may seem minor, like getting really lost on my bicycle when I was seven years old. Other moments are colossal, like holding my first newborn for the first time. But my most defining moment, the death of my first husband, in my mind, created a stoppage in my family’s timeline. Every memory is now labeled either “pre” or “post” loss.

Looking back on my pre-loss life, it was a model of consistency. I was blessed with a rewarding career, loving marriage, and lots of healthy, happy children. In between the sweet chaos of baby years, I traveled either for business, or more likely, for pleasure to relax with my husband and escape to places that were sundrenched and sandy.

When life turns upside-down, everything changes. And so, it did for me with travel. For years, I had to let it go. I focused on my kids and tried to create a sense of normalcy for them. Now, ten years later, I am thrilled to say the children are heading to college, I am remarried, and travel has re-entered my life with a passion. But this time it has taken on a much different purpose.

We grow by stretching our boundaries and comfort zones, and it was time for me to grow in ways I could control. I decided, post-loss, to always say yes to travel and adventure as long as I knew I would be safe.

I am humbled to say that these are my new defining moments. They can be big and bold, like the time I repelled off the cliff of a slot canyon with 120’ vertical drop in Zion National Park, or deep sea dived with nurse sharks, lion fish and lobsters in the BVI. Sometimes the moments are gentler, like the time I hand-fed a ball of grass and tree bark to an elephant in Nepal, or when I whispered a quiet prayer to Pachamama (Mother Earth) after summiting Huayna Picchu, the steep mountain keeping watch over Machu Picchu.

For me, AdventureWomen trips are unique because they seamlessly blend four forces:

  • The women-only aspect promotes empowerment and compassion among guests (like the time one of us sat on a cactus in Utah, and we formed a human blockade so others could pull prickles out of her behind).
  • Adventures take you far beyond a bus tour and into the wilderness by way of camel, long-tail boat or bicycle (to name just a few of the modes of transportation)!
  • Each trip includes the company’s hallmark – encounters with local women that stem from founder Susan Eckert’s belief in the value and empowerment of women-to-women cultural experiences (like helping to harvest potatoes with Quechua women in the Andes Mountains of Peru).
  • Accommodations and amenities that are comfortable, yet reflect the culture you are visiting (like quaint mountain lodges in the foothills of the Himalayas that are the coziest and most charming places I’ve ever stayed at).

In my post-loss life:

I travel with AdventureWomen to show my kids how women can be independent and brave. I hope to set the bar for my daughters, and to set the expectation for my sons to believe in and support strong women.

I travel to honor the lives of those who left us too soon.

I travel for perspective – to understand what life looks like for women around the globe. (As different as our lives are, I am always taken aback by the things we have in common.)

And perhaps most importantly, I travel to see what it takes for me and my children to make the world a better place – one small act, donation, or kind gesture at a time.”