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How travelling the World prepared me for my estranged Father’s Death

‘I’m sorry. It is too late. Your father passed away’.

As I hear those words on the other end of the line, I am more than 9000 km away from my home country and I’m trying hard not to faint. After a long pause, I tell the person on the phone that I will book a flight and travel back to Europe immediately. I didn’t expect saying this. Nor did I think I would actually go through with my intention. But what surprised me the most was to be struck with symptoms of grief from the very first moment I heard those words. It did not make sense. My father and I were estranged.

Why did I even care?

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

*One of the last beaches in New Zealand I walked on before travelling to Guatemala*

When I set off to travel the world 8 months earlier, I did not envisage that my father would come back into my life in this way. Just 24 hours before, when I flew from New Zealand to Guatemala, all I could feel was the anticipation and the excitement of doing this yoga retreat I had booked and travel Central- and South America like I had always dreamed of.

There are situations in life you think you are prepared for. But when they occur, despite your darnest efforts to convince yourself that you know exactly how you would react, the unexpected happens: you do what you least anticipated.

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

*The view from my room when I woke up on the day my father passed away – 9000km away from ‘home’*

I cried all the way back to Europe: in the taxi, in the queue, in the duty free shop where I bought a little clay angel to place on his grave, in the plane. I was going to bury my father. Even worse, I was going to bury what I yearned for all my life: the hope that we would ever have a normal father-daughter relationship. This hit me hard. But somehow travelling all these months before this happened, had taught me some important lessons.

Without realising it, travelling made me grow in a way that actually helped me prepare for this situation and gave me the tools I needed to cope better.

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

*The stormy lake on the day of the funeral – I sat on this bench for several hours to process what just had happened*

>>Travelling toughened me up.<<

I learnt that things go wrong and you just have to deal with it. It also taught me that everything always somehow works out in the end. If life gives you lemons, you indeed make the best tasting lemonade out of them! Travelling turns your anxieties into determination and confidence. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I pushed through this. I flew back, I confronted my past and I got closure. Sometimes things are not meant to be in life. I know in my heart that I have done everything I could all these years – the ball had been in his corner for more than ten years. Actually probably all his life. The only thing I could do now, is forgive and let go.

Perhaps, this was the greatest lesson of all: it does not matter how far you travel, you always take yourself and your past with you!

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

*The last sunset in New Zealand before flying to the other side of the world*

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>>Travelling made me more patient.<<

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Cutting ties with my father meant that I did not have a place to call my home any longer. In fact, I lost my home already when my mother passed away a decade earlier. My father had not only estranged me but everyone else in his family. And as a result, I was left to deal with this situation on my own. In essence, I was travelling to the country I was born in, but to check-in to a hotel made it feel as if I was going there on holiday. As if it was another stop on my world-trip. But not a good one. Everything felt so incredibly surreal.

In the past, I would have freaked. I would have cursed for having to organise a funeral from a hotel room. I would have felt like a victim. But instead, I coped remarkably well. My experiences on my travels taught me to approach difficult situations with a mindset of acceptance.

Most of all, it taught me that it could always be worse!

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

*Being back in my home country – it could indeed always be worse!*

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>>Travelling taught me to be more social.<<

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Before I set off to travel the world, I sometimes felt uncomfortable around people. When you travel, you don’t have a choice. You either come out of your shell or you end up being alone. I plucked up my courage and pushed myself to meeting new people. It was fate, that one day, I met a girl while couchsurfing in Australia that happened to know someone in my father’s city who was looking for a house-sitter! How big are the odds? I now had a much-needed refuge for a few weeks! If it wasn’t for putting myself in unknown (social) situations, this would have never happened.

The beauty about seeing the world, is that you are exposed to the generosity of people all the time. You never know who you might meet next and how one encounter could be the biggest blessing in disguise!

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

*A refuge for a few weeks to organise a funeral in my home country*

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>>Travelling made me appreciate the littlest things.<<

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If you travel on a budget, like me, you have to rough it sometimes. I once woke up with a cockroach in my t-shirt in a bungalow in Thailand. In Nepal, I didn’t have a proper hot shower for nearly two weeks. These experiences make you see the richness of all that we take for granted. You become so incredibly thankful for basically…everything.

When I travelled back to Europe to say goodbye to my father, I was mindfully in tune with life around me and I tried to focus on all that is good. I was thankful for the evenings spent by the waterfront drinking an ice-cold beverage or dangling my feet into the lake while watching the sunset. I was overjoyed to eat all the familiar dishes that I had not tasted for so long.

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

Had I not gone travelling and undergone a major personal development prior to this incident, I would have probably been so preoccupied with my anxious thoughts about the circumstances that I would have missed to be in the moment and not realised, that despite what life throws at you sometimes, you are still surrounded by so much wonder and beauty.

Above all else, travelling taught me that every experience in life is always what you make of it.

How travelling the World helped me prepare for my estranged Father’s Death

*In Western Australia 3 months before – unaware that my father was already battling with his illness (he didn’t know either).*

heart-blueDo you find travelling has made you grow in a way that helped you cope with an unforeseen situation better? I would love to read your comment below!

 

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How travelling the World prepared me for my estranged Father’s Death // I fulfilled my dream of travelling the world - unbeknown to me, my father was battling with an illness (he himself was unaware of) - while I was 9000km away from my home country, he passed away. This is how travelling beforehand prepared me for this unexpected situation.

 

 

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50 Comments

  • Natalie

    01.03.2016 at 19:06 Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Estrangement is painful and brings both relief, yet, you never fully are removed, I suppose. We have ties to family that are deeper than they appear. Thanks for sharing an important time in your life.

    • Serendipity Tess

      02.03.2016 at 07:24 Reply

      Thank you Natalie for your kind words! Estrangement is indeed a tricky one – can you ever fully ‘detach’ from your own parent? I guess not. I struggled with the ‘what if’s’ in the beginning but learned to rationalize these thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Miriam

    02.03.2016 at 12:51 Reply

    so sorry for your loss! It’s never easy to loose someone and it’s even worse when you are abroad and feel all alone. I admire you for sharing such a personal story

    • Serendipity Tess

      02.03.2016 at 15:33 Reply

      Thank you Miriam! I really appreciate it! Yes…i must admit…the first day was horrific! I couldn’t get hold of my boyfriend and had just landed in Guatemala – I knew nothing about the place and felt completely lost. I wouldn’t wish the feelings I had on anyone…

  • Jo

    02.03.2016 at 13:37 Reply

    Sorry for your loss hun. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. Its true traveling helps – its my way of seeking solace and sometimes just running away from the problems I have – Not to escape but to come back to them with a new perspective – It helps, no doubt ! This is what initially fueled my solo travels.

    • Serendipity Tess

      02.03.2016 at 15:34 Reply

      Hey Jo, thank you for sharing 🙂 I agree, i sometimes travelled just with the purpose of trying to find some answers to a problem or something that I needed resolved in my heart.

  • Bailey K.

    02.03.2016 at 15:27 Reply

    Wow. Thank you for sharing and being so vulnerable about this. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine. My blog is called ‘Travel Heals’ so you can imagine how much I agree with everything you said. Travel can be such a great tool in teaching us things we never thought we needed to be taught. Blessings to you.

    • Serendipity Tess

      02.03.2016 at 15:36 Reply

      Nice to meet you Bailey! I already have fallen in love with your blog! 🙂 I think travelling is such an amazing tool for personal development – especially solo travel, teaches you so much about yourself and the world – i don’t know how else I would cope with things 🙂

  • GlobalMary

    02.03.2016 at 15:41 Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss! I live far away from my family and travel a lot. I catch myself sometimes thinking what would I do if something like that would happen to me. How would I feel? Would I book a flight right away? Would I cry all the way?

    Thank you for sharing your experience! It’s deeply touching. Stay strong!

    • Serendipity Tess

      02.03.2016 at 16:06 Reply

      Thank you Mary! I really wholeheartedly hope this doesn’t happen to anybody. It’s awful – there is no lying about it. And best not to think about these things – and only deal with it when the situation occurs.

  • Naomi Schläger

    02.03.2016 at 17:51 Reply

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry the circumstances where sad, and that will never change. You do seem to cope really well and made this sad fact into something to learn and let go. I applaud you for doing so and realising it at the same moment. Thank you.
    Naomi Schläger recently posted…Free walking route around FlorenceMy Profile

    • Serendipity Tess

      02.03.2016 at 21:15 Reply

      Thank you Naomi for your very beautiful words – I did have really hard days along all of this – but I think I really somehow coped pretty well – and I’m convinced me gallivanting around the world has prepared me majorly for this!

  • Sally

    02.03.2016 at 18:21 Reply

    What an inspiring story and I’m so sorry for your loss. I was in America when my grandmother passed away in the UK and I couldn’t get home for the funeral, so I know what receiving that news is like. The sense of home can often be found more in the people than the place it seems.

    • Serendipity Tess

      02.03.2016 at 21:17 Reply

      Thank you for your lovely comment! Yes, receiving the news in such a way was a huge shock. I still feel queasy when I think of it – but I managed to get out on the other side ok…I’m sorry to hear about your grandma…and yes, i agree about the sense of home…happiness is only real when shared 😉

  • Stephanie

    02.03.2016 at 22:54 Reply

    So sorry for your loss! Very well written post and love your photos. I’ve also found travel has made me a more patient, flexible and social person that helps in coping with a lot of frustrating and difficult situations in life. Thanks for writing something so personal!

    • Serendipity Tess

      03.03.2016 at 10:00 Reply

      Thank you Stephanie for taking the time to write this. I’m glad you are also reaping the manifold benefits of travelling. We are very blessed to be able to experience this.

  • Assi / Global Afterparty

    03.03.2016 at 05:12 Reply

    Beautiful post indeed, I love your writing style! And I’m sorry this happened to you.

  • Tamason Gamble

    03.03.2016 at 13:31 Reply

    Sorry for your loss, I can only imagine the pain that a person goes through when they loss a parent. Travelling is an education and can prepare you mentally for so many things. I think that it can turn the meekest of people into stronger individuals.

  • Annemarie

    03.03.2016 at 17:54 Reply

    Wow, this article was powerful. I am very sorry about your loss. And I am in awe of how you coped and how strong you are by writing this and in such an honest and reflecting way. You’ll go places. Literally. Sending you lots of happiness for your next paths.

    • Serendipity Tess

      03.03.2016 at 18:08 Reply

      Ohhh thank you so much Annemarie! I really appreciate your lovely comment! This is very very kind of you! 🙂

  • Tarah Vongbouthdy

    03.03.2016 at 23:51 Reply

    Sorry to hear about your loss. I really enjoyed the story and the comparison to traveling. Traveling can really teach us a lot!
    Tarah Vongbouthdy recently posted…Llanos De Cortez WaterfallMy Profile

    • Serendipity Tess

      04.03.2016 at 09:32 Reply

      Thank you Tarah! Yes indeed – travelling has taught me a lot and how to deal with unexpected situations better.

  • Kyle

    04.03.2016 at 11:26 Reply

    This is really a great tribute. The beautiful images are something you’ll always be able to look back at and remember.

  • Roberta

    04.03.2016 at 12:23 Reply

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. I wish you all the best in life and I’m glad traveling thought you these great things so you can cope with it better. I know it can’t fully help but it still helps a bit 🙂

  • Sarah

    04.03.2016 at 16:13 Reply

    So sorry for your loss. I was overseas too when my father passed away a few years back. It’s the hardest thing in the world to get on a plane knowing what you are going back to. I wasn’t esteanged from my father but I understand the hopelessness of being far away from home.

    • Serendipity Tess

      04.03.2016 at 20:27 Reply

      Ahh bless you Sarah! Good to know there is someone out there who knows exactly how this feels like – and sad to know that this happened to you! It’s an awful thing indeed.

  • Joanna

    04.03.2016 at 17:14 Reply

    I am sorry for your loss. I find myself in parts of your article because me and my father are also estranged. He chose another life with another woman and made other children, forgetting he has other ones. I wouldn’t know if I would react like you if he would die. You were very brave!

    • Serendipity Tess

      04.03.2016 at 20:29 Reply

      It breaks my heart reading this – for one, because I can’t understand how a human being can just walk away like this and not make an effort to stay in touch. And secondly, because I thought I would react in a very different way. Strangely, I always had a deep bond with my father even if he wasn’t in my life for a long time. It was the strangest thing I have ever experienced! Thank you for your lovely comment! 🙂

  • Dunja

    05.03.2016 at 10:30 Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I can imagine how hard it is. I love this post (and your photography is on point!), it’s so true and it’s amazing how travelling can change us for the better. Wish you all the best <3
    Dunja recently posted…Sapere audeMy Profile

  • DeAnna

    05.03.2016 at 11:23 Reply

    Your blog is absolutely gorgeous by the way! I couldn’t have imagined the heartache that you must have felt, even if he was estranged. He was still the other half that helped bring you into this world. I’m so happy that you were able to find peace with it though, especially that it was peace found through something you love. I have always wanted to travel, but I’ll openly admit I’m a scardy cat and hate to leave unfamiliar ground. You’ve gained another subscriber from me !!

    • Serendipity Tess

      05.03.2016 at 11:30 Reply

      Thank you DeAnna! That is such a lovely comment! I really appreciate it! Oooh…if you ever intend to travel solo – i’ll gladly give you some tips…it’s an amazing thing to do! 🙂

  • Jeremy Nelson

    05.03.2016 at 11:51 Reply

    I am sorry you had to do that but it’s good to hear the positivity in your tone. One of my fears is actually that something will happen to a loved one while I’m abroad and I will wish I was there. Stay strong!

  • Dan

    05.03.2016 at 18:00 Reply

    My biggest fear is being far away in a family tragedy. I’m sorry for your loss and the way it occurred but thank you for sharing it in such a beautiful way. It never ceases to amaze me the impact travel can have on our mindset.
    Dan recently posted…Taj Mahal Photography Tips & Travel GuideMy Profile

    • Serendipity Tess

      06.03.2016 at 07:40 Reply

      Hi Dan – I don’t wish this on anybody! And yes – if it wasn’t for travelling before-hand, I would have struggled much more.

  • Jessica Anna

    06.03.2016 at 03:30 Reply

    What a heartwarming and inspiring post! Travelling the world is my absolute dream, I love learning languages and experiencing diverse cultures. One day I hope to have an experience through travel that changes my life x
    Jessica Anna recently posted…Mac Prep + Prime Fix + | Worth the hype?My Profile

    • Serendipity Tess

      06.03.2016 at 07:33 Reply

      I hope for you not quite in this way – wouldn’t want to wish this on anybody.

  • Jane akua

    06.03.2016 at 06:25 Reply

    Sorry for your lose, such a beautiful post, and amazing pictures.

  • Jennifer johnson

    06.03.2016 at 10:08 Reply

    Like you, i have lost my father. It is never easy, but the void is still there. Your travels will bring memories of new adventures in your life.

    • Serendipity Tess

      07.03.2016 at 07:44 Reply

      Thank you Jennifer for sharing! I really appreciate it! Happy Travels!

  • Tim

    06.03.2016 at 15:24 Reply

    What a touching story. I am truly sorry for your loss and it is sad that life throws us for into different scenarios throughout our lives. Life is full of ups and downs and what we do with it makes us stronger or it consumes us. Live life to the fullest and be happy and true to yourself. Thank you for sharing

    • Serendipity Tess

      07.03.2016 at 07:43 Reply

      Thank you for your beautiful words Tim! I really appreciate it 🙂 And I completely, wholeheartedly agree with you! Making ourselves happy or miserable takes the same amount of energy…it’s wise to choose well! 🙂

  • Just Us

    06.03.2016 at 18:45 Reply

    We’re really sorry for your loss – thank you for sharing your story! Hugs from Iceland <3
    http://www.justus.is

    • Serendipity Tess

      07.03.2016 at 07:39 Reply

      Thank you – that is really kind! Need to visit Iceland soon 🙂

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