The last few years have been challenging, and after leaving a toxic relationship I had been slowly rediscovering myself and travel was a big part of that journey. I had started to feel like I was on the right path again. I could see clearly into the future, and it was bright.
But then my Dad died. I felt like a huge fist had burst in from the side and punched me right off that path. Hard. I was flailing, falling. I suddenly didn’t know where I was. And just like that, the one thing I had been living for, that had been my guiding light, went dark. The thought of travel didn’t fill me with joy or enthusiasm anymore. I was lost, and numb to everything.
Six days later, I was on a plane to Portugal. It was a birthday treat for myself. I knew Dad wanted me to go, especially as I was thinking about doing a skydive on the day of my birthday. He had told me two days before he died, when I was having second thoughts about doing it, “It will be something that you will remember for the rest of your life”. When he died just two days later the decision was made, and I booked the skydive in his honour.
Normally setting off on a trip is a happy time filled with anticipation and impatience to get to the destination. This time I cried nearly all the way to the airport. Sitting on the train the tears rolled down my face like someone had turned a tap on. I couldn’t stop them coming, I could only face the window and let them fall.
Arriving in Lisbon I checked into my accommodation – which was lovely – and went out to explore the area. I just walked around, aimlessly, not caring about anything. The wonder I would normally feel in a new place wasn’t there, I didn’t feel interested in anything. I sat on a park bench for a while and listened to some live music, looking around wondering if people could see my grief.
Leaving Lisbon early the next day I was picked up and taken to an airfield for the flight down to the south coast for the skydive. Having to focus on the skydive and the safety briefing helped because it distracted me. Flying to 15,000 feet I was more scared than anything else. When the door opened and I had to hang out of the plane I closed my eyes and thought of Dad. I thought if I died at that point I would be with him.
As it happens, I landed in one piece and immediately burst into tears – the huge relief of making it down and of having such an amazing experience yet knowing I could never tell my Dad about it was so overwhelming. It was definitely a bittersweet experience.
Despite the adrenaline of that day, I felt like I was in a black hole the next two days. I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to go exploring, so I bought a ticket to the city sightseeing tours. I have never done these before as I usually prefer to walk, but this time I decided I would rather just sit down and see the sights from behind a window. The ticket included the bus, the trams and a boat. It was actually the best thing to do at the time because I got to see more of Lisbon than I might have otherwise.
I will never forget this trip (my Dad was right) – but not just because of the skydive. Because I did it when the grief was so raw and because it changed my feelings towards travelling.
Now almost three months later, I don’t know how to rediscover that path I had been on. The worst part is I don’t even know if I want to get back on it. I was totally lost, and still am. I don’t know the point in going to new places when I can’t tell my Dad about it anymore, or show him the pictures. It tears at my heart that I can never tell Dad about my skydive and show him the photos.
Travelling is meant to bring joy but I feel guilty at the thought of enjoying something when my Dad cannot anymore. Losing my Dad has turned the whole travelling experience into something very bittersweet. I used to cherish my new adventures and now they have been dulled.
But of course there are still other people to share my experiences with, and I still need to focus on myself and make memories that I can look back on. At the end of the day I know this is what Dad would have wanted, it’s just hard to feel the energy for it.
I really hope I get the light back from travelling, but I do wonder if it’s going to be slightly dulled forever.