This is a refresh story of several life changes, heartbreaks, great challenges and a healing that continues today.
My story starts during a period in my life where I felt devastated, without hope and alone. My story made it’s way across the world as I refreshed, revived and became stronger. My story continues to this day, in India and Canada, where I am living my best life at 65.
I have always been drawn to traveling. The excitement of going somewhere new and unknown. Different food, contrasts in cultures and languages. When I was younger, I loved the stories of the classic explorers traveling to Africa and the far East. I read everything I could lay my hands on and dreamed of one day visiting the places in the books and magazines I spent hours leafing through.
I never managed the nerve to adventure alone, although that was my obsession. My friends sadly didn’t share my vision of exploring, and only liked the Caribbean or Mexico or Florida for a week or two at a resort. My husband wasn’t keen either, so I contented myself with North American travel and exploring my home country of Canada.
In April 2011, after a mental breakdown, my best friend, husband and partner of over 20 years, killed himself. I was beside myself with grief, shock and guilt. Completely devastated, I didn’t know how I would have the strength to carry on with my life – all I could see ahead was a great, hazy gulf.
Nothing made sense and I drifted numbly through the funeral arrangements, lawyer appointments and the mountain of paperwork that comes with the death of a spouse. I gave up my business, my dreams and grew more and more depressed.
Friends and family were wonderful and supportive but as the months wore on, they too moved on with their own lives and concerns. My time alone was filled with questions that had no answers, doubts and guilty “what ifs”. I was 58, utterly alone and grief-stricken.
It was a call from my English cousin that started me on my healing journey that has led to where I am now. “Come over to us and we’ll take care of you” she said. “It will be good for you to get away….”
It was a welcome, lovely invitation and I felt comforted. There was also an opportunity to add on Paris and Ireland, but would I be able to finally travel alone? How would it be? Could I do it?
I threw myself into the planning, and researched everything down to the pretty hotel in Galway I’d stay at. I picked all the things that I had wanted to do for so long, a cooking class in Paris, a leisurely visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Modern in London, a tour of Connemara in Ireland and an evening in the oldest pub in Dublin.
I spent hours planning, booking and researching my trip. As I did this, I became focused and put his death temporarily out of my mind.
The trip was a success and I was both exhilarated and encouraged to plan more places to visit on my own. I had made some mistakes (over-packing), had some hiccups (missing my tour in Galway) but in all, had an amazing holiday that lifted my grief and recharged me.
When I returned in the late fall, I was sidelined again by a massive depression that lingered for months. It was as if my trip never happened and it was the week after his death again. I struggled throughout the winter and finally accepted counselling to help me come to grips with the emotional fall-out.
When spring came, I felt better and then another major event in my life developed. My elderly father was showing the first signs of dementia. He had been living alone and I noticed that he couldn’t look after himself or his apartment. I made the decision to sell my home and move us to a new place and take care of him. I would stay with him for almost 4 years until he needed full-time care.
The first years were happy and Dad was independent enough that I could travel without worrying. Soon, trips to Spain, Italy and Croatia were on my radar and I stayed away longer – taking my time and soaking up the culture. I saw the fabulous museums in Washington I had read about, traveled to the far eastern parts of Turkey and explored Lima and Machu Picchu in Peru. A small luxury cruise to the Amazon headwaters was the highlight of the year. I turned 60 – marking my independence as a solo traveler.
During the time with Dad, I was able to accomplish another dream of building my own house. I was looking for a quiet place, by the water where I could have a garden, my books and music. I found that place, in another province and far away from my old life. With the help of a local carpenter, I renovated an old home (sending my drawings and plans over the internet) and now have a pretty spot in a small, island community.
I liked traveling on my own and became confident in my ability to be self-sufficient. It was an amazing transformation from my first trip alone, to the others that followed. As I traveled, I changed. I met more people – different than myself, but with a common love of exploring. I tried new foods, I saw many beautiful art galleries and lovely museums, natural areas and historic cities. I saw different cultures and heard unfamiliar languages.
And I made a network of new friends, and as that happened my life expanded and my heart healed.
In 2016 I went to India for the first time. I had planned on making a four month trip to Sri Lanka and Asia before my new home was ready, and was thinking of adding India as well. My friends had visited the previous year and the trip was sealed when I saw their photos. Arriving in India, I soon fell in love with the people and the country and after six weeks felt rejuvenated.
I was ready to start working again too. So, why not combine my passion for exploring with a business serving women travelers? In 2016, I created Beauty of India Tours with my Indian partner, offering tours for small groups, couples and solo women.
With the business, I have the opportunity of searching out unique and authentic experiences for our travelers. My apartment in Agra is a lively center for hosting tour guests and friends from all over the world. Spending six months in India and six months in Canada gives me the best of two, very distinct, cultures.
My life is richer, fuller and more complete now than it has ever been. The online women travel communities, FaceBook and business group members, support and validate me. I am able to contribute my knowledge to assist other women. I’m doing what I love, with people that love and care for me, in a country I consider my second home.
Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh group. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen. There is no one way to live a life, just your way.