And So We Traveled, Part One

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And So We Traveled, Part One

Words by Dalene Heck

BlogHer'12 Voices of the YearFor many months now, we have shared some very intimate details of our life. In a lot of ways, we don’t consider our website a typical travel blog – it has become as much about our personal story as it is about the places we visit.

And this online story is missing one important part – Pete and I have never fully shared our reasons for traveling. We’ve dropped snippets here and there in a few bullet points scattered around the web, or in response to random emails from curious readers. This is by far the number one question asked of us.

The truth is, it is a hard story to tell.

This life that we love so much, this one that people call us “so lucky” to have, was born out of inconceivable trauma.

Thus, I have shied away from telling it fully. Pete and I have gotten very good at condensing our story to just one or two factual sentences. We’ve stripped it of the emotion it is truly worthy of, emotion that we have suppressed, or at least, learned to deal with.

But with any trauma that one endures, the accompanying emotions can easily find their way back to the surface. Sometimes it’s random – at the chance of hearing an old song, smelling a familiar perfume, or staring at scenery that reminds you of another time and another place.

Most poignantly, however, emotions rise at anniversaries of the trauma.

We are in the middle of our five year anniversary. I say “in the middle” because it is not just one single date or event that was the catalyst to our life of travel, but instead a stretch of time where crushing blows stacked up, one after another. Where we thought that life just couldn’t possibly get any worse, that we had endured all we could handle, right before the next blow came. It culminated in one final shot to the chest, one event that shredded our insides and left us gutted and gasping.

Several months after that final event, I woke up one night with a start. I grabbed a piece of paper, a pen, and I started writing frantically. I had never before in my life felt such a compulsion to write, never before did I have such an intense need to dispense of words that were exploding in my head. To do so brought an onslaught of emotion but also some instant relief; I needed to spell it out, to put on paper these unthinkable things that had occurred. It was then that I started to believe that it actually happened, that it was more than just visions of an awful movie with a ludicrous plot line.

(Here is that piece of writing, mostly unchanged from when I wrote it then. I entitled it “Seven Months”.)

My beloved big sis, and one of my very best friends, was gone. Just like that. Two days after her thirty-fourth birthday and many, many, days too soon.

The combination of all these formidable events, as horrible and life-changing as they would be in their own time, had been amassed into a mere seven months. And starting on that fateful day in July, I felt their full impact.

Cue massive breakdown, stress leave from work, and an unending string of failed attempts at therapy. Days in my pajamas, nights spent sleepless watching TV on the couch. A ceaseless wave of messy emotion. Anti-depressants and social withdrawal. Pete’s ever-compassionate and kind soul waited on me patiently, left to deal with his grief on his own.

I flailed at the bottom of a deep black hole for several months, frantically thrashing to find a way out. I took my pills. I ate better. I exercised. I wrote. Nothing seemed to help, and I sunk deeper.

Something caught my eye on the way down. A small beam of light appeared – a gloriously dazzling light that at once excited and terrified me. It came from a tiny outlet, a pinpoint really, so small that it seemed improbable that someone could fit their whole being through it. But it was clear that I had to try.

It was a tight squeeze. I knew I needed to shed much of what defined me in order to get through. And not just the material possessions that padded my soul, but lofty weights of character that did too – ego, ambition. I had to drop these all on the black side of the hole in order to make my way.

It wasn’t a god with a soothing voice and gentle hand that guided me through, it was the black, bony fingers of grief that instead pushed me. It was those who left me and the children who were never able to find me. They spoke in unison, shouted actually, that my life belonged to me. Not to the four walls I decorated around me, not to the corporation. Not even to my beloved pets, friends and family.

Pete didn’t need any convincing. He, of course, felt the push too, as he had endured the same pain. We clasped hands and made our way through that tiny hole together.

Our lives were ours.

They were short.

And we needed to make the most of them.

Continued with Part Two – The Decision.

Interested in how we’ve made our travel lifestyle work? Click through to read our methods for how to travel long term (and also get great suggestions from other travelers).

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  1. This is so sad and so encouraging at the same time. I am so sorry you went through all of that pain and loss. I’m sure this was hard to share but I’m glad you did. It will probably help someone else make a change they’ve needed for awhile, and hopefully it’ll be good therapy for you to put it out there. Thanks for sharing.

  2. My dear, my dear, my dear. Bravo for the courage it took to share your story. I can relate to the trauma of too much grief stuffed into too little time. Not nearly as many as you two, but my mother’s death followed within weeks by my best friend’s suicide. It sent me into a depression (my first and only) that lasted more than 5 years. Five years that I’ll never get back.

    “Our lives are short” indeed. Good for you for crawling up into the light from that tiny peephole, and taking your lives back. I’ve done the same – grabbing each and every new day now and savoring every blessed moment.

  3. Thank you for sharing your back story – you are so brave to do so! The truth is, unfortunately, that you are not the only person(s) I know who have had this experience of all the losses and stresses coming in a big bunch in a short time. The fact that you were able ultimately to use those experiences as an opportunity to find a new more fulfilling life for yourself is wonderful!

    I look forward to hearing the second half of the story. All the best to you, and thanks again for this great telling.

    1. Thank you Karl. Of course I never imagined that we were alone in the world with our grief or troubles. From the very first months we traveled, I’d see people in poorer parts of the world and know that my problems still stacked up nowhere near their enduring ones. Fortunately Pete and I had the ability to make the choice about how we dealt with it.

  4. Wow… this is extremely powerful. As someone who has endured a good bit of tragedy in my own life, all I can say is that I understand and empathize, and I am glad that you and Pete found a path towards what is clearly a better, happier life. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. “I knew I needed to shed much of what defined me in order to get through.” This is hugely moving, and amazingly insightful. Thank you for sharing your story, it touches many of us in ways you may never know!
    Keep sharing your adventures good and bad, it’s what makes your blog so interesting and personal to read!

  6. Wow, I don’t know what else to say, but I do know that you two are some of the locust people I have ever met and I’m a better person for having done so. It takes a lot of courage and strength to be as awesome as you guys especially after going through all of that. Here’s to brighter days and safe travels πŸ™‚

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I know Nico would love everything about your new life, I can hear her excitedly saying, “Guess where Day and Pete are now???!!!!”

  8. Your life is not measured by the times you hit the bottom but by the times you get up again. Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story. I admire your strenght and will to live.

  9. Thank you for sharing what drove you to travel. Sometimes the more personal posts are the best. I think this is one of those cases.

  10. How many times can a heart break for the same loss… I am starting to think it’s an infinite number of times.

    Dear Dalene… it is both unkind and exquisite to make me walk through the large, long and crowded trade show at the Vancouver Conference Centre with tears streaming down my face and snot running nose to lip.

    Right now… I am physically surrounded by beauty and inspiration, by passion, commitment and creativity, but in this moment I am more personally touched, engaged and inspired by you from thousands of miles away.

    Thank you Dalene, thank you. I miss your smile, please connect when next you return to Calgary.

    All my love to you and Pete!

    1. I think infinite is the right number.

      I thought five years was enough time, but as I wrote this, I’ve spent the last week or so feeling much like I did during those horrid times – depressed and tired. But then I hit “publish”, and I get beautiful comments like yours that remind me that we’re not alone.

      I miss your beautiful face too. We will definitely connect the next time we are in town.


  11. Wow, you never really know a persons story. THIS is why I read travel blogs and not guide books. THIS is where inspiration comes from. THIS will find someone who needs to read it and will lift them out of their black hole and show them that there is a way out – it might not be travel for everyone, but there is a way. I am so sorry for all the pain you experienced but am glad that you have found a way to start healing.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Gillian. It was touch-and-go whether or not I could even hit “publish” on this one, but I hope it does as you said, if it even helps just one person in any way, it will be worth it.

  12. I had to wipe tears from my eyes reading this. Your story is both heart-breaking and inspirational. It seems we all have this common thread — we need to LIVE. I love you two even more.

  13. So brave of you to share this. I’m so sorry that you went through all this, it makes it even more impressive that you were able to pull yourself up and build the life you have now.

  14. Holy shit. My heart goes out to you and Pete and your families. Life is so unpredictable and messy. It’s seems almost a miracle that you found that light and shoved yourself through. Okay, I’m definitely drinking a few for you (again).

  15. Sheesh, Dalene, I never knew any of this. And there’s me going “So, do you want to have kids?”

    A fabulous piece of writing. Thank you for sharing. And I guess I need to be more honest about my backstory, too.

    1. I don’t need kids! I just get to borrow Z sometime, right? πŸ™‚

      No sweat, it’s a common question. And we haven’t entirely given up on the idea, but in a way, we are almost glad we can’t have our own. After seeing what we’ve seen in some of the poorer parts of the world, we’d prefer to adopt.

      However, no one wants to give a kid to people with a couple of backpacks. We’d have to settle down for that…and therein lies the problem!

      1. Dalene, I was touched deeply by this post because it is so familiar. Knowing that life is too short to waste and feeling it on a molecular level are two different things, and that feeling comes only from experience.
        We also were not able to have children, but we did adopt a beautiful girl who was 4 years old at the time. Now 5 years later, we are living abroad in Abu Dhabi and taking trips based on her interests. It was our desire to raise her with a global outlook that led us to go now and not later. I know there are many travel blogs about parents traveling with their children. Our family would agree that it’s a wonderful way to grow up.

        1. Cindy – yours is an incredible success story! To adopt (so admirable!) and also give her a ‘global’ education…what a fantastic way to persevere through the difficult problem of infertility. It is SUCH a draining thing to go through, so glad that you turned it into a HUGE positive. πŸ™‚

  16. Thank you Dalene for sharing. I have tears in my eyes as I read this, for the first time realizing how difficult all of this must have been at the time. Your words have truly touched my heart. It seems that we must first travel through the desert of life to find the joy we are meant to have. Love you both
    Auntie Judy

  17. So brave to share this. Thank you so much. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your sister. Life is so unfair. I also didn’t travel until I had seemingly lost everything (although no family tragedies). It is so healing… Like Candice, I am so teary-eyed and emotional. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  18. Hi Dalene – and Pete,

    Thank-you for sharing what truly must have been so hard for you guys and emotional to write. it is true what they say that sometimes out of the worst things can come amazing directions that would never have been experienced otherwise – that does not bring the people we love back, and my heart goes out to you both at this difficult time – I know the strength you have in each other will Always win through, and that those you’ve lost would be so proud that you are living life…. and some! You’re both so very inspiring to many people, you are an amazing ‘team’ and you should both be very proud of how together, you’ve fought through x

    1. Thanks Andy. When all of this happened to us – our resulting lives could have gone the exact opposite way. It could easily have torn us apart, sent us down a very different path. I credit Pete’s patience and compassion for so much. It’s definitely made us grateful for what we do have in our lives!

  19. Your brave post reminds me of the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I am so glad you saw that pinprick of light and fought your way toward it. Life is strange and wonderful.

  20. I can barely see the keyboard through the tears. You are so brave to share your story and I’m so sorry you went through those tragic months. Thank you for sharing, you are an inspiration!

  21. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us, Dalene. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but I appreciate that you feel like you can open up to us as readers!

  22. I cannot imagine how hard this was to write and publish. Your courage and strength are breathtaking.


  23. I love you more now I am so sorry that you went through all this .Thankfully you are ok now,arent you?Thanks for sharing.

    1. Our life has become everything we’ve ever dreamed of, so yes, we are okay. πŸ™‚ But the pain never truly leaves, we just live with it the best we can.

  24. wow, I’m sure it took you a lot of courage to decide to post this story with your readers. Thanks for sharing. Now that “I know you” better I like you guys even more! πŸ˜‰

  25. Thanks for writing this. I too believe in sharing; we all have our stories, our struggles, our triumphs — and I think it’s important that we acknowledge it and not try and pretend everything is perfect.

    I also had a string of losses that sent me traveling, too; I know how it feels. The worst one was when my mother died unexpectedly, only 67 years old, and I found her body. I went into a terrible tailspin, lasted for years.

    It was first yoga, and then travel in India that brought me back to life. That’s why I’m so passionate about travel.

    But in spite of all my losses, I can’t imagine losing my baby sister Victoria. I am so sorry for your completely inconsolable, irreconcilable, irreparable loss.

    1. What you said is so important: “…that we acknowledge it and not try and pretend everything is perfect.” I had an email from an old friend yesterday who said something to the effect of: “If I had known! I could have been there for you.” We are too trained to keep it all in, to deal with our problems. Not realizing that something said out loud may help someone, somewhere.

      I am so sorry for your losses too Mariellen – I’m amazed at the number of people who have related similar stories of fulfilling the dream of travel after such tragedies.

  26. Thank you for sharing this, everyone of us has our own reasons for traveling and it takes more strength and resolve to shed a comfortable life, no matter how painful it is.

    I couldn’t agree more with your quote at the end and I wish you the best of times throughout your travels and life.

  27. WOW! Dalene, I am just amazed at your strength! It takes guts to tell the world a story like that and I’m proud to know you:~) Thank-you for sharing…I take my sisters and my baby for granted, you opened my eyes to a fact that I am damn lucky to have them all in my life! It is a hard thing to fight your way out of a dark hole like that…good for you!!

  28. Without optimism, or the belief that we had to learn something through what we endured (that it HAD to be for something), we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    Oh, and the whiskey helps. πŸ™‚

  29. What an amazing story to read Dalene. Covered in goosebumps and tears rolling down my cheeks I feel for you and what you have gone through to get to where you are now. Good for you guys for the choices you have made. xoxo.

  30. Dalene, congratulations on getting this far, and commiserations for the circumstances which drove you down this path.

    So many painful anniversaries to live through, just carry on doing what you are doing and let the good memories you are making balance out the painful memories of the past.

    I know it is tragic and probably painful to write but what a wonderful story, hope you don’t take that the wrong way, looking forward to part 2.

  31. I feel as though I’ve just been punched in the stomach reading this. That final line in your original letter has just blown away my afternoon. The beautiful way you have both recovered from this is truly inspirational and so balanced.

    It offers so much hope that people can find a way out of their black hole…

  32. Dalene, what a beautiful writer you are – It’s stunning and emotional. I felt everything you described. I too am getting over a recent loss (and am feeling quite lonely at times as well with my grief especially since I’m living abroad in China for a while) so your words really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing your story – I just found your blog but you have already made me a loyal reader. All the best and enjoy the rest of your travels.

    1. Ashlee, I am so sorry for your loss, and thanks for sharing here. The one big thing I am learning out of this process of ‘baring my soul’ is that we should talk about these things more often, we are too inclined to keep it in and try to deal with our problems ourselves….

  33. You’re a truly gifted writer, Dalene. Thank you for sharing your story, I can only imagine how difficult it was to bare your soul like this.

  34. I’m really sorry for all these events you had to go through. It’s great to see though how you two were able to turn it around and find a way out of it via traveling. I’ve gone through a few things myself lately and know now more than ever that loss changes you – for better or worse. I had seen this in other people, but couldn’t grasp it fully. I’m working on making the changes positive ones for myself…

    1. It is a sad reality that unfortunately most people can never really understand it until they go through it themselves. At least, I know that about me, having grown up with a fairly charmed life before 2007.

  35. A very strong and emotional post indeed. So much, in fact, that I don’t think it can get much more difficult. Looking at you guys now shows what a great decision traveling the world has been, and in doing so who knows where all this will take you? Someplace wonderful, that’s for sure. Keep it up guys.

  36. Oh Dader, how you make me cry. I’m glad you didn’t isolate yourself so much that we never met during that dark time. This post is beautifully written and while I am always so sorry that Nico is gone, you know she is loving what has come of all of this. We miss you guys and hope that more adventure awaits!

    1. Kish – getting to know you during that time was also a bright light in the dark. πŸ™‚ I was so thankful for the times I got out to see you – and you were brave for taking me on as a friend at that time given the mess I was in. We are so grateful for you and Jon!

  37. Thanks for bravely sharing your story. I hope that your ‘new’ travelling lives are bringing you every happiness and some comfort for the painful events of your past. I’ve dealt with serious trauma in the past so I have some understanding of how draining life’s events can be.

    It’s interesting to read about your fertility story as well. We want to try for a baby in the next few months but being our first time we have no idea how it will go. You never know until you start trying. We’ve made all our plans around starting a family but if it didn’t happen for us, I could definitely see abandoning the house and all – after all, what’s the point of maintaining a “settled” lifestyle if you have no children that require it? I certainly wouldn’t choose a big house in the suburbs and an office job unless I was doing it for a child =)

    1. We went from the bottom of the barrel to blowing the roof off the top. If we had known that we would love this life so much, we would have started YEARS ago! πŸ™‚

      I wish you and John much success in starting a family!! At the end of the day, our decision to travel really came down to ‘letting go’ our hope of kids. Like you said, what’s the point of slaving to build a ‘nest’ if there are no kids to fill it? So then what? Travel became a much more real possibility. We haven’t entirely shelved the idea of having bambinos, but we know now (after having seen so many disadvantaged kids), that we would happily adopt instead. They would have to know many languages and be able to carry their own backpack though πŸ™‚

  38. Dear Dalene and Pete,
    I actually had to walk away and hang out the washing because it didn’t take very long in reading the article to know where it was heading.
    So l hung out the washing, walked the dog, then came back and finished reading.

    I remember your pain…. although my story is different, the pain is the same. The grip of depression is the same, and the isolation that the blackness envelopes is the same.

    But more importantly, if we do the work… the outcome is the same!!

    There are so many poets and so many Irish writers who say it much more eloquently than me…. however the message remains the same…

    ‘It is a testiment to the Woman and Man who can endure the pain and loss that the Universe can unleash…. can come out the other end stronger than before!’

    Depsite the hell l lived in for 9 years, l would never want to take it back and not have the life l have now!!

    I’ve sold my house, My children have gone, My marriage dissolved and my career is non-existant… but l love my life traveling the world.

    My one wish to the universe, is that l could have a partner-in-crime that you both have in each other.
    Many thanks for breaking the shackles that bound you into secrecy.

    1. Thank you for sharing your most beautiful words Anthea. My wish for you is the same, I hope you find what you need. You’ve obviously earned it. πŸ™‚

  39. Hi Dalene and Pete
    You told us some of your story but not all of this. No wonder you did what you did. You are both an inspiration to us all. This must have been incredibly difficult to write, but you have the gift. May you continue to enjoy the travelling.

    1. Thank you for your note Roseanne! It was so difficult, but cathartic. There is more bright light in the support we are getting. πŸ™‚

  40. Brought me tears. You two are so wonderful and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Good lesson as well, make the most out of life because you never know when it’ll be your last, “hello” or “goodbye”. I can’t wait to read your next post on this!

    Your friend,

    1. Thanks so much Jeff. Your incredible support along the way has always meant a lot to Pete and I. You are a great friend! πŸ™‚

  41. I’m sure this sounds like a broken record but thank you for sharing this. I can’t even imagine what a horrible experience that must have been, but I’m glad you were both able to get through (as much as anyone get through an experience like that) and get to where you are now.

  42. “Everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not your end.”

    Andy and I found this written on a large pebble on Brighton beach and have made it our mantra – sounds like it has become yours too. I know the pain of losing a sibling suddenly and how that passing can define many things in your future. Just as I’m sure my brother is proud of the life i chose after he died, I know your sister will be too. Both of you guys are inspirational and deserve a life less ordinary x

    1. I LOVE THAT Rachel – what a fantastic mantra to have!

      You and Andy are a HUGE inspiration to us in how you have built such an incredible life. We are so glad we go to meet you in Brighton, and really hope we can do it again on the road!

  43. Wow….what a wonderfully written, emotional sharing. Our story was actually similar to yours….so much trauma in a short period of time. Then we both turned 50 and that was it. Bye bye job. Bye bye stuff. Grab the 12 year old twins and off we went. We love following you guys. Maybe we will be fortunate to meet you on the road. Many blessings to you for your courage to make the leap!!

    1. Thanks Annie – and so glad that you were able to make a big change as well. And your twins too, what a fantastic gift you are giving them!

  44. Very brave to publish this sad and beautiful piece, you two. A poignant reminder we can’t leave for tomorrow the things we really want to do, as there might not be any tomorrow. Best of luck with your continued travels. And with adopting a child, for when you settle down for a bit. Best thing I ever did.

    1. Thanks Sophie. I didn’t know you adopted! It’s still a *bit* of a possibility with us, except that we’d have to settle down at first, and we really aren’t ready to do that…

  45. Dalene, I was absolutely floored reading your story. Holy sh*t, I can’t believe everything you’ve been through. Thank you for being brave enough to share this with your readers – it says a lot about your strength and spirit for having made such a positive life change out of so much negativity. Bravo.

    1. At the latter stages of the months when I was spiraling, all I could think about was to find something positive in it. For me, it was the only way out. And it was pretty painful to share this, but thanks to support and comments such as yours, I’m so glad I did. πŸ™‚

  46. Dalene, thank you for sharing your story, written so beautifully in the language of the heart. The imagery of the tiny hole, and you guys squeezing through without your ‘stuff’, I think it’s one of the most poignant things I’ve ever read. Sending you much love.

  47. Wow guys… just wow.

    I’m so proud of you going out on your own and making your life yours. I’m not sure I would have made it that far.

  48. Wishing you continued healing. I know how much of a hole loss can create in our lives and it is wonderful that you have created something beautiful out of that.

    I always love to witness the strength we carry inside of us. Much love coming your way.

  49. Wow Dalene…what an honest, moving post. Kudos for allowing yourself to share this vulnerable side of you. This adds a lot of perspective as to why you and Pete chose this lifestyle. I love that you guys emerged from these tragedies to make the most of your lives and see the world!

    1. Some may be critical of us getting too personal, but I just felt like such an important piece of our story was missing. I’m glad I told it – has been very cathartic for me, and the support has been incredible! Thank you. πŸ™‚

  50. Thank you for sharing this sad but beautiful story
    with us.We all take so much for granted and it is only when things go wrong that we realise the importance of family and friends. So sorry you lost your beloved Sister, but she is looking down
    on you both and planning your path.
    They say one door closes and another door opens
    May I wish you and Pete well on your well deserved travels . You sound like the perfect PAIR ! and may God be with you as
    in Footprints.
    Thanks for sharing and look forward to part 2 even if it does make me cry again.

    well deserved

  51. Wow, thanks for sharing your very personal story with us! My husband’s mother died at a young age of breast cancer while he was away in Korea. His mom had always wanted to see Hawaii but she never got the chance until we spread her ashes there. We too want to live and see the world. You just never know when it will be your time.

    1. Absolutely right, you just never know. Live the life you want is all we can do. Thanks for sharing Jennifer.

  52. This is so heartbreaking but so inspiring at the same time. It takes so much courage and strength to actually change your life, not just think about doing it, but then do nothing and you guys have done it! Such an inspiration and I hope that there are only good times ahead for you both.

  53. Aww, sorry to hear that you went through some tough times! So glad to see how you came through it together strong and are now following your dreams wandering the planet. πŸ™‚

  54. Hi Dalene,

    Reading your story was like looking in a mirror with the names changed. It seems like many of us have hidden reasons for traveling, escape being among them. We’ve never shared our full story, but your frankness gives us the courage to someday do so.


    Larissa and Michael

  55. Dalene and Pete-
    Tears are spilling out of my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story so touchingly. I’m so sorry for what you have both gone through and at the same time, so happy it has brought you to where you are today. Life is so short as you know more than ever, and I’m so glad you were able to pull up and head ‘out to the light.’ Looking forward to giving you a hug one day soon.

  56. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story. Funny, there seems to be a string of travel bloggers telling the stories of why they travel. I have been thinking about mine a lot lately. I might have the courage to talk about my trauma now too. I cried as I read your post. Because this is so often what happens in life. Everything hits you at once. On the day I was booking my ticket to be with the love of my life in Brazil we found out that he had a terminal illness that there was no cure for. He’s 31. I was shattered, destroyed. Through the grief that came, through the heart wrenching break up that followed somehow I found my way through and came to Europe to live and travel. I had to get away. Each day I deal with the grief as well. Your writing is powerful and potent and really made me think about my own life. I so appreciate you sharing this. I hope life brings you many many wonderful things now and I will continue to read your blog and enjoy it! If you ever come through Hamburg let me know and maybe we can go for a beer. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Kristi – thanks so much for your lovely comment. What an incredible thing you had to go through as well. I hope you do find the courage to write about it – getting it “out there” can be a big part of the healing process (at least it was for me!) I hope you are finding some solace after such a difficult experience, and that Hamburg is treating you well (we spent a week there with friends in September…loved it!) πŸ™‚

      1. Thanks so much Dalene! I am going to think seriously about writing a post about my experience. A bit scary, but it could be very healing as you say. I’m so glad you loved Hamburg. I love it here too! πŸ™‚

  57. What an extraordinary story…isn’t it amazing how the dark nights of life eventually lead to that pinhole of light? So glad to have discovered your blog, which I’ll be following. And congratulations on winning a VOTY award. Hope to meet you at BlogHer ’12!

    1. Thank you so much Marci. While we of course wish we never had to go through dark times, I’m glad that they taught us something valuable about life. πŸ™‚ I wish we could make it to BlogHer, but we’re still going to be in Europe at the time. πŸ™

  58. Can’t believe I JUST saw this post. Timing is everything though…I just saw this quote when I was searching through quotes on suffering for a dear friend of mine who is dealing with the impending death of her mother.
    β€œThe wound is the place where the Light enters you.” -Rumi
    I immediately thought of it as I read your last lines. What a story to share…thank you.

  59. Thank you for sharing. It explains allot about the wonderful life you have chosen. I wish I had a relationship with my older sister. Hope you get a chance to spend lots of time with your other siblings.

  60. I’m not going to say sorry, because that word doesn’t help. I know from experience. I lost my little brother almost 14 years ago (he was nineteen), suddenly, and tragically. My ‘light’ at the time – the one thing that got me through those first few months – was the promise of his unborn child. But she was a promise that was broken. My beautiful little niece was born with the wings of an angel and flew straight into her Daddy’s arms in Heaven. Days and months and years pass, the loss is still raw, but the good memories of my brother are the ones that get me through. I still have moments when I think ‘I should call Craig and see what he thinks’, but there is no phone number I can dial. The happiest times of my life, the births of my children, my wedding, birthdays, Christmas – they’re the hardest – because I know he would have been so happy for me, so excited. He is always in my heart and I take him with me where ever I go. As I’m sure your sister goes with you.
    As for the rest of your story, you are the luckiest two people, because you each have the other. All the cliches, all the sayings – ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, ‘this too shall pass’, ‘these things are sent to try us’, ‘it was meant to be’, ‘there’s always a reason’… all of these came about because somebody lost something inexplicably. I think the most important things are the ones we find within ourselves – strength, faith, love, trust, and the courage to go forward.
    All the best in life is hoped for you both. Happy travels.

    1. Tammy, I am so sorry to hear about your losses. Your brother, and then your niece, at times I am sure it felt like it couldn’t possibly get worse, right? Glad to know that the good memories are shining bright now though, it took awhile for me to be able to think of my sister with smiles instead of tears, but I am mostly there now.

      Thank you for your comment. πŸ™‚

  61. SO amazing that you had the strength to share with strangers. Can understand it must have been so hard to write this.But well done and of course your decision was a wise one.Wishing you the best in your further travels.

  62. Wow. I am recovering from a pulmonary emboli at the moment, caused by plane travel. It’s so easy for me to get wrapped up in feeling badly for myself, especially because I have been told that travel will be more difficult for me from this point going forward. But reading this makes me realize how lucky I am to be alive.
    I’m very sorry for your loss, but I’m very happy you have found strength in each other and are honoring the memories of your loved ones by really living.


  63. Pingback: Get Inspired with Dalene & Peter - HeckticTravels - Mosaffer
  64. Thank you so much for sharing. I can relate to your story but not to the extreme you both went through. I, too, had a mess of circumstances happen in my life, two years ago.

    Like you, there was a time when I wrote out the step-step plan. I stuck to it and as I initiated each step, life began to flow and be supported. Sold my stuff, gave notice on my rental and went through a huge release of ingrained beliefs and there I was. I was left with me. I was happy. I took a giant leap of faith. My family was worried and talking about an intervention.

    A neighbor asked me to house sit for three weeks. I loved it and started researching house sitting and that’s when I found your website and many like you. I’ve been house sitting in my community ever since..with joy. Thank you! Thank you!

    All the best to you and so very happy you have each other. Mahalo and Aloha


    1. Thank you so much for your comment Robin, and I’m glad you’ve find a lifestyle that appears to suit you so well! Congrats on the big decision, and happy travels! πŸ™‚

  65. Wow! Guys I can only say it’s incredibly brave of you two to make this decision, I’m not sure I would have been as strong as you two. Life isn’t always fair, I’m sorry to hear about all of these tragic events, but I’m glad you had the courage to write it for all of us to read. Thanks!

  66. Wow this was difficult to read. I’m sorry for what you both went through. On the plus side, it seems that you two are now making the most of this short life. Here’s to many more years of fantastic worldly adventures!!!

  67. Tears are trickling down my face as I read what brought you to this new life. I can’t begin to imagine what you went through, although facing a crossroads myself and looking to travel, rather than keep living the life people expect, I feel glad that you made your way through and it gives me hope.

  68. Wow – I’m speechless … we all have our reasons to travel but to actually speak up and be so open about the way, that’s what I’d call courageous (rather than abseiling … see previous comment I posted πŸ™‚ …)

  69. thanks for sharing your intimate story…it s not easy to open up like you did… I m trying to do the same on my blog. You inspired me!

  70. I’ve been following you guys for ages now, and somehow never made it to this post. Thank you for sharing and for the reminder of how precious life is and who it truly belongs to. It’s so important to love your own life, even if.. especially if, it terrifies you. Thank you for living your life. Xo

  71. I just have to write and thank you for not only helping others but also for helping yourself. It takes so much courage to expose yourself to the world and ultimately confront and face your fears. My story is that I was married to an alcoholic, within a month; I realized he was cheating on me and my brother died. I knew that in order to survive I had to find a new home for myself and daughter. Within a month of finding a new place for us, I crashed my bicycle in the river valley and woke up in an ambulance with my front teeth smashed out and concussion. I had to take 6 weeks off of work to recover. It was the worst year of my life but also one of the best…. I know that sounds bizarre but I sincerely believe death can wake us to helping us acknowledge that we need to change to order to find the happiness that we deserve. If my brother had not passed, I don’t know if I would have found the courage to be strong and leave a marriage that was going nowhere. The crash on bicycle also taught me a lesson as my husband brought mail over to my new home and took one look at me (post-accident) and all he could say was ‘Holy Shit” when he saw me (I was a big mess with missing teeth and a giant asphalt scab down the one side of my face). This was a man declaring he loved me and yet made no offers to help or assist me. What this accident really told me was the marriage was over and it time to move on. He could say and do what he wanted, call me horrible names; it just didn’t matter to me anymore. I found independence and strength in myself and the courage to become the new improved me. My courage has continued to grow within myself because when I turned 50, I knew if I was going to see the world, I was going to have to do it one my own as my friends didn’t either want to travel or didn’t have the money. I once again summoned all my courage and booked a trip as a single on a Egypt and Jordan small group tour. I had the time of my life and I have never looked back. I have continued to travel and some trips I am single but I make friends easily and the occasional trips are friends and/or family. I will continue to travel independently as long as I can afford it and can physically do it. I really know that by writing this heartfelt blog you are moving to a new level to personal accomplishment. I am wondering if the source of finally being able to write this is due to your current location, New Zealand. I sincerely believe it is a magical place and has the ability to help you come to terms with things in your life…maybe that is why I have been there 3 times and trying to figure when to do the 4th trip. All I can say is you have moved mountains today personally and I offer my sincere congratulations. Keep on traveling and writing!!

  72. You guys are an inspiration. As someone who is young and reading this who’s biggest fear is not living the life I have dreamed for myself. You guys deserve the happiness you have created for yourself and I am so happy for you two.

    – A new fan,

  73. Can feel by reading the post, what pain you have gone through. Increases the respect for you guys many fold – so many of us give up to the depression and pain in our fought your battle , you never gave up… that is a great thing in itself…but on top of that, the path you chose didn’t just help you but is helping so many aspiring people like me…its simply great!!

  74. Hi Dalene, your story is truly inspiring to me on every words and very touching. I can tell you that i truly felt some of your past experiences since i’ve been standing through some of them. It’s not easy to get over it but it’s because of them that we get stronger and more opened to live our life each day by day. God bless you both.

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