How Travel Can Help Redefine Your World After Loss

by AdventureWomen Ambassador Kristen Martel (Updated September 2023)

We all have defining moments that shape our lives through enlightenment, joy, and sorrow. Watching my parents drive away on my first day of college and holding my newborn for the first time were both pivotal in my journey. But for years, the death of my first husband was so defining that it created a stoppage in my family’s timeline, labeling every memory 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, a loving marriage, and healthy, happy children. Before the sweet chaos of baby years, I traveled mainly for business. Once we had the kids, traveling became a rare treat because money was tight, and it was hard to get away.

When Gary passed away from cancer, he was 46 years old, and I was 37. Our children, Ben, Caroline, and Sam were only 5, 7, and 9. For years in my post-loss life, I chose to forgo traveling to focus on my kids and create a sense of normalcy for them. I was also too nervous to leave them and put myself in any kind of harm’s way.

Fourteen years post-loss, I am blessed to say that we are all living life to its fullest in memory of Gary! The kids are thriving young adults in college, I have remarried and own an antique and vintage store in Virginia. My empty nest and flexible work schedule allow travel, although it is mostly solo as my husband can’t get away from work often.

So how do I travel alone?

It takes curiosity, courage, and a travel company that is award-winning in their field. And once you do it, you’ll be inspired and gain confidence, like my best friend of 40 years who flew alone to meet me in Thailand. When I met her in our Bangkok hotel, she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, Kris! If I can do this, I can do anything!”

Enter: AdventureWomen, a women-owned and operated travel company whose global trips are awe-inspiring, safe, small-group style, and of course, for women only. They are rated by physicality on a scale of 1-4, with even moderate trips designed to be chockful of adventure.

I am humbled to say that AdventureWomen trips have created some of my new defining moments because they are so enlightening and joyful. These moments 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 scuba-dived with nurse sharks, lionfish, 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.

These adventures 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 mountain trails, long-tail boats or bicycles 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.

Today, 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 that my sons believe in and support strong women.

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.)

I travel to see what it takes to make the world better – one small act, donation, or kind gesture at a time.

And perhaps most importantly to me, I travel to honor the lives of those who have left us too soon.


Kristen traveling with her daughter to Scotland.