Overcoming Grief Through Travel: ‘Traveling Helped Me Rebuild My Life After Traumatic Loss’

By Parker Diakite


Fanan Hailu was enjoying a two-week vacation in Brazil with friends when she received earth-shattering news from home back in London.

Just when she was about to start the second part of her vacation in Salvador after a week in Rio, she was told that her favorite cousin was found dead in his apartment at the age of 27.

To effectively come to terms with her pain, Fanan decided to leave her home during the holidays to travel.

Travel Noire spoke with Fanan about how traveling helped her cope with pain to help those in a similar situation.

Travel Noire: Tell us more about your trip before the news?

Fanan: I was in Salvador, Brazil on a two-week trip. We had just arrived from an awesome week in Rio and decided to slow the pace down. We were honored to experience Afro-Brazilian culture and were literally soaking it all in.

TN: After hearing the news, what was going through your head?

Fanan: I am unable to put into words exactly how I felt in that moment and how much that news sent me into in a whirlwind of pain. One minute I was a 25-year-old having the time of my life and the next I was on a plane back to London crying nonstop.

 In that moment, you realize that life is too short.

Life was never the same. For me, [Salvador] it will always be the place that I buried my cousin.

TN: How did traveling help you to mourn?

Fanan: I decided I could not face Christmas in London. I flew to New York on Christmas Day to dull the pain.

My cousin was two years older than me and traveling is something that we both loved. Travel to New York was my therapy. Even in my moments of complete and utter hurt, being able to switch off, be on a plane, and going to somewhere new was my way of processing pain. I felt no comfort in speaking to others about how I was feeling.

Instead, doing something I loved and creating new memories helped me to navigate my way out of a rock-bottom you can only understand once you go through it yourself.

TN: What you tell our readers going through something similar?

Fanan: Traveling helped me slowly rebuild my life together after a traumatic loss. I’m not suggesting that travel has completely healed me. I am yet to believe that there is anything that can fully heal grief, but traveling has given me the time to unplug from my routine life and focus on myself solely. It has helped me to have vulnerable conversations with my friends and family and helped me shed some loads.

You will get past this gut-wrenching pain.

My dream now is to one day travel back to Salvador and take back the little piece of my cousin that I left in that hotel room the night I learned of his passing.

Fanan is a British writer from London. She can be reached on Twitter @seoulfulsatsuma.

Travel Noire

Parker Diakite

Want more?

Get exclusive, unpublished tips from Travel Noire's CEO to help you get off the beaten path, into the hearts of locals and onto a better, more cultured life.

Spend Your Coins At These Black-Owned Businesses In London During The UK’s Black History Month

Spend Your Coins At These Black-Owned Businesses In London During The UK’s Black History Month

Black History Month in the UK is in full swing and its the perfect month to travel to London Town for a black AF experience. London is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities with strong influences from West Africa and the Caribbean. Black Brits from all backgrounds have made major contributions to UK […]

Kelsey Marie / the UK, London, England

The Best Places to Experience London’s Street Art Scene

The Best Places to Experience London’s Street Art Scene

London is globally known for its vibrant street art scene complete with electrifying underground tunnels, spray-painted walls, and graffiti skateparks featuring abstracts, portraits, cartoons, and more. Here are six neighborhoods where you can experience London’s street art. Shoreditch All over Shoreditch is a creative hub packed with art galleries, cafes, graffiti walls, and more. I […]

Rachel George

Sights & Sounds: These UK Artists Are The Ones to Watch in 2019

Sights & Sounds: These UK Artists Are The Ones to Watch in 2019

As part of our Sights & Sounds music series, we’re always on the lookout for emerging artists around the world. The British music scene is a melting pot of diverse music genres and emerging artists who aren’t afraid to express their opinion. The rich history of our creative spaces has produced an array of musical […]

Rachel George