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04.15.2019 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Get in the Memory-Making Business to Stay Healthy

Travel is in my genes.

One of my earliest memories: I’m nine-years-old, running between the underground tracks of the Los Angeles train station engulfed by the sound of engines and steam hissing from the multitude of trains readying for departure.

As I run, I continue to look over my shoulder for my grandmother Isabel. As usual, she is laboring behind. It’s my job to get our suitcase on board and to secure the best seats. It’s a daunting responsibility accompanied by a moment of panic. I hear the conductor yell, All Aboard. Still, no Isabel.

What if she doesn’t make it? Will I wind up on this journey alone?

But, Isabel always managed to somehow get on board just before the final call, and our journey would begin. Those summer trips to New Mexico hold memories of my grandmother that I treasure. Through Isabel, I learned the adventure of travel. The land and the people were foreign to a kid from the inner city, but I loved the thrill of exploring the unknown, hand-in-hand with Isabel by my side.

Years later, I would pass on my love for travel to our son Michael. Because Michael had a rare life-threatening metabolic disorder, making memories became an important part of our lives.

Find Your Why Behind Travel

A recent conversation with Lindsey Epperly, Founder and CEO of Epperly Travel, sparked many subsequent memories as we talked about the significance of her own work in the industry.

You see, Lindsey isn’t just in the travel business. She’s in the memory-making business. She’s one of those amazing Millennials I like to brag about. Someone who’s disrupting how people access travel options. Someone who’s passionate about helping people make their dreams come true.

When I interviewed her a few months ago, I wasn’t expecting the conversation to go as deep as it did. After all, don’t most of us handle our own travel these days? Isn’t that one of the great gifts of the internet? We can do our own research and book our own trips?

Lindsey surprised me in that she and her husband have not only built a remote team of outstanding travel advisors, they mentor these advisors to actually share in her passion for serving people at the highest level.

In our conversation, she reminded me of how important it is to understand the Why behind travel:

We get to plan trips where people are celebrating their 50th anniversary and taking their entire family . . . maybe it’s the first time they’ve been together in years. It’s so special. . . I’m gonna try not to get emotional in talking about this, but we also have been gifted to plan people’s last trips. It’s a powerful and moving experience to facilitate someone’s dying wish to go to Hawaii with their family . . . to arrange a photographer because these are the last pictures they’re going to have together. When we get to step into something like that as travel advisors, it turns my whole world around. It makes me have an amazing perspective on life and what we do.

Lindsey and her team are on a mission. And, I shout, Alleluia!

Wish I’d had a Lindsey when I was planning our final trip with Michael. It was an Alaskan cruise. Little did we know it would be our last adventure.

After my conversation with Lindsey, memories continued to flood my mind. That first trip with a wheelchair, Michael sitting, his head turned, anxiously awaiting the over night train that would take us from Banff to Lake Louise in Canada. So many places and people along our many excursions. How, in his final four years of delirium, Michael never spoke of his physical disability or the pain he was suffering.

No. Not my fellow explorer . . .

Michael was in Chicago, New York, the Grand Canyon—engulfed in memories of the many places that we, as a family, had experienced. I like to think that those memories somehow made his transition easier. Now that he’s no longer with us, my husband and I fill the missing with those memories. We have come to learn the value of them because in the end, memories are all we have left.

Start Small—Dream Big

Travel in these days of terrorism and stress isn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t easy with a son who was physically disabled. Sometimes the money wasn’t there. Sometimes Michael was healthier than others. But, we saved and planned because we knew that Michael’s time here on earth was limited. We wanted him to experience as much of life as possible. Travel was one of the many gifts he gave us for I doubt we would have taken the time for ourselves otherwise.

So, yes, life is, in part, about creating memories along the way. Travel helps us step into other places and cultures—understand more so that we can love better. In a world of division, I think this is more important than ever. Thanks to Michael and Isabel, I’ve learned how to manage the stress of travel so that I can better maneuver the stress of the world.

If you can’t afford travel or think you don’t have the time—start small, but dream big. See where the road will take you.

Save for it. Plan for it. Do whatever you have to do because in the end, travel is vital to your mental health. As someone who’s work is grounded in human development, I believe that travel expands our consciousness and, in doing so, helps us build healthier family systems and better businesses.

When planned well, we return from one of those amazing adventures, no matter how big or how small, restored and revitalized, ready to begin again. The key is in the dreaming, planning, and preparation.

And if you need a travel advisor who cares, call Lindsey Epperly. I know I will.

P. S. I’d love to hear about your biggest travel adventure or dream. Please leave a comment here.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. April 15, 2019