Traveling in your mind

  • A photo of the beautiful harbor town Bergen, Norway.

    A photo of the beautiful harbor town Bergen, Norway. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted7/13/2019 7:30 AM

Did you ever have a trip planned that never happened? Or maybe it was just a dream you had? Or a place where you wished to return, but never did?

Memories such as these sometimes plague us in grief. You just wish you had done it in time.


The summer my beloved Baheej died, we had planned to go to the Holy Land -- especially Nazareth, his hometown. We had been there together before, but not for many years. We wanted to visit Jerusalem and other special places such as Acre, the historic coastal town up in the northwest.

We had the tickets, the hotel, and lots of plans with the family. But that was all canceled at the last minute when Baheej had a stroke.

There is a way to help deal with those trips never taken -- by traveling in your mind.

To help with this, you can watch a travel show or documentary about the place. Of course, these are not a substitute for being there in person. But they can give you some sense of the place. I love them. They take you there in your mind and are very engaging.

Since we traveled a lot, my favorites travel documentaries and movies are those where I went with Baheej -- and by watching and I can see all those pretty places and adventures again. Many of them feature the precise cities, locations, restaurants and places where we've been together.

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Of course, some people travel or continue to travel after they lose their spouse. My own Grandmother Anderson became a world traveler a couple years after her dear husband died at the early age of 59. He was not interested in traveling except to Arizona in the winter and side trips to northern Mexico. But grandmother always wanted to travel abroad, so she did.

She was only 62 when she started. First she was trying to discover her roots in County Cork, Ireland. Then she went all over Western Europe, and then India, Nepal, and on to Japan and Hong Kong. She went with groups.

My Aunt Virginia and her husband went to Brownsville, Texas, every year to fish. And even after Uncle Charles died, she continued to go there every year to meet friends and relive their happy times there. And she would drive from Oklahoma to Colorado every summer by herself to get crates of Colorado peaches to can for the winter. She lived to age 94 and active right up to the end.

But not everyone continues to travel alone.

Our last big international trip was 11 months before I lost Baheej. We spent two weeks in Oslo and Bergen, Norway. It is an idyllic harbor town on the west coast. I just saw a wonderful show on Bergen filmed in the very places we walked and ate.


These days, except for our annual family reunion in New Hampshire in October, I do most of my trips through travel documentaries.

I recently saw a travel show on the Midnight Sun in northern Sweden and Norway -- 24 hours a day of sunlight in Lapland above the Arctic Circle. I remembered when we were vacationing in Stockholm, so we took the 15-hour night train north to get there, and that was the new fast train! We walked around the little village of Kiruna, Sweden, in daylight at 2 a.m. after the local restaurant closed. We had been eating and singing with the local people all night, so friendly. We were the only travelers there. So fun to see it all again.

Years ago we went to Mesa Verde in southern Colorado. I just saw a wonderful show on the beautiful cliff dwellings there and the history of the ancient Anasazi people who lived there. So I could relive climbing down into the cliff homes with Baheej and seeing it all first hand.

The point is: We need all the ways we can find to manage long-term grief. And "traveling in your mind" with the help of travelogues is a great tool. It helps relive happy memories and wonderful experiences, and can lift your spirits.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a Ph.D. in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College, and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at


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