I’m frequently asked why I travel and why I encourage others to travel. For me, travel saved my life. Literally. Twenty years ago, in 1999, I made a choice to live. I decided I needed to travel and share my passion with others. My desire to help others find inspiration through their travels has become a quest. I look for connections when I travel. I want to understand others. To find what brings us together rather than what separates us. This is why I travel…

I was ready to die. Life seemed so hard. Every minor decision became more difficult as each day passed. My family would be better off without me and without the depression that seemed to weigh so heavy on all of them. The answer was crystal clear to me.

I carefully removed everything personal from my bathroom. I didn't want to see any of it. I needed no distractions. The room felt dark, although I now know it was the middle of a fall afternoon in Arizona. I ran a bath. Always a place of solace for me, it would be a perfect way to just float off into oblivion. I had the knife sitting on the side of the tub. It would all be over soon. No more pain. No more darkness. No more terror.

I climbed into the warm water and felt myself sink into it. I closed my eyes for a moment, willing myself to reach over and pick up the knife. And then life—and memories—seeped in. My son, just 15 at the time, had mowed the lawn earlier that day. The smell of fresh cut grass seeped in through an open window. And I thought of Paris. Not exactly Paris, but dreams of Paris from a far-off summer day.

I thought back to a day when I was only nine years old, sitting with my sister in the front yard of our childhood home in Virginia. She was not quite six. Mom had been mowing the front yard and I remember smelling the grass that day and feeling a little giddy with an entire summer vacation stretching out in front of me.

My sister and I were pretending we were flying, using an old bus seat my dad kept on the back porch. We were on an imaginary plane to Paris. Once we “landed” we made our way to the “sidewalk cafe” we had set up in the yard. As we sat there at our little white table with the two tiny chairs, pouring make-believe tea and eating cookies in our pretend Paris cafe, my sister looked up at me with a look I still vividly remember. She made me promise – in a cross-my-heart-hope-to-die kind of promise – that we would have lunch together in Paris when we grew up. “The real Paris,” she explained in her quiet voice. “I want to go to Paris with you.”

Sitting in that tub, all those decades later, my eyes flew open. Paris. I promised my sister I would have lunch with her in Paris. The tears flowed for the first time in a long time. I got out of the tub and put the knife away. I knew at that moment I wanted to live far more than I wanted to die. I wanted to live to fly away to exotic places. To watch children playing around the world. To feel the breeze blowing over me as it swept in off the South Pacific. To hear a lion roar in the wild. And to have lunch with my sister in Paris.

I find it ironic that this one moment, which she doesn't even remember, not only saved my life but set in motion a renewed drive to see the world and share those experiences with others. My healing took time—a lot of time. But this desire to help others find inspiration through their travels started at that moment. It has become a quest.

Travel can help us find the person hiding inside. I've been told that it's an elitist idea to want to see the world. I believe it's actually quite the contrary. It humbles me. It makes me feel as if I'm connected to people near and far. I learn something new wherever I go—and I’ve ever been anywhere “bad” because there’s something magical and wonderful everywhere.

Exploring the Louisiana Bayous. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Exploring the Louisiana Bayous. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I’m really thankful my son mowed the lawn that day. He had no idea how much impact it made. I’m thankful I let myself feel at that moment. Every moment of every day, I try to share my joy for living and my joy for travel with others. Most of all, I try to share myself with others as I travel. To connect. What makes us all more alike than different. I try to smile and be grateful every day.

I’ve gone on to see amazing places, meet beautiful people, watch my son grow up, shared incredible adventures with my husband, and have five grandkids who make me happy every day (and who love to travel). I’ve felt ocean breezes in far-away places. I’ve heard a lion roar in the wild. I’ve watched children play in places from Egypt to Thailand to villages of France. And yes, although I’ve been to Paris myself, I’m still waiting to visit Paris with my sister.

Reims Cathedral, Reims, France. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Reims Cathedral, Reims, France. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Note: Depression is a very real illness, experienced by more than 300 million people around the world. If you need help with depression, I recommend starting here. If you need to speak with someone, the 24-hour, toll-free confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. 

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