How Traveling in a Rock Band Helped Me Heal

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How Traveling in a Rock Band Helped Me Heal

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It was the summer of 2003. Back then, travel really was the last thing on my mind.

Soon after I began my studies at university, my father was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors only gave him two years to live. My family made the most of those two years. Even through his sickness, we had moments where we celebrated, where we laughed, where we nearly forgot that he had an illness. I think that my dad stayed strong so we wouldn’t worry about him. At one point, his cancer went into remission and I thought everything was going to go back to how it used to be. Shortly after Christmas of 2004, his health took a turn for the worse.

When my summer break started in April, I quit my part-time job. As I was free from my studies for four months, I wanted to spend as much time at home as possible. I knew that our days together were numbered.

My dad lost his battle with cancer on May 15, 2005. I was 22 years old when he passed away. He was only 51.

I played piano and guitar in a rock band, along with my sister and two friends. Music was always a big part of my life from a young age. It had also become my escape. While coming to terms with the harsh reality that my dad was gone, I became lost in my own melodies. Playing music with friends drowned out the sounds of sorrow in our quiet household. My mind was preoccupied with something else.

When my dad was sick at home, he allowed the band to practice as much as we liked. We recorded the band’s album in my family’s basement. No matter how loud the drums crashed or how many times I played that same tune over and over, my dad never complained once. He was happy when I was happy. That’s how it always was.

When the band finished recording the album, we decided to take our tour across Canada from Ontario to Prince Edward Island. I had originally planned to spend the summer at home with my dad. Now, I wanted to get away from the house as much as possible. Everything was a reminder of him.

Driving across Canada reminded me of the road trips my family would take when I was growing up. The four of us had driven to Florida together on a few occasions, sometimes driving 24 hours straight there. We’d all pile into the car, even once around Christmastime with the presents packed into the trunk. My dad would do all of the driving while I stared out the window or mapped the journey in my notebook.

My band-mates and I left for the lengthy road trip, pulling a U-Haul trailer filled with our instruments behind us. The journey began at a community centre filled with rowdy teenagers in the town of Trenton, Ontario. The next day, we were slightly disheartened to play to a nearly empty club in Ottawa, which was followed up by a show to a packed crowd in a Montreal bar. Even though touring and performing was quite demanding, my mind gradually began to focus. The emotions that were bottled up inside slowly trickled out.

After our concert in Montreal, we drove straight through the night to Saint John, New Brunswick. As the drummer drove the car and my other two band-mates were fast asleep in the backseat, I silently watched the sun rise. Little by little, the darkness was replaced by a rosy glow over the rolling green hills of eastern Quebec. I marvelled at the beauty of this unfamiliar landscape. Memories of my family’s lengthy road trips to Florida with my dad at the helm came flooding back.

How Traveling in a Rock Band Helped Me Heal

Even though we played shows each night, we had some time to explore the natural landscape of Atlantic Canada. I was mesmerized by Hopewell Rocks at the Bay of Fundy. There were boulders shaped like flowerpots, sculpted endlessly by the changing tides. We could stand beneath these rocky behemoths during the day, though we would be completely submerged underwater if we stood in that same spot at night. The ebb and flow of nature is always changing, yet predictable; it’s constantly fluctuating, and we must continually adjust to new circumstances.

In Halifax, we busked by the boardwalk as tourists strolled past; in Truro, we performed in the spare room of a local curling club. At last we arrived in Charlottetown, where the band rocked out on the stage of an elementary school that was left vacant for the summer holidays. As we travelled from town to town, one thing was constant: the kindness of the people that we met on our journey. We had engaging conversations with perfect strangers, dined with welcoming locals, and partied until the wee hours of the morning with fellow musicians.

How Traveling in a Rock Band Helped Me Heal

Though I set out to distract myself from my own feelings, I began to gain a new appreciation for the world around me. I allowed myself to feel sad. But, I also allowed myself to feel happy. Initially, I felt guilty that my father was robbed of being able to retire, travel, and grow old. As the trip came to a close, I felt blessed. I was able to witness every breathtaking sunrise and breathe in the salty ocean air as the waves crashed all around. I was able to meet new people who instantly and warmly accepted my friendship.

After our final concert in Charlottetown, we stopped at a small sandy beach in the middle of the night, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I scraped together handfuls of red sand that I haphazardly pushed into a glass soda bottle to keep as a memory of my adventure. My bottle of red sand still sits atop a bookshelf at home that is now lined with journals that I’ve kept throughout my travels. This particular trip started as an escape, but resulted in a confrontation of my own thoughts and emotions. Not only had I started to heal, but I also uncovered a true passion of mine: to travel and see the world.

A decade has passed. Though I’m no longer in a band, I have filled some pages in my passport. I’ve experienced many life-changing adventures, such as climbing to the top of Mayan ruins in Belize, meeting kind and hospitable folks in Bermuda, and hiking the astonishing jagged coast of Cinque Terre in Italy. I will travel for the rest of my life and see as much of this planet as I can. I have so much living to do. And I’m forever grateful.

15 Responses

  1. Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    | Reply

    You have brought memories flooding back of my mother whom I lost just over 10 years ago (she was only 60, I was 36). Whilst there is not a day that still goes by that I do not think of her, I remember my trip to Mexico not long after her death. I stood on the Palenque Ruins and said “Do you see this Mum – isn’t it amazing?”. My mum loved to travel, I am sure it is because of her I travel, and I take her with me on every trip – just as I am sure you take your father.
    May you continue to travel, love and remember your father with joy in you heart Lauren.

  2. Andrea on Vacation
    | Reply

    I lost my father around the same time and started traveling with my mom a lot more. I wish I had been in a touring band!!! Not only distracting but it sounds so interesting and fun.

  3. Sky
    | Reply

    This just brought tears to my eyes. This statement – This particular trip started as an escape, but resulted in a confrontation of my own thoughts and emotions. – resonated with me so much. It’s amazing how travel can heal and change our perspective on things.

  4. Lyndall @ SeizeTheDayProject
    | Reply

    It’s amazing how travel can help us heal. I lost my beloved Dad 9 years ago and one of the last things he said to me was that I must continue to travel and do the things I’d always wanted to do. So I took a trip to Italy, which had been on my bucket list for a very long time. I shared many precious moments with him/his memory – standing in breathtakingly beautiful places he would have loved and just saying THANK YOU for inspiring me. It was awesome.

  5. Trisha Velarmino
    | Reply

    I can relate. But diverting your energies to positivity is the key — most especially if you’re traveling with a rock band. Something that is not so common and I would like to do that one day! Thanks for openly sharing your story! Xx

  6. Saran
    | Reply

    Touching and very appropriate blog for me to read today. Tomorrow is the death anniversary of my father who brought up 3 sons singlehandedly after our mom passed away when we were very young. Could very much relate.

  7. Tracie Howe
    | Reply

    There is nothing like a fulfilling trip as a distraction from painful memories back home. I think it’s a totally healthy way to heal. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  8. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for opening up and sharing your story. My younger sister was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks before I started university. Although she went into remission for a few months which gave us great hope, she eventually passed away just after Spring Break of my 2nd year. After spending so long focusing on my sister’s health, my parents and I went to Europe for a month that summer to hit the Reset button on our life. It was one of those organized bus tours that have your rise early in the morning and going all day long. In many ways, it was a relief to be distracted from our grief. It was strange for me to have to navigate life from there on out as an only child since she was my buddy during our childhood family travels. Being in a band sounds like an incredible experience, and I’m glad that it set you on a path of a traveling lifestyle.

  9. Elizabeth
    | Reply

    A change in perspective can help heal a lot of things. It doesn’t have to be a grand trip (or a tour with a rock band :) but just getting out of your comfort zone and your routine can recharge your batteries and help you remember what is important. Of course these days getting off the internet/phone/taking pictures and actually enjoying where you are helps as well. Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. Jessica
    | Reply

    Thank you for your openness. A cool and brave experience. I should say that when my father died six years ago, that’s the time I started to go everywhere to somehow divert the emotion. It’s like escaping before but it turned out to be the best trigger why I am traveling now. Thanks again for this, Lauren

  11. Sreeram
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, I am sorry for your loss. Its true that traveling can do a bit to heal the pain. Stay blessed.

  12. Gemma
    | Reply

    That must be a bitter sweet story to share, well done on doing so. It sounds like your Dad was one cool dude allowing your band to play at home and it’s nice to hear that the music brought you some escapism. I am always very jealous to hear of the road trips that North Americans took as kids or even now as adults! Great way to see a country (or countries!) Bet he’d be proud of you carrying on the family road trips with friends and Justin!

  13. Vedante | The Lavish Nomad
    | Reply

    I am sorry for your loss. Traveling helps you heal in such a healthy and natural way. I am glad it helped you, even if a bit.

  14. Sanket D.
    | Reply

    Been following you for a while now, so it felt really nice to hear this story. I played in several bands through college too, and I have to admit, that played a pretty major part in how I shaped up. It’s been my dream to travel with a band and play at different places, to different people, but sadly that never really happened (except maybe once or twice! HA). I’m really glad to hear that music helped you out and made you a stronger person. Always a great combination that — Music + Travel = Win!

  15. Cai Dominguez
    | Reply

    It has been a decade and i still feel the pain in your article. But i know you are happy now and im sure that your father is happy whenever where he is now.

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