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There’s a very ironic relationship between childhood abandonment and solo traveling. How can being alone cure a fear of being alone? Keep reading, you’ll see.

What Is Childhood Abandonment?

Most people think the term ‘childhood abandonment’ means being left alone. However, abandonment includes so many other forms, including being emotional neglected, constantly criticized or controlled, or having a parent who withheld love or attention as punishment. This is just to name a few.

There are many long term effects from being abandoned in childhood. The obvious is a fear of being alone, and anxiety in anticipating future abandonment. However, deeper scars include feelings of inadequacy such as, “If my parents don’t even love and care for me, I must really be bad.” Gradually this belief becomes a dark secret that must be guarded from the world. That’s how core shame is born.

But what’s ever sadder than that is how we continue the abuse by neglecting ourselves as adults.

This is known as generational trauma. A turning point in my recovery from these effects was when my therapist said, “Abandonment is your core issue.” It was as if the mountain of pain I’d been carrying had shifted. It didn’t go away, that’s not how it works. But it was like sitting in a dark room and suddenly the light turned on. I felt a huge sense of relief.

Armed with the facts, I set out to heal myself. In addition to a ton of other strategies, I discovered solo travel. 

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It’s true that solo travel can’t replace the painstaking work of complex trauma healing. I’ve used traditional therapy, in-person and Virtual EMDR, recovery phone lines, journaling, and other therapy techniques that I created myself to aid in my trauma healing. However, once the bulk of the pain passed, I began using solo travel to refine and celebrate my growth and new life. It works, because I discovered it organically, and have benefitted from it for years now.

Taking solo trips directly confronts the lie that something bad will happen if you begin the terrifying work of loving and trusting yourself. Specifically, you are letting go of looking outside yourself for your love and safety. You’re defying the cold lie of core shame: that you truly are unlovable and unworthy. This is the most important trauma work you will ever do.

So where to start?

The most obvious is to simply start. 

Before The Trip:

Choosing Joyful Destinations as Acts of Self-Listening:

Solo travel enables you to choose destinations that reflect your True Self. This is a profound demonstration of being heard by you. It heals your inner child wounds of abandonment and neglect. 

When you plan trips that promise joy and fulfillment, you are engaging in an act of self-love and affirmation. This approach directly counters the abandonment wounds of not being seen or heard, since it places your desires at the forefront. Specifically, you are telling yourself, “You are important. I care about what matters to you. Your happiness is important. I will show up for your wants, needs, and desires.”

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By selecting destinations that delight you—whether it’s a pretty beach, a busy city, or a remote village—you’re honoring what you/your inner child finds joyful and exciting.  

It’s a powerful way to heal the past wounds of feeling ignored or overlooked, by showing that now, your voices, both adult and child, are not only heard but are also the guiding forces in your life. So great, right?!

Furthermore, as you explore these places and activities that make your heart sing, you reinforce this message of self-worth and love. Each trip becomes a reaffirmation of your right to joy and a step towards healing the abandonment. 

This continuous practice of choosing what brings joy helps mend the inner belief that you are unseen, unheard, and unloved. 

By creating solo trips, you tell yourself that you’re capable and deserving of joy and attention. This sends a powerful message to your inner child that she is never alone in her journey.

Fun Example:

I always wanted to go to Ireland, but believed it was impossible. Truly. I knew it’d never happen. Then it did, and it was my first solo trip abroad. 

I took a bus from Dublin to Donegal, and the closer I got to Northern Ireland, with it’s clachan villages and Wild Atlantic Way landscape, the more excited I got. I literally was jumping up and down in my bus seat.

Thank goodness I sat in the back and the bus was mostly empty or they’d have thought I was weird. But that’s how excited my inner child was! It was giddy and surreal and most important, I was the one who gave me this gift. I’ll never forget that moment.

During The Trip:

Empowering Through Choice and Control:

 Having control over your travel itinerary means you can choose experiences that nourish you most, from tranquil retreats to adventurous escapades. This control can be particularly healing for trauma survivors who felt powerless in their childhood. Each choice strengthens an internal sense of control over one’s life and destiny, helping to reclaim power lost during formative years.

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Abandonment Story:

When I was nine years old, I was left at the baseball field. My softball practice was over, and I waited to be picked up. It started getting darker and no other kids were there. My coach asked me many times if someone was coming. I was adamant they were, even though I knew it might be a lie. By then the shame of being neglected settled inside me, and I was skilled at recognizing it was worse to have someone pity or judge me. So I hid it by lying convincingly so they’d release their guilt about not helping me.

Eventually the darkness was all around me, and I accepted the fact that no one was coming. I started to walk home.  It was about 3 miles and the road was pretty isolated. 

After walking about a half hour, I was surprised by a police officer who drove up beside me and asked questions. I assured him I was walking home and was fine. I had my baseball glove and made my story very believable. No big deal. Almost there. These things happen. Not really terrified out of my mind.

It worked. Although he drove off very slowly, eventually the red taillights got smaller and smaller in the distance until I could no longer see them at all.

I kept walking. As a nine year old I had no idea about time passing. Luckily I knew how to get to my house though.

 At about mile two, the isolated road turned to highway. I don’t remember details, because that part has blacked out. Then it fades back in with me standing on the porch locked out. The house was down a dirt road with only one other house, both surrounded by woods. 

I sat alone on the porch. After some time passed, a car approached. I watched and waited. It was Charlie, the husband of my mom’s drinking friend.

He got out of the car with a look of astonishment. The next thing I knew, I wrapped my small body around him, clung for dear life, and cried hysterically. The whole time I was embarrassed for ‘losing it’. Felt ashamed for being a baby and crying. But I had no choice. My instincts kicked in and the shock and terror burst out from me uncontrollably. 

Today, I drive by that dark road, that highway, and that dirt road where my house was. I give my inner child love and comfort for what she went through that night.

As a kid, I was powerless over my mom’s drinking, neglect, and lack of responsibility. I had no choice about my destiny or safety, just surviving day by day. Maybe you can relate.

As an adult, solo travel provides a choice and sense of control over your life and destiny. It reclaims power and personal safety that was lost due to the abandonment.

Fostering Self-Compassion and Care:

When you travel alone, you are the one responsible for your well-being, comfort, and enjoyment. This responsibility encourages you to be more attuned to your own needs and desires. 

For someone healing from childhood abandonment, learning to take good care of oneself is crucial, especially since self-care wasn’t taught or valued in childhood.

 

Solo travel offers the opportunity to become a self-care expert. This can mean indulging in activities that make you feel loved and cared for, like a river cruise or a rental car upgrade, or splurging on a room with a magnificent view. Or it can have no material value and simply relaxing and doing nothing, instead of feeling like you have to always be doing something. That could be the most compassionate self-care of all.

While traveling solo, you can consciously choose to nurture your inner child—perhaps the part of you that felt neglected or unloved. By meeting these basic needs with kindness and attention, you reinforce to your inner child that you are worthy of care and love. This practice of self-compassion and intentional self-care can help heal the wounds of abandonment by building a loving and secure relationship with yourself.

Silly Example:

When I was in Sedona, I went to an ice cream parlor and bought myself a cone. So simple, right? But the joy it gave my inner child, to take myself (not my kids, not everyone else, but ME) to get ice cream was very wonderful. She smiled the entire time.

Where Would Your Inner Child Like To Go?

And what would she like to do when she gets there? By pondering these questions, you’ll notice answers will come in many forms. Maybe during a casual conversation a destination is mentioned. Or maybe it’s a dream or a feeling about a place. It could even be recalling a long forgotten memory of always wanting to visit somewhere.

By acknowledging these inner callings, you’re undoing the damage of childhood abandonment. You are no longer reenacting the neglect. You are ending the cycle of generational trauma by choosing to hear and see your inner child through the act of acknowledging your wants and needs.

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