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Starting a healing journey often feels overwhelming, especially when trusting is hard, emotions are locked away, and the first step seems impossible. From personal experience, I’ve gone from feeling lost to becoming a solo traveler who embraces the unconventional paths to healing. My determination for self-discovery and healing started with traditional therapy and quickly expanded. I literally went to great lengths, including Ireland where exploring my ancestry helped heal generational trauma. It showed me that healing can happen in the most unexpected places, from serene cemeteries to the ancient landscapes of my family tree.

If you are wondering how to start your healing journey, this post is written for you. As a self-aware woman, you know healing can come from the most unexpected places. Whether its through exploration with the earth and water, a cemetery at home, or sacred spaces across the globe. Drawing from my own experiences, I’ll guide you through finding healing in these 9 non-traditional settings.

The Earth

Providing grounding energy, the earth is an untapped resource for healing from trauma. When drawing healing energy in mindful ways, it can give you a sense of peace. Of course being in nature helps to quiet the mind, soothe the soul, and restore balance. But when you intentionally seek to connect to earth’s energy, you maximize ways to connect with the healing powers of the earth.

Heal At Home:

Think back to your childhood. Did you like to play in the dirt? Build sand castles? Dig in the sandbox? Then chances are you may enjoy it still.

Engaging in gardening or taking care of plants connects you with the cycle of life and growth, offering a sense of nurturing and purpose. The act of tending to plants can be meditative and therapeutic, offering a sense of achievement and connection to the Earth. 

Gardening for healing: A set of gardening tools alongside vibrant green plants, symbolizing growth and connection with nature.

Heal While Traveling:

As you wander through different landscapes, the simple act of walking barefoot on the Earth—feeling the soil, sand, or grass beneath your feet—can ground you. Bring your travel journal to capture your feelings and experiences.

If you’re concerned about cutting or hurting your feet, pick a beach or soft grassy surface to walk on. This connection to the Earth can give you a sense of stability and presence, crucial for healing from trauma.

Serene beach scene with gentle waves and clear sky, symbolizing peace on a healing journey.

Birds

Watching birds is mindful engagement with the environment.  It encourages your peace and tranquility by shifting focus away from trauma and toward the beauty of the natural world. Being aware of the present moment helps your healing process by filling your mind and body with joy and gratitude.

Mindful bird watching: A peaceful setting for observing birds, enhancing tranquility and connection to wildlife

Heal At Home:

Why not bring the simple joys of observing birds right outside your window? Placing feeders or bird houses where you can see them can bring entertainment and satisfaction. You may notice the birds provide companionship, especially if you live alone. In time, you’ll start to recognize them by their appearance and behavior.

By taking care of birds with food and shelter, you’ll find caring for these gentle creatures gives you purpose and pride. This small practice, a daily connection to nature’s rhythms and sounds, make a big difference. It also promotes healing by engaging in the altruistic act of nurturing. This act of love returns back to you.

tools for Mindful bird watching: A peaceful setting for observing birds, books and binoculars

Heal While Traveling:

Birding while traveling invites you to immerse yourself in the present moment, fostering a deep connection with nature as you observe and listen to the diverse bird life around you. The soothing sound of bird song is relaxing and peaceful.

One unique place to interact and learn about birds is the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS). You can learn about nature and see birds up close through their exhibits, live bird shows, and walking trails. Another place is National Parks, which offer many Ranger Programs. By engaging and caring more about wildlife and the outdoors, you involve yourself in self healing by opening your heart and giving and receiving love.

learning about birds in US National Parks

Trees

This natural form of therapy, often referred to as forest bathing, can add quality self-healing to your spiritual tool kit. There are many modalities for using trees to heal you. However, sometimes the simplest methods work best. Trees can share their silent wisdom and nurturing presence with you, if only you ask. 

Heal At Home:

There are many ways to heal from tree energy, depending if you choose to seek connection with other people or prefer to be alone. 

For the first option, look for opportunities to get involved in local tree planting or forest conservation. Contributing to the restoration and preservation of trees can be a powerful act of healing. It offers a sense of purpose and connection to these creatures that provide so very much for us.

Forest bathing: Tall trees in a dense forest, inviting a moment of peace and reflection for healing
Healing from trees can be found in so many different ways

If looking for solitary practice, take time during your day to sit under a tree and journal. Reflect on your experiences, thoughts, and feelings in the calming presence of trees. This practice can offer clarity and promote self-discovery. Any tree will do, whether it’s in your yard or in a park. You know the saying, don’t judge a book by it’s cover? Same is true with trees. It doesn’t need to be a giant Redwood Sequoia to provide healing. As long as your intention is authentic, you can make a significant healing connection.

Heal While Traveling:

Visit an Arboretum. An arboretum is a botanical garden dedicated to collecting and cultivating a wide variety of trees and shrubs. It’s like a living museum and research site, and most display their trees with dedicated hiking trails. The Hoyt Arboretum in Oregon is a great option if you’re traveling to the Portland area.

Scenic views of diverse tree species at Hoyt Arboretum within Washington Park, offering a peaceful natural setting for one of the best easy hikes near Portland."
Hiking trail at Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Oregon

How does this heal? It offers a reflective space to shift your perception of trees. We have museums of art and science which no one would dispute have immense value. So why shouldn’t trees, living beings, receive the same honor and prestige? Acknowledging equality and inclusiveness for all living things elicits humility. And humility brings compassion, acceptance, and healing.

Cemeteries

Healing from trauma can sometimes involve keeping a connection with loved ones who have passed away, the love you too shared, and the memories you’ve made. 

The connection may feel spiritual, as if your loved one is still with you offering guidance and comfort. This helps heal grief, learn from trauma, and gradually let go. Recognizing that the bond doesn’t end with death brings tremendous relief and strength to continue on.

Heal At Home:

Visit cemeteries. Not just graves of loved ones, but ones that have the healing energy you’re seeking. Take mindful walks, ride your bike along the path, whatever feels right to you. Follow your intuition and be surprised at what you’ll find.

Healing through remembrance: A serene cemetery landscape, symbolizing peace, remembrance, and the journey of healing from loss

A personal story from my life:

In my early 20’s, I experienced pain and confusion that caused me to desperately run to my grandfather’s graveside. Two reasons this is significant. The first, I rarely cried. Secondly, up until then, I had no tangible grief surrounding his death. Like everything else in my life, I was numb to the loss.

I went to the cemetery and eventually found his plot. I fell to my knees and wept for reasons I didn’t understand. I just…hurt.

Fast forward 25 years and through significant efforts to heal myself, the grief of my entire childhood became evident. However, at the time, all I knew was I was crying to my deceased grandfather. Honestly, I felt embarrassed and ashamed about my behavior. Nonetheless, I cherish the precious time when I released heartache and pain to my beloved grandfather, and received love and healing in return. That’s how I know this method of healing from trauma works.  

Heal While Traveling:

Visiting cemeteries during travels can seem odd to some people, but it’s a popular attraction nonetheless. For instance, if you are visiting a destination for the purpose of ancestral research or travel, cemeteries are great for providing clarity. Sometimes guided tours are available to go beyond basic information and delve deeper into history.  These are peaceful places to think deeply and release past hurts by recognizing that loss and new beginnings are part of everyone’s life. 

Ancestral healing trauma travel Healing through remembrance: A serene cemetery landscape, symbolizing peace, remembrance, and the journey of healing from loss
Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, Ireland

Animals

Animals can provide unconditional love and comfort, as well as help reduce stress and anxiety. Animals don’t judge, criticize, or shame you. Instead, they encourage moments of joy and mindfulness, and give emotional release to help with healing.

Heal At Home:

Owning a pet offers many opportunities for giving and receiving love. They can be your family member and keep you company. For trauma survivors whose childhood was filled with instability and loneliness, pets fill in the gaps. 

Animal companionship for healing: A heartwarming interaction between a person and an animal, showcasing the therapeutic power of unconditional love.

When I was a child, I’d hold my cats to help me cope. They gave me comfort during so many hard times. Many times, they were the only ones available for any love and acceptance.

If having a pet is not an option, wildlife observation can also offer emotional support. Do you live near any zoos? You’d be surprised how much fun it can be to spend the day strolling and watching. Or perhaps volunteer your time at a dog or cat shelter. I’ve done this and promptly fell in love with adorable kittens, and were glad to say goodbye to them when my shift was over!

Heal While Traveling:

Azores-Animal companionship for healing: A heartwarming interaction between a person and pod of dolphins

When you’re considering your itinerary, maybe include activities like horseback riding, dolphin and whale watching tours, aquariums, visiting farms, kayaking with manatees or sea lions, and butterfly and insect gardens.

There are so many ways to receive emotional healing and unexpected companionship from animals.

Yellowstone bison animal observation creates healing
Yellowstone National Park bison

Community

Finding a community or support group of individuals who have experienced similar traumas can offer a sense of belonging and understanding. Sharing your experiences with others who empathize and relate can be incredibly validating and comforting. These groups provide a safe space to share, learn coping strategies, and build connections that reinforce the notion that you are not alone in your journey.

Heal At Home:

Recovery phone lines have provided my foundation for understanding the far-reaching effects of childhood trauma. Groups like Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families have phone lines offering anonymous meetings to listen, learn, and share. 

face fears courage sign-Finding strength in community: A symbol of unity and support, representing the healing power of shared experiences and understanding

Heal While Traveling:

If you are recovery-curious, why not attend an in-person meeting when you’re on the road? Besides the fact that 12 step programs are anonymous, when you’re far away from home, you truly are anonymous. Not ready for that? Start solo with online therapy. Since it’s virtual, it travels with you.

Cultural Healing Practices

Traveling exposes you to various cultures, each with its own traditions and practices for healing and spirituality. Engaging with these practices, whether it’s meditation in a Himalayan monastery, a healing ritual in a Native American community, or a silent retreat in a European forest, can offer new paths to healing that are deeply connected to the Earth.

Cultural healing practices: An image capturing the essence of traditional healing rituals, highlighting the diversity and richness of global healing traditions
Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park in Sedona

Heal At Home:

Learn Traditional Healing Practices Engage with local healers or participate in workshops to learn about traditional medicine, such as Ayurveda in India, Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, or indigenous healing practices in various parts of the world.

Culinary Experiences: Food is a central part of many cultures’ healing practices. Participate in cooking classes or culinary tours to learn how local ingredients are used for both nourishment and medicinal purposes.

Heal While Traveling:

If you have the chance to participate in a spiritual ceremony, take it. Many destinations offer opportunities to attend or observe local spiritual ceremonies. This can provide insight into the region’s cultural beliefs and practices which enhances your experience. Now, this may seem intimidating but it doesn’t have to be.

how to start your healing journey using Cultural healing practices: An image capturing the essence of traditional healing rituals, highlighting the diversity and richness of global healing traditions
I ‘accidentally’ found Festas do Espirito Santo – Holy Ghost Festival – during my trip to Sao Miguel Island in Portugal

For example, I’ve done this intentionally and accidentally. During a spiritual trip to Sedona, I visited Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. A Tibetan Buddhist Temple in the Vajrayana Tradition, it’s a sacred site for meditation and prayer. I included an afternoon here and it was a quick and simple way to connect to my healing in a new way. I also just happened to be in Portugal the same weekend as their biggest Catholic festival.

Visit sacred sites and exploring places considered sacred can be a powerful experience. It offers a sense of connection to the spiritual and historical aspects of the area and thereby deepens your travel experience. Pack your travel field guide in your to-go bag and expand your healing.

Water 

Universally recognized for its soothing and healing qualities, water can have a calming effect on the mind and body. Whether it’s an ocean, lake, or river, engaging in water facilitates release and healing. 

Heal At Home:

The rhythmic sound of waves as they wash ashore can transport your imagination. But what if you don’t live near an ocean? Since most people don’t, why not explore the natural waters where you live? Are there rivers and streams in your region? It’s possible that there are sources of water that you’ll only learn about through Google Earth. Here’s one I made, but searching on Google Earth is better, because it shows more detail.

How can this heal? Learning about the water in your immediate area can open you up to new channels of energy and connection. For example, when you do some of this research, what intuitive information do you receive? Do you perceive a special message or feel a certain way? 

Water's soothing embrace: A tranquil water scene, embodying the calming and rejuvenating effects of nature on the soul
I was skeptical of this natural, spring-fed pool in Shoshone, California. However, it cured a cold I picked up while traveling and I felt amazing after my swim.

Then take those reflections and connect them to your personal story. How did you or your family come to live in this place? Looking at the water through searching the land is a fascinating topic that can create an intricate healing web that brings you clarity, forgiveness, and healing.

Heal While Traveling:

I’m sure you already know about swimming and water play…and the sense of freedom and weightlessness that can help if you’re carrying the weight of trauma. But traveling to different parts of the world to swim can initiate new openness and therefore cleansing. In addition, when traveling to new waters, it can connect you deeply with the Earth’s diversity. Each unique water environment offers its own healing modality, from the invigorating chill of mountain lakes to the gentleness of tropical seas. Of course if you travel to hot or cold springs, in the natural or in a dedicated pool, these waters contain special healing properties.

author in hot springs in Portugal-Water's soothing embrace: A tranquil water scene, embodying the calming and rejuvenating effects of nature on the soul
Hot springs at Poca da Dona Beija in Sao Miguel, Portugal

Camping

Heal At Home:

It may seem silly, but pitching a tent and sleeping under the stars in your own backyard is a very fun and healing experience. To answer your question, yes, I camped in my backyard. I understand, it feels ‘weird’…’what will my neighbors think‘, etc.

Well, there are a few tricks to get around that. First, camp in a spot that is concealed from your neighbors. Alternatively, remove their opinion all together. Just tell yourself this is about YOUR self-healing, not them. Facing your fear of being judged is a powerful act of courage.

take a teddy bear with you for companionship in camping in your backyard
When camping in your backyard, bring a friend for company and a little extra courage.

Think about it this way…even if your neighbors saw you, they’d probably never admit they were minding your business. So you don’t need to worry about having that conversation, anyway.  

There’s so many things about camping in your backyard. It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s free! Also, although sleeping under the stars is a main selling point, what if it’s cloudy? Or there’s smog? Whatever the reason, you may not see stars. But you will experience the healing act of sleeping on the ground. 

Being in close contact with the earth, entering into the rhythms of sleep, can open you up to tremendous insights for dreams. This can lead to unexpected healing in new ways.

camping to heal-Healing under the stars: A cozy campsite set against a backdrop of natural beauty, promoting healing through immersion in nature

Heal While Traveling:

Camping while traveling is an adventure! You can camp solo or in a group. It offers so many opportunities to disconnect from stress and reconnect with nature. The simplicity of living outdoors surrounded by natural beauty can inspire and empower you. When you combine mindfulness, you can feel a sense of peace that soothes the soul.

Don’t like tents? Camper vans offer lots of privacy and safety (and so much more!). I use Travelers Autobarn and love my camper van road trips.

Final Thoughts On How To Start Your Healing Journey

Healing from trauma requires a number of tools, and not all tools fit. But in order to heal, you must keep trying until you find ones that do. The goals of trauma healing include forgiveness, acceptance, and release. How you get there isn’t the point, just that you do.

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