The second week of March I flew to Tampa, Florida to join two of my best widow friends at Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island for a few days of rest and relaxation before we met the rest of the widows at the Marriott Waterside hotel for my 5th Camp Widow conference.
I needed a day to do nothing and the gals agreed, so we rented a cabana on the beachfront of our hotel on the Gulf of Mexico and plopped ourselves in the sun for hours. My skin (failed sunscreen, ouch) paid but it was completely worthwhile. The cabanas were so nice and the water was chilly but bearable for this girl who had escaped winter in Pennsylvania. We all managed to get into the water for a cool off.
The resort was nice, right on the water, and a mini fridge helped keep our drinks filled all day long. It was exactly what I needed – a day of nothing before going into the nonstop events of Camp Widow.
The next day, after our fill of seafood, we drove east to meet up with our other widow friends for the start of my 5th Camp Widow. I had decided that I wasn’t going to attend any workshops this time, but to attend only to present and attend the keynote and social events. It would turn out to be an excellent decision.
I enjoyed seeing friends from past Camp Widows and meeting new widows and widowers who were there for their first camp. It felt good to be a mentor, an “old hat” who could help them with the layout and expectations of their first camp. It led to many great conversations and helped me to feel at ease for my Saturday presentation.
This year I combined my ‘Traveling Solo’ workshop with my ‘Healing through Nature and Travel’ workshop at the request of Camp Widow/Soaring Spirit International’s director, Michele Neff Hernandez. I’m so glad she asked me to do this because it was a beautiful blend of both workshops and led to some amazing discussions.
Everyone who came to my workshop put a post-it note on the wall under these three topics: What’s on your bucket list? Where do you want to return to? What new activity do you want to do? The notes were beautiful and inspiring-I could tell each of these men and women were ready to dream about life again and figure out a way to explore and travel on their own.
This workshop was also the first public venue where I would be sharing about my new business venture, Widow Voyages, and I was nervous about its reception. I had no reason to be – people were ready to sign up right then and there! More info is coming in the next blog, so check back!
There were so many amazing events over the weekend including a group photo, fun dancing, a lighted heart remembrance photo, and ending the Saturday night banquet with a big group hug. My heart felt whole with these people. They are my people.
I’ve struggled over the past few years about my continued involvement in the widowed community. As I’ve cared for my grief and mental health over the past year, it is reflected in my visit to my 5th Camp Widow. It was the first time I came home from Camp Widow motivated instead of crashing with grief. Self care is winning.
I’m excited for many more Camp Widows to come and future adventures with all of my widowed community.