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Distance isn’t always a negative. Sometimes it takes physical distance to give us perspective on our own pain. I left bad memories, the pain of loss, the chaos of death 6000 miles away, and even though their ghosts still follow me, I am somehow beyond their reach. When I finally returned to Germany, after three weeks of funerals, family drama, and heartache, I was astounded by the feeling of freedom I found in a park, along a little river.

I spent hours exchanging scars, blessings, and travel stories with a kindred spirit in that a park. As I walked home, the flowers seemed to bloom just for me. The breeze seemed to lift away the ghosts of my past. The river seemed to move me along, away from what I was.

In the stifling heat of downtown Washington D.C., and the isolation of the Northern California suburbs, I was trapped. I was surrounded by grief, stress, and pain, both others’ and my own. I was constantly reliving the worst moments of my childhood, and I trudged through some of the deepest grief of my adult life. It was a muddy mess I couldn’t seem to escape. Yet, as soon as I stepped into the crisp autumn of Nuremberg, something inside of me broke free, some sunlight pierced through the overhanging clouds.

At its heart, this is what travel offers us all, a chance to put a physical distance between our own narrow world and a broader one. What we leave behind will always be there, but what we see when we’re away gives us the freedom to see everything else more clearly. Sometimes distance brings us pain, and sometimes distance saves us.