Love, Loss + Luggage: Travel as Prozac, Part III

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Stonehenge, 2009
    Grief is sneaky.
    One minute you’re en route home from JFK, fresh from a transatlantic nap and relieved that your first Thanksgiving alone is behind you.
    The next?
    A meltdown when you open the apartment door.
    The orchids on Alberto’s urn were dead.
    The mail was full of belated condolences.
    The chalkboard in the kitchen with his handwritten words (‘Dinner was delicious’) had fallen to the floor while I was in London.
    In tears, I called a girlfriend.
    The wrong girlfriend.
    She tried to talk to me into grief counseling and anti-depressants.
    “But,” I argued, “travel is my stupid Prozac. It’s how I face the birthdays and anniversaries and holidays: with a view from somewhere I’ve always wanted to go or a place we planned to visit together.      
    “And the first fucking year is when you have to face the loss,” I continued. 
    “It’s when you have carte blanche to skip holidays and drunk-dial friends and ask people to meet you in foreign countries or help you clean out his closet. You get a prescription only if you’re still a hot mess after all this.”
    “But I know a good therapist,” she insisted.
    I hung up, opened a bottle of red wine and finalized my December trip to Brazil with my New York cousins.
    The day before the holiday break, my CFO initiated a meeting to discuss my commitment to the PR firm in 2010.
     “We’re all hoping that you find Brazil restorative,” he said, “because we can’t grant you any more time off after the New Year.”
     In other words, no time off for the one-year anniversary of Alberto’s death in March.
     But I’d already started planning the trip to Cuba with my mother-in-law.
     My visa had arrived the week before.
     Yet how do you negotiate Cuba on the eve of a two-week trip to Brazil?
     You don’t.
     Instead, you find your game face.
     You meet their eyes, smile through your teeth and say what they want to hear.
     “Yes,” I nodded. “I do hope Brazil will be restorative. And yes, I hope that when I return, I’ll be able to bring the noise.”
     I went home thinking about the agency’s ultimatum but checked it at the airport, right along with my luggage. I arrived in the small resort community of Florianópolis at dawn, dropped my bags in my room—along with my jaw when I saw the beach from my window.
      For the next week, I hiked the mountains of Floripa—as the locals call it—and swam topless in the ocean for the first time. I went to dinner alone every night but somehow ended each meal with new friends. I photographed bridges, encountered iguanas, and got along on more Spanish and Portuguese than I ever knew I had.
      Somewhere in the humid jungle of Foz du Iguazú—amid the tropical birds and wild monkeys—I began to find my pace and space.
Christmas in Brazil, 2009

      By the time I met my cousins in Rio for New Years, I had prayed, soul-searched, run the financials and chosen the riskier version of my life: gone would be my income and the 401k. Gone would be the luxuries I’d taken for granted when I was married. I’d be surviving off a very finite amount of savings, but I’d be living—and mourning—on my own terms.
      After making the hilltop pilgrimage to El Cristo and spreading Alberto’s ashes 2000 feet above the City of God, I drafted my resignation letter from a hotel room in Rio.
New Year’s in Rio, 2010

      Two months later, I’d quit my job and boarded a flight with my mother-in-law from Miami to Havana.
      She guided me to the same places Alberto photographed when he came to Cuba: the historic square that shares his ad agency’s name; the site of his family’s once-splendid home; the blue waves crashing over vintage cars on the Malecón.
Streets of Havana, 2010

      I am here.
      In the century-old rooms where he had once slept.
      Meeting the relatives, artists, friends with whom he shared drinks and memories.
      A week later, one year to the day he died, I stood on Havana’s sea wall in the shadow of Hotel Nacional.
      Holding his ashes and the hand of his mother.
       I find my voice and a few words.
      “Today is the one-year anniversary and we’re bringing you home, Alberto. There really are no words in English or Spanish for how much we miss you. So we’re just gonna tell you that we’re here and…we love you.”
      “Muchisimo,” his mother says.
      “So much,” I repeat.
      She squeezes my hand and releases the first of the bougainvillea blossoms.
       I aim his ash at the waves, but the wind sweeps him back toward us, settles him in the tidal pools where the flowers have landed.
      When the ritual is complete, I take her hand and kiss it.
      “Thank you,” I say, “for bringing me here. For showing me what he always wanted to.”
      “We are exactly where we should be, Tré, ” she said. “But if you’d told me a year ago that we’d be standing in Havana today, I never would have believed it.
One-Year Anniversary in Cuba, 2010
Tré Miller Rodríguez lives in Manhattan and recently completed her first book, “The White Elephant in the Room: Memoirs of a 30-Something Widow.” To read excerpts of her memoir, please visit


  1. Thank you for sharing your life and love with us. I think grief is something that connects us all.


  2. By sharing your story, you have helped me live more frequently in the moment. Every day with my husband is a precious gift I will prize. But I also see that there is always a road ahead with or without him. Thank you.

  3. I can't wait to read whole book. Kudos to you for living your life on your terms after this tragic event. Prozac or any other anti-depressant would not help as much as writing this book; it would just make you numb... In the process of pouring your heart out you truly made me appreciate every single day in a new way. Sending lots of blessings your way.

  4. These installments are amazing. They give me so much to consider. So much to appreciate. And the writing is brilliant. Tre's voice is like no other. I eagerly await the publication of her book.

  5. Beautiful and poignant. I think it is really important to thank people for sharing the intricacies of life. Grief is not an easy thing to face, but when we share our stories it links us. Thank you for reminding us that we are all in this together.

  6. Tre - the way you turn heartbreak and pain into beauty is truly inspiring. Your experiences, while so foreign to me, hit so close to home. Your words ring poignant and true. I look forward to reading more.

  7. Where can I buy your book??? How have I not heard of this yet??

  8. I just stumbled upon this posting and followed my way to your blog. Wow. I couldn't stop reading. You truly have a way with words. God bless you sweet Tre.

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