The Surprising Reason We Travel, plus What You Can Learn from Our Loss

Looking back on my life it is very apparent to me that a single moment in my existence has had an irrevocable and profound effect on my life to which I will forever be grateful. But, I digress, as you must understand this incredible gift was born out of one of the most tragic and heartbreaking moments of my life, my mother-in-law losing her battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). 

The Surprising Reason We Travel, plus What You Can Learn from Our Loss

What you can learn from our loss. How losing someone can impact your life in a positive way. Learning to live after loss. Grief can be so hard which is why I am sharing our story of how turning your loved ones memory into a legacy can help you heal.

There are certain people that come into your life and change you for the better. One of those people in my life was my mother-in-law, Diana. From the moment I met Diana her deep and endless love for her family was apparent. She had a sassy “can do” attitude paired with a dimpled smile, which made it impossible for anyone to say no to her. It didn’t hurt that she was always looking to have a good time whether that meant heading to Disney World, inviting everyone over for a BBQ, or buying practically every toy she could find at Costco to bring home to her grand kids. So, when a few short weeks after I married my husband she announced her ALS diagnosis shock and disbelief fell over us. How would we start our life together without her?

I remember quite vividly going through all the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But, it was us, her family, struggling through these phases. Diana however, being the vivacious and amazing woman she was, had accepted her diagnosis with grace. Instead of focusing on the negative she strived to focus on living and having fun. I can honestly recall her begging me to book a skydiving trip for her one afternoon. And, while that was a request she meant for me to ignore (maybe?) there were others that she was quite serious about like getting to ride in a hot air balloon, asking for sips of Dr. Pepper against doctors orders while in the hospital, heading to Disneyland with her grandkids to see the fireworks even after things had gotten pretty bad, and maybe most importantly that she wanted her funeral to be a celebration of her life instead of a sad event. All requests which we obliged.

What you can learn from our loss. How losing someone can impact your life in a positive way. Learning to live after loss. Grief can be so hard which is why I am sharing our story of how turning your loved ones memory into a legacy can help you heal.

While my time with Diana was short, her legacy lives on and plays out in the lifestyle my husband and I have created with our 5 children. She is the real reason we choose to pour all of our energy into creating a meaningful life, one that doesn’t follow status quo but yet one that ensures we are cherishing the moments we have together with the ones we love the most in the best possible way. Diana gave us one of the most precious gifts of all; she showed us that even with a great loss could come great joy. She gave us a reason to keep living in a time where all we wanted to do was cry.

We laid Diana to rest by spreading her ashes in the ocean in Maui as she requested. At her memorial, there were pictures of all the incredible trips she had taken through the years, photos of her with her family, and each one with that gorgeous and infectious smile of hers. We cried that day no doubt, but we also found the strength to rejoice for she had lived life well.

As the years went by my husband and I became more and more passionate about traveling with our kids. It was a chance for us to escape the daily demands and obligations of work + life and just enjoy each other. It was also a way for us to connect with Diana. Every time we stepped foot in an ocean we felt her presence. The same was true when a butterfly fluttered by or we headed into a Disney Theme Park. So, we built a life around travel and creating incredible memories with our children.

Almost daily I pinch myself because the life we live seems too good to be true. But, then I quickly remember it wasn’t just luck that got us to where we are today but rather the perspective gained through our greatest loss and for that reason, not a day goes by that I don’t think of, and am grateful to my mother-in-law and her incredible and selfless gift.

What you can learn from our loss. How losing someone can impact your life in a positive way. Learning to live after loss. Grief can be so hard which is why I am sharing our story of how turning your loved ones memory into a legacy can help you heal.

Lessons You Can Learn from Our Loss

A loss in inevitable in life, we have no control over it. What we do have control over is striving to pull whatever silver lining we can from our losses. For me, that meant allowing Diana’s legacy to live on by embodying some of the magnificent qualities she possessed like kindness, generosity, love, and as someone who lived life to the fullest into our daily lives. But, how to do that exactly has been a work in progress. Here are the lessons we have learned so far. 

Every Day is a Gift

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Living with someone who is terminally ill makes you realize how delicate life really is. It hits you with so much clarity and allows you to put your priorities in order. To us, that means waking up each day with a grateful heart open to what the world has in store for us. It means taking time to truly enjoy the monotony and mundane. It means never missing a sunset, a chance to play with our kids, and most definitely never missing the chance to laugh together. Those are all things we strive to do each and every day. 

Create Memories Over Material Things

The National Whitewater Center in Charlotte one of our favorite stops along our two-week Southern Beaches road trip. See the rest by clicking through to the post.

Material things don’t get to come with us after we pass whereas memories live on forever and can bring us happiness even when we are facing a time in our lives that is steeped in sadness. We realized the power of memories first hand when we were losing Diana, as the one thing that did bring us all joy at that time was recalling all the happy memories we had with her. So, a few years back we decided to forgo most material gifts and in their place gift experiences. At first, the kids weren’t too sure of our decision, but they quickly learned that they gained so much more joy through their trips and events than they did from their material gifts.

Be a Risk Taker

Diana was not one to wait around for her dreams to come true. She had the veracity to go out there and chase them down. I think it is one of the reasons when we looked back through all the photos of her life we felt rested in the fact that even though her life ended much too soon she had truly lived each moment of her life to the fullest. So, instead of pausing, contradicting ourselves, waiting behind we have taught our kids to “Be like Grandma Diana” and just go for it! It’s amazing the power behind her memory. It is what gave my husband and I the courage to start our own businesses, and what gave us the audacity to travel thousands of miles to welcome a son into our family from Ethiopia, her memory also gave my kids the fearlessness to zip line across ravines, and it was her memory that gave me the freedom to chase after a career in travel blogging.

Play By Our Own Rules

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Whether she was dressed up as a clown, learning the Hawaiian culture, or speeding down the highway in a convertible Diana was definitely not one too concerned with following status quo. So, I attribute our attitudes of strumming to the beat of a different drum to her. Take one look at our family and it’s easy to see we embrace diversity. We believe in living out our own truths and creating a life that is true to who we are versus what the world tells us we should be.

Pain and Joy Really can Coexist

What you can learn from our loss. How losing someone can impact your life in a positive way. Learning to live after loss. Grief can be so hard which is why I am sharing our story of how turning your loved ones memory into a legacy can help you heal.

Maybe the most important lessons we learned through losing Diana was that pain and joy can exist together. The photos above were taken as we spread Diana’s ashes out to sea and I think it is the perfect example. We were saying goodbye to Diana while simultaneously watching the two new lives we had created playing and being silly on that same beautiful beach. The boys were much too young to understand what had happened and their innocence granted them the ability to still be playful in a time where all we wanted to do was cry. Instead, we would find ourselves giggling over their tomfoolery which I can guarantee their Grandma was watching and laughing along with too, from up above.

What I hope you learn from our loss is that we have no choice over whom and when our loved ones will leave us but we do have the power to cherish the time we are given and to remember those who we’ve lost by helping their memory live on.

Is there a person that has impacted the way you live for the better? Tell me about your story in the comments below.

For more inspiration & strength from stories about love & loss head to Masterpiece of Love .

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#AD “We have no choice over whom and when our loved ones will leave us but we do have the power to cherish the time we are given and to remember those who we've lost by helping their memory live on.” Read our story on overcoming grief and how we turned our tragedy into something meaningful. Click to read the lessons we learned through our loss and how the impacted our life for the better. *This post was sponsored by Prudential Financial. [ad]



  • Lena says:

    Such a beautifully written post. I love the lessons you outlined and agree 100%. I lost my mom to ALS and so this post hits close to home.

    • Mama Munchkin says:

      I am so sorry for your loss Lena. It’s anazing to me how many people I know who travel often have experienced a loss. It definitely makes you put things into perspective. Big hugs ❤️❤️

  • Karilyn says:

    Lovely post Amber! And so timely as I was just talking to someone at TBEX about how I really aim to live each day the best possible way I can because if I die tomorrow I want to know that my son has a lifetime of memories stored in his brain (and on my computer!).

    My travel love stems from my grand parents.. a post I have half written many times now. My grandmother died when I was a kid. It even with colon cancer she continued to travel the world until she just couldn’t anymore!

    • Mama Munchkin says:

      It’s so true! Those are my exact thoughts. Your grandmother sounds like she was an incredible women ❤️

      • Tiffany Jones says:

        Thank you so much for sharing your story! A few years ago, my good friend was diagnosed with ALS. He’s still fighting this horrible disease.

  • Angela says:

    Love this!

  • Kamara says:

    I am very sorry to hear of your loss, firstly. Secondly, I completely agree with all those lessons – particularly to create memories over material things. I like to think I am living according to most of those already! Thank you for sharing.

    • Mama Munchkin says:

      Thank you Kamara, and I am so happy to hear you are living life to its fullest. Keep it up!!

    • Kathy says:

      My thoughts exactly. I love all the lessons. I can relate to each one, especially that Pain and Joy Really can Coexist. My husband had a terrible accident on our first trip to Hawaii.While he survived, our lives are very different. I had so many beautiful experiences while in Hawaii even as he was barely clinging on to life itself. It’s been two years and I’m still learning but I am learning to embrace our new life together. There are so many beautiful experiences yet to happen.
      Thank you for sharing

  • Such an emotional post. Everyday is indeed a gift.

  • Beautiful post and I love your outlook and the life you’ve created. Totally agree with your perspective!

  • Diana sounds like such a treasure of a person! I’m sorry she was taken from you so soon. What a beautiful way to honor her. This was so well-written it made me tear up :,) Happy tears, of course. You’re the kind of mother/daughter-in-law/wife I aspire to be!

  • What a beautiful post in honor of your mother-in-law. I am so sorry for your loss. As you travel I’m sure you can feel her by your side enjoying her grandchildren’s joy of engaging in new experiences in faraway places. What a fabulous gift you’re giving your children – the gift of travel and adventure.

    • Mama Munchkin says:

      Denay you nailed it. We feel her all around us and we tell stories which helps the kids feel like they really had the chance to meet her. It’s amazing. Thank you or reading.

  • What a lovely post. I am sorry for your loss but so happy for your joy.

  • This post brought tears to my eyes – it’s so that every day is a gift. Travel is a great way to carry on in her honor, and enriching the lives of everyone in your family in the process.

  • Theresa | Primetime Chaos says:

    What a lovely lovely blogpost! It really touched my heart! I just lost my grandparents who were two of the most important people in my life. I still cannot believe they are gone and it has been a couple of months. BUT I always ask myself “What would they have done and what would they want me to do?” and it just always puts a smile on my face because all they wanted is for us to be happy 🙂
    Sending much love to you!

    • Mama Munchkin says:

      I am so sorry for your loss Theresa. It is so true that what they want most is for us to be happy. Sending much love right back to you.

  • What a beautiful post and such kind words about your MIL. I lost my mom suddenly last year and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank her for all she gave. My condolences to your family. Diana was very lucky to have you.

  • Meagan says:

    She may have inspired you, but you’re a pretty serious inspiration, yourself. Both of us have dealt with loss – or with really close calls – in the not so recent past, and I can’t help thinking that’s one reason we’ve pushed ourselves to get out as much as we have. Even without a mortality check, we both have the urge to make a dent in the world, so to speak – and to be reminded that life is about more than a monotonous 9-to-5. Kudos to you guys for making the lives you love – it looks like you’re having a blast 🙂

  • Chris says:

    I am so glad I found this post this morning. As I read it I am preparing to go be with my mom who has cancer so she will not be alone in her final months. I lost my husband last July and 10 days later, my dad who was her husband of 68 years. The memories I have and will continue to make will be priceless as you say. Thank you so much for your reminders of what to do. I am putting this blog in my saved files. Bless you! Sweet family!

  • Maureen says:

    I recently lost my father (less than two weeks ago). I am so fortunate to have had him in my life as long as I did. I feel the loss so much at this moment because it is so recent. It was the beginning of Sept when we found out the diagnosis and things happened quickly. I am one of 7 siblings and all of us know that he and my mother gave us the best life possible. My mother is happy one moment and sad the next. But she has some of us near geographically and others are near by phone or other forms of communications. Just saying this is part of what my parents taught us–roots and wings. You give your child roots but allow them to have wings to find their way in this world.

  • Niki says:

    Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your stories and the pics of your beautiful family.

  • Debbie Norton says:

    Such an awesome post!! I am truly inspired by you. Thanks for sharing!

  • Melissa says:

    I just somehow came across this post and started reading. My heart sunk when I read it was ALS. My dad died last December from this terrible disease. Watching him go through this really has impacted me greatly. Unfortunately, it has put me in a bit of a slump. Thank you for your words. I needed them.

    • Mama Munchkin says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss Melissa. It is such a hard thing to lose a loved one. Sending you lots of virtual (((((hugs)))).

  • Shelby says:

    Your post is full of meaningful advice. Thank you so much for sharing.

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