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Commemorative Travel: The Latest Trend In Vacation Planning

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What do you call a trip that speaks to the desire to celebrate the memory of loved ones in the company of others who are drawn to do the same? I call it Commemorative Travel.

Previously on my blog, I revealed five destinations around the world where travelers can spend time away from home remembering and honoring the family and friends they never want to forget. Just as we build trips around caring for endangered animals, jumping out of airplanes, and building schools in developing countries, Commemorative Travel is another kind of specialized adventure. This type of vacation allows us to design itineraries to strengthen our connections to the past.

In Passed and Present, I reveal a number of Forget Me Nots that can deepen our connections to loved ones through travel. In fact, I write an entire chapter of travel ideas! Below are several destinations, and if you'd like even more, please email me at allisongilbert@allisongilbert.com. Please write "More Travel Ideas" in the subject line. OK, let's share some of these opportunities.

Camino de Santiago: The Camino is a spiritual and physical journey that winds through Spain and a small section of France. There are many routes one can take -- the longest taking 30-40 days, covering about 500 miles. Time on the Camino is transformative: allowing uninterrupted time to reinvest in the relationship you've lost. It's a pilgrimage in every sense of the word -- a chance for private reflection, prayer, meeting fellow travelers, and developing new, meaningful friendships.

If international travel isn't what you have in mind, there are a number of ways to celebrate your loved one's memory closer to home. Here are three places to go that I think are amazing:

The RiSE Festival puts on lantern release events every year in the Mojave Desert, Nevada. Every participant receives a paper lantern on which they can write a message to a loved one. Then, in unison, thousands of people release their lanterns into the night sky, creating a twinkling and deeply stirring moment of communal solace and reflection. RiSE organizers say they use only biodegradable lanterns and conduct a miles-wide 72-hour clean up following the event to recover them.

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RISE Festival
credit: RISE Festival

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens puts on a Japanese Obon-inspired Lantern Festival every fall on its beautifully manicured grounds in Delray Beach, Florida. Here, in addition to a magnificent paper lantern ceremony that takes place on its lake, there's also the opportunity to purchase tanzaku, colorful strips of paper used for writing messages to loved ones. During Obon, it's believed the spirits of the dead return home and are guided back to the afterlife when the celebration ends by flames and smoke. Because of this tradition, guests who have lost loved ones within the last year are invited to place handwritten notes into a large boat which is then set on fire during the ceremony, the smoke symbolically transporting their loved ones to the next world for the first time.

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Morikami Tanzaku Tight Writing
credit: Morikami Museum

Lantern Floating Hawaii is an annual event that takes place on Memorial Day on the island of Oahu. According to organizers, it's a chance for anyone who has ever lost a loved one to "be surrounded by the love, understanding, and support of others - even strangers." On the morning of the ceremony, participants collect materials to assemble a lantern in the Lantern Request Tent. Each lantern has three sides for writing messages of remembrance. Each family personally places their lantern into the water during the service. Because the observance takes place at night, the water gradually transforms into a sparkling and bobbing oasis of memories.

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Lantern Floating Hawaii Writing
credit: Lantern Floating Hawaii

Vacations are perfect times to honor, celebrate, and remember loved ones. We are generally more relaxed and open to new and meaningful experiences. The trick is aligning our intentions with the right destination.