In defense of going to touristy beach towns to heal
Lindsay Mack hit emotional rock bottom. Then she went to Duck, North Carolina.
Welcome to This Trip Changed My Life, where we spotlight the ways (good, bad, and everything in between) that travel has impacted the people we’re most inspired by.
I took a trip to Duck, North Carolina (a beach town on the Outer Banks) in 2011 that utterly and completely changed my life. But the crazy thing is this wasn’t even close to the first time I had been in Duck; I had been to Duck nearly every summer of my life, starting when I was a year old. I got my first period there. I got married there, eventually, in 2014. It was already extremely significant and familiar to me, and yet this particular trip was the most poignant and life-altering one I’d experienced to date.
The year I took this trip to Duck was the closest I’ve come to ending my life. The complex PTSD I’d experienced from childhood abuse had come to a head, and at 27, I was in a full-on Saturn return nightmare. It was a never-ending pastiche of panic, drinking, and wanting to die…and also trying desperately to not want to die. I was in the depths of despair, had no money, was burned the fuck out, and didn’t know what to do.
I was in the depths of despair, had no money, was burned the fuck out, and didn’t know what to do.
One day during this very difficult time, my grandmother called me and said, “We have an open room in the house for a week, do you want to come to Duck?” It was an immediate, feral “yes.” I knew my employer wouldn’t be happy with me, but I didn’t care. It wasn’t a choice. There was a part of me that knew I had to go out there, and I was right. It was life or death.
So I went with my partner—at the time we had been dating two years and had never been on a vacation together. He was so excited; he finally was going to get to see the famous Duck, the place I talked about incessantly since we had started dating. But I drove the entire way there in despair and contraction, seeking and needing something, although I wasn’t sure what. Because things were so intense, and because I was going through so much, I was just praying. I was praying to nothing. To anything. I didn’t really know what to do, but I just wanted to feel better. I wanted to have some kind of anchor. I look back on this and recognize it as me following my soul, my intuition. There was some part of me that knew there was something out there for me.
It had been four years since I had been in an ocean (I had become that disconnected to nature) and on my first morning in Duck, I got in the ocean and…I felt good, clear, and centered for the first time in months. Perhaps in my whole life. Such a simple thing, to float in the ocean, and yet, in that moment, it was a paradigm shift for me.
It was being on familiar land, on the waters that raised me up every summer since I was a baby. I was a woman with a shattered root who had been guided back home. I was being held by something bigger than me, bigger than my despair and my crippling trauma. It made me realize that I’d never had that kind of support in a parent. I had never had a space holder that held me during difficult or scary moments, but the ocean was showing up for me that week. I am convinced that she called me there to remind me of that.
Floating in that ocean was the first time in a long time that I didn’t want to die.
It was also pure medicine to get to be with my family, to get to play with my beloved goddaughter, Livie, to laugh and watch dumb movies and eat lobster and Dairy Queen. Little did I know, it would also be my grandfather’s last summer. To have spent that time with him out there was—and is—incredibly precious to me.
We were in Duck for a week and every single day I would get into the ocean and float for hours. I cried tears that I wasn’t able to cry anywhere else, or to anyone else. I played in the waves and tasted real moments of joy. I whispered my fears to the waves, and genuinely felt her answer me back. I saw and felt the tangible proof, for the first time, that something was larger than my trauma.
You don’t realize how much nature can redirect and heal you until you let yourself really be held by it.
When you have trauma, it can feel so much bigger than you. You can lose your sense of life, of hope, of Spirit; it feels utterly dark and crushing. This was like the light dawning. It was my first taste of Source embodied, and of something holding me when I couldn’t hold myself.
You don’t realize how much nature can redirect and heal you until you let yourself really be held by it. I didn’t even know to look for that in 2011, but I knew, somewhere, to answer the call when it beckoned. Duck is the only place on Earth that that could have happened in. I remember bowing to the ocean before I left to go back to New York, kissing the sand. I had been reborn.
I came back home and plunged into total despair for a little while. It was really hard to leave the place that had brought me so much healing. But, it created a new foundation for me, and woke me up to the need for way more connection with nature. I knew those shores, and going back to this home that wasn’t really mine but raised me in some way, made everything so clear.
Shortly after that trip, I quit my job and I started to seek out actual help for my trauma—I had been too overwhelmed to do that before. I then began to do a holistic coach training, which profoundly altered my life, which then led me back to Tarot. That trip, that ocean, that experience was the first step of many in a transformation that took place over several years.
I remember bowing to the ocean before I left to go back to New York, kissing the sand. I had been reborn.
On paper, this experience could have happened anywhere, but in my heart, I knew it had to be Duck. There was something about that one strip of land that was like no other. It was a very fated journey, and I really believe that the ocean came back to me as a mother and basically led me back to my soul.
When my husband and I got engaged, it was so clear that we couldn’t get married anywhere else but Duck. The wedding took place on the beach, mere feet away from the waters that birthed me back to life, and the reception was in that house, so it was pretty epic to come full circle.
I haven’t been back to my family’s house since my wedding, but I hope to again someday soon. My husband and I have gone out there many times in the last four years, and stayed on different parts of the Outer Banks. It’s always a deep joy to visit.
I haven’t thought about Duck in a while, but in the last week I’ve been like, “Ugh, I wanna go back there!.” My husband’s like, “I do too!” We have a psychic thing with that place, and often get called back to it at the same time. We’re trying to figure out in our scheduling craziness how to get there in the next month or so. There’s just something so specific and special about that strip of land. Every time I’m out there, it shifts something in my soul.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Lindsay Mack is an intuitive tarot reader, holistic counselor, and the founder of Tarot for the Wild Soul (which has an online tarot course launching in September 2018). When she’s not off experiencing her own travel breakthroughs, she’s helping others do the same—her next retreat is October 21-26 at Kripalu.