Brenda Lee Sieglitz’s busy life is about to get even busier as she launches a new venture, Widow Voyages. She began her “second act” at the young age of 32, hoping to help others of all ages.
Widowhood is something Brenda knows about firsthand. She lost her husband, Kevin, who was only 36, to angiosarcoma, a rare cancer that is usually fatal. They had only been married for a year and a half when the unthinkable diagnosis was made. Brenda realized after his passing that widowhood was not going to be easy.
Today, as Brenda looks back, she realizes how much this experience changed her life and has chosen to share what she learned to help other widows and widowers. Healing is at the root of her new business venture, Widow Voyages.
A few months after Kevin’s passing and after dealing with the many decisions and up-and-down emotions of being a caregiver and then a surviving widow, Brenda, who was only 24, felt the need to get away or “run away,” as she puts it. So, she decided to take a trip out West in order to “let go, breathe again and experience nature.” This trip became the genesis of her healing. Her new beginning. Yet, it very much served as a link to the past, as camping, hiking and biking had always served as sources of enjoyment and provided her with a coping mechanism.
“I often think if I had not taken that first step, that trip after my husband’s passing, where would I be today?” she says. Widow Voyages will enable other widows and widowers to take that first step with the help of others. It will enable them to not only have fun, but also experience safe, affordable group travel.
Brenda developed the business concept after meeting and speaking with others through the grief, travel and nature workshops she has presented across North America. She discovered that travel can present challenges in that it can trigger memories, making it unpleasant, especially if you are alone. Such triggers can include encountering couples on anniversary trips, seeing a wedding take place at the resort where you are staying, or being asked those “getting to know you” questions, which can leave a person feeling vulnerable about being on their own and having to share (over and over) his or her marital status.
Brenda also hopes to remedy the fact that travel can be financially challenging for widows due to the high cost of travel packages for solo travelers. Her business offers a same-sex roommate matching program for those looking for a discount and negotiates with travel partners to secure the best rates for those who wish to room on their own.
Brenda recalls her first trip as a widow, sharing, “I realized no matter how far I traveled, my grief went with me.” Being a gifted speaker aids Brenda in presenting healing workshops, with Healing Through Nature and Travel and Traveling Solo being the two most popular. Healing Through Nature and Travel delves into healing places to visit, plus examines the mental and emotional benefits nature provides while going through life changes. It also should be noted that Brenda is a master naturalist.
In Traveling Solo, she covers such topics as how to travel safely on your own and ways to travel economically. She also discusses the impact returning to places of significance may have, and she provides tips on traveling for the first time after becoming widowed. “I love giving these workshops. I always meet the most amazing people,” Brenda confides.
Widow Voyages, which formed in March, will embark on its first trip later this month, with Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, and the Finger Lakes region of New York comprising the Food and Wine Tour. Next up is a trip to Rolling Ridge Rustic Retreat in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, October 28-30. Next year, Utah is on her radar.
Brenda plans to donate 10% of business profits to grief-related nonprofits and towards establishing a future travel scholarship program that will benefit widowed travelers in need of financial assistance.
Brenda is also an author. Her book, Ebb from the Shoreline – Finding Cancer and Courage, which relates to love and loss, won 1st Place/Editor’s Choice in Nonfiction at the 2014 North American Book Awards. Her “other job” is writing and doing advertising sales for Where and When, Pennsylvania’s Travel Guide, which is published by Engle Printing & Publishing.
But, Brenda’s life isn’t all about work. She has once again found happiness. Now remarried, her husband, David, serves as her business advisor and is there to provide feedback and support when needed. In their leisure time, they like to ride their motorcycles and share a love of music; she occasionally plays the piano or harmonica in her husband’s band, the Scarlet Blues Band. She also likes to kick back and relax with her two Beagles, Scotch and Fina.
To learn more about Widow Voyages, contact Brenda at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-682-0365. The website is brendaleefree.com/widow-voyages.
Ebb from the Shoreline can be purchased at Aaron’s Books in Lititz or from her website.