Journeys With My Mother’s Ashes – Healing Grief through Travel

Hooray! It is done! The book is written and published.

It has been a long journey. Anyone who has read any of my travel blogs has quite a few clues as to how it went. For those who are new to my pages here is a quick overview:

In 2010 my dear mother passed away. Much angst and drama happened after that and I left the country to find a way of healing my body, mind and soul. It was quite a journey, 12 months tripping around the world first with my family then on my own. I returned 12 months later much better for my experience.

On my return I first published my poetry collection Laughter, Tears and Coffee through Balboa Press and this year I finally completed the memoir of my healing travel, ‘Journeys With My Mother’s Ashes- Healing Grief Through Travel’.

And here it is, available from Amazon, Barns and Noble and Booktopia


My poetry book has gone live!

Laughter, Tears and Coffee – an eclectic collection of my poetry covering half a lifetime of various experiences and touching moments. Births, deaths, travel, fun, celebrations, family. If it happens in life there is probably a poem about it here. Surprise, surprise the largest section is poetry inspired by some parts of my year of travelling. The print version is available from and look out for the e-book version which will soon hit the web. I have posted a couple of samples from the book in this blog previously, more to come. I hope you enjoy and relate to my experiences of life.

Antigua Guatemala

Another travel poem written while I was in Guatemala.


Antigua Guatemala

El Fuego
El Fuego

Where full moons shine on cobblestones
And sunshine bleaches Mayan bones
Volcanos stand so strong and tall
And often Fuego makes a call
With smoky signals from his crown,
Or, is that a Vulcan frown?
To let all those way down below
See his force and let them know
Just how temporary life can be
While he stands tall for all to see?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAntigua, where bougainvillea flowers
And Jacarandas send purple showers
Where Mayans walk with grace and sway
Bearing baskets on heads all day,
Where churches fell so long ago
From Hades quakes so far below,
The ruins stand in memory
Reminders for all here to see
That any day or night or year
It could repeat and end right here,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Antigua could become Pompeii
With no-one left to clearly say
What really happened in this town
When lava flowed the whole way down,
But meanwhile, midst techtonic plates
People live, still tempting fate,
Mayans walk on cobblestones
And sunshine bleaches their old bones.

Helene Jermolajew 2014 ©

My Ithaca


Hi all, it’s been a while since I posted my last travel story, life got in the way a little. Today I decided I’ve missed my writing so much and it will be a little while yet before I can post the next story. So…….to fill in the gap I’m going to post some of my travel poems instead. I wrote this first one while in Antigua Guatemala. I read C P Cevafy’s Ithaca. That wonderful poem struck a chord in me and I simply had to write one of my own. I wrote a few poems during my travels, all of them will be in my soon to be published (I hope) poetry collection. I hope you enjoy this temporary change of style.



My Ithaca

(Inspired by the poem ‘Ithaca’ C P Cevafy)

My Ithaca, wherever she may be,
Distant or close
In time and space,
Beauteous or humble
With a shining face
She waits,
As I travel
From birth through death
And back to birth,
From place to place,
My Ithaca waits.


My Ithaca waits
As I conquer gods of fear
And devils of depths,
Learn from every step,
Wipe away tears wept,
She waits
As I heal
Through sadness and joy,
Through friendships
Old and new,
Through travels
To distant ports
And mountains,
Along smooth paths and cobblestones,
My Ithaca waits
At my journeys end,
Wherever she may be.

Helene Jermolajew
Monday 6 January 2014
La Antigua


Intermission – Escaping God’s Waiting Room

‘She’s gone’ and with those words my life was torn asunder. I had spent many years taking care of my mother and the last 4 had slowly become more and more difficult for both of us. Mum was suffering physically and I could see her slowly fading away. The last year was the worst (of course) as she became weaker and sicker eventually having a stroke and passing on to a better world.

After the stress and trauma of Mum’s passing I started thinking what I would do, I had no plans as my whole life had been work, children then looking after parents (although there had been a lot of travel dreaming over my life time and a little bit of actual travel). Then more drama, which cut my planning short, the last surviving member of my family of origin took legal action on Mum’s will. Being stunned is an understatement. We had lost our brother way back in 1980, a musician with great talent gone too early. Then our father in 2001 and our mother in 2010. I thought that perhaps being the last ones left would have drawn us closer, but no. Then, a bit more than a year into the legal action this brother also died. This really threw me. Now there was no-one left from my family of origin, no-one who knew me as a child, no-one from my family of origin to love or even be angry at! What was I to do?

Yes, I have 2 sons, but they each have their own lives. One was building several businesses and had a life partner also with business ventures, they are busy creating their lives (exactly as it should be), the other one had kicked off his shoes and was travelling somewhere in the wilds of Central America, when would be the next time that I would see him? No idea! And that is as it should be too. Sometimes I wish I’d done the same – but then……I wouldn’t have these 2 awesome sons and I wouldn’t be who I am, my life would have been different.

Then I took a long hard look at my life, no life partner, no family of origin left, no-one available to travel with (at least not outside of Australia) a house that wasn’t earning me any money and to all intents and purposes no future with much fun in it, except on those odd occasions when I would get together with friends. Yes I have amazing friends who will always be there for me and I love them all dearly, I have my writing and connections with fellow poets and writers, but they all have lives, responsibilities and families of their own. It seemed that I was the only one with no good reason to stay in one place.

So many people get to this point in their lives, a vague future with little or no purpose nothing to do except gardening and reading (and a few other hobbies here and there). There is a time and place for that, but I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was an emotional mess after many years of stress and sitting around at home wasn’t going to help.


Once all the legal problems with my brother’s family were over I re-assessed my situation. I could stay in my house and do the daily routine thing but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to sit around waiting for someone to be available for social time. There were too many memories and too much sorrow, too much grief and way too much thinking time – not only was my family of origin gone to greener pastures but so were many dear friends – life is short, life is unpredictable, and yet life should still be fun.


I became the Golden Oldie traveller.
I rented out my house.
I packed my bags.
I hugged my friends farewell.
I started writing a blog.
And took off on a life mission for 12 months to see the world and re-align my body, mind and spirit.

I had dreamed of this all my life and here I was doing it. Much later than I would have wished, perhaps it would also have been nice to have a travelling partner but none around, however, I am mobile and not too old, so I can still do some fun stuff, with only a few limitations and I’ll be darned if I’m going to not do things just because there is no-one to share it with. Anyway, travelling with others can be a tricky business as I found out in some earlier, shorter travel, you have to be very careful with whom you choose to travel, sometimes it is better to just go alone. So off I went, initially with my 2 sons and daughter – in – law for a few weeks to take part of my mother’s ashes home to Dalmatia, then off on my own, exploring the world.

Strawberry Fields Forever
Strawberry Fields Forever


So what have I been doing? So far in 10 months –

17 countries
21 cities
4 islands
3 lakes
6 + villages

6 cities, 1 conference and a whole lot of music and poetry to go, before returning home at the end of 12 months for further re-assessment.

Teatro del Silencio - Bocelli under the Tuscan moon -Lajatico
Teatro del Silencio – Bocelli under the Tuscan moon -Lajatico

I have seen places I never planned to see, I have been to places I have dreamed of all my life. I heard Andrea Bocelli sing under the Tuscan moon, walked on soil where ancient gods and goddesses walked. I have seen palaces and villages and fields of red poppies, I hugged trees in the Vienna woods, saw the devastation of the 2013 European floods, saw the results of WWII in Dresden, stood on the spy bridge in Potsdam, had some of the best coffee and some of the worst. I have walked on Elvis’ carpets, touched his school friend, stayed where the Delta blues were born and got more than a little drunk on Hand Grenades. I met some of the most amazing people in my travels, of all ages (including an inspirational 90 year old solo traveller) many of these people are now lifelong friends. I shared the realisation of my dream of the Blue grotto with my children and spent much time exploring Serbia, the land where my parents grew up, I walked in their footsteps. I stayed with friends I haven’t seen in a lifetime, sang silly Swedish crayfish songs, road tripped with an old school friend in the USA, ate breakfast while watching mini eruptions from a volcano, listened to some of the best music in the most unlikely places, saw sunrises and sunsets all over the world, managed to catch up with the children one more time and turned 63 in Antigua Guatemala.

Dream come true The Blue Grotto Isle of Capri
Dream come true The Blue Grotto Isle of Capri

Of course, I photographed absolutely everything I could. A nice mix of travelling with people, travelling alone and being supported by my friends at home via the magic of social networking, so I knew that they were all travelling with me in spirit and they knew I was safe.

Yes, I have escaped God’s Waiting Room, and I would like to invite every other Golden Oldie out there to join me in more travel. It doesn’t have to be for 12 months, you just have to get out of that front door and go somewhere, anywhere that is different, for whatever length of time you want. More than likely I won’t do 12 months again, it’s a long time to be away from home, but travel I will, knowing that my Australia will be waiting for me each time I return.

So God’s waiting room will just have to wait a little longer for me, there is a world out here to explore, come join me. And perhaps my favourite chorus lines from that beautiful Rowland Salley song performed by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will relate to you too….

‘Somebody said they saw me, swinging the world by the tail
Bouncing over a white cloud, killing the blues.’

Meeting Big Al Carson New Orleans
Meeting Big Al Carson New Orleans

The 'Spy' Bridge Potsdam Germany
The ‘Spy’ Bridge Potsdam Germany

Unexpected snow in May Lake Bohinj Slovenia
Unexpected snow in May Lake Bohinj Slovenia

The Warm Man Uppsala Sweden
The Warm Man Uppsala Sweden

Schonbrunn Castle Vienna
Schonbrunn Castle Vienna

Icecream in Istanbul
Icecream in Istanbul

Great excitement - Hemingway's studio with original typewriter.
Great excitement – Hemingway’s studio with original typewriter.

Among amazing sculptures in Wroclaw Poland
Among amazing sculptures in Wroclaw Poland

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