In fall 2022, Gordon alum Cindy (Pott) Benson ’78 went to Switzerland with five other women to see the beauty of God’s creation and explore the wilderness of another country.

“It was really fun,” she said. “It was a great way to travel as a single woman.”

For eight days, these fearless travelers wandered the hills of Interlaken, took in the views of Lake Thun and enjoyed the hospitality of a community in Beatenberg.

They conversed with the students in the dining hall of the Bible college where they stayed, navigated public transportation and practiced their German with locals as they walked from hut to hut.

These wandering women, however, had more in common than just an appreciation for beautiful landscapes and exploring new cultures––four out of the six women on the trip had lost their spouse.

Hope in Grief

In 2013 Cindy lost her husband, Paul G’77, just short of his 59th birthday after a brave and hard-fought battle with cancer.

Affectionally known to many as “Benny,” Cindy’s husband was known for his hearty laugh, positive attitude and ability to make people feel welcome and accepted in his presence.

“The home that he and Cindy shared in Andover for 28 years was always filled with friends, family and the many college students that he and Cindy ‘adopted,’” his obituary read. “Benny found great meaning in mentoring young people and encouraging them to grow in their gifts and confidence by loving them unconditionally and challenging them to reach their potential, whether it be on the soccer field, in a small group discussion, or a one-on-one meeting over lunch to talk about the big issues of life and faith. He modeled a life of integrity, simplicity, loyalty, hope, faith, and love.”

Since her husband’s death, Cindy has found strength and community through Modern Widows Club, a non-profit organization that services widows by supporting them through groups long after most become ineligible for traditional grief support.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 70% of married women will face widowhood in their lifetime.

“At Modern Widows Club, we serve women seeking to understand the widowhood experience, to assist them in creating a positive future and a purposeful life––women of all ages, beliefs, faiths, partner-statuses and ethnic backgrounds, women of all loss-circumstances, focused on growth versus grief and seeking empowerment,” the Club’s President and Development Director Carolyn Moor said in the organization’s 2020 Impact Report. 

At the organization’s conferences, Benson has been inspired by widows from all over the world who are now starting orphanages, writing books and seeking to make real change in the world.

While the trip to Switzerland was not officially organized by the nonprofit, many of those who chose to join heard about the opportunity through a post on the organization’s travel club Facebook page.

The common thread of loss brought these wilderness women closer together as they explored a different country.

“You do have a bond right away or pretty easily with those who have gone through loss, and they just get it, they can relate,” Benson explained. “[In] some ways you don’t have to talk about it as much, but you can share openly if you want to.”

A nod to the La Vida Center

As the women made their way through Europe, Benson explained that they needed to find a way to communicate with each other in large crowds.

“We needed a way to communicate when we were in a crowded train station, trail or just trying to get each other’s attention to move the group forward,” Benson said.

Remembering her daughter Caren’s G ’02 experience as a kayak guide at the La Vida Center, Benson recommended they call out “La Vida” to round up the travelers.

“It is a good word because it means ‘the life,’” she smiled.

Chasing the Horizon

Benson currently lives in New Hampshire and recently went back to Europe with some of the same women to continue exploring. They saw London and Oxford and hiked the Cotswolds for two weeks in the English countryside. “La Vida” was still their rallying cry.

“I would love to go back to Switzerland someday,” Benson said. “I would love to do more e-biking and bike around some of the country roads and paths. I would also love to go kayaking on the lakes.”

Das Abenteuer wartet!