After escaping an abusive marriage, travelling the world set this woman free

Yosemite pamphletsFacebookTravel set Kelsey Starkweather free.

For 21-year-old Kelsey Starkweather, who works for Skywest, travelling the world isn’t just a job or a passion. It’s what she calls her “safe house,” and it helped her discover an appreciation for a life she wasn’t always sure she would be able to live out.

“It’s now been a year since I left [my ex-husband],” she said, “and I look back and I’m like ‘Wow. If I would have stayed in that marriage, would I still be alive?'”

Starkweather grew up in Driggs, Idaho, a small town with a population of around 1,660. She married her boyfriend, a member of the Marines, at age 19. She told INSIDER that they thought it was a good idea because that way they could live together, as the military only allows married couples to live together.

Two months after they got married, he became mentally and physically abusive.

“He made me feel the worst of myself,” she said. “And then, when he started physically abusing me, that was the point where I was like, ‘Well, I’m really not good enough for anyone, because who can hit someone that they love? If my own husband doesn’t love me, then who can love me?'”

Starkweather managed to get out of the relationship, and filed for divorce. When she moved back in with her parents her mum suggested she apply to a job at Skywest Airlines that she had heard about.

Starkweather got the job, and said, “That’s when everything started to fall together. I found an opening and I took it.”

As a ramp agent at Skywest, Starkweather takes advantage of her free travel benefits.

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'I wasn't really much of the adventurous type until I got this job,' she said.

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She took her first solo trip to Yosemite National Park in November.

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The kindness she encountered from other hikers there helped restore her faith in the goodness of others.

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'When I was hiking around Yosemite, a lot of people would offer food and water to me, and ask if I would hike with them just for the company,' she said. 'It was amazing to see how people could be so nice.'

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'That was when it hit me that not everyone is evil in the world, there's actually a lot of awesome people who are very welcoming.'

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For her first trip overseas, she went to Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong, along with a co-worker and one of his friends.

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'Going international for the first time by yourself is actually really intimidating, so I was really happy that he (joined me)' she said.

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In Thailand, they hiked (and hung out) in Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park…

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...visited gorgeous beaches…

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...met some friendly creatures...

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...and sampled local cuisine.

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'Never in my life did I ever think I was going to travel like this,' she said. 'I thought I was just going to stay in one place and that was it.'

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'I was thinking I was going to die, but now I'm just living and I want to make the best of my time. I just want to have fun and travel.'

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Starkweather refers to travels as her 'safe house,' as it grants her a freedom she never thought she would have when she felt stuck in her abusive marriage.

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'I get really bad anxiety, but when I travel it goes away because I know that he doesn't know where I am,' she said. 'It's just really eye-opening what travelling can do for you. It definitely makes me feel more safe, more confident in myself.'

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She plans to visit New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Greece this fall.

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'I hope that if people read this and they're going through abusive situations that they will realise that they're not worthless, that they can get out of it,' she said, 'and that there's a whole new life they can build.'

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