Navigating Love, Loss, and Adventure: Sarah's Journey of Grief, Solo Travel, and Discovering Her True Potential
What is GAFFL?

GAFFL connects solo travelers with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

12th Jun | 7 min read

Table of Contents

    Sarah is the writer and photographer for Life Part 2 and Beyond. She is originally from the UK but is currently living in Malta with her trusty hound that she rescued from the streets of Thailand. She left London in January 2002 to travel the world but never returned. During this time, she explored many countries and lived in Thailand, Laos, Portugal, and now Malta.

    While traveling in Chiang Mai back in 2013, Sarah met Jonathan, and it seemed like fate had brought them together. Jonathan had been the biggest motivator behind their blog. He always used to believe “there’s more to life than simply working".

    Today, Sarah continues to honor Jonathan's legacy by carrying on with the blog, which caters to more mature travelers and focuses on solo travel and house-sitting adventures.

    You can learn more and follow along on Sarah's journey by heading to her Blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Life part 2 beyond

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    Traveling Solo as Grief Therapy: Honoring a Partner's Memory

    I have always wanted to see more of the world, but my friends were very much divided into two camps - those that still wanted holidays where you just sunbathe on the beach and party all night, and those who were settling down, getting married, and having babies. I realized I didn’t fit into either category and if I wanted to see the world, I was just going to have to do it by myself.  It was the best decision I ever made. 

    Why do I continue to do it? Well, since losing my partner Jonathan who I met in 2013, in March 2021, I have started traveling solo again. Traveling solo is my grief therapy. As we expected many more years of traveling together, we had a huge bucket list. I’m now working my way through our bucket list in his memory. 

    Plus, I enjoy the freedom to travel and do what I want, when I want, without having to compromise. 

    Wanderlust on a Budget: How I Score Great Deals on Flights

    I travel at every opportunity. I usually plan one to two really big trips a year. The next big adventure will be Botswana. I also like to house sit, which is a great way to travel, live like a local, and have lots of pet cuddles. 

    As I write this, I’m house-sitting in the Loire Valley in France, caring for a beautiful cat. I have two more house sits lined up in Morocco and Italy.  

    And also, I sign up for every travel newsletter, and if a fantastic flight deal comes up, I’m off!

    Meet-Ups and Hikes: Finding Connection and Adventure in a New Place

    From three days to three weeks. I have a dog, and even though my dog loves all the house sitters that come to look after her, I feel guilty if I’m away for more than three weeks. I will admit that I occasionally go away for a month or so. 

    To prepare, I love reading blogs on the destination and finding out the best things to see and do. If I’m staying longer, I may join the local Facebook page to find more information only locals know.

    Sometimes I join Meetup - to meet some wonderful people on hikes in Hong Kong through Meetup. Research and planning and I’m in my element. Sometimes this is the best bit of traveling, especially when the trip starts to come together.

    Walking the Camino, Hiking to Tiger's Nest: My Favorite Adventures

    My favorite adventures include walking the Camino from France over the Pyrenees to Santiago in Spain. Bhutan was amazing; I really enjoyed the hike up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

    Gorilla trekking in Uganda was terrific, as was my recent trip to Namibia.  

    I can’t think of anywhere I’ve visited that I didn’t like. I just love traveling. I still have a huge bucket list of places to visit, and the list keeps growing, but Iceland, Antarctica, and the Galapagos are very high on the list.

    Some Of My Favorite Memories of Meeting Travel Companions

    Well, of course, my favorite was meeting my partner Jonathan in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We hit it off right away. I had never met a guy as keen on traveling as I was. We had only known each other for a couple of weeks and set off to Myanmar for a month. 

    One of my favorite memories with locals is early in my solo adventures. I was in Borneo, and I had missed the bus, and it would be a long wait until the next bus. So I was taken in by the local village chief. I had a wonderful lunch with the family; I had no idea what I was eating, which was probably the best thing I didn’t know. I taught the kids how to sing head, shoulders, knees, and toes, and they performed in front of what seemed like the whole village. Then, they all waved me off as the bus left the village. I felt quite sad to be leaving.

    Overcoming Nervousness: My Journey to Solo Travel

    I was really nervous about committing to solo travel. My background was in sales for luxury tour operators, so not only having to travel solo but travel on a budget was a challenge too. I used to interview everyone who had made a round-the-world trip to tell me why I should stay at home, but instead, everyone said go, you’ll love it! And I did, and I still do. 

    I’ve not made many compromises—I've always spent money on travel. I live in a small apartment, don’t have a car, and I’m not a huge fan of shopping.  House sitting has been an excellent way for me to travel. I love cats, and my dog says we are not having a cat in our apartment, so I take care of other people’s cats in lovely locations. It’s a win-win!  

    Everyone isn’t going to stare at you, thinking how sad and lonely that person is traveling alone. Traveling solo has made me more confident, able to make decisions quickly, and more organized.

    Read more: How To Plan A Solo Trip For First Timers

    Destined to Meet: My Love Story in Chiang Mai

    I met Jonathan in Chiang Mai. We initially met online and arranged a date. The week before, I met a friend who said last night she had met a guy and we would be perfect for each other - she was talking about Jon. Then, two days before we were due to meet, I was in a flash mob in Chiang Mai, and he was a photographer there, so I guess we were destined to meet. 

    We traveled to so many places, from Bhutan to Myanmar, all over Argentina and Patagonia, the Camino, European road trips, the USA, Canada - you name it, there’s a good chance we went there.

    Read more: Top 70 Best Solo Travel Destinations to Explore in 2023

    From Bollywood to Everest: My Unforgettable Adventures

    Oh, so many; where to begin? I was an extra in a Bollywood movie in India, walked to Everest Base Camp, and volunteered at a chimp sanctuary in Uganda.

    Read more: From Being A Couch Potato to Everest Base Camp

    Honoring Jonathan's Memory Through Our Love for Travel

    The blog was originally Jonathan’s. He retired at 50, sold all his stuff, and went traveling. And his blog was to inspire people to retire early and enjoy life. I’m so glad he followed his own advice, as he sadly passed away just a few months before his 60th. 

    The blog has changed direction a little because my story is different from Jonathan’s. I only planned to be away for a year, but I loved traveling so much that I never returned home. Now, the blog still caters to the more mature traveler, but with more emphasis on solo travel and house-sitting adventures.

    Read more: 10 Best Countries With Warm Winters To Relocate To (For Retirees & Digital Nomads)

    Life part 2 beyond

    Living for Today: Making the Most of Your Time to Travel

    Travel slowly, cheaply, and hope for the best. Since losing Jonathan, I have traveled far more often than ever. I realize now that tomorrow is promised to no one, so travel while you can.

    The Art of Flexibility: How to Roll with the Travel Punches

    Flexibility and patience. Accept that other cultures are different and embrace that difference.  And don’t assume everyone speaks English!

    What Benefits GAFFL May Have For Adventurers

    I think GAFFL is a great way to meet other travelers. Sometimes traveling solo can be expensive, and having travel companions is a great way to keep costs down.

    Advice That I Can Share

    Just do it. With the internet available, it’s possible to work anywhere worldwide. I subsidized much of my travel expenses when living in SE Asia by teaching English.

    Other cool travel stories you might enjoy!

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