Tragedy. The end of my trip?

I wish with every fiber of my soul that I didn’t have to make this post.

I do feel a responsibility to everyone that has been kind enough to read and so here goes. As you heard, I planned to sleep on the deck of a 4 day boat from here in Sengiggi to Flores to start the “adventure” part of my trip.

I never made the boat.

The boat which only goes twice a week was full, leaving me stuck in what is so far my least favorite place in Southeast Asia. Sengiggi, Lombok, is an ugly armpit of empty tourist attractions and hustlers that won’t leave you alone. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

I would like to make a warning, please do not read on unless you really feel a need to. If this is the first time here on my blog, it would be better to bypass this post. I’m writing this with tears running down my cheeks, it is not pleasant.

Elin, a good travel friend of mine since 2006 happened to be in Hanoi and decided to grab a budget hop down to meet me in the islands. We spent some time together taking in the monkeys, swimming, and just enjoying the lazy island life. I haven’t seen her since 2006 so it was great to catch up with a fellow vagabond.

We both travel alone so I said goodbye to her standing at a bar on Gili Trawangan at around 2 a.m. I had booked a ticket to Gili Air (only one hour away) to escape the parties and growing crowd on Trawangan and planned to leave the next day. I half expected her to turn up on the next island as well in a few days. After crossing paths so many times on the road, we never have “real” goodbyes, just a hug and a “see you on the road.”

I left in the morning of May 12 and on May 13 my dear friend Elin died on the island.

No one knows for sure yet, but she became mysteriously ill and passed away. The day before she had taken a fall but her and I laughed over the cuts and scrapes. It may have been an infection or something the idiotic island doctor gave her, but she is gone now and I can’t believe it.

Elin was a tortured soul and a true vagabond. We connected on so many levels. She was a brilliant writer and despite only being 24 years old, was an inspiration to me. We’ve met accidentally in Thailand and Cambodia, then deliberately in Sweden and here. She was a beautiful young woman with so much ahead.

Elin was an only child and I have met her parents in Sweden. They are kind people and her mother always said hello to me in emails. I can only imagine their pain. She trusted me to help look out for her daughter here and I have failed miserably. Had I not left the island, I could have maybe done something, argued with the doctor (who sent her home thinking she was faking) or at least been a familiar face at her side. Instead, I left her when she needed me most and I will never forgive myself.

She may not have even been in Indonesia if it had not been for me and now I will live with that burden. Elin spent the last days of her life with me and I have the last pictures taken of her.

I usually throw a skeleton into my closet on every trip, but this is the biggest blow I have ever had to deal with. In fact, I am having serious trouble dealing and went two days without eating or sleeping in Sengiggi. Alone in a place with no travelers, no friendly faces, I would have given anything for a hug but instead cried myself to hysteria in a tiny room.

One of my friends from Gili Air heard the news and despite having a flight to Australia the next day, made her way 12 long hours back to that hellhole to pull me out. She brought me back to Kuta, Bali, which is where I now sit. She is one of the most caring people I have ever met and I owe her my life.

At this point, I don’t know if I can continue this trip. My first instinct after such an emotional blow was to run home. A kind email from Elin’s parents gave me a smack and told me to keep traveling, that is what Elin would have done and wanted me to do. They are right.

The problem is, how do you go play happy backpacker snapping pictures and chasing adventures when you can barely stop crying long enough to walk out of your guesthouse?

I may leave Indonesia and start new in another country. I honestly have no idea where. Everywhere I look I am reminded of something about Elin and ultimately in my own life failure of taking care of a friend and fellow traveler. Tomorrow morning I am going to Denpassar airport with bags packed and putting myself on a plane, I don’t care where. If I can’t find another destination, then home it is.

I’ve said “the road always wins” but this time the road claimed a very special young life and I don’t know if I will ever forgive it.

Elin  (Sweden) — died May 13, 2009, on Gili Trawangan off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia.  A fellow traveler I will never forget.

I’m sorry Elin, I should have been there. May your journey be better than anything you’ve seen in this world.

See you on the road one day.

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22 Responses to “Tragedy. The end of my trip?”

  1. Wwoah. I didn’t expect to read that. I thought you were going to say you ran out of money or something.

    im deeply sorry for your loss. that really is shit greg. I don’t know anything to say other than my heart goes out to you.

    Don’t beat yourself up there. There is nothing you could have done. It’s not your fault. If you were there, maybe it would have happened anyways. You don’t know why she died. There could have been a wide range of reasons, none of which you would have had any control over. Beating yourself up for things outside your control will only make you feel worse.

    Maybe your next stop should be sweden to the funeral. and maybe you can give those last happy photos you have of her to her parents.

    Maybe that will help you deal with the grief.

    my sincere condolences.


  2. damn greg, that´s heartbreaking. my best to you and yours..

    i would think that continuing on in her memory would be the way to go.

  3. Elin’s parents gave the best answer. You must keep going.

    These jolts can also occur in the “civilized world” in Utah. A hiking friend was murdered for his truck and camper. His death hit me hard. Years later (as now) it still hits me as I travel and explore some places we hiked together.

    Live life. Love life. Live love.

  4. Greg…, Up front there is no getting over this one, but with the memories of Elin you can build another base from which to jump start a new adventure! No, you can’t play “happy backpacker”… for now… because yes, there will be moments/days you cry your guts out but, the happy memories will win out! Go on buddy, dedicate the rest of this adventure to Elin, in a way that would make her proud, and you very happy for having known such a person that even now brings a tear to your eyes but forever a special joy to your heart!…

  5. Oh Greg, what a sad turn of events. When its our time, its just our time. There’s nothing anyone can do about that. Keep on traveling. She’s definitely in a better place 🙂

  6. Greg,

    I am soooo sorry. I will write more later, now I am in shock and at a loss for words. Grieve as long as you need to.

    I am sending you a big and imaginary, but warm hug!

  7. P.S. I wrote an email to someone who is now in Ubud. His name is Brian. He is a very special person. If he contacts you, you can trust he will lend you a hug or some words of encouragement. Stay strong!

  8. My condolences go out to you–that is the saddest situation I could think of for a traveler. I hope you will mourn her passing and remember the good times with her but not blame yourself for her death–you certainly didn’t know something was going to happen to her and it sounds like if it was a medical situation, there would have been nothing to do to prevent it. Thanks for sharing such a personal, tragic event with us–both you and Elin will be in my prayers. {{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}

  9. I’m really sorry Greg. I hope your ok. Since I’m all the way in kentucky, i can’t technically give you a hug, I’ll do it cyberly *hugs*

    Good luck, I hop you enjoy the rest of your trip,


  10. Now that the shock of reading your post has wore off a little bit, I wanted to write you a few words of encouragement. But honestly I don’t know what to say. It does not happen often I am at a loss for words. But I will try.

    I have confidence that you will find strength to overcome this sad episode of your life. Your internal compass will tell you how to get out of the coma in which you may find yourself right now. Listen to it and follow your heart. May you walk barefoot again soon. May you build sandcastles and let the waves crash your body in the very near future. May you find happiness in places that astound you. May you find new friends who call, think of you or reach out to you “just because”. May you continue on the path of living a memorable life. I wish you all the best and I will keep you in my thoughts. You know that you are really not alone.

    Thanks for posting this heartbreaking experience. All vagabond souls need reminders such as this. It is lonely … and beautiful out there. Go on …

  11. Greg, I’m sorry to hear this but you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. There are so many variables involved, you don’t know if your presence would have changed anything.

    In Turkey we say everyone has their time etched into them at birth and that nothing can change this fate we are all born with.

    Elin was doing what she loved doing and lived a life that many will only dream about. You should continue your trip and learn from that lesson. All of this is temporary and so few of us take advantage of our time here.

    What would you tell your friend if she were in your situation? That is the answer to your question.

    I hope that I’ve been some help and that soon you will be at peace again.


  12. Oh my Greg…my heart goes out to you, I’m so sorry…I’m sitting here Beirut & wish I could help in some way.

    Take your time, head to someplace familiar or someplace you know people (Thailand?).

    Elin with live on in all the people she’s touched and met along the vagabond trail.


  13. Greg–I am so sorry to hear this story and want to offer my support and best wishes to not only you but your friend’s family.

    This is an amazingly tragic story! I know it is of little consolation now, but I think your friend left this planet doing exactly what she loved doing and she is lucky to have counted you as her friend. I know both Katerina and I do. I hope you do not blame youself in this matter! I agree with the above posts that keeping her memory alive and keeping your journey going is a very fitting way to remember your traveling companion.

    Hang in there and all the best!

  14. another traveler May 27, 2009 at 22:48 pm

    hi i’m just a casual reader of your travels

    i’m truly sorry about your loss, it sounds like a freak accident and nothing you could have done would have prevented it, whether you were with her or not. if you get any additional medical details i’m sure your readers would be interested to know them, i certainly would in any case. it sounds like you probably already left, but i’d encourage you to stay in indonesia and to keep traveling within the country, it is what you would have done and what she would have done. i’ll actually be in the area myself next week.

    anyway, keep your head up as best you can, time and mourning heals all wounds.

  15. Well, if you need a friend, I am in SIngapore and will happily buy you an (expensive) beer.


  16. i’ve been there before. i guess it gets better, but not for a long ass time. hopefully you can find the will to keep traveling.
    i’ll have a beer for you two tonight.

  17. another traveler June 1, 2009 at 2:56 am

    I thought you mind find this interesting, I sure did. Another young girl just died on Gili Trawangan, also complained of falling ill and apparently died in her sleep… this is starting to sound suspicious

    “Nikki Stewart, 29, is believed to have died in her sleep on the tropical paradise island of Gili Trawangan, which is off the coast of Lombok, near Bali.

    It is understood that Miss Stewart, of Oakhill Road, Aberdeen, had been complaining of feeling ill in the days leading up to her death, on Wednesday.”

  18. Could these deaths have been related to this?

  19. I have just come upon this blog today. On the 31st of May 2009 my daughter Rachel Craig and her traveling companion died from methanol poisoning on Gili Trawangan. The only assistance available were a group of travelers who came to their assistance and did everything they could to try and save them, but to no avail. Four young deaths in one month.
    To date we have had no information on the outcome of the investigation.

  20. Hello Greg,

    I lost my fiancé just this summer at Gili Trawangan from methanol poisoning and me and my friend are trying to spred all information we can about the great many cases in Indonesia. Is it okey if I link to your post at our Facebook page A drink to die from and our homepage


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