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.