Two and a half years after the death of Roni Dagan’s husband, she has found solace far away from home with her seven-year-old son Gall.
They were not limited to a single location. The very act of traveling is what brings joy to Dagan and his child—something that begins after the first year of grief.
Before owning the castle, he lived in the United States and traveled to India and Ibiza.
“Having adventures and exploring — that’s freedom for me. And Gal is where I can do that with her,” Dagan told CNBC Travel. “That loss … made me realize … you just have to go and do what you love to do.”
Dagan, who runs his own marketing firm in Tel Aviv, Israel, has spent the past year and a half traveling with Gal as often as possible. They camped in the deserts of Egypt and snorkeled in the Red Sea. They also went on safari in Tanzania and visited Bulgaria last summer.
Roni Dagan said of her son Gal: “It was difficult when she was little, but now it’s so easy to travel with her.”
Source: Roni Dagan
The couple spent just six weeks on the Greek island of Syros with Boundless Life, a travel company for “slow travel” families. She said the trip pushed them out of their comfort zones, but checked three critical boxes: they had time to work, their son was busy with school and social activities during the day, and the trip gave them a sense of “living” somewhere else.
“I wouldn’t do it alone. You have to have community; you have to have coverage when you’re traveling alone as a single mom,” she said. “Here, there’s always someone you can count on to help you when you need it.”
Work, school and play
Dagan is part of a wave of single mothers who are reinventing themselves and reconnecting with their children through travel.
It’s not a demographic Life Without Borders is specifically targeting, but tours including accommodations, coworking spaces, and schooling resonate with single moms and single dads. At locations in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Bali, the company is also increasingly booking single mothers and divorced parents to either travel together or split the trip.
What does it cost?
Boundless Life’s six-week summer package for a two-bedroom apartment and one school-age child is about €9,050 ($11,540).
It includes Wi-Fi, weekly cleaning, coworking center access and yoga classes. Packages are cheaper in winter and get cheaper proportionally over the duration of your stay.
“In each group we have several families joining us as single parents,” said Elodie Ferchaud, Head of Claims Generation at Boundless Life. And “we welcome more and more”.
“We often hear from single parents that they need a community to make the travel experience rich and fun for both the kids and themselves. Single parents already have a lot going on. They show strength, resilience and connection, but for them it’s more they want a lot. their children,” he said.
Travel saved me
Like Dagan, Alison Lewis, a single mother living in the US, has embarked on a journey to deal with heartbreak. After her marriage broke up in 2018, she ran away with her two-year-old son O to a friend’s apartment in Hawaii for three months.
The couple has since traveled all over the United States, exploring lakes, mountains, beaches, hot springs, dinosaur fossils and diamond digging.
“I love to travel—it saved me,” said Lewis, a digital design consultant now living in Texas. “My child always enjoyed looking at new things without a screen.”
Two-year-old O (now seven) with a family friend in Hawaii.
Source: Alison Lewis
But the journey hasn’t been easy, he said.
“Traveling alone as a mother with a two-year-old child challenged me to my limits as a person,” she said. “During that time we lost everything. So I had to start over.”
Like Dagan, Lewis and her son, now seven, spent a six-week summer vacation at Boundless Life, a medieval hilltop town in Sintra, Portugal. Lewis said she works but finds time for weekly outings and connecting with other moms in the group. He doesn’t look forward to going home, where he often feels strange as a single parent.
“The joy and happiness that he has right now … I don’t know how I’m going to provide that for him in terms of scheduling and play dates when I go home,” Lewis said.
“We always want to have fun, but everyone we know always has a reason why they can’t do something on the weekend. It’s about being a single mom, because (traditional) families are tight-knit and single moms are kind. She was left out,” she said.
“People don’t do it on purpose. They’re just in their own world.”
Traveling after a relationship ends resonates with Margate, UK-based artist Catherine Chainatri. When she split from her partner five years ago, she went on a three-month trip with her four-year-old son Sonny. They rented an apartment in Bangkok and from there traveled to Thailand as well as Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Nepal, visiting temples, hiking and seeing wildlife.
Catherine Chinatree with her son Sonny.
Source: Catherine Chinatree
“I wanted out of the life we had built up in London. Sonny was starting school and I was doing my Masters in Fine Art at university and things were pretty tough,” she said. “I wanted three months to focus on him.”
They returned to England and stopped traveling during the pandemic, he said. But the feelings of wanting to get away again soon resurfaced.
However, this time Chinatree had a big solo exhibition to prepare for, so Sonny needed facilities while he worked. She joined Boundless Life for a three-month trip to Sintra in the spring of 2023.
“Sonny loves soccer, so we went to a local soccer team and asked him if he could train with them. He jumped right in, and then we had this instant community of Portuguese soccer kids,” he said. “My social life has also become bigger than at home, but I can also consciously choose to do things on my own.”
Invigorated by their travels and feeling confident as single mom travelers, Dagan, Lewis and Chinatree are already considering destinations for 2024 with their children. Maybe Sintra for Dagan this time, or even India, he said.
For Lewis, Costa Rica calls to see an old friend who lives there. Chinatree is open to her next travel destination as long as it’s a community for her and her son.
No matter where they go, Dagan is painfully aware that traveling with his son can have a shelf life.
“When kids are teenagers, they can deal with you and want to be with their friends in the summer,” she said. “I have this window that I want to use the most.”