Two and a half years after the death of Roni Dagan’s husband, she and her seven-year-old son, Gal, have found solace in places far from home.
They did not limit themselves to one place. The act of traveling itself is what brought joy to Dagan and her child – something they started after that first year of grieving.
Before having Gal, she 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 him,” Dagan told CNBC Travel. “This loss…it made me realize…you just have to go out there and do the things you love to do.”
Dagan, who runs his own marketing business in Tel Aviv, Israel, has spent the past year and a half traveling as often as possible with Gal. They camped in the deserts of Egypt and dived in the Red Sea. They also went on safari in Tanzania and visited Bulgaria last summer.
Of her son Gal, Roni Dagan said, “It was tough when he was younger, but…now it’s really easy to travel with him.”
Source: Roni Dagan
The couple have just spent six weeks on the Greek island of Syros with Boundless Life, a travel agency for “slow-traveling” families. She said the trip pushed them out of their comfort zone, but ticked three critical boxes: she had time to work, her son engaged in educational and social activities during the day, and the trip gave the feeling of “living” elsewhere.
“I wouldn’t do this alone. You have to have community, you have to have coverage when you’re traveling alone as a single mom,” she said. “Here, there is always someone you can count on to help you if you need it.”
Dagan is part of a wave of single mothers rediscovering themselves and reconnecting with their children through travel.
It’s a demographic that Boundless Life hasn’t specifically targeted, but travel — which includes accommodations, coworking spaces and schooling — resonates with single moms and dads. At its sites in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Bali, the company is also seeing more bookings from mothers traveling alone voluntarily with their childrenand divorced parents traveling together or splitting the trip into two parts.
What it costs
Boundless Life’s six-week summer package for a two-bedroom apartment and a school-going child costs around €9,050 ($11,540).
This includes Wi-Fi, weekly cleaning, access to a coworking center and yoga classes. Packages are cheaper in winter and become proportionally cheaper the longer you stay.
“We have multiple families in each cohort joining us as single parents,” said Elodie Ferchaud, head of demand generation at Boundless Life. And “we welcome more and more”.
“We often hear from single parents that they need the community to make the travel experience richer and more fun for the kids – and for themselves. Single parents are dealing with so much already. They show strength, resilience and connection, but they want more for their children,” she says.
Like Dagan, US-based single mother Alison Lewis has turned to travel to cope with her grief. She escaped to a friend’s apartment in Hawaii for three months with her then two-year-old son O after their marriage broke up in 2018.
The couple have since traveled all over the United States, visiting lakes, mountains, beaches, hot springs, dinosaur relics and diamond digs.
“I love to travel – it kind of saved me,” said Lewis, a digital design consultant who now lives in Texas. “My child always had new things to watch and enjoy that weren’t his screen.”
O, two (who is now seven) with a family friend in Hawaii.
Source: Alison Lewis
But traveling hasn’t been easy, she says.
“It challenged me to my limits as a human being to travel alone as a mother with a two-year-old child,” she said. “During that time, we had lost everything. So I had to start over.”
Like Dagan, Lewis and his son, who is now seven, also went on a six-week summer stint with Boundless Life, this time in the medieval hilltop town of Sintra, Portugal. Lewis said she was working, but had time to go on weekly hikes and bond with other mothers in the group. She said she was in no rush to get home, where she often feels strange as a single mother.
“The joy and happiness that O has right now…I don’t know how to provide that to him when we get home, in terms of planning and play dates,” Lewis said.
“We always want to spend time together, but everyone we know always has a reason why they can’t do something on the weekends. And it has to do with being a single mom, because (traditional) families are sticking together and single mothers are being left behind,” she said.
“People don’t do it on purpose. They’re just in their own world.”
Traveling after the end of a relationship resonates with Catherine Chinatree, an artist based in Margate, UK. She embarked on a three-month journey with her child Sonny, then four, when she separated from her partner five years ago. They rented an apartment in Bangkok, and from there they traveled through Thailand as well as Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Nepal, she said, visiting temples, hiking and observing the wildlife.
Catherine Chinatree, with her son, Sonny.
Source: Catherine Chinatree
“I wanted to get out of the life we had built in London. Sonny was starting school and I was doing my MFA in college and it was pretty hardcore,” she said. “I wanted… three months just to focus on him.”
They returned to the UK and suspended travel during the pandemic, she said. But this feeling of wanting to escape again quickly resurfaced.
This time, however, Chinatree had a big solo show to prepare, so she needed facilities for Sonny while she worked. She joined Boundless Life for a three month trip to Sintra in spring 2023.
“Sonny loves football so we went to see the local football team and asked him if he could train with them. He joined that team straight away and then we had this instant community of Portuguese footballers “, she said. “My social life also became more important there than at home, but I was also able to consciously choose to do things on my own.”
Revitalized by their travels and confident as single traveling mothers, Dagan, Lewis and Chinatree are already planning 2024 destinations with their children. Maybe Sintra for Dagan this time, or even India, she said.
For Lewis, Costa Rica is calling, to see an old friend who lives there. Chinatree is open to her next travel destination, as long as there is a community for her and her son.
No matter where they go, Dagan is painfully aware that traveling with her son can take a lifetime.
“By the time they’re teenagers, kids may be done with you and want to be with their friends over the summer instead,” she said. “I have this window that I want to make the most of.”