I’ve always been intrigued how others overcome life-changing events. There is a why behind every decision we make. One thing’s for sure. Life experiences are the best teacher.
In 2006, while interning at V-103, I met Sally G. I vividly remember her smile, accent, and work ethic. During my internship, I remember Ryan Cameron saying the ones you start with now will be the ones you’ll be climbing the ladder with. Those words are true. We both landed roles in radio and although our career growth took us other places, we stayed connected on social media.
Almost 15 years later, I ran into Sally at an Atlanta creative event called Cliquish.
During this event, we vowed to collaborate and shortly after I approached her for an interview to share her journey since her life-changing event took place. Sunday, March 15, 2020 we sat down to discuss how traveling the world changed her life after losing her father. Here’s her story. So let’s get started.
Where are you from and how was life growing up?
“I had a simple life growing up in Nakuru, Kenya. We didn’t have much, but didn’t quite realize it. The simple life was blissful to me as a child. Family was very important. Most of my relatives lived in the same small town. Christmas and Easter were very special to us. Every Christmas we went to my paternal grandmother’s house. There was always plenty of good food and great vibes.
How did you end up in Atlanta?
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in broadcasting as a news anchor. When I was 17 years old, I moved to the capital of Kenya – Nairobi, to attend vocational school. While there I applied for college in the USA without my parents' knowledge or blessing. My visa application got denied three times. After the rejections, I made up my mind to make the most of my time in Kenya and start a career there. My mom found out through a friend about a student exchange program available in Atlanta and signed me up for it. This time my visa application was accepted and I moved to Atlanta”
What was your first job in Atlanta?
“My first job was at Johnson Controls in Alpharetta. This was my introduction to corporate America through the exchange program. The program provided housing, transportation and employment. Five days after starting the job, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 would happen. It was surreal.”
Let’s talk about your family. How was your relationship with your father?
“Growing up I was always close with my father. He was 6’5, confident, stylish and healthy. He was always full of life and a great provider. I learned a lot about life from him. ln 2000, he became diabetic which was genetic. In 2014, he suffered from congestive heart failure that was initially misdiagnosed. This was the time for him to change his lifestyle for the better to manage his condition. He didn’t take it as seriously as he should have and it was disappointing. I was pretty upset at him for that and stopped communicating with him.”
How long did you not speak with your father?
“For almost a year.”
When and how did you start back speaking again?
“After not speaking to my dad for a while, I had a bad dream that he had passed away. I immediately called him in shock. I was relieved my dream wasn’t true. We talked and made up for lost time. It was so refreshing to hear the enthusiasm in his voice. Unfortunately, two weeks later my aunt called to inform me that dad had passed away on his way to the hospital due to some complications.”
How did your life change after that phone call from your aunt?
“Emotionally I was filled with guilt due to my lack of communication with my dad. I realized tomorrow is not promised. Life is precious and way too short. I learned the hard way to always acknowledge people regardless of circumstances, give people their flowers while they are alive, and not to hold grudges. Losing him woke me up!”
When we lose someone there is a large gap in our lives. What did you do to fill that void?
"Seeing my dad in that casket lifeless was jarring. None of the possessions he worked so hard for were there with him. None of that matters in the end but how you lived your life, the legacy you create, and the experiences had. This struck something in me and I knew I needed to make some changes. I vowed to live my life to the fullest ability. Traveling definitely helped with the healing process."
Let’s talk about traveling. Where was your first trip?
“My first solo trip happened accidentally. After planning a trip to San Francisco with co- workers, everyone eventually cancelled, excluding me. It was a friend who had moved from Atlanta to San Francisco who encouraged me to do the trip solo and he would provide guidance if need be while I was there. He went on to book my accommodation for me at no cost as he had some pull.”
What did you learn from your first solo trip?
“I learned there are good people in the world. While waiting for service at a restaurant in San Fran, I connected with a fellow patron over the delay. Service was taking too long and we both gave that knowing glance. We started talking about how poor the service was and then about life in general. He later offered to show me around a city he loved. I had time on my hands and took the offer. Now I will admit I wouldn’t normally do this for safety reasons. He showed me around the city and we had the best time. I have made friends all over the world since that day by being open minded and trusting my instincts.”
Tell me about your first international solo trip.
“While visiting a college friend in London, I learned that Paris was just two hours by train. Going to France had been at the top on my bucket list. My high school French teacher inspired the trip. He had made us fall in love with a land we’d never visited from his inspiring teachings. Off I went to Paris with barely any French speaking skills - I had not spoken any French since I left school. The train ride was very scenic. This trip changed me. Navigating my way through Parisian streets solo was scary yet exciting. I got lost, found my way, felt liberated and inspired. This was the beginning of what would be an extreme solo addiction”
How did your first international trip change you?
"I love Paris so much because it was the beginning of my true solo travel experience. San Fran was the launching pad. I cried the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower from the train. This trip got me out of my comfort zone and opened me up to many possibilities to explore our beautiful world without having to wait on others to do so. I set out to make my own memories & write my own story. They say ‘don’t listen to what people say! GO SEE!”
What did travel provide you?
“It renewed my faith in humanity. It opened my mind to become multi-dimensional and it allowed me to experience many different cultures. Despite our differences, we all want the same thing -- happiness.”
How do you honor your dad during your solo travel?
“I have felt my dad’s presence in each city I travel to. It feels like I have a guardian angel watching over me. I keep his badge with me everywhere I go.
It is sad to lose loved ones, but it is inevitable. I find comfort in knowing that the person we have lost has served their purpose on earth. I came to peace with the fact that dad is gone because he lived his life the best way he could”
Did therapy play a role in your healing?
Indeed. After a bad breakup, I sought therapy to find answers. I learned how external voices were getting to me. Therapy provided clarity in many aspects of my life including the relationship with my father. Therapy is healthy and I encourage it for everyone struggling to find answers.”
How are you staying inspired during this pandemic since we can’t travel?
“It’s disappointing that I had to cancel many upcoming trips due to COVID-19 as many others have to do. I have been having a hard time accepting that it will be a while before we can travel with no restrictions. I realize that restrictions put in place are for my own good. What’s kept me going is that I am able to offer travel consulting services even during these uncertain times. People are planning their escape after the quarantine. I have a client who has asked me to plan 3 future trips for her. The planning process and research has been a blessing and welcome distraction."
What advice would you give to others?
“What is meant for you is meant for you! You have to keep working towards achieving your goals. My advice to those on their journey is to put your gift out there, pay it forward and show grace to those who need it. It comes back in tenfold. For those scared to venture out on a solo trip, it only takes one trip to get hooked. Go for it, even if you are scared. It pays off. Reach out to me to get started."
Thank you so much Sally for being open to this. We both shed some tears but it’s my hope that through sharing stories others will begin to heal.
Sally G is a hospitality expert, travel and lifestyle blogger with a specialty in solo | luxury travel. Follow her journey .