Traveling with Ghosts

In 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler was a blissful twenty-eight-year-old marine biologist, spending the summer backpacking through Asia with the love of her life—her fiancé, Sean. He was holding her in the ocean’s shallow waters when a box jellyfish—the most venomous animal in the world—wrapped around his legs, stinging and killing him in a matter of minutes.

Shattered, untethered and alone, Shannon couldn’t face returning to her life’s work, to the ocean. Instead she returned to travel—a passion she shared with Sean. Though Sean wasn’t with Shannon, he was everywhere she went. From contemplating the silence of Auschwitz to learning the rules for sitting shiva amid daily bombings in Israel, to finding humor and creativity in Sarajevo—a city still scarred by the recent war—and ultimately to Barcelona, where she and Sean first met years before. Never easy but always enlightening, it was through her travels to these grief-stricken and complex places that Shannon was able to begin healing and processing her tragedy in unanticipated ways.

Deeply personal and yet universal, this is a beautifully rendered, profoundly moving memorial to those we have lost on our journeys and the unexpected ways their presence echoes in all places—and voyages—big and small.

Where to Buy Traveling with Ghosts



Advance Praise for Traveling with Ghosts

“Like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Shannon Fowler makes us feel that a hero’s journey is our only hope for surviving grief. Traveling with Ghosts is a brave and necessary record of love as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.” —Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder

“In this vital and compelling memoir, Shannon Fowler teaches us how to reconcile ourselves with the world once the person we love is no longer in it. This is a book about the kindness of strangers, the consolation of unknown places, and the way that the world can be bright and dark, wide and narrow, all at the same time.” —Kelly Link, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of Get in Trouble

“A stunningly wise, thoughtful, and thought-provoking ‘survival map’ of a memoir. … Put it on the shelf somewhere between Eat, Pray, Love and The Year of Magical Thinking. Traveling with Ghosts made me laugh out loud, and it broke my heart. In its unforgettable final pages, it did both at once, and, as only the very finest books do, its power over me grows rather than fades.” —Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters 

“Set against an exotic backdrop of distant lands, Shannon Fowler’s memoir, Traveling with Ghosts, is a heartbreaking story about the randomness of tragedy told with great courage and tenacity.” —Ruth Ozeki, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale for the Time Being 

“Shannon Fowler’s remarkable memoir feels as if it’s as intricate and deep as memory itself. It’s a privilege to be in her company as she travels to harrowing cities the world over, and more harrowing, to the mysterious interior realm, the country of grief.  The comforts she finds there are without sentiment and profoundly moving.” —Jane Hamilton, New York Times bestselling author of A Map of the World and The Excellent Lombards

Traveling with Ghosts is a beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking memoir, made luminous by Shannon Fowler’s obvious love of the natural world, her amazing eye for detail in exotic locales, and her depth and courage in the face of loss. I recommend this with all my heart.” —Dan Chaon, bestselling author of Await Your Reply and Ill Will

“Shannon Fowler journeys courageously behind the clichés to explore how nations, cultures, and above all, individuals, grapple with loss; a vivid, compelling and deeply affecting memoir.” —Manil Suri, New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Shiva and The Death of Vishnu

“This beautifully written, wonderfully engrossing book makes real the stubborn process by which we come to accept loss. Shannon Fowler has made a wonderful gift of her hard won insights, and comes to a place of compassion that resonates deeply for me. I am grateful for this book. I cannot wait to give it to people I love.” —Dorothy Allison, critically-acclaimed author of Bastard out of Carolina

“Powerful and heartbreaking, Traveling with Ghosts is beautifully written and emotionally compelling. A gorgeous book to be read and savored.” —Gail Tsukiyama, bestselling author of The Samurai’s Garden and A Hundred Flowers

“Shannon Fowler’s vivid tale of love and loss moved me deeply. She is a traveler who seeks healing in the most unlikely destinations, and who tells her remarkable story with camera-like precision rather than platitudes. Her book is a stirring tribute to a beloved fellow traveler, and a reflection of her own abundant courage.” —Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank

“After witnessing the senseless death of her fiancé, Shannon Fowler sets out on an unforgettable journey of reckoning, paying tribute to her young man’s adventurous soul while trying to make sense of the rest of her life without him. Fowler’s voice is powerful and searching, and the book left me deeply moved, not only by her courage, but by that of all the citizens of the devastated landscapes to which she so beautifully bears witness.” —Elizabeth McKenzie, bestselling author of The Portable Veblen

“Shannon Fowler has created a searing memoir that recounts the moment her life was shattered by the death of her fiancé. Rich with descriptions of place, beautifully constructed with a chronology that allows the reader to know the Sean that she knew, portrayed with honesty and dignity, Traveling with Ghosts celebrates a life cut short, a love never given a chance to grow, and a process of recovery bravely illustrating that while life after tragedy goes on, the chilly fingers of grief touch us in a way that mark us forever.” —Elizabeth George, New York Times bestselling author of A Banquet of Consequences and A Great Deliverance

“A soul-searching journey to reclaim the heart, Traveling with Ghosts is one of the best travel memoirs this year!” —Andrew X. Pham, author of Catfish and Mandala and The Eaves of Heaven