Last November Jordan Axani issued an online invitation for a companion to join him on a three-week, round-the-word trip, no strings attached. The only catch? His travelling partner needed to be named Elizabeth Gallagher. Mr. Axani, from Toronto, had purchased a non-refundable holiday with his ex-girlfriend of the same name and didn’t want the ticket to go to waste.
He had no idea his unusual mission would become “the most viral human interest story on record” according to PR experts, receiving four billion media impressions globally.
Over 1,200 Elizabeth Gallaghers came forward, Mr Axani told The Independent. The traveller in question had to have a Canadian passport, though, “which narrowed it down to 40”, Mr Axani said.
He ended up having an “amazing” trip with the Elizabeth Gallagher he selected – a student – though romance was never on the cards.
“The public wanted it to be so much more salacious than it really was. We didn’t fall in love,” Mr, Axani said. The aftermath of the experience became “a crazy exercise in what you do when you let the world down”, he added.
Following the media frenzy, Mr, Axani, now 29, spun into a depressive state and became suicidal. “I had a total breakdown and almost killed myself. I had so much guilt about how much this hurt my previous partner and her family. I loved her very much.”
Mr Axani has been coming to terms with the guilt he felt at inadvertently humiliating his former partner and is now on good terms with her.
Things are on the up again, but this time Mr, Axani is firmly in control. A “decent-sized” Hollywood film documenting his experiences is currently in the works, and Mr, Axani is also penning a book. In between meetings with producers and publishers Mr, Axani has carved out a career as a public speaker – he recently gave a TED Talk – and has been busy setting up a mental health charity, the Bounde Foundation.
“Building a dating app or a travel app would have made more sense but that wasn’t it for me,” he said.
“Going viral helped me look at how I was living my life. To me the story wasn’t about travelling the world with a stranger but how to reconcile yourself with making such a huge error in judgement. Now I’m using the story to do something good.”