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Can an illness change your identity for the better?

A woman in a floral skirt standing in front of a building battling severe illness.

From depression to cancer, these 5 Contiki travellers were not about to let their illnesses define them. Here are 5 infinitely inspiring tales of bravery, confidence and self-love from women who refused to change their lives after their diagnoses. Tissues at the ready…

Nikola-Anne Sowry

Having been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune condition that inflames the glands) in 2016, Australian teacher Nikola-Anne shunned the idea of letting her disease define her by deciding to make the move of a lifetime to London. Since then, she’s been breaking boundaries, living her best life and travelling at every opportunity. Rather than letting her disease run her life, she learned to thrive with it – and it’s inspiring AF.

“I had a very quick-to-quit attitude and for the briefest moment didn’t like what my future back home was looking like. Moving overseas and travelling every chance I got was the best thing I could do to shake up these feelings.”

Read Nikola-Anne’s full piece here: 5 things I’ve learnt from travelling with a chronic illness


Jessica Pala Dunbar

Having been born into a life of wanderlusts, Jessica’s travels had to come to a halt when she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that makes your muscles sporadically shut down. While her doctor initially thought her upcoming Contiki Europe trip was a bad move, she insisted on going. Her diagnoses gave her an extra push to get out into the world and enjoy life to the fullest – and that’s exactly what she did.

“Our TM’s were amazing at preparing me for the day and making me feel so comfortable even on my difficult days. I realised that I needed to do as much as I could, while I could, because anything can change in a minute and I didn’t want to have any regrets.”

Read Jessica’s full piece here: This girls story proves you can still travel on Contiki with a chronic illness

A woman with a severe illness sitting on a wall watching the sunset.

Bailey Hovarth

Having suffered from crippling depression and anxiety after getting out of an abusive relationship, Bailey was suffering from emotional distress. Finally, it was travel that helped Bailey to find her strength. She’d never travelled solo before, but that didn’t stop her from embarking on the trip of a lifetime with Contiki, where she discovered a whole new sense of independence and confidence that she didn’t know existed. Now? She’s just getting started.

“Travelling helped me realize that I am so much stronger than I thought, and I don’t need anyone to tell me otherwise. Some days may be worse than others, but I know now that I have the tools to get through life.”

Read Bailey’s full piece here: Travelling made me realise that my mental illness does not define me

Girl and her mum Europe

Karla Carrasco

Upon returning from her solo travels around Europe, Karla noticed a little bump on her tongue – which she was later informed was tongue cancer. Did she let it get her down? Hell to the no! She opted for a positive outlook and realised that it was a sign to enjoy life to the fullest. 3 months after radiation surgery, Karla donned her backpack and headed back to Europe for more exploring. Today, she stands proud as a cancer survivor.

“Cancer didn’t stop my dreams of travelling the world. Instead, it’s encouraging me to go and see more of the world while I still have the chance”

Read Karla’s full piece here: Being diagnosed with cancer encouraged me to travel

Karla at football stadium

Jessica Buck

At 18 years old, Jessica struggled to come to terms with her brain tumour diagnosis. While the tumour wasn’t cancerous, she was told she would still need to be on medication for the rest of her life. After suffering from a low period, she started to wonder ‘why me?’

Tired of watching other people enjoy their holidays, Jessica took the plunge and booked a month-long Contiki in the states. Determined not to let her tumour get her down, she enjoyed her entire holiday without getting poorly, and realised that she would never let her health condition stand in her way again. She’s now on a mission to visit 25 countries before she turns 25. Badass much?

“I would urge ANYONE to travel as much as they possibly can, whilst they are fit and healthy enough to do so. Travelling broadens your horizons on so many levels; it opens your eyes to the rest of the world and fills your heart and soul with memories that will last a lifetime.”

Read Jessica’s full piece here: I travelled on Contiki with a brain tumour. This is my story.


Have you travelled on a Contiki with an illness or condition, and thrived in spite of it? Share your stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…