Incredible Humans

8 Contiki travellers who utterly smashed their comfort zones this year

These 8 Contiki travellers flat out refused to let ANYTHING dictate their lives and stop them from travelling in 2017. Not fear, not depression, and least of all cancer.

Kelli Barta

Having fallen into depression, Kelli was struggling to see the light, even suffering from suicidal thoughts. Fighting the urge to stop living altogether, she made the decision to embark on a life-changing 23-day solo road trip which changed everything. Suddenly seeing the world in a different light, she then quit her job to travel more frequently, and has even started a youtube channel documenting her travels. Kelli has more than shown us that no matter how awful you’re feeling, there is always a way to change your perspective.

“Traveling has been a life-saver for me. Seeing the world and knowing that there is so much more out there that I want to explore and see keeps me motivated and inspired to travel as much as I can.” – Kelli

Read Kelli’s story here: 23 days of travelling saved my life

Walt Maiellano

Halfway through a 10 month rotation in Afghanistan while serving in the US army, Walt’s world was rocked when his long term girlfriend abruptly ended the relationship. Devasted and stressed, he decided to book a trip to Costa Rica – somewhere he’d never been before. Little did he know that trip would set his wanderlust alight and give him a brand new outlook on life. He’s since left the US army and moved to South Korea, and visits as many countries as he can to expand his cultural perspectives.

“I would rather look back and know I did what I wanted, as opposed to looking back and regretting never following my heart because I was too afraid of going into the unknown.” – Walt

Read Walt’s story here: From war zone to wanderlust: this guy left the army to travel the world 

Jessica Buck

At 18 years old, Jessica was told she had a brain tumour. Terrified, she struggled to come to terms with her diagnosis and was told she would be on medication for life. While the tumour doesn’t hugely affect her on a day to day, her side affects flared up massively when she travelled, and she became prone to travel sickness as a result. What she didn’t want to be, however, was a victim – so she booked Contiki’s Grand Southern trip. It would be her first time out of Europe, and she panicked that she would struggle with her symptoms.

In reality, she had the time of her life – and found that her tumour miraculously didn’t affect her as much as she thought it would. She enjoyed feeling normal for a change, and even did things she’d never even dreamed of doing, like helicoptering over the Grand Canyon. Now, she’s got a passion for travel. Jessica, you’re truly a badass role model for us all.

“I’m on a mission to visit 25 countries before I turn 25, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna let this tumor stop me! Nothing will get in the way of me achieving my dreams, and ticking more and more off my bucket list.” – Jessica 

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

Cassandra Grapsas

On Cassandra’s UK travels, she found herself entering into a charity competition where teams attempted to get as far away from Birmingham as they could in sixty hours. The catch was you couldn’t use any of your own money to travel. With her partner by her side and despite efforts from her family to stop her, she set off. What she didn’t anticipate was what she’d learn along the way. She learned how to be self sufficient, street smart, adaptable and to be grateful for what she had. The pair got as far as Cologne, Germany – and while they didn’t win, they felt they’d won invaluable life skills. But seriously – how fun does that sound!?

“One of the incredible things about travelling abroad is that nobody knows who you are which often gives you the freedom to be yourself. Participating in the competition exemplified that feeling. At one point, I was dressed in a tiger onesie to try and attract a ride out of the middle of Birmingham.” – Cassandra

Read Cassandra’s story here: A charity hitchhike through Europe is the best thing I’ve ever done. Here’s why…

Karla Carrasco

Upon returning from her solo trip of a lifetime 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? Absolutely not. Having been so inspired by her recent travels around Europe and everything she achieved on her own, Karla took on a positive outlook and decided it was a sign to grab life with both hands. 3 months after radiation and surgery, she grabbed her backpack to explore more cities in Europe. We’re not crying, you’re crying…

“Life is way too short to do the 9 to 5, I realise that now. You never know what could happen tomorrow, so do what you love today.” – Karla

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

Juanita Hack

Having been diagnosed with depression and put on anti-depressants, Juanita felt like she’d utterly lost touch with who she was. As she slowly started to feel normal following a super-low period, she decided to book a Contiki in a bid to discover herself again. Once she’d gotten over the nerves, she soon realised she could be whoever she wanted on her tour. With the help of her new found friends, she began to come out of her shell and soon felt like she’d reconnected with her true self. Now, she’s unstoppable.

“Because I have travelled with a group of strangers, I have come to realise that even though not everyone likes me, people like me better for who I truly am, rather than who I pretend to be.” – Juanita

Read Juanita’s story here: Contiki helped me re-discover who I really am

Bailey Horvath

Having broken out of an abusive relationship, Bailey’s depression and anxiety was getting worse and worse, but that didn’t stop her from booking her first ever solo trip in a bid to re-discover her independence. On her Amsterdam to Barcelona tour, she realised that not only was she way stronger than she thought she was, but she was also reminded that she’s bigger than her depression and anxiety. We could all do with Bailey’s attitude, TBH…

“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.” – Bailey

Read Bailey’s piece here: Travel helped me realise that my mental illness does not define me 

Brooke Baigent

For those of us suffering from real phobias, we know better than anyone just how difficult they are to overcome, and how much you feel like they can prevent you from achieving your dreams. In Brooke’s case, her dream was travel – but she felt restrained by her aviophobia (fear of flying). Rather than letting it stop her, she made a point to accept it and achieve her goal of travelling to Bali – proving you can live with phobias and not let them dictate your life. You go, Brooke!

“I dont know if I will ever just book a holiday without the feeling fear and dread setting in, but I do know that I dont want a silly fear to stop me from doing something I love.” – Brooke

Read Brooke’s story here: I suffer from aviophobia but I won’t let it stop me from travelling 

Has travel helped you to overcome a difficult period in your life, and become your own source of inspiration? Share your stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…