This article was created by Skye Roberts, an Aussie travel lover and cat mum with several Contiki's under her belt.
I was lucky enough to find the love of travel at 19. I came from a tiny town on the South Coast of NSW where everyone knew everyone, and everyone knew everyone else’s business, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone and small town bubble to see the world!
I started by joining a friend who was living in Scotland, although no one believed I’d actually go. My friends and family had little faith that I’d venture off into the big wide world, despite being a loud, bubbly person who enjoys a good laugh and drink; hopping on a plane solo was very much outside of the norm for me. But go I did, and my family were proud (and blown away) at my random decision.
It was right before I left that I was introduced to Contiki, and visiting a friend in Scotland quickly became an adventure across Europe. If you’ve done a Contiki you don’t need me to tell you how incredible this experience was (especially for a 19 year old on her own). I made friends for life, explored new countries and danced the night away. I returned home with every intention to travel until the end of time and a year later booked a Contiki to the USA with a friend.
Then the unthinkable happened, my mum was diagnosed with cancer. My mum was my rock, my best friend, the person who I leaned on and loved more than words.
Sadly, in 2013 my worst nightmare came true and cancer took her away.
How could I move forward? Why me? How could I possibly go on my holiday when I’d just lost my best friend?
I started to question whether I should go to America with my friend anymore. I couldn’t see how on earth I’d be able to get out of the darkness and have fun with my heart so broken.
As the date drew closer and I debated what to do, I remembered that my mum had always encouraged me to be who I am, telling me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. She had been so excited for me to go and that was the push I needed to pack my bags and just get on the plane. I was so grateful to have my friend by my side holding my hand and my mum’s necklace around my neck as we went along, but I was nervous and knew this wouldn’t be like my first, carefree Contiki.
However, something unexpected happened on that trip that started my heart on the path of mending. I don’t know if I believe in fate or anything, but this felt like divine intervention. One night on the trip, I was having a chat after a couple drinks with a fellow traveller (as you do!) and I got this overwhelming sense of understanding from her, so I decided to open up. To my complete surprise she had gone through the same thing too and had also lost her Mum.
I couldn’t believe it! The first person I had really opened up to after pretending to be strong and okay (and all the other things we seem to think we have to do after a loss) and she had a similar story. What were the chances?!
From that day onwards, our friendship grew stronger and stronger as we began to learn more about one another and spoke about our tragic, but shared experience. In fact, the friendships grew with everyone on that trip. Maybe I’d been holding a part of myslef back until then, but quickly the guys became my brothers and the girls, sisters, who would have my back (or hold my hair back after a big night). Tears were shared, cuddles were offered but most of all… they got me.
On every Contiki I’ve done I’ve made friends that I still speak to today (in fact one of them now works there and is interviewing me for this story!) and my travel friends are now my closest friends who I know I can rely on when things get tough.
Travelling again after losing her can sometimes be hard, but I hold her necklace close to my heart and keep a picture in my wallet knowing that wherever I go, she's with me.
Travel helped me start dealing with my loss as I started to see that life still had joy and would keep carrying on. Being on a bus for many days and laughing from dawn ‘till dusk brought us together and helped me remember the fun and loved times I shared with my Mum. I don’t think you can ever truly come to terms with the loss of a loved one but having friends so strong they feel like family, even if they started as strangers on a bus, makes it a lot easier.
If I could give anyone advice who has had a family member pass, it would be a line my Pop always told me: “Life is an adventure, not a worry”. Everyone has their highs and lows but you only get one life, so you may as well enjoy it.
No matter where you go in the world I look up into the stars knowing she is always close by, watching over me and proud of the person I am today.