Life has become one long Contiki adventure for Stephen Rowe who knows more than most that the lights could go out without warning.
The Corlette man has overcome testicular cancer, been hit by a car and was left paralysed in a second crash, all by the age of 26.
The latter incident finally forced him out of the NSW Police.
“I came out of a coma after the hit and run and that’s when the doctor told me I was clear from the cancer,” he said. “I just laughed.”
He was 24, working general duties in Sydney, and soon enough tragedy would strike him again – in the shape of a four-wheel-drive.
“They told me I would never walk again,” Mr Rowe said. “I said ‘get stuffed’ and I walked out four months later.”
His affection for Contikis began with the European Panorama not long after his cancer diagnosis at 20.
The relationship got off to a rocky start. The tour date got pushed but Continki upgraded him from a shared room to a single, for his troubles.
Now 33, Mr Rowe has completed 42 Contikis. Calling in from Costa Rica, he says he hopes to complete 65 if not 70 tours before he’s 35.
“Despite all my injuries I wouldn't say that I'm medically retired, I’ve just worked hard enough, saved and invested well enough,” he said.
“I wanted to travel so I decided it was time to retire and just travel the world.”
The next tour begins soon in Texas, heading east on the Boot-scooting Blues tour on which he’ll turn 34. But not before a detour to Detroit and Vancouver to catch up with friends he’s made along the way.
“It’s the friendships I’ve made along the way as much as it’s been about the sights,” he said. “I base my favourite tours on the groups and for that reason I say the British Ireland tour is my favourite, tied with China and Japan.”
Other than the friendships he treasures the photos. All 150 gigabytes of them.
“It’s a little thing but I’ve been working on my smile on the left side, there’s still some paralysis there,” he said.
“I’m not your typical bloke, I don’t drink and I can sew, I carry a sewing kit with me everywhere. Another reason I like to do Contiki is because I hope to fall in love on one of them; I want my very own Disney romance.”
Another reason I like to do Contiki is because I hope to fall in love on one of them; I want my very own Disney romance.Stephen Rowe