On the day Megan Sullivan underwent surgery to remove a melanoma, she knew she was lucky to be alive. And so while most people would take some time to recover, Sullivan decided she had no time to lose. Instead of resting up, in fact, she planned the most epic 13-day trip imaginable.
Indeed, Sullivan had always dreamed of seeing the world. However, like so many people, she was so busy with the everyday pressures of life that traveling fell by the wayside. What’s more, after Sullivan had found her ideal job as a producer at an advertising agency in San Francisco, she had put a planned trip of a lifetime on hold in order to pursue her career.
So for three years while Sullivan was busy working hard, her idea to see all Seven Wonders of the Modern World got pushed further and further into the future. Nevertheless, she was sure she’d tick them all off her bucket list – one day.
Then in November 2014 a trip to Yosemite National Park in California began a chain of events that would change the course of Sullivan’s life forever. She had been rock climbing in the scenic nature reserve when she plummeted 50 feet down the side of a mountain.
Speaking to the Daily Mail in June 2015, Sullivan recalled, “My friend and I had decided to take a different route from the one that we had planned to take, so we didn’t know it too well. I clipped my rope to one of the fixed gears that was already in the rock to support me. That was a bad idea – it gave way and I just hurtled down.”
Thankfully, Sullivan somehow managed to escape the fall without any serious injuries. Within three days, in fact, she was back on her feet – but her spate of bad luck didn’t stop there. Just one week after her rock climbing accident, moreover, Sullivan was hit by a car while out riding her Vespa.
Yet although the scooter was completely written off in the collision, miraculously Sullivan only suffered bruising. In the following days, then, the accident-prone woman was called into the hospital for a check-up. And it was at that point that she decided to ask her doctor to take a look at a red lump on her head. Not that she assumed it was anything to worry unduly about since, as she later told the Daily Mail, she “didn’t think it was a big deal.”
But her doctor definitely did and took a biopsy there and then. And, sadly, the outcome wasn’t good: Sullivan was later given the devastating news that she had melanoma. Luckily, though, the cancer was caught early enough to be treated – although the close call changed Sullivan’s outlook forever.
Between her fall, car accident and cancer scare, meanwhile, Sullivan had met her current boyfriend Chris McNamara. And although they’d only known each other for a matter of weeks, it was McNamara who convinced her to follow her dream of seeing the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
“We got on and we were both so spontaneous,” Sullivan told the Daily Mail. “After the diagnosis, he asked me what was on [my] bucket list and I remembered I’d always wanted to go to see the Seven Wonders. I’d nearly booked it before, but I had to cancel after getting a new job. Chris said he’d come and do it with me. We’d only just started dating, but I found it funny.”
So with no time to lose, Sullivan got to work planning her vacation of a lifetime. The ambitious trip would involve 15 flights, 12 countries and three continents. All in all, in fact, it would take a total of 13 days and cost the couple around $6,300 per person.
Just two weeks after undergoing surgery on the lump on her skull, then, Sullivan took off with McNamara to Chichen Itza, Mexico. However, the stop was almost the definition of a “flying visit.” In fact, the couple left themselves just seven hours to see the Mayan ruins before returning to the airport.
The whirlwind trip also took in the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Taj Mahal in India, the Colosseum in Italy, the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Great Wall of China. In order to document her epic travels, meanwhile, Sullivan set up an Instagram page that was certain to give all her followers wanderlust.
And although some people may question the couple’s sanity for setting themselves such a challenge, Sullivan said that it was her near-death experiences that gave her the drive to go. “I realized this was it,” she told the Daily Mail. “I had to do it and we booked our flights. I managed to get 13 days off work. It was so short we spent most nights on a plane – we only spent five nights in hotels.”
While recalling the priceless memories of the trip, she added to the newspaper, “I had the lowest expectations for the Great Wall, but it was the best experience. It was a beautiful day, and Beijing was my favorite city, too. Machu Picchu blew me away as well.”
And while jet lag, a jam-packed schedule and culture shock are the last things most people would want to deal with during the fledgling stages of a relationship, the trip nevertheless only strengthened Sullivan and McNamara’s bond. “We’re just the same kind of people, we get on with it. We could basically only shower five times so any illusions we had were quickly shattered,” Sullivan explained to the Daily Mail.
Furthermore, a quick scroll through Sullivan’s Instagram page shows that the couple have been well and truly bitten by the travel bug. In recent months, for example, they have visited Nepal, Iceland and New York City. They also gave themselves the challenge to visit Rome, Amsterdam and Istanbul in a whirlwind four days – a trip they completed in style.
And her newfound passion for travel has completely altered Sullivan’s outlook on life. “In my lifetime, the greatest learning moments have come at a time of tragedy and loss,” she wrote in a post for Bored Panda in April 2016. “After the worst month of my life, I started to rethink how I was living my life. I came to this amazing realization – that the only thing stopping me from having everything that I ever wanted in life was simple: me.”
Currently, then, Sullivan and McNamara are on a mission to get everyone to “live more now.” She’s also teamed up with the American Academy of Dermatology to raise awareness of skin cancer. And to do so, Sullivan has taken on another daring task: she’ll trek across Patagonia’s “W” route in Torres Del Paine.
Still, while it took Sullivan three near-death experiences to finally reach for her dreams, many of us might not get such an awakening. So perhaps we could all learn something from her experiences: not to get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget to actually live them.