A beloved Instagram star who became an internet sensation for her vanlife travels has taken her own life after battling depression.
Lee Macmillan, who documented her journey Down Under with her Australian ex-partner Max Bidstrup and their dog Occy, killed herself last week.
The pair’s @maxandlee_ Instagram page, which has garnered more than 67,000 followers, revealed the news on Wednesday.
‘After living an extraordinary life, and fighting a brave battle with depression, our hearts are shattered to share that Lee took her life on Friday,’ Mr Bidstrup wrote.
Lee Macmillan, who documented her journey Down Under with her Australian now-ex-partner Max Bidstrup and their dog Occy, tragically took her life last week
Max described his ex-partner as ‘the brightest light’ and a ‘magnetic force of nature’ who was loved by many
He described his ex-partner as ‘the brightest light’ and a ‘magnetic force of nature’ who was loved by many.
‘We will miss her with every fiber of our hearts,’ Mr Bidstrup wrote.
‘If we can do one thing for Lee now, in the midst of this soul-crushing loss, it’s to spread the message that mental health is just as real as physical health, and that illness can strike anyone, no matter how unlikely they may seem.
‘It’s ok to not be ok, it’s ok to ask for help, it’s absolutely necessary to ask for help. Lee was an advocate for mental health. She was candid and open about her own struggles.’
The couple met while Mr Bidstrup was on a working holiday in Canada in 2016 and they decided to travel across the world with each other and their Australian Shepherd Occy in a van they renovated.
They spent two years travelling across 16 countries, before eventually shocking fans by breaking up in January last year.
The pair’s @maxandlee_ Instagram page, which has garnered more than 67,000 devoted followers, revealed the devastating news on Wednesday
The loved up couple spent five weeks travelling around southeast Asia together before returning to Canada where they bought and renovated a 2006 Dodge Sprinter van
In January this year, the couple announced their split to their joint Instagram account, shocking their hordes of loyal followers and fans
The couple shared the highs and lows of travelling around Canada, South East Asia, South America and North America – including the time Occy was attacked on a beach in Costa Rica.
They also shared the moment they surprised Mr Bistrup’s brother who had just had a baby by returning to Australia from Canada after more than two years away.
The couple, who had more than 68,000 Instagram followers and 496,000 Youtube subscribers, spent their time travelling to untouched areas, away from the crowds of tourists.
They drove 50,000 miles to travel across the Lagunas route, which took them up to an elevation of 16,400ft as they crossed the 400km of barren landscape through the Andes mountains from Bolivia to Chile.
Before buying the van and renovating it, the couple spent time travelling around South Australia where they went cave diving with great white sharks before bathing elephants in Thailand.
Mr Bidstrup said Ms Macmillan had been receiving help from professionals, family and friends for her depression.
‘She had support around her. She was not alone, she was not trying to fight this alone. And yet she still succumbed to this terrible illness. It is more nuanced than we can, or do, appreciate or understand,’ he said.
The couple spent the next few months exploring North America and eventually made their way through South America
In a heartbreaking tribute on his personal Instagram account, Mr Bidstrup said Ms Macmillan was ‘the best person I have ever met’.
‘You were the best thing to ever happen to me. I fell in love with you the day we met yet you were still the stronger one that said ‘I love you’ first. I never stopped loving you Mountie, I hope you know that,’ he wrote.
‘I will always cherish my time with you in this world and hope beyond hope to see you in the next.’
Mr Bidstrup has since started the ‘#speakupforlee’ hashtag, to raise awareness for mental illness and the importance of checking in on your friends.
‘Let’s spread the awareness of this issue, for Lee and every one else who needs to hear this. And hold your loved ones tight. Tell them you love them. Because life can change in an instant,’ he wrote.
‘Life is more complex than a single social media post. Things are complicated. Don’t believe what you see online. Get out into the world and talk to your loved ones.
‘Check in. Ask them genuinely how they’re doing. Be available to help. To listen. To offer help. Remove the stigma of asking for help.’
Ms Macmillan and Mr Bidstrup – a paramedic from Wangaratta in Victoria – met while he was on a working holiday in Canada in 2016.
Ms Macmillan and Mr Bidstrup – a paramedic from Wangaratta in Victoria – met while he was on a working holiday in Canada
Mr Bidstrup has since started the ‘#speakupforlee’ hashtag, to raise awareness for mental illness and the importance of checking in on your friends
The loved up couple then spent five weeks travelling around southeast Asia together before returning to Canada.
They purchased a 2006 Dodge Sprinter van for about $12,300, which they gutted and renovated for their road trips.
The pair spent the next few months exploring North America and eventually made their way through South America where they visited countries such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Colombia.
During their time in the US, they spent time visiting the Havasu Canyon in Arizona before travelling to San Diego where they stopped for a week to recover from travelling over 15,000km in their van in the first three months.
Ms Macmillan and Mr Bidstrup also spent almost six months in Mexico where they took Spanish lessons together and spent Christmas on a beach.
They also worked with a local charity to help sea turtles reach the ocean to give them a chance of survival.
They purchased a 2006 Dodge Sprinter van for about $12,300, which they gutted and renovated for their road trips
The couple launched their Youtube channel while in Oaxaca, Mexico and garnered a huge following.
They then went on to travel to Guatemala – and they were there at the time the Fuego Volcano erupted in June 2018. The couple had been pictured on the volcano four days before the eruption – but told worried followers they were safe.
Mr Bidstrup went to visit the villages which were close to the eruption and the couple donated medical supplies and money to those affected.
Ms Macmallan spent three months back in Canada with her family but joined her partner in Costa Rica. The couple, once reunited, posted on Instagram that they felt ‘finally complete again’.
The couple moved on to visit Panama before organising for their van to be shipped to Colombia.
On their first day in the South American country, they hiked the giant rock monolith del Penol and ended up sleeping next to Pablo Escobar’s abandoned mansion in Guatape, Colombia.
For Christmas 2018, the couple decided to travel back to Canada to spend time with friends and family before going on to Australia to surprise Mr Bidstrup’s family after more than two years away.
The couple went back to their van life in Colombia before travelling to Ecuador where they surfed in crystal clear waters and volunteered at an organic farm.
Ms Macmillan was pictured laying next to a group of sea lions after the couple travelled for a five-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands where they explored the diverse landscape.
The couple moved on to Peru and explored the Peruvian desert with an outdoor truck – and even their dog Occy joined in by wearing large goggles to keep the dust away from his eyes.
Mr Bidstrup said he will miss his ex-partner with ‘every fibre’ of his heart
They began the 65km Salkantay Trek to Machu Pichu and posted on Instagram saying that it was one of those ‘experiences in life you will just never forget’.
Whilst in Bolivia, the pair travelled on bikes on the famous Death Road in La Paz with Occy right behind them in a biker’s van.
They also made it to the stunning Patagonia in Chile where they were surrounded by glacial lakes and snow capped jagged peaks.
It was here that Ms Macmillan posted about her mental health and said in an Instagram post: ‘I have been struggling with my own insecurities and uncertainties and it has been causing my feelings of anxiety and depression.’
She added: ‘The reason why I want to be open with you on this platform is because there has been so many times where I have compared myself online asking why everyone else’s life looks so easy and or ‘perfect’ and I am here struggling.’
Whilst in Chile, the couple announced they would be ending their travels after two years to be closer to family and friends – and to have basic comforts they were living without.
In January last year, the couple announced their split to their joint Instagram account, shocking their hordes of loyal followers and fans.
‘Sadly though, despite going through so much together, and trying so damn hard, some things don’t always work out, no matter how much you want them to,’ they wrote alongside a photo of them.
‘We are very sorry to announce that the next chapter of our lives will not be one experienced together, as we will be going our separate ways from here.
‘The last month has been one of the most trying of our lives as we come to terms with this new reality. We both want what is best for each other and will continue to support each other now and in to the future.’⠀
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