Widow travels the world with a cardboard cutout of her late husband

Widow Michelle Bourke, 58, has one thing she has to pack whenever she ventures outside her town: a cardboard cutout of her late husband, Paul.

Michelle is travelling the world with the cutout – so her partner can see the places he missed out on during her life.

So far the pair have visited the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, New York, and Phuket.

They’d always hoped to travel the world together, but after 25 years of happy marriage Paul died of cancer aged 61 in 2016.

Michelle promised to honour their dream in a conversation before his death – so went on an epic journey with the cardboard doppelganger.

The cutout uses an image of Paul aged 34 when they wed – and he’s still wearing his wedding suit.

Michelle of Melbourne, Australia, said: ‘Paul asked “what are you going to do when I’m gone?”

‘I said: “I’m going to travel – I’ll pack a photo of you in my suitcase and take photos of us in all the different countries”.’

Michelle stuck to that promise but took it a step further, swapping a photograph for a fold-up cutout that Michelle can take with her everywhere she goes.

The cutout will need to be replaced soon, as it’s looking a bit ropy from all the travelling.

‘Twelve months after Paul died I went on a tour with Cardboard Paul from LA to Las Vegas and San Francisco,’ says Michelle.

‘Then we flew to Houston and later visited Paris, London, Edinburgh, Wales, Dublin and Somerset.

‘Stonehenge was an amazing experience because I really wanted to go there.

‘It was silent but windy and I had to stop Paul from blowing away. I felt at home.

‘The Grand Canyon was spectacular – the energy there was lovely, peaceful and calm.

‘Paris was amazing because Paul and I always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower.

‘When I saw it I cried, it was beautiful.

‘En route back to Australia I visited Singapore to relax.’

Paul and Michelle were married for 25 years and had two children together. They were in separate marriages when they met at work and became friends.

After two years of friendship, their respective marriages broke down and they fell in love with each other.

Michelle says: ‘Paul was family oriented, my best friend and soulmate.

‘We were comfortable around each other and enjoyed going for breakfast every Sunday.

‘Paul was fun, quirky and had a weird sense of humour.

‘He talked more than the average man and would follow me around the house telling the same stories over and over again.

‘He liked dad jokes around the dinner table and was easy-going. We enjoyed holidays together at our shack in Central Victoria, Aus.’

Paul was diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer, in 2008, and was in remission when, in 2010, a lump formed on his neck that turned out to be non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The tumour was removed and Paul underwent radiotherapy but was diagnosed with melanoma again in 2014 after it spread to his spine and brain.

He died on May 20, 2016.

Michelle wrote a book, titled Conversations With Paul, describing his final years and the impact of his death.

She has penned a second book, Travelling With Cardboard Paul, which will be released on 25 May.

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