I am a group tour skeptic, and rightly so - I mean you spend the majority of your days around strangers, being communicated to by a group leader whilst being escorted through busy cities. It's bizarre.
I booked my first Contiki trip back in April when my work life was too overwhelming. I was desperate for a holiday and I booked the first tour I saw where I wouldn’t have to have any responsibilities. This tour was the Adriatic Unearthed. It would start in Rome and spend 14 days taking me through Slovenia and Croatia, down to Greece, before returning to Italy to finish where we started.
Traditionally, Contiki has a certain demographic that it appeals to, which (I thought) didn’t include me. Naturally, hesitation built in me as I explained to family and friends that little sober, introverted me would be going on a Contiki tour to Europe. I had visions of this trip I’d take in July where I’d be sitting in the corner of a bar sipping on my Sprite alone. I imagined walking through cities by myself because I had nothing in common with my fellow tour mates.
These ideas ended up being the furthest things from the truth.
Upon arrival, I met up with my tour in Campo de' Fiori. They were so welcoming and friendly, I mean, how dare they! Now I couldn't isolate myself for the duration of the tour.
As a strong advocate of solo backpacking for my main method of travel, I desperately wanted to be able to walk away from my trip with my nose in the air, still claiming solo travel is superior. By my first day of this group tour, I was totally and utterly converted to the way of Contiki.
The 14 days in Europe felt like a lifetime. The people I met on the trip felt like my family. The coach that we travelled on every day felt like home. All of my apprehensions about this trip drifted away and I could not imagine travelling around the world in any other way in the future.
Everything about the trip was perfect. In every single moment, all I experienced was pure joy; except for when it ended. I was left sobbing at the side of a road as I waved goodbye to the greatest people I’ve ever met.
I had to abandon all of my previous opinions and become an advocate of group travel. No bond I make with fellow travellers in hostels while backpacking will compare to the friendships I made with those glorious humans I sat with on that Contiki coach.
I hate Contiki, because nothing in my future travels will ever be as amazing as the trip I went on this past Summer.
OPINION SPLITTER: IS IT THE PLACE OR THE PEOPLE THAT DEFINE A TRAVEL EXPERIENCE?