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Contiki has shaped my identity three times over

A woman contemplating her identity while sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking the grand canyon.

Hi, my name’s Danielle, and I’m addicted to Contiki.

I remember my first time…

I went on my first Contiki at the tender age of 21. I’d just finished University and my best friend and I knew it was now or never to travel and do the whole ‘living in London’ thing before careers got in the way (we ended up living in Edinburgh, but that’s another story). We’d heard of Contiki and how much fun it was and after checking out a few trips, we settled on the European Whirl. I still remember how excited we were after walking out of the travel agent and booking our one way tickets. The truth is though, I don’t know how I’d gotten there.

I had never really travelled before, and here I was jumping ship to the other side of the world! I was raised by a single mum and we didn’t exactly have money for overseas holidays. I’d been to Bali once and Fiji for Schoolies (a time honoured Australian tradition of finishing high school and spending a week getting rid of all the exam stress), but that was it. I had always had a big obsession with ancient history and I had an Egyptian themed room growing up (when I was like 13 guys, don’t look at me like that), so I guess my interest in seeing what was outside of Australia came from there… or I was just doing whatever my BFF wanted because it sounded good and she’s super organised. One of the two.

Fast forward to the first day of the trip and I saw this guy. Y’all know what I’m saying. It was fate. 18 of the best days of my life go by on the Whirl and I have not only seen amazing sights like the Colosseum, breathed the fresh air in Switzerland and tried Limoncello in Italy (not for me), but I feel like my life as an adult is actually starting! I made friends for life, went on to date that guy for 3 years and stepped into the role I was born for: globe trotter. By the time I came home from living overseas, what had started as a curiosity in travel had become a full blown obsession. Oh, and I was (and still am) a horrific travel bragger.

Four girls showcasing their identity in front of a mountain in Switzerland.

Contiki take the wheel!

I never really stopped travelling after my first Contiki. There was always somewhere new to go! But it was after breaking up with my boyfriend from my first Contiki, that I started feeling lost (and heartbroken obvs). Ironically we broke up while I was in Cambodia, but for once travel didn’t seem to be the magical escape it once was. A few months go by of being miserable and trying to figure out who I am again and it hits me; what I need is a solo trip to find myself. It had to be Contiki. It had changed my life before and I had the gut feeling it was going to again. I booked the hands-down-do-not-argue-with-me BEST Contiki trip there is: the Grand Southern. Obviously at the time I didn’t know it was the best trip but I will scream it from the rooftops and tell anyone who will listen that this is the greatest trip not just in the USA, but anywhere.

I have to admit, I was nervous before my big trip. It was a month in America, plus flying over there solo, and while I had once been a confident person, after getting out of what was not a healthy relationship, my confidence was shot. I had always been so sure of who I was but even my sister had said that after 3 years with this guy I’d become a nervous wreck. I won’t go into details because it’s in the past, but suffice to say, I was ready to Eat, Pray, Love my way through America.

And that’s exactly what I did! My nerves were gone after the Kick Start meeting where I met a bunch of people on the trip. Everyone was hilarious and I clicked with a bunch of girls immediately. Turns out they were going through heartbreak too! We nicknamed ourselves the Broken Hearts Club and laughed, partied and vented to each other all hours of the day. The Grand Southern once again gave me friends for life (I even work with my Trip Manager from the trip now!) and it helped me remember who I was without a second half. No shade, but that person was WAY better.

The post-travel high I was on lasted MONTHS after I came home. It was like I had been given a new lease of life, and it pushed me to being a boss in all aspects. 

A woman's identity revealed in front of Monument Valley in Utah.

It all makes sense now

A few years went by and I was working in media, writing and doing the meme thang, when I saw a job at Contiki Australia come up. At the time I was working for a teen title (Hola Girlfriend magazine!) and while I don’t mind Kylie Jenner, travel was much more in line with my passions. I KNEW this was my job. In fact I’m pretty sure I told my (at the time future) boss that in the first interview! I was lucky enough to score the role of social media and content executive and now a year later, I can honestly say it was the best decision I have ever made. Instead of travelling on Contiki, it was now shaping my identity by working there!

I’ve completed a public speaking course and been nominated for awards, but the best part is I get to work with amazing people everyday. It sounds ridiculous, but I didn’t realise I was lacking direction in my career until I started at Contiki. I was just floating along, laughing at Bieber’s latest scandal, but I had no real drive. Now I do, and it all stems from loving what I do. I love travel, I love and believe in what Contiki does, and I work with people who push me and support me. I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be, and am who I need to be, and that’s a writing, memeing, travelling, margarita lover!

A group of people posing for a photo at an identity event.

I truly believe travel is transformative. No matter where I’ve been in life, Contiki seems to have been there too, giving me the experiences I need for the next step.

Have you felt the same about your travels?I’d love to hear your take in the comments below!