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7 brave Contiki travellers lay their self love journeys bare

A person's hands form a heart shape over the city of Lisbon, emphasizing self-love.

Self-love is one of the most important things you’ll learn in this life. Being body positive and learning to love your body just as it is, is a step towards happiness in our perfection obsessed world. We asked our past Contiki travellers how Contiki tours shaped their body image and self-love and we got some amazing, touching and inspiring stories that show it’s never too late to love yourself (and you might just learn how to do it while travelling!).

“I’ve been the bigger girl my whole life, and growing up in Sydney I would shamefully covered up my bumps and lumps for every beach trip I went on. All through high school, I wore knee length board shorts and t-shirts to the beach and pools.

In my late 20s I went through a fitness kick and dropped over 30kgs, and while my body trimmed down, my brain didn’t. All I saw was more lumps and bumps as my skin adjusted to its new size. I still didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

Then, in my early 30s, I decided to do my first Contiki tour and the road led us to Portugal. I’m not sure if it was the European openness, the supportive group of people on tour or a combination of both, but I had suddenly found the confidence to don a bikini… no t-shirt, no shorts, just a bikini. Every bump, lump and curve proudly on display there on that Portuguese beach with my Contiki pals.”

– BJ.

Two women in white dresses radiating self love standing in front of a castle.

“I had been really sick in and out of hospital for a couple of years. I felt lost and down about being sick, and angry that my body was not doing what I needed/wanted it to do. I was stressed and that stress just made everything worse. I couldn’t go out with friends in case I got sick and wrecked the night, so I kept to myself and became comfortable in my shell and figured it’d never get better. Then I had the chance to do the Contiki Greek Island Hopping trip in 2014 and I took it.

It was my first solo trip anywhere in the world and once I got over the initial nerves of solo travel, my stress vanished and then everything else did too. I became happier and more confident. I lost 8 kilos on the trip alone and I’ve honestly told so many friends and family over the years that Contiki fixed me! If I knew back then that a holiday and Contiki would make me better and have people who where so accepting of my size at the time I would have left the day I got sick! I could never have imagined that Contiki would change me and my health that much. I’ve now been on 4 Contikis and looking to book my 5th & 6th!”

– Carissa P.

A woman embraces self love as she floats on an orange ring in the ocean.

“I was planning to propose to my girlfriend of 3 years and suddenly she left me. I’d bought the ring and everything and was feeling depressed, down and completely worthless. I wasn’t the most outgoing person and I’d certainly had no plans for travelling solo either (thinking I was going to get married and all that). But I decided to go out on a whim and say “f**k it, I’m gonna do it” and I booked 6 weeks worth of Contikis. The plane ride was very unnerving, on the other side of the world alone, I knew I really had to try and open myself up. I got to Greece and the first thing I did was knock 2 teeth out on the bottom of the pool. Off to hospital we go. Great, now I look like a Canadian hockey player and feel less good about myself. I got my teeth fixed in Mykonos and started my trip, where my Trip Manager and I just clicked. She made me feel like I was starting to be someone again and gave me some confidence, this led to being able to talk to people much easier then I ever thought possible. So with her on my side I felt pretty good and decided to leave the past behind In Santorini. I took my engagement ring to where I had planned to propose and I threw it in the ocean. It was a crazy idea but I’d never felt so relieved.

The trip ended and there I was on my next trip with my new found confidence and I spotted a girl on tour from Canada, and man did we click straight away. We would have conversations for hours on that bus and she reminded me of how good of a person I really was instead of the ex always telling me I was worthless and replaceable. By the end of our trip I thought, it’s a long shot, she’s Canadian and I’m Australian but who cares, I’ll ask her out, she said yes. I moved to Canada to be a snowboard instructor for the season and we’ve never looked back. She moves to Australia in a few weeks and I can’t wait! The things that Contiki allowed me to do and to feel while I travelled alone will be things I’ll never forget and to this day the confidence hasn’t worn off, and that feeling of ‘yeah I am a good person, I am attractive, people do think I’m a really cool person’ is a great feeling and it’s all thanks to the trip of life time”.

– Brendan B.

A man practicing self love on top of a white church.

“I’m not a skinny person, but I’m not fat either, I’m somewhere in that awkward in-between, but in this generation of internet, social media and living online, it seems we all have to look our ‘Instagram-best’ all the time. I wonder why… Cause I’ve been traveling a lot by myself (and did 5 Contiki trips so far) and I’ve come to realise the only person I’m doing that for is me. To explore new destinations, learn about other cultures and most importantly, get to know people from all around the globe. I’ve met people on Contiki that were way skinnier than me, and always looked pretty in every picture, you’d think it’s something to be jealous about, but it’s not, when you start talking to them, they are as insecure as you. Learn about people’s stories before you judge them, like one girl on my Australian trip looked really fit and skinny, but she showed me pictures of where she came from, she used to be big, and now she was thriving and finding herself again, without going on crazy diets, just by living healthier.

But the girl I respect most, was actually even a bit bigger than me. I met her in the US and she told me about her weight loss story to date – she’d lost so much weight! So while some people might’ve described her as fat or chubby, she had already come such a long way, to a healthy lifestyle and actually looking amazing! And although she would still struggle with her self image sometimes, she was eating burgers and out drinking with us, enjoying every minute of her trip, just everything in moderation and I think that was so beautiful.

So in conclusion, all I can say is enjoy every moment! Try all the delicious foods along the way, cause it might be your only chance. Love yourself, no matter what size or shape! You’ll look great in that Instagram picture no matter what, cause it’s you standing there, on the rim of the Grand Canyon or living it up on the Greek island! It’s you making memories that will last a lifetime, for you, not for anybody else, so enjoy every second of it!”

– Astrid VR.

A man and woman capturing a moment of self love at the ocean in Tulum, Mexico.

“A Contiki trip in 2015 was a catalyst for me to recognize I was on a reckless path. While on the trip, I really wasn’t a good representation of myself. I was all out of sorts trying to fit in when the tour split and a lot of the people I had spent time with continued on a different tour. I returned home to Canada, and did some serious reflection on finding myself again. Since then, I’ve finished my degree, became a part of a workforce in my field, attended therapy to manage some really negative thought patterns, and also began taking care of my heart and health.

In addition to that, the hardest part for me to overcome (and something to this day that I’m managing) is a diagnosis with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, an endocrine disorder that wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. I was diagnosed in 2015 a few months before my trip to Spain, and the diagnosis was a big part of what left me in a vulnerable place. I didn’t feel worthy and would project that energy. It’s taken almost three years to get to a place where I am comfortable being me. It really took a few ugly and unhappy moments of reflection while overseas to serve as a self-care catalyst.”

– Lydia S.

A woman embracing self love stands atop a snowy mountain in a camouflage jacket.

“I’ve always been a little insecure with my body. I have a high forehead, so I’ve had bangs all my life, and I’ve always been a little more solid with curves than a lot of my friends which causes me to be careful and reserved about what I wear. Following my amazing Contiki trip to New Zealand, I decided to go back to school to get my Masters. The program was completely online. Unfortunately, only doing online schoolwork and going to my 9-5 day job, I gained about 15-20 pounds (on top of being a little more fluffy as it was).

As a treat for graduating, I booked a Contiki to Costa Rica. But, looking in the mirror, I felt fat and ugly, so I made it a goal to lose at least 15 pounds before my trip. I managed to lose a little more than that before my trip. I brought along some warm weather clothes (i.e. shorts and a bikini), hoping I’d have the guts to wear them. And guess what?! I did, and it was amazing. I wore shorts multiple times, and no one exploded at the sight! I wore a bikini I had bought a few years before and not only did my trip buddies like the suit, they said I looked good it in too (without any prompting!). I wore my bangs back, and no one said anything about me looking weird with a high forehead.

Besides having the time of my life on the trip, this Contiki definitely boosted my self-esteem and gave me more confidence in myself. I actually liked how I looked and felt. And I doubt anyone of my trip buddies know how much they influenced me thinking more positively about my body image.”

– Liz W.

A group of people practicing self love by sitting on the edge of a peaceful pond.

“In May I went on my first Contiki and first solo overseas trip. I had been at a pretty low point in my life and was struggling. I was so nervous because I figured if I didn’t like myself, how could anyone else? The trip was 19 days and I can honestly say that it changed my entire outlook on life. There was a moment when I was standing waiting to do a bungee jump, almost peeing my pants because I was so nervous, but when I looked to the side I had a group of 32 individuals from around the world who were cheering me on. It was this little moment that I felt I belonged, that someone out there cared. It didn’t matter that I was throwing myself off a bridge because I was supported for being me and doing something I had always wanted to do.

I really wasn’t my biggest fan when I arrived in New Zealand, but by the time I left I had found my happiness again, and more importantly found a piece of myself that had been missing for so long – self-love. Since this trip I’ve completely changed my life and learned that I need to find what makes me happy because at the end of the day it’s the person staring back at you in the mirror that you need to love.”

– Sam D.

Two women practicing self love while standing on a hill overlooking a green valley.