The trip that changed my life
Watching 20,000 lights dance in the night’s sky in Paris. Skimming stones in the crystal-clear waters of the French Rivera. Walking in the footsteps of gladiators in Rome. Cruising the waterways of Venice. Clinking enormous steins of German beer in Munich. This was the trip that changed my life. But it wasn’t all about the places, really. In fact, it was mostly about the people. And it’s all thanks to a company called Contiki.
Who are Contiki?
Contiki was founded WAYYY back in 1962 by a Kiwi named John Anderson, who filled a kombi van with young explorers and traveled across Europe. He didn’t know what he was doing, but they all had such a good time they wanted to do it all over again the next summer. (It’s a hilarious story, there’s even a book about it).
Now, 60 years later, Contiki runs 350+ trips in 6 continents. One of the most important things to know about Contiki is that their trips are exclusively for 18-35s, so you’re always with people roughly in your age group, looking for the same kind of things. They call what they do ‘social travel,’ which is their belief that travel experiences are better when you’re doing them with a group of new friends.
Your entire experience is led by a Contiki Trip Manager: there to guide you through a whirlwind travel experience. But more than that, they become friends, councillors, historians, and city gurus, with a wealth of knowledge on almost everything you see and do. Having the comfort of an expert by your side really made me feel safe. Plus they arrange all of your accommodation, transport and experiences, so you can focus on just having fun without having to plan!
The trip that changed my life
The anticipation built on arrival in London. The European Vista, a whirlwind of 11 Countries in 23 days. Everyone was trying to suss each other out; the nerves building as names were called for check-in. We locked eyes with the Trip Manager and Driver, who were to oversee the whole experience. The time had come. The time for a group of strangers to board their noble steed (coach) and embark on the experience of a lifetime.
The rules were set: don’t be late or you’ll be left behind, and look after each other (you’re family now). A few nervous laughs could be heard throughout the coach. And then we were off: to Paris, Rome, Venice, Munich, Prague and so much more. Little did this group of strangers know that they would all become lifelong friends thanks to the experience they’d share…
Your Contiki family
There’s a reason Contiki call it social travel! Our Trip Manager was an expert at bringing strangers together in perfect harmony to create our Contiki Family. People from all over the world boarded the coach; everyone had different expectations and needs, but that diversity made our family stronger. Learning from others and being pushed out of comfort zones built strong relationships and unbreakable bonds throughout the trip. And by the end, the relationships we all made were even more special than the places we visited. (And they were pretty amazing).
No stress. No Fuss. Just unforgettable memories.
As a first-timer to Europe, exploring with experts and like-minded travellers was much more enjoyable than missing trains or using google translate to figure out why I was on the wrong side of the city. Knowing the hidden gems, the best restaurants, where to grab gelato or find a culturally-immersive activity…it all brought each country to life. And having everything figured out, from accommodation to transport, meant we could focus on all the best bits of travel. Culture. Parties. Food. New friends and amazing destinations.
By the end of the trip, I’d seen more than I could possibly have imagined, and made friends I’m still in touch with today. In truth, I’d caught the travel bug (and the Contiki bug). So, instead of returning home to my boring job, I decided to become a Contiki Trip Manager myself! And the rest, as they say, is history…
A few tips to getting the most out of your Contiki
- Keep an open mind! Be ready to embrace new experiences and people
- Learn to love your day song
- Pack light: pick outfits that can be worn more than once.
- Timing is important, so don’t be late to the coach!
- Be prepared for epic fancy dress parties!
- Free Time Add-Ons. Contki trips include LOADS of travel experiences, but don’t miss out on the FTAs (not included in the price) or you could regret it. They have all been carefully selected in each country to provide the best experience. When you do your budget for your trip I’d add a bit extra to cover the adventure and foodie experiences…