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Contiki’s proud Pride cast discuss community at London’s Common Press bookstore

group of people at Common Press in London

Happy Pride y’all! As you may well know, we celebrate pride all. year. round. because spreading the love to all our amazing LGBTQIA+ travellers and friends doesn’t just happen under the sunshine of June. But, we do love a good celebration, so to join in on the bright and colourful Pride festivities this year, we’ve prepared something special.

Contiki is all about travelling the world with like-minded people who form a tight-knit community, and it’s that community we cherish so much. Recently we brought together the LGBTQIA+ community members close to our heart: our LGBTQIA+ ambassador Aisha, our Trip Manager Scott, and a group of past travellers to discuss all things Pride. Our cast assembled for a roundtable discussion on the importance of community at the Common Press, London’s first intersectional bookstore. 

Filled with honest and vulnerable conversations about coming to terms with your queer identity and finding a home and family within others, we hope that Aisha and her peers will either teach you something new or bring you some comfort this month.

Without further ado, please let us present our exceptional cast of fun-loving, jet-setting, and smile-inducing Contiki travellers who have come together to discuss all things community and family for Pride month!

Aisha Shaibu-Lenoir

Aisha already had her big Contiki introduction, she is after all a permanent member of our squad, but it’s worth reiterating her inspiring power here again. Aisha captains the LGBTQIA+ travel group Moonlight Experiences as well as being the Head of Community Engagement for UK Black Pride. “It’s [Pride] all about normalising our queerness,” she says, “no matter how we look or present ourselves, we’re people first.”

For Aisha, community means feeling at home. It’s “being able to be surrounded by people that understand me, and being surrounded by my chosen family.” But there is a wider hope there, that this community can expand their spaces beyond Pride festivals: “Spaces like this [Common Press] actually make me feel okay, I can relax. It’s not about racism, it’s not about homophobia, it’s about me loving the space and feeling loved in that space.” There’s a “power in being visible” as well, Aisha adds.

Pride shoot
Contiki’s proud Pride cast discuss community at London’s Common Press bookstore

Contiki’s proud Pride cast discuss community at London’s Common Press bookstore

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Jun 07, 2023

Lexie Shaibu-Lenoir 

Lexie is the Community Events Manager for Moonlight Experiences and an expert globe-trotter. She is also Aisha’s wonderful wife! Lexie has travelled all over the world to run events for queer communities and bring LGBTQIA+ people together across the world. “Community is about my chosen family,” she says. When Lexie moved to London when she was 18 it was important for her to find that community. Banding together with people who you know are like you, who understand and accept you – there’s power in that.

For Lexie, having a strong sense of pride and community means that “I can go anywhere in the world and feel like I can be my authentic self,” which is key to forming connections with the world. “When we travel, we find the people that we want to find and we connect with them.”

A woman in a red suit proudly posing in front of a graffiti wall, representing the vibrant spirit of the pride community.

Trip Manager Scott

Straight from the source, our trusted Trip Manager Scott has bled Contiki-green since 2017 where he’s taken many groups on exciting tours through Europe. Last year Scott ran the first of our dedicated Pride trips and “it was spectacular.” “It was the best trip I’ve ever run in my life, it felt like everyone could just take a deep exhale and they could just be themselves. They each connected with each other throughout the day and then by nighttime it was just a joyous, loving community.” Being a Trip Manager is a really special job as Scott is the one that helps create unforgettable memories for all our travellers and bring them together. 

“Community ultimately means safety,” he says. “It’s where you go, where you feel the most at home and most at ease.” The first time Scott came out was in the depths of night before heading to a club, because in the middle of a party he felt there was safety from scrutiny. But when he finally came out in the middle of the day, it felt like he was making an announcement to the world, and it was that much more liberating and he allowed himself to be fully seen. “It’s really important to find your community and these people, because humans innately want to be around people.” We couldn’t agree more.

A man in a hoodie standing proudly in front of a vibrant wall.
Contiki’s proud Pride cast discuss community at London’s Common Press bookstore

Contiki’s proud Pride cast discuss community at London’s Common Press bookstore

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Jun 07, 2023

Conor

Conor is a foodie content creator from Australia and recently road tripped through England and Scotland, making lots of cultural stops along the way, with Contiki. “I’m proud to show off what Contiki does, which is create a safe travel environment for people in our community.” 

For Conor, community is more than just making friends. He told the roundtable that he grew up with a lot of queer shame, and he didn’t feel he could be himself. He speaks towards the fact he has the privilege of looking like a straight white man when he walks down the street. But to show Pride in his community and to stand with his queer family, he wears an earring of rainbow gems everyday. “Community means the world to me because it means I’m no longer alone. I have a chosen family. I get to be myself with no repercussions.”

A man from the pride community standing in front of a graffiti covered wall.

Shannon

Shannon is a content creator and model who travelled on a Contiki Pride trip in 2022, our very first Pride departure (led by Scott!). “It was one of the best holidays I’ve been on,” she says against a backdrop of green and yellow graffiti which perfectly matches her outfit. “I’m constantly reminiscing about that trip, it felt like I was in this bubble of warmth, everyone on the trip was so homely and welcoming.” Identity is important, and queer identities are still at risk, which is something Pride celebrations are still shouting about. In Shannon’s words, it’s about more than just the labels, “We’re human first and foremost. I’m queer, yes, but first and foremost I’m Shannon.”

For her, community is an opportunity to “be really self accepting, it’s a group of people that I’m happy to express my true self around. […] It’s a grounding point, the centre where everything, myself, expands from.” It’s also, similarly to the others, all about her chosen family as well. “I grew up wearing a mask, but spaces like this have definitely helped me just be myself […] I am unapologetic about who I am.”

A woman in a green bodysuit, representing the pride community, posing in front of a graffiti wall.
Contiki’s proud Pride cast discuss community at London’s Common Press bookstore

Contiki’s proud Pride cast discuss community at London’s Common Press bookstore

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Jun 07, 2023

Shojon

An all around creative who loves to travel and take the world by storm, Shojon has travelled with Contiki a few times before and reports a “brilliant, brilliant time.” “Everyone was so welcoming and the experience of just learning about and understanding new cultures and new people, it was amazing.” Travel is, at its core, a means of bringing people together, is it not? 

As Shojon says, the dictionary defines community as: a group of people who congregate and tend to share common values of cultures. For Shojon, community is “the potential of support from like-minded individuals, and being around like-minded people that share similar perspectives.”

A man from the pride community standing in front of a graffiti wall.

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