When I first packed a suitcase and booked a one-way ticket to Italy, I was worn down from juggling unpaid graduate internships alongside weekend jobs, whilst having no time to actually have a life. As an adventurous Sagittarius at heart, I’d always had an urge to just up sticks and go to a completely different country, but it wasn’t until I first visited Italy on a week’s holiday that I realised my destiny.
I booked my first Contiki on a whim. I desperately wanted a solo trip to visit all the main cities in Italy and check them off my list, so I booked the Italian Espresso. It was the perfect first trip; 8 days with one amazing group. Two years on and my #Espresso family is still my fam of all fams and out of all the Contiki’s I’ve done, this trip holds my fondest memories.
It was after this incredible (yet too short) trip that the ‘up sticks and leave’ itch became impossible to ignore. So instead of ignoring it as I had done all those times before, I decided to roll with it and see where it took me. After all, if it all goes wrong, home would always be there, right?
So, I travelled back to Italy to fully immerse myself in the country I had fallen in love with. I studied Italian at language schools, lodged with local homestay families and met young people from Canada, Latvia, Germany and America, all taking career breaks and sabbaticals, just like me.
And this, I realised, is what solo travel is all about; meeting and mingling with like-minded folk. And this is absolutely what Contiki trips are about.
Eventually I ended up staying on in Sicily, where I set myself up as a freelance English conversation tutor. I’d somehow created an entirely new life for myself merely weeks after my first Contiki trip, and that still amazes me. My Contiki experience provided me with that much of a buzz and confidence boost that I felt ready to quit my rubbish job, book a ticket and take on the world, solo.
When people ask me if solo travel has changed who I am as a person, I only have one answer – yes, absolutely!
Travelling solo forms a crucial part of your learning and self-development process and helps you stand on your own two feet in a way that university doesn’t compare to. By travelling alone you discover what true liberation and independence feels like, and you get to know new people in an entirely new way. Yes it can be intensive, sometimes stressful and even emotional at times, but it is an absolute adventure that you will value for life. The hardest part is getting on that first flight; after that, you call your own tune.
You will amaze yourself with your self-resilience and discover your hidden strengths. Personally, I feel excited and amazed by my personal growth. Packing a case and jetting to a country where I couldn’t speak the language nor knew a soul, was something I never saw myself doing. But I did – I made a life for myself there, and for that I’ll always be proud. And sure, technically I have achieved nothing on paper, but I have achieved so much within my soul.
It’s thanks to Contiki that I have been able to travel to some incredible cities such as Boston, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Warsaw, Rome, Berlin and Prague. The only catch is that once you get that #NoRegrets buzz, you’ll find it hard to shift!