“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
I shared this quote, along with a group photo of the Contiki crew, the day I got back to Australia. I had just had the best month of my life travelling through Europe, with three weeks of that time spent travelling on a Contiki Tour. When I shared the quote, I felt shattered because even though I was home, it didn’t feel quite right. I felt as if part of me was missing.
But does this feeling fade after a year of not sharing a bus with the same people? Do you forget about how you felt the last time you partied together in Amsterdam? Do you forget who was there to buy your eye drops when you were too sick to leave your hotel in Vienna? Do you forget what it was like to have fifty people looking out for you and supporting you when you felt like a terrible friend? Do you forget the love that you felt in your heart for these people twelve months ago?
As much as I miss everyone, I’ve come to realise that goodbyes aren’t always permanent and I have been fortunate enough to have caught up with a small number of people from my trip on three different occasions over the past twelve months. The reunions happened in Queensland, New Zealand and Western Australia and what was interesting about these reunions is that I had never been or had any interest in visiting the places I visited. However, knowing people there made the cities I visited a whole lot more appealing.
The first reunion happened on the Gold Coast in July, where myself and others travelled to help one of the family celebrate his twenty first birthday. Even though it was only a quick visit, it was an opportunity for the small group of us to get together and remember what it was like to be in each other’s company. It was amazing to hear all the stories about their travels, their new jobs, their partners and their studies, and even though a lot had happened for everyone in the five months since Contiki had ended, it felt like we had never been separated. It could have been yesterday that we had all been exploring Europe, partying and making memories together. It felt right to be with them again, even if the moment was only brief.
The second time I caught up with people from the trip was in Auckland on my trip to New Zealand in November. Although it was only a short catch up over dinner and ice cream, it was incredible seeing them again and reminiscing over the amazing adventure we had shared together.
The third and most recent reunion I had was in January, when I travelled to Western Australia to visit someone who I was incredibly close to on and after the trip. Although I felt the same way before every reunion, I was particularly worried this time that eleven months apart would have ruined the bond we had formed whilst in Europe. However, I found it just as easy to connect with her in WA as I did walking the streets of Prague with her.
The thing about the friends that you make on Contiki is that they are the type of friends who can still love you after they have seen you at your worst. These people, from day one, have literally seen you at your worst. You are jet lagged, you are nervous, you are hungover the next day. They see you when you haven’t put make up on, haven’t brushed your teeth and are wearing the strangest assortment of clothing.
They have seen you cry, they have seen you laugh uncontrollably and they have seen you try – unsuccessfully – to speak a foreign language. And yet, you still want to know each other and you miss each other when you are apart. Because as amazing as it is to see the sights of wherever you go, the best gift that travelling can give you is the gift of meeting someone special.
Do you still make the time to see your travel family? Have you had any Contiki reunions recently? Share your stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…