Aaron ‘Az’ Gallagher is living his very own Cinderella story, but the Aussie Trip Manager who grew up globetrotting and picking bananas couldn’t be more humble about it. His going to the ball moment? Being shortlisted for the iconic Cosmo Bachelor of the Year award.
Az has been a Contiki Trip Manager in Asia since 2015 and just hit his 30th trip, so it’s safe to say he was surprised to be nominated given he spends most of his time on the road, fishing on tiny tropical islands or relaxing at his family’s banana farm in far-north Queensland.
“It’s a solid contrast to growing up on the farm!” Az says, adding that while being labelled a handsome bachelor is a new concept, it’s one he’s open to tackling, “It’s not something too many blokes get to be apart of and it’s so far from anything I’ve ever done before. That’s the best part, being a new experience.”
Besides being easy on the eyes, Az is far more accomplished than he’ll admit, and being well-rounded is a must to be part of Cosmo’s Bachelor awards. The second the team saw Az and his resume they said, “we’ve got a feeling he’ll be popular”. But what did the most important woman in his life (AKA Mum) think? Was she baffled? Ecstatic that her son would appear in front of millions of women labelled as single and maybe find true love off the back of it?! Well…
“She just laughed. She couldn’t stop laughing! When that calmed down she said, “I’m proud of you darling.” She’s a legend.”
Contiki have a lot to thank Az’s mum for actually. After all, she was the one who encouraged him to apply for the Trip Manager role in the first place. “She tagged me in Contiki’s Facebook post advertising for TM’s in Asia. She said, “You’re mad if you don’t!” (apply). I didn’t hesitate, applied, made it to Sydney for interviews, and the process went from there. It was an incredible journey to get to the point of landing in Bangkok and starting training. From there, it’s led me onto more than I could have imagined.”
The incredible journey has never stopped for Az, who first started jet setting when he was only a few months old. “I learned to walk and talk overseas, my first words and steps were back when Kuta was rice paddies. Mum’s a travel agent and always used travel and experience as the source of educating her boys, which I’m forever grateful for.
“Mum would always pull sickies for us to get out of school to explore and have adventures.”
Now he’s a Cosmo Bachelor, Az is still getting his head around his new title and especially the photo shoots (we can neither confirm or deny the pics are shirtless), not to mention all the hoo-ha that goes along with them. “At first going into the photo shoot I was a little bit nervous but I think I was confusing nerves with excitement. It’s just something so different than what I’ve ever done before and that feeling of being out of the comfort zone, that’s where growth and life happens,” he explains.
Luckily for Az, he has both Asia and Australia Contiki teams cheering him on as he takes off his well-worn akubra and dons a suit and tie for the Cosmo Bachelor journey. “I think the Contiki team are having just as much fun as me with it, seeing how much of a noodle out of Asia I am! At the shoot they asked me if I knew my blazer size and I had to think about what that even was, I’d only ever worn a blazer once before for about 6 hours when I graduated from Grade 12 and that was my Dad’s. I’d never worn one since. So this was my second time, and I doubt there will be another!”
Of course Az isn’t just a born traveller and banana farmer who doesn’t own dress shoes; the laid-back Aussie is also a romantic. “I do believe in my heart, deep within me, that I am a romantic; long nights full of stars, long stares, telling her how you feel… Too many blokes think being tough and strong means you can’t open up and embrace romanticism. But it takes strength to be gentle.”
“It’s a beautiful thing to believe in. Life’s better with romance.”
While he may literally (and figuratively) be a bachelor, waiting for the right girl hasn’t stopped Az lending a hand to love when he can. Recalling his most romantic trip memory and how privileged he feels to have been a part of it:
“I had the most beautiful couple from America come on my Thai Island Hopper. The bloke pulled me up at a bar on the third night in and said, “Az, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I bought a ring before this trip to propose to my girlfriend, can you help me organise something special for her?” I’d never had that happen on a trip before and I was so overwhelmed with excitement. I think I was more excited than him to be honest. I helped him set up their own private traditional long tail boat on the islands off Koh Phi Phi, organised a day trip and then he dropped the knee, told her his truths, all in one of the most beautiful places in the world. She said yes, so that was a plus! He captured the moment as well so I’ve got an incredible photo of that moment. I’m incredibly thankful for being part of that story.”
Why do I love my job? I get to be a part of incredible moments in people's lives ?Like when two people say "YES!" to spending their lives together.. he took a knee on a traditional longtail boat and proposed to the love of his life ?☀ So happy for you both. May you always have paradise. @Contiki @gopro @goproanz
When it comes to his own perfect partner, Az is only looking for three things: Salt, truth and love. He explains (while we swoon):
“Salt, for the ocean and nature. Truth, to be open and truthful to who they are. Love for themselves, for life, and a passion for all that’s good.”
Az may have already won our hearts, but what about the stellar competition he’s up against? He says he’s not too worried, “It’s just a few fellas doing their thing, getting involved, putting themselves out there having fun, having a laugh the same as me… well hopefully! Life’s too important to be taken seriously. It’d be an amazing experience to win though because you never know where that could lead. I guess the whole point of going into a competition is to win it!”
The winner gets to go on a Contiki and we wondered how a Trip Manager would feel about not being at the front of the bus. Always open to new experiences, Az says he’d welcome it! “If I won and went on a Contiki I’d be stoked, I’m curious to find out the feeling of not being the person behind the microphone, just sit up the back and take the pace off and let someone else show me around!”
Voting for Cosmo Bachelor of the Year 2017 is now open!