GUEST POST BY CONTIKI TRIP MANAGER DAMIEN MCMAHON
It might sound cliché, but travelling really is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. I would definitely not be the person that I am today had I not caught the travel bug.
My travelling history includes North America, Asia, and Europe (a couple of times), and with each adventure I developed more and more of a desire to live and work overseas. It got to the point where I just thought, why not? So I did it.
Over 12 months, I began planning my strategic exit from Australia. I arranged Visa Appointments, a share house to rent, and even a job working for a Hospitality agency in London. But I didn’t just want to live and work in London; Europe is a big place, and I wanted to see it all.
The role of a Trip Manager was pretty much my dream job. Getting paid to travel the world, meeting people from all walks of life, and having time of your life in doing so – literally what more could you want out of a job?
Applications to become a Contiki Trip Manager are only open once a year, and I knew I had to apply – to at least try and make my dream a reality. I spent what felt like an age compiling my responses to the questions, determined to get through to the next stage. Stomach full of butterflies, I hit the submit button on my job application in August 2015, hoping I’d done enough to get noticed. Thankfully, I did.
First was the group interview in Sydney. I had to stand up in front of 30 strangers and deliver a 3 minute talk I’d prepared, without the use of notes, among other activities. At the end of the day, we were instructed to call the office back in a few hours to find out how we’d got on. Naturally, we all ventured to the closest pub and got to know one another, before making the call and passing the phone around. There were mixed emotions around the room, with those who had secured a personal interview either that afternoon or the next day visibly excited, whilst those who had missed out were understandably disappointed.
The following day, I ventured back to the office for the personal interview, where I was quizzed on my general knowledge of European geography and history, who I was as a person, and how I would handle certain situations. No one ever walks out of those interviews feeling overly confident, but with nothing more to do, it was time to play the waiting game.
Thankfully the waiting game wasn’t very long; just two days after my second interview, I received an email with news that made me happier than I’d ever been in my life. I’d been awarded a place on one of the training trips for 2016. I was bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day.
And so the hard work began. Successful applicants were instructed to complete an assignment, conducting independent research on cultures, histories, city tours, walking tours, and speciality topics. Everyone has different experiences whilst completing their assignment. Mine involved juggling work, dealing with a broken wrist (cricketing injury!), subsequently changing my flights, saying goodbye to friends and family, and settling into life in London. I spent the first two months working in hotels, more as a backup than anything else.
With the deadline looming, the last two weeks saw a few sleepless nights, and even a sprinkle of doubt about my ability to get it finished. Ultimately the assignment was submitted, and there was time to briefly relax. I’d thought getting the assignment finished was tough, but I had no idea what was ahead of me.
When you speak to any Contiki Trip Manager or Driver, they all agree that training is one of the hardest things that they have ever done in their lives. We had 70 days on the road, going to all of the countries and cities that we could potentially visit during our first season, finding out where the best Wi-Fi spots were, how much it would cost to visit a toilet, where the major attractions were, all the while developing skills on how to manage a group, communicate effectively on a microphone, and hand writing talks for us to deliver to our future travellers. Of course it wasn’t always just work work work – our annual football match against our suppliers in Florence, Italy, was a real highlight, with the trainees securing a 5-2 victory (I also had the privilege of being captain of the team!). It was definitely the toughest 70 days of my life, but the light at the end of the tunnel was always there, and getting brighter and brighter with each passing day. The friendships formed amongst the trainees will definitely last a lifetime, and you’re always guaranteed a gigantic hug when you cross paths with them on the road.
Finishing training was the most satisfying feeling on the planet; the most accomplished I’ve ever felt. At our “graduation” dinner, we all received an envelope that held inside what we’d all been working towards for 70 days and beyond; the name of our first trip. “UE05F” will never leave my mind, the Ultimate European, leaving London on the 5th of June 2016. I will always cherish this piece of paper.
My first trip was simply amazing. The Ultimate European is THE trip for any serious traveller. 45 days on the road visiting France, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, and amazingly EGYPT. Every morning I had to pinch myself that my job ACTUALLY involved riding a camel through the Sahara to see the Pyramids, Paragliding through the Austrian Alps, having snowball fights on top of the Swiss Alps, and visiting Gallipoli?
Adding to the experience was the driver with who I got along with like a house on fire, and 36 open minded and easy going travellers. The Wild Ones (named after our Day Song) I will never forget; you never forget your first…!
If you’re thinking about applying, I can only offer one piece of advice; stop thinking, and start doing. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do it sooner. I’m truly happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and feel like I’m living Christmas every single day.
The 5 Things I wish I knew about training before it began:
- You can never have too much information.
- You might not remember it all, but if you’ve done the research, you’ll surprise yourself at what does come back unexpectedly, as opposed to when you know nothing at all.
- You need to be able to keep talking. No. Matter. What.
- Make it fun.
- People are going to be impressed with how much you know regardless.
- The more you can be entertaining, the more memorable it will be for those that are listening.
- It’s not high school or university.
- Working together as a team (smarter not harder) will make your life much easier.
- You’re never going to be on the same coach as your fellow Trip Manager Trainees, so learn from each other, but mainly share your work – I was far too independent/stuck in that University mindset, it took much longer than it should have for me to work it out!
- Make sure you stop and enjoy the moment.
- You’ll be tired and stressed. You’ll be pushed to your absolute limits.
- Never forget where you are in the world. You could be sitting at your desk back home, doing the standard 9-5. But you could be in any one of the amazing places that you’ll get to visit on training.
- Stop and say to yourself “How good is this!”
Want to follow in Damien’s footsteps and apply for the best job in the world? Applications to become a Contiki Trip Manager are open now. Head to www.contiki.com/jobs to find out more – good luck!