Real Talk

Contiki shaped me into the woman I am today

Travel means something different to everyone, but for me, travel is the reason for who I am today. The people in my life, my personality, the experiences I’ve had and continue to seek, and what my future holds are all influenced by my passion for travel.

But it wasn’t love at first plane ticket – the opposite actually. I was fifteen years old, about to board a flight to Japan to live with strangers for two weeks on an exchange student program. And I was terrified. I remember how I was kicking myself for letting my best friend talk me into it – something I would never have considered signing up for on my own. But it was too late, and before I knew it I was meeting my host family to be taken away from my school group, and my comfort zone, into the unknown world of Japanese life.

The family who took me in spoke barely any English, and I knew absolutely no Japanese. It made for some pretty awkward dinner chats, that’s for sure. Barely able to communicate with the people whose home I was sharing in a foreign and unfamiliar city was very daunting and uncomfortable for fifteen year old me, to say the least. Despite all this, there were times I absolutely loved; days filled with fun and culture, traditional tea ceremonies, castles, gardens and zoos. We attended a Japanese school, learning things like Karate, Origami and Calligraphy.

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But even this incredible Japanese experience was not enough to make me fall in love with travel. Yet.

The trip responsible for kick-starting my addiction was my month long European Contiki I took at eighteen, the year after I finished school. I had a male friend living in London that I was thinking of visiting, but one thing led to another and I found myself booked on another trip initiated by a friend. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I had to fly over on my own to meet my friend in London, which was a whole new experience in itself; one that left me more travel savvy and confident. But it was the Contiki tour that really changed me.

I would never have believed that in such a short time I could have bonded to the point of becoming a family with my group – people of all ages and locations in the world. I was able to be completely myself with my new friends, sharing unforgettable experiences together across incredible countries that I had no true sense of beforehand. These places truly amazed me and ignited a burning desire to see and explore more, especially when I was home and struggling with post-Contiki depression. More than that, though, was how the trip changed me into a more outgoing, bubbly and adventurous young woman, which would later prove to benefit me not only in social ways but in a work environment too.

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I was confident in this new person I was becoming, but Rome wasn’t built in a day (just visited in one) and I still had more experiences to come that would ultimately lead to who and where I am today. Such as a trip to Thailand. Only six months later I was off with my BFF, her boyfriend and his best friend. And no, it did not occur to me how ‘double-datey’ that was whatsoever, but it did lead to us dating as a result. Who knew? So I have travel to thank for bringing me my boyfriend of five years now, who luckily enough also shares my passion for travel, adrenaline and adventure.

I will be forever grateful I fell in love with seeing the world so young as it’s given me more years to carry out my ever-growing bucket list goals, and changed my world for the better. I now get to look forward to a fulfilling future of more epic world adventures.

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