Guest post from Belinda Jonovska, an Australian traveller with a devotion to New York, good food and good times.
Let’s be honest, you’re probably here because you’re over 30 and are wondering if, despite Contiki’s age range being 18-35, you can legitimately still go on one and have a good time. Amiright?
Well, good news, you can. I’m over 30 and just finished my first Contiki. Wanna know what it was like? Read on...
I was no stranger to travel before Contiki. I started solo travelling as soon as I turned 18, and have made at least one big overseas trip every year since. I’ve seen a lot of Europe, the US, Asia, Australia and some parts of the Middle East. Honestly, it’s been great.
So if I’ve travelled so much, what made me decide at the ripe young age of 31 to do a Contiki, trips that are often associated with European gap years? Well, while solo travel had allowed me to make up my own itinerary and see whatever I wanted to see, it had come at a price.
There have been times I’ve felt unsafe, and there have been tourist places I’ve missed because I haven’t had the local expertise to see them, or I’ve just not been motivated enough to battle through the crowds on my own. So when I found myself at a crossroads in life (between jobs after a 10 year career in banking), I decided to take a break before I moved onto my next venture in the hope of returning home refreshed. I wanted to travel through Spain and Morocco, but after doing some research as a solo female traveller, I had some safety concerns about being alone in Morocco.
I did (more) research before choosing Contiki. I wanted the ideal itinerary and I wasn’t too keen on staying in hostels. Contiki offered the best of both so I booked, but that’s when the doubts set in.
I was terrified of big groups. Like a lot of people, I had some general social anxiety and imagined it being like a high school camping trip where the group breaks off into the ‘cool’ kids and the nerds (which is where I’d squarely place myself). Terrible memories of being bullied in high school came flooding back to me and I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to go. As with any youth-oriented tour, I was expecting a lot of rowdy partying and was worried I wouldn’t fit in as ‘the older one’.
I spent the nights before the trip lying awake imagining myself on a bus full of 18 year olds with vomit bags who I just wouldn’t be able to relate to at all.
The reality however, was quite different! It all started when I met my roommate in our hotel room. I had seriously considered paying to have my own room, but thought that sharing a room with someone would at least force me to socialise more. As luck would have it, I was partnered with someone that I hit it off with immediately and turns out we had a lot of shared interests, making the shared accommodation the best decision I’d made on the trip.
Immediately after meeting my roomie, we had a kick-off session with our Trip Manager and the rest of the group. I was still nervous; I didn’t want my roomie to consider me a stage 5 clinger (although our bond was already noticeable because everyone kept asking if we were travelling together), but as soon as we were allowed to socialise with each other, conversations flying about, I overheard someone near me say “I told you we’d be the oldest people on the trip at 30”.
I wasn’t alone! I swooped in like a superhero and saved the day by pointing out I was older than them (to a few sighs of relief). As we got to know the rest of the group and ages were revealed, I was surprised to learn that the majority of people in the group were actually 25 and up, and there were quite a few of us travelling that were over 30. It was not the young group I’d assumed at all! I also wasn’t expecting to be one of the last ones standing each night, but that’s exactly what ended up happening! I think on the nights out the ‘oldies’ put the young ones to shame with our longevity. The hangovers however, were not as kind to us…
That teenage girl who was bullied in high school, who was terrified of the ‘cool’ crowd, need not have worried – the whole coach was the cool crowd.
After the ice was broken on that first day all my concerns were gone. I didn’t feel like I stuck out like a weird mature age student at University that everyone looks at and thinks ‘shouldn’t you have done this by now?’. I was just one of the gang and no one gave a damn how old I was. In all honesty, being older comes in handy sometimes. Besides being able to last on a night out, I was able to share my experiences and advice with anyone who asked and feel confident that I wasn’t just making stuff up. By the end of the trip, as cliché as it sounds, everyone was for the most part one big happy family.
If I could give anyone else in their thirties advice on whether to do a Contiki, I’d say absolutely without a doubt, do it. Take advantage of all of the extra activities that are available to you, and enjoy having someone else organise a trip for you. In fact, join me, I’m already planning my next Contiki trip!