At the moment, I am travelling Europe and yesterday my Contiki tour came to an end, and from the start I had no idea what to expect. I had previously toured Italy when I was 16 with my school, and imagined it would be somewhat like that… I was wrong (but pleasantly surprised)
- You spend more time on the bus than you do at your destinations: I mean, it makes sense. You’re given 18 days to visit 15 cities, time is limited and travel time is to be expected.
- If you enjoy ‘alone time’, then sucks to be you because you won’t get any. Then, if you decide to separate from the group, people will talk about it. Words like “boring”, “antisocial”, and “diarrhoea” will be thrown around (no matter how sick, tired, or desperate for space you are)
- Every night accidentally becomes a ‘gas on’ night, even when you’re exhausted and still hung over from the night before. For those of you non #Contiki travellers, gassing on is a term we use for going out. For example “Are you gassing on tonight?” “Of course, we’ve only got 15 days left of our 18 day tour”
- If you’re shy, you’ll most likely feel uncomfortable for the first few days of the tour, specifically if you’re travelling alone or in a small group, I know I did. Some people are good at creating instant connections with strangers, while others like myself take some time to warm up to people. It’s not because we don’t want to be apart of the #ContikiFamily, but most of the time it’s because we’re shy and sometimes find it difficult to put ourselves out there. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if it does concern you, keep in mind that there are 50 unique and interesting people on your tour, so you’re bound to connect with someone, just make an effort!
- #NoRegrets is a Contiki mantra that will become both your best friend and worst enemy. I ate a typical German feast and then drank a whole litre of beer in a Munich beer garden (and I don’t like beer) because I didn’t want to regret not doing it. It was an amazing feed and made for a cool Snapchat post, but needless to say with a few more vodka based drinks later #NoRegrets kicked my Contiki ass.
- Free pouring is a regular thing throughout Europe, and with two glasses of what ever drink, you’ve technically had about eight standard drinks. This is both a good and bad thing, good because once you know, you can get tipsy quickly and cheaply, but bad because by the time you realise you’ve had 12 shots in four drinks, it’s too late.
- Your Contiki family really do become your family, in the best and worst sense of the word. You’ve even got those people who are like your third cousins who you only see on special occasions but still party with at weddings, but appreciate all the same.
- Your patience with people, activities and the bus ride will be tested, probably more often than not. Hopefully like me though, you will realise that you’re over exaggerating and then move on.
- You will have the chance to push your limits. You don’t just sight see and hop back on the bus all the time, but you are also given the opportunity to do incredible activities in every country you spend enough time in. For example, I bungee jumped off of a cable cart in the Swiss Alps, and that was pretty freaking awesome.
- Drama is non-stop, and it’s incredibly entertaining. From sharing hotel rooms to bitching girls and bickering boys, to hilarious and spontaneous moments, Contiki is never a dull time.
- Contiki cough is real. I know this because all of my friends had it, and now that Contiki is over, I have it too. At the beginning of our trip there were a lot of jokes about “patient zero” and our tour manager said “don’t worry about getting sick, the bus air is filtered” but lets be real, if you’re drinking every night, coming home late, having minimal sleep, then exploring a new city every day, of course you’re going to be more vulnerable to a cold or cough, it’s almost inevitable.
- While you’re on tour, a week ago feels like a month because so much has happened in a short amount of time, but Contiki also comes to an end in what feels like an instant. It’s a strange sensation.
- Contiki is not just about partying and drinking, but it’s a major aspect of it. Think of it this way, you arrive at your destination between 4 and 5 pm, you have to check into your hotel and after a long, sometimes sticky hot bus ride, you need to shower. You’ve got a shared room so you have to share the bathroom too. Dinner meet up is at 6:45 and you won’t have time to shower, get ready, and do day time things. That leaves you with the night time. What is there to do at night once you’ve finished dinner and aren’t ready to go home yet? What’s still open at that time? Bars and clubs (and the rare bowling alley down the road from your Venice hotel that’s opened until 2am). You don’t have much choice, especially if you want to get to know your group. I must admit, as tired as I am by the end of the tour, it was definitely a never ending good time
- Don’t feel pressured but you’ll want to buy all the optional activities and dinners. Unless you’re willing to have a solo night or miss out on a super cool activity with the group, get on the extras. Hate to be a conformist but why do a Contiki tour if you don’t want to have things organised
- When the time comes to say goodbye, emotions will be high and you will feel everyone’s missing presence and it’s a sad, sad time. Knowing that tomorrow I’m forced to say good bye to the last of my friends left in Paris is a dreadful thought (our tour ended two days ago and slowly everyone has been leaving)
- No one tells you how attached you will get to people, and no one reminds you that after your tour is over, you may not see these people for a really long time, some you may never see again.
- No one tells you that your tour manager will leave an impression (funny because our tour was called European Impressions) or that you’ll remember all the quirky facts and jokes that they told along the way, or that your group will get a weird sense of pride when they get up on stage for karaoke in a cool bar in Florence.
- On day one, when you’re at the Contiki meet up, waiting to get on the coach, you don’t realise that you will experience some of the most amazing things with the group of strangers standing around you, who after a few days you will feel like you’ve known them for years.
- They don’t tell you that your ‘day song‘ will make you want to sing, dance, and cry a little inside the first hundred times you hear it after Contiki ends
- They also don’t tell you that you’ll have a day song, or that you’ll have a wake up song, and that you’ll grow to love the day song and hate the wake up song, but will feel so nostalgic when you hear both. Our day song was Say Yay! by Barei, and our wake up song was The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens.
Travelling in a group is such an interesting experience. As an individual in a big group, you realise a lot about yourself, how you reason, how you socialise, what works, and what doesn’t. The social aspect of a Contiki tour is probably the biggest factor in enjoying your time on the tour, and believe it or not, can hinder or enhance your experience. Lucky for me, majority of the time my experience was enhanced by this aspect, but I do understand how socialising (or lack thereof) can hinder someone’s time on Contiki. The best, and easily the most cliche piece of advice I can give anyone thinking of doing Contiki is that you have to try with people, and you have to be yourself. There are so many different personality types in the group that you are bound to find someone that you can bond with, and once you have found your people, you are guaranteed a good time.
#ContikiVasa #ContikiAidan #EuImpressions #NoRegrets