As a travel addict and long time wanderer, one of my favourite parts about being single is that I can have complete control over every aspect of my travel experience. I pick the hostel (and choose whether to sleep in until noon), I choose where to eat, and I dictate the destinations and the pace at which I visit them.
The flip side to this, of course, is that the onus of organising every aspect of the trip is on me. It’s only fair. But who amongst us doesn’t get tired of trolling through TripAdvisor and Hostel World poring over review after review looking for the perfect combination of price, location, creature comforts, and the all important free Wi-Fi? Who doesn’t get just a little bored of scanning through page after page of Google search results of articles and blogs describing in intricate detail the many sights, sounds, and tastes we need to experience in a given spot.
It’s all very exciting and part and parcel of the solo travel experience, but sometimes it can all be a bit overwhelming. And that’s where tour companies like Contiki come in handy.
I first heard of Contiki a few years ago when one of my good friends and fellow Newcastle Knights tragics booked his first trip around Europe through Contiki Australia. At the time I had still yet to set foot on a plane – let alone foreign soil – so it all sounded very glamorous. This idea of bussing across Europe with a group of drunk, beautiful travel lovers and stopping off at iconic spots along the way sounded like just what a casual retail worker and full time day-dreamer needed in his life.
#1 – Accessible Travel
And that’s really the first lure of a company like Contiki. Planning your own trip is not only hard, it can be downright daunting. While I’ve had plenty of practise now and have come to (mostly) enjoy the pre-trip research, it’s not the easiest of tasks for a first time traveler.
Contiki takes the often arduous task of planning a whole trip out of your hands and lays it out for you in an easy to understand itinerary that takes care of everything from food to accommodation to the all important task of choosing destinations and getting to them. What you lose in flexibility, you gain in having to not worry about anything beyond what to drink at the bar, which photos to take, and how much spending money to bring along.
My aforementioned friend was hooked from the first go. These Contiki tours around North America, Europe, and the rest of the world have become milestones towards which he works. While pouring himself into his work, he keeps in the back of his mind that he’s got a hassle free, awesome trip ahead of him to look forward to.
And for a first time traveler, it can’t be understated just how helpful this is. We’ve all got our horror stories of lost bookings, dodgy cab drivers, and completely underwhelming ‘must see locations’. Yes, these stories are great to tell people over a beverage or two post trip, but they’re the kind of things we’re used to. A first time traveler – fresh off the boat, so to speak, isn’t going to be quite as well equipped to deal with the hardships of a trip gone wrong.
With that first epic trip under your belt, the idea of planning your own trip further down the line is suddenly a little less daunting. You’ve survived the language barrier and dealt with the early starts – you can do anything! And that leads me to…
#2 – Bite Sized Travel
Byron from Byron and His Backpacks described Contiki tours as “a travel sampler”. You’re not going to find the best hole in the wall restaurant or that idyllic little beach that nobody has heard of through a big tour company like Contiki, but what you will do is get a broad introduction to the area you’re traveling through.
“There’s not really any reason to go to Pisa except to see the Leaning Tower,” he observed, “And take the obligatory stupid picture of you trying to hold it up. With Contiki you’re in, you take a few photos, and then you get the hell out”.
We’ve all made that trip to an out of the way locale to see something we’ve only ever dreamed about. Those moments are worth the trip, of course, but there’s something to be said for seeing what you came to see and then moving on. When time is at a premium, you don’t want to be stuck trying to kill 24 hours in BFE.
#3 – Social Travel
Traveling solo can be, by definition, a rather lonely affair. Sure, you’ll make friends and short term travel companions along the way, but there are going to be moments where you’re alone in a crowded city and that sense of isolation is going to descend on you. During her recent three month tour across Asia, Nomadic American dealt with this first hand. For every day where she had a travel buddy or some people to have a few drinks with, there’d be several where we’d text or Skype because the loneliness was getting to be a bit too much.
For me, part of the fun is forcing myself out of my shell and forging a few new friendships, but that can be a daunting prospect to a first time solo traveler.
Contiki tours are group affairs in which you’re traveling with the same people for however long your tour is. You eat your meals with these people, see the sights with them, and party with them when the bus comes to a halt and it’s time to relax for a while.
The number of friends that my Knights supporting friend has made in his travels is nothing short of impressive. His Facebook page is an envy inducer. Here’s one of him in front of the Eiffel Tower with a leggy blonde. Here’s one of him drunk off his head with five similarly inebriated fellows outside a bar in Germany. Here he is with twenty odd people all beaming with the post-coital bliss of an unforgettable trip.
You’re always going to make friends and acquaintances traveling, but a Contiki Tour takes the leg work out of it for you. You’ve got a built in support network of sorts from the get go, and lifelong friendships can be forged along the way.
I’m not going to lie. This is a sponsored post that Contiki have approached me about writing, but the opinions and experiences in here are my own. Or borrowed from people I know in real life, in some cases.
This is a sponsored post but opinions are my own.
While I’m all about the road less traveled and seeing the world through my own eyes, the lure of a tour with a company like Contiki is always there. It made my time in Fiji all the more fun to not have to sweat the small things, and someday I’d love to have the money to go on a hassle free, fun laden tour with them.
If that hasn’t whet your appetite enough, Contiki have put together this little video as part of their No Regrets competition. Give it a gander and go sign up!
Have you ever traveled with Contiki? What were your feelings about the experience? I’d love to hear more from my readers.