I wish someone had told me: My first Contiki

img_1523I wish someone had told me…” is a series of posts that serve as a handy guide for anyone who’s looking to do a “first time” experience, be it travelling to a destination or taking part in a running race, music festival or whatever strikes our fancy. Read below for the inside scoop.

One of the most difficult parts of travelling has to be the frequently asked question of, “where on earth should I go?” Having toyed with the idea of spending the summer in Europe, I found myself struggling to commit to a final destination. Picking a destination became a rather daunting task accompanied by endless lists of ‘must-see’ destinations and multiple visits to travel agencies and hours on my computer conducting never-ending internet searches.

Having been overloaded with options and paralyzed by the fear of making the ‘wrong’ choice, settling on a final destination seemed a virtually impossible task. When I think of travelling, I by no means want to go on guided tours and explore souvenir shops the ‘touristy’ way. I am compelled to explore the unseen; to be curious and receptive and ready to be transformed by travel experiences. The purpose of travelling, through my eyes, is to immerse oneself in foreign hearts and lands and see “old” things with fresh eyes, becoming intoxicated by memories and feelings. And so the list of destinations grew along with my desire to step out of my comfort zone in order to do something out of the ordinary. 

img_1856Feeling effects of a small social cirlce and the ensuing suffocating claustrophobia, the desire to venture far beyond my comfort zone and to travel outweighed the need to find the ‘perfect’ destination. Growing up with social media at my fingertips I was overindulged, overstimulated and overwhelmed by the exposure of places, faces and things that I could potentially see. With virtually no time to plan a destination to look into, Contiki seemed to be the answer I had been seeking. And so, without hesitation, I booked a flight, packed a suitcase and embarked on a Mediterranean Quest from Barcelona to Rome with the motto #NoRegrets firmly in mind.

After being informed of the notorious ‘Contiki Cough’, watching my bag in certain cities, avoiding popular public areas due to recent terrorist escapades and my father’s rather concerning warning of ‘If you get taken, I will find you and I will kill them”, I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for such an amazing experience. Nine days on a bus with strangers, endless nights that became very early mornings and minimal sleep was all worth the memories made along the way with new friends I will hold onto forever.

Realising a new found appreciation for my bed and not having to pay to use a bathroom, it’s safe to say that I came home to realize that I left pieces of my heart in the places I travelled to with the people I met along the way. Although the re-entry back into reality was somewhat of a rude awakening, I carry photographs with me as a reminder of how much I have changed from the experience. 

Anthony Boudain once said, “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts. It even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; It should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something behind.”

The travel bug has bitten and the next Contiki adventure awaits…