I had great expectations for my Contiki trip to London and Paris in June. While finishing my senior year of high school and waiting for months for this trip, my excitement and hopes were heightened daily. However, no amount of imagination could have prepared me for the wonderful reality of my trip. Of course destination is everything and clearly London and Paris have that. However, sharing the location with great companions made an enormous difference in the success of a trip. People from all around the globe signed on for the Contiki tour to partake in an adventure together. While on the tour we traveled with 51 participants all of whom ranged in age from 18 to 35. They came from the United States, Canada, and Australia as well as other far flung countries.
To my surprise, everyone was welcoming and eager to meet each other. Conversation flowed easily, and everyone encouraged others to make the most of each day’s adventures. Most of the time, it was the little things that made the best memories with the group. On the first day, our tour guide, Mike, introduced us to and demonstrated his universal sign to use when lost or separated from the group. At first, I thought his emu-like hand gesture was just comical. Then, when we ventured forth into crowded tourist destinations, such as the Eiffel Tower at midnight, we were all relieved to have this tool to fall back on when we separated in a crowd. When we threw up our hands in an emu-like gesture, our fellow tour travelers found us and came to our sides. Basically, Mike’s “emu signal” was brilliant and priceless.
Experiencing the Eiffel Tower at midnight and watching it sparkle was made even more memorable because we enjoyed it as a group. If I was traveling alone with my friend in Paris there is no way we would have done this by ourselves. The camaraderie of the group made us feel comfortable enough to explore and be more adventurous in our outings. We definitely saw and did more than if we were traveling solo.
When I got home to Seattle, I wondered if that friendship was just luck or if it typified other Contiki tours. My mother suggested we contact Contiki and ask them this directly. Vy Truong, who handles Public Relations for Contiki responded via email stating: “The Contiki experience is all about connection. It is the fact that people are traveling with like-minded individuals who are the same age that our travelers repeatedly return home with friends for life and connections all over the world. Whether they are Australian, New Zealand, Brazilian, South African, British, American, Canadian, Mexican – they all now have friends all over the world to visit and they can continue their travel journey.”
Wow. Our thoughts exactly.