Tempelhof takes flight

An airport without travellers is like night without day; the two naturally coincide. Berlin Tempelhof,  an abandoned airport, has arrival halls that hold the excitement of past passengers where the memories of heartfelt goodbyes fade like the paint on the walls. It is something so unique and bizarre because it is not often airport walls tell a story to people who are willing to listen, rather than travel in another direction. 

The story of this airport is an interesting one and a two hour guided tour of the airport will give you a complete idea of the grandeur of the building and the  tales of struggle and triumph which have since been neglected and ignored.

Tempelhof Airfield
Tempelhof Airfield

Before the 1970’s the Tempelhof airport had seen over six million travellers  and the facilities trump any other airport. Walking through the airport would make anybody feel so insignificant because of the sheer size. Knowing the history of Germany makes it even more intriguing and made me question the sheer capabilities of man.

Hitler had imagined great things for this airport and wanted it to serve as a multi purpose building. It would not only be an airport but would also allow for hundreds of thousands of people to gather to listen to the captivating speeches and the calculated propaganda which fuelled the basis of the Nazi Party during the Second World War. Hitler wanted Berlin to be redesigned and Tempelhof was only the beginning of this wildly overestimated plans.

Empty Arrival Halls
Empty Arrival Halls

This enormous building; shaped like an eagle spreading its wings, was the largest of its kind when it was built. It has since been the inspiration for many of the world’s most modern and busiest airports. It still ranks third as the tallest building in the world in terms of floor area.

During the Second World War it held in its broad grasp a prison camp. Hundreds of political prisoners were held here in 20 barracks which were destroyed after the war when the Allies took control of the area.

The Americans used the airport as their base during the Cold War for the Berlin Blockade. The Berlin Blockade saw the Allied forces bringing in supplies to West Berlin when the USSR blocked all land routes into Berlin through East Germany.

Planes were landing here every minute with essential supplies for the citizens in West Berlin. The air traffic at this airport was busier than that of London Heathrow and if pilots weren’t on time they had to fly back to their starting point and try again at a later stage.

The American Basketball Court
The American Basketball Court

When these soldiers weren’t constantly bringing in a stream of supplies they lived in the self-sufficient airport complex. Many soldiers had their own rooms in the barracks and didn’t have to share. There was a grocery store, basketball court, entertainment room, restaurant and bar. Soldiers were able to live their free time here and to escape the world outside where the Berlin Wall stood tall and mighty while separating different ideologies.

The Original Raisin Bomber
The Original Raisin Bomber

One story which I found most interesting was that of the Raisin Bombers or Candy Bombers as they were commonly known. Gail Halvorsen, one an American pilot, used to regularly fly into Tempelhof and he would drop candy and chocolate bars attached to handkerchiefs creating parachutes of joy for those children living below. The Candy Bombers created hope and happiness in a time of struggle. This is just one tale from this historic place and a visit to the airport will provide any curious traveller with the chance to hear what the wall have to say.

Tempelhof Airport
Tempelhof Airport

Now the buildings wait for visitors and the runways have become an outdoor oasis for families. Children race on bikes race down the middle and the health concious sprint down the 2km strip. If you were interested in visiting the airport then have a look at the Tempelhof website as tours offered in different languages and at different times. The tour cost €12 and was completely worthwhile. Our guide was so knowledgeable an gave the group some great insight into this mysterious building.

Tempelhof may also be the only chance you get to go to an airport where you don’t have heartfelt goodbyes, where there is no excitement for the prospect of travelling somewhere new and where the stories cling to the walls like passengers cling to a boarding pass before leaving the gate.

A Green Eden Above London

In London there are hundreds of options for tourists to experience the bustling city; here is one that needs some planning but won’t cost you a penny. It will see you sitting above London in a tranquil green Eden where the forbidden fruit sits in a welcoming chilled cocktail glass and where the view is better than that of a naked Adam or Eve. 

A visit to the newly opened Sky Garden may be just the thing for you after a busy day of sightseeing. The Sky Garden is located on 20 Fenchurch Street which is home to the towering Walkie Talkie building as it is commonly known. On the top floor of this toy-shaped building sits a small tranquil garden where the slight glass house humidity combines with the smell of earth and trees to provide a small escape from the surrounding concrete prison.

A view from the top
A view from the top

Visiting the Sky Garden is easy but it is not a last minute ordeal; you have to book in advance. Booking online is quick and the website asks for some personal details and your preferred time slot and once complete you receive a confirmation email where you download your ticket.

The building is easily accessible and if you arrive by tube then be sure to just look up to orientate yourself an you won’t be able to miss the tall building; I found that Bank station worked best for my visit.

Gardens and architecture
Gardens and architecture

Ensure when you go and visit that you have some kind of photo identification and be aware that they have airport type security at the gate. Other than that it is rather simple and a great way to see the city.

Should you be feeling a little peckish you can pick up some small snacks from the Sky Pod Bar where the prices are fairly reasonable. If you want something a little more flash then you can make a reservation at the Fenchurch Seafood Bar and Grill or the Darwin Brasserie which sit amongst the trees of the Sky Garden.

I would say the best time of day to go would be later afternoon, it is often a little cooler and with summer on it’s way it is a great opportunity to take advantage of the sunshine. The outside viewpoint allows visitors to see The Tower of London, Tower Bridge and The Shard. Walking around the garden visitors can get a complete view of the city of London.

So grab your Adam or Eve and book online for an appointment in the Sky Garden; a little Eden above London with a forbidden fruit cocktail and a view of London like no other.

The 10 Misconceptions of Trip Managers 

Being a Trip Manager means you just get to drink and party all the time right? Wrong! The misconception of the life as a trip manager is something we all find pretty common.

Being a Trip Manager
Being a Trip Manager

Here are the top ten misconceptions of Trip Managers who take bunches of 50 youths around a continent.

1. Yes we party, but not all the time– We visit some of the world’s best party cities and trust me when I say that we enjoy having a boogie but we can’t always show you our winning dance moves (of which we have many). Getting very little sleep is normal and it sometimes means that we have to do the occasional ‘smoke bomb’. This ninja-like move is when we walk around; check that you are all having the best time and then ‘poof’ we disappear.

We do this knowing that you are going to have a great night regardless and that we will be the ones working the next morning while you attempt to cure a hangover. Do be aware though, that when we do pick a night to party we usually go hard and it means you may need to clear the dance floor and we will usually be in the last taxi home.

2. We are not human- This common misconception is felt by many in the industry. Now I know that sometimes it may seem as though we are robots; finely tuned with genius minds which never switch off but really we are not. Being human, as you may know, means that we have our ups and downs just like anyone else. We have to smile and be accommodating, that’s an essential part of our job but being human means we may have a day where we are sad, tired or do not want to be disturbed because we want to have a quick shower at the end of a long day.

St Mark's Square- Venice
St Mark’s Square- Venice

3. We know it all- So many people ask how we can remember as much as we do and when you work as a trip manager you are able to retain plenty of information but that doesn’t mean that we know it all. We are always learning and we may not have the answer for you but we are willing to find out or to listen to a fun fact that you have to share.

It is impossible for someone to know everything and this also means that sometimes we get lost; yes that’s correct. Sometimes we take a wrong turn in cities we know but most of the time you won’t even notice because we don’t want you to have to worry.

4. We don’t know the gossip on the coach- Please don’t be fooled. We know exactly what is going on. Organised group tours often have a feeling similar to what we all experienced in high school. There are groups of friends; some outgoing others a little shy and people who end up in a relationship on tour. Don’t think that we are oblivious to these happenings. We are always listening and just because it’s hasn’t been explicitly said that people didn’t spend the evening in their room doesn’t mean it’s not, almost always, noticeable the very next morning.

5. We don’t have lives outside of tour- We are faithful to you always, for 24 hours of the day you are in our care but sometimes we get to grab a few minutes to ourselves and in that time we will do normal things. We have family and friends who want to hang out and chat just as you do in your day to day life. We have hobbies and interest which extend well beyond our work and when your tour is finished; unless you were someone we genuinely enjoyed spending time with, we will part ways, continue with our lives as you continue with yours.

6. We haven’t done this before and have no idea what we are doing- no matter how many tours you have been on our how many times you may have visited a particular city you are not the Trip Manager. I’m sure you would be a little grumpy if someone came into your place of work and told you how to do your job so please don’t tell us how to do ours. Which leads to the next point

There is always time for a selfie
There is always time for a selfie

7. Anyone can get this job- We go through some of the longest and most intense training of all companies globally. No matter which company takes you on your tour rest assured that trip managers have put the blood sweat and endless tears into getting our dream job. Each year youth travel companies receive thousands of applications and companies will maybe employ around thirty to forty of those applicants; those aren’t great odds unless you work your butt off.

8. A tour just happens- The amount of work that goes behind a tour is staggering and it goes well beyond just the role of the trip manager. Our offices have teams who organise these trips and take the worry out of it for you. They probably have a fair few grey hairs for organising every aspect of the tour up to a year in advance. Have a think about the hotels, dinners, transport, drivers, activities, ferries, flights and activities, these things only cover the tip of the iceberg. This is why you booked a group tour, for us to take the hassle out of you having to organise it all yourself. You’re job is to be on holiday while we do the work remembering it is not only your driver and trip manager who make it happen.

9. We like you all- This may be the hardest blow for some of you but with every tour taking fifty travellers around continents we sometimes encounter people that we get on better with than with others. This is the way life works and there will be people you like and dislike. Just because you may not be someone we connect with as much doesn’t mean that you will have less of an incredible experience. We have to be professional, treat people equally and with respect but if you are not going to reciprocate that behaviour then don’t expect us to be best buddies outside of your tour.

10. We are on holiday- So many people assume that because we travel for work that we are on holiday; this couldn’t be more untrue. If we were on holiday we would be sitting next to you on the coach not at the front with mounds of paperwork and a list of endless tasks each day. If we look like we are having a good time it’s because we have managed to get all of our work done prior and because if we didn’t look like we were having a good time you may question if you were.

We Sphinx Egypt is Amazing
We Sphinx Egypt is Amazing

These misconceptions are common but our line of work lends to them but there aren’t many people in the industry who would trade it for anything else because we do have the best job in the world. We often take it for granted but it is a job and it does see us working hard to ensure that you have the best time possible.

We do have fun on a daily basis and most of that can be attributed to all of you who put trust in us to show you some of the most unique and fascinating places. You teach us things along the way and while you are busy making memories that you will cherish and hold dear; we are too and you are part of them and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Final Countdown-Contiki Training Part Six

It has been nearly a year since Contiki training started and the feeling of finishing that trip is possibly the greatest achievement in my short 23 years on this beautiful planet.

The final stages of the Contiki Training Trip were possibly the most difficult. Following the ‘Zombie Stage’ comes the stage where everything becomes a bit of a blur. Eastern Europe felt so rushed, we travelled through more than one country a day and as soon as we finished studying one we were hurtled into another.

The cities began to look the same and the routine of each day became like that of ‘Ground Hog Day’ just with a different background.

Highlighters marked each completed day and the closer we got to the end the more it began to dawn on me and others that we were going to do this, that we were going to successfully complete training and be signing a contract with Contiki, the World’s number one tour company for 18-35 year olds.

It is the most testing thing I have ever done and one that makes me proud every day. I pushed through with my colleagues and we finished together. Sixty six long days; we were grumpy, tired, emotional and occasionally snapped at each other but all worked endlessly to get through.

So many of my readers are going on this journey themselves. Jumping into the relatively unknown and attempting to land the job that I consider to be the best in the world (I know this may sound cliché but it is true).

To all of you who are on this years training trip or to anybody who is considering it in the future; work hard. Nothing is ever easy and you will be testing to your physical and mental limits. You may find that there will be days that you want to quit and throw in the towel, where getting out of bed seems impossible but really it is not.

Training is designed to test you and just remember that you have already put in some of the hard yards; you have gone through the interviewing process, been accepted and hopefully poured your heart and soul into the assignment.

Contiki saw something in you, a little sparkle and they are giving you a shot, a big opportunity. Show them what you have got and more importantly prove to yourself what you can do.

Give it your all; head down and bottom up, don’t think that you know it all because you most certainly do not. Do what you are told, get the work done and most importantly remember to enjoy yourself.

Training allows you to see some of the most incredible places in all of Europe so wake up each day with a fresh outlook, smile, laugh and stay off of the caffeine tablets!

I won’t say good luck because luck has nothing to do with it, work hard and hopefully I will see you on the road.

Be Your Own Pack Mule: Everything You Need For Life On the Road

Living Out of a Suitcase It is time for you to embrace the idea of living on the road and being proud of your inner pack mule. Taking all that you have and trying to fit it into one suitcase can be a very daunting challenge. You will need to keep your wits about you because you cannot take everything you want along; especially not if you are going to be living out of a suitcase for who knows how long. 

I have been asked by several budding Tour Managers to write about what to pack and wear when faced with the prospect of joining Contiki .

Here are the top 10 things you need;

Packed and ready1. A Good Suitcase- now this may sound obvious to some but trust me when I say that spending the extra money is well worth it. Go with a brand you know; I spent a fortune on my little green Samsonite machine and I have not had a spot of bother. When deciding between a backpack or a suitcase with wheels; I would opt for the one with wheels and don’t go old school and choose 2 wheels, be fancy and take 4, your body will thank you.

2. Wikipedia Offline- this handy offline encyclopedia saved my life more times than I can keep count. Free WIFI is time consuming to find and when given 5 minutes to research something you never thought existed, Wikipedia can be a helpful tool. I understand that you shouldn’t always rely on Wikipedia for your information but it can help with a basic understanding. You can download Wikipedia Offline onto Android and Apple devices. It is free for Android devices and costs around $10 for Apple devices. It is well worth it; just bear in mind the initial download can take some time.

4-socket-power-board-with-usb-1085-500x5003. Power board– charging more than one device can be made easy with a power board. It also decreases the amount of international adaptors you need to carry. They have all sorts of fancy ones these days; some have USB ports to make charging phones and tablets a breeze.

4. Running Shoes– not comfy walking shoes; running shoes, you will be running, a lot.

5. Passport Copies- every good traveller knows that they should have at least two copies of their passports hidden in the lining of their suitcase. You are no exception because on the road your passport is your life. Having copies ensures that if something goes wrong you have a copy to fall back on. It is also a good idea to keep copies of your travel insurance details with your passport copies.

6. Enough underwear and socks- again this may sound simple but there is not much time to do washing while on the road and nobody wants to wear underwear more than once.

7. Washing powder- if you do find yourself running short on underwear and socks it is a good idea to keep a small tub of washing powder in your suitcase that you can hand-wash a pair of knickers or jocks if crisis strikes. Run out of washing power? Use shampoo.

8. Rainproof jacket- getting stuck in the rain is not always very fun so make sure you have something relatively light and waterproof to stop you getting soaked.

9. Multivitamins- travelling can tire you out and if you are training to become a Tour Manager you are always going to be tired. You also aren’t eating the way you normally do and are consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Having a multivitamin that you take each morning can give you the boost you need; even if that boost is just to stay awake all day.

10. First Aid Kit- I do not mean a huge bag with hundreds of different drugs but rather something small that you keep for yourself. The key is to NEVER tell clients you have medication because ultimately you become a free pharmacy and when you get sick you are left with nothing. Let them go to a pharmacy on any street and you ensure you have the following in your personal first aid kit:Basic-First-Aid-Kit

  • Cold and Flu tablets
  • Antibiotics
  • Headache tablets
  • Band-Aids
  • Hydrator sachets
  • Imodium
  • Travel sickness tablets
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Antiseptic cream-Betadine does the job
  • Tweezers

What to wear on training

With regards to what to wear on the training trip with Contiki; ensure that while looking professional you have items of clothing that are comfortable and follow the issued list.

PackingOn training I wore jeans or high waisted work pants and a nice polo shirt or blouse with either black ballet flats or closed shoes. Blouses are great and you can get some that cut at the shoulder or lower. As it got slightly warmer I would wear a nice day dress of a moderate length or tailored shorts again with a polo shirt or blouse.

Ladies take a couple of nice dresses along and perhaps a little bit of make-up for the evenings when you go out. Heels can stay at home, ballet flats will suffice. A nice blazer is always handy to have to dress up an outfit.

Gents ensure you have more than one collared long sleeve work shirt and one pair of smart works pants with black shoes and socks to match.

Do not stress too much about what to wear on training; you all end up wearing the same thing over and over again and trust me when I say that it is the least of your worries.

Armed with all of this knowledge you are ready for life on the road and to embrace your inner pack mule. You best get packing!

Enter Zombie Phase-Contiki Training Part Five

We have all had those days where getting out of bed seems near impossible; where turning over and going back into a heavy dose trumps doing anything else, your body aches, you feel heavy and your brain is wondering if you are dreaming or if you are awake. NO! You are not dreaming, get up, GET UP!

You think that is bad for one or two days? Well try having that same feeling every single day for 66 days. Surviving on very little sleep was probably the biggest challenge for most of us on Contiki training. It allowed us to enter a phase that most dare not enter for fear that they will never return; the Zombie Phase.

WAKE UPNow when I say Zombie I don’t mean the human eating kind; with rags for clothes, red eyes and arms directly in front as they wander in your direction and you run screaming. No I mean the kind where everything is an effort and where each minute you are fighting sleep with your eyelids feeling weighted and the pen in your hand slipping off your sheet of paper.

You may be wondering how this is humanly possible? Living on less than four hours each night, running around cities all day, consuming more information than you every thought you could. The truth is I have no idea how I did it.

If training taught me one thing it was that I would be able to push myself further than I ever thought I could. Getting out of bed each morning was agony and having to endure the same belittlement and anxiety at the thought of having to do a speech, I may not have got round to the night before, was horrifying. So many days I felt myself living for the moment that I could fall into bed, absolutely exhausted and slip into a deep sleep that if it were up to me would last an eternity.

Sleepy Lucas
Sleepy Lucas

Each drive day there was always one person who would nod off and we each had a strategy to not get caught. Firstly you needed the help of your buddy, the person sitting next to you. You would inform them that you were going to try and grab a quick micro sleep.

Micro sleep:

Noun

Defined by all Contiki trainees as a recurring period of between 2 and 10 minutes on a Contiki coach in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended until violently woken by your buddy.

Secondly you needed to make sure you looked like you were doing something. The trick was to deceive your trainer. We did this by making sure our papers were on our lap, pen in hand, looking down to ensure we looked like we were working.

Lastly you had to be quiet about it; snoring would instantly give you away and if you looked odd or in the least bit funny; you risked alerting fellow trainees who would giggle, point and take photos of you as they tried to stick their finger up your nose.

Unfortunately sleeping on training is not allowed and the violent shove you got from your buddy was enough to alert you that the trainer is looking your way and that the pen, which a second ago lay limp in your hand, needed to be scribbling down something mildly relative to European subject matter.

The most entertaining part of my day was watching others take their micro sleep. Heads fell back and tongues flailed to the side, all while our pens were resting on our pages with tiny words scribbled down, slowly forming a long solid blue line from the minute we began falling asleep. I watched my buddy draw on his own hand for a solid four minutes while falling asleep, convinced he was still awake and writing an incredible history.

Ian working hard
Ian working hard

The Zombie Phase was made worse by some with the use of ‘No Doz’; a caffeine tablet to help relieve mental fatigue and drowsiness, helping you stay alert and awake. That is all fine and well, until you have been living off of caffeine tablets for more than two weeks.

You have endless shakes, paranoia, little sleep and a huge crash an hour after consumption. One Contiki trainee has told me she thought that they were going to kill her by the end, causing her to break out into spontaneous fits of tears, pull out her hair and vomit on a constant basis; not pretty. My advice; avoid all of that kind of stuff and ensure you are eating healthy and opt for coffee rather than a tablet solution.

Entering the Zombie Phase sounds frightening and alarming; I can assure you it is but that is the time where you need to push harder than before. You need to try and stay awake, pay attention and absorb everything around you. One thing I wish I had done was to pay more attention on training.

Enter Zombie Phase
Enter Zombie Phase

Prioritise your time on the coach and work as hard as you can, leaving the late nights for what they are meant for; much needed rest before that alarm goes off and the Zombie Phase starts all over again.

10 Lessons Learnt On the Road

From putting on your ‘big girl’ panties, to letting go of the tight knit control you have on your life. Packing everything into a suitcase to pursue a life on the road is not for everyone but once experienced you learn a few lessons about who you really are and the things that you can do, even if you have never thought you could.

Here is what made the cut of the 10 most important things learnt on the road:

1. Put your ‘big girl’ panties on

Nobody does big girl panties like Bridget
Nobody does big girl panties like Bridget

Just like Bridget Jones; we sometimes need to wear our big girl panties. Why might you ask? Well it is not so we can have a hunky Hugh Grant discover them and be absolutely mortified. No, it is because he won’t always be around. You may have to do some things on your own; cart your own suitcase across a city you have never seen, deal with people who may not have any inclination to help you or to be friendly and because the people you love are not always there for a hug or an old-fashioned whinge.

2. Things don’t always go as planned

That’s right, this means that you won’t always be where you need to be on time. You cannot control each and every detail because let’s face it folks; shit happens. It happens to the best of us; flights get delayed, traffic can set you back hours and public holidays can throw a spanner in the works. As a control and planning freak with compulsive OCD this can make you tear your hair out, chew your nails to the bottom of their nail beds and develop a nervous twitch in your right eye. Here is the thing, as good as you think you are at planning, you can’t do anything about it. Sit back in the airport and watch the passengers go by, relax in the car and be thankful it’s not you in the car wreck and join the festivities in the public holiday parade.

3. How to packPacking

Spending your life on the road sure does help you prioritise and the four extra pairs of shoes, hair straightener, nail kit, make up brushes and full bottle of mouth wash belong at home. Think practical, this may be difficult but you must persevere because you do not want to be carting around five extra kilograms each day when you don’t use it. A handy trick is to take everything you think you should pack and halve it, then you are nearly there now go and put the extra shoes back in the cupboard.

4. Relationships, really?

Some people can do it and hats off to them but unfortunately in this day and age there aren’t many people who would be willing to wait around. Especially while you galavant around the globe with selfies in the most exotic places while they sit in an office and turn green with envy. It is difficult for both parties and often results in a teary mess that can be avoided. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and if you are willing to try then go for it and good luck to you.

5. Be spontaneous, you can do it.

Put fear aside because there is not enough space for it in your suitcase. Jump in, have experiences and make memories that will last a lifetime. If you think that you can do it you are halfway, now you need to do it. Sometimes there is nothing better than being spontaneous and seeing where it is you end up.

6. Enjoy and appreciate the little things

Learning to appreciate the little things in life is a very important thing to learn. It’s sometimes about sitting in a park and watching an old couple walk past, children playing and laughing or having a conversation with a new friend you have just made. You don’t always have to be doing big things to see the beauty in the little things.

7. Patience is really a virtueTake what you need

The more patience you learn the more you can appreciate. it doesn’t help getting your knickers in a twist because you don’t understand what is going on; sometimes you need to wait and all will be revealed in time. Be patient with yourself too, life n the road is not easy and sometimes it can take a while to adjust and learn things about yourself.

8. You are not the centre of the universe

Get out of you bubble that only you occupy because there is no need for it. In fact, burst that bubble entirely, get out of your comfort zone and realise it is not only you that matters. Life on the road teaches you to adapt and make new friends. You learn that there are other people in the world that matter and the friendships you make on the road are often the pure and last.

9. Call me cultured

Travelling can be an annihilation to the senses, overwhelming and fascinating all at the same time. Exploring new places and cultures helps you grow as a person. It allows for a common understanding of humankind and what makes each of us tick. You learn to accept people for who they are even if that means that you are sometimes perplexed by their customs.

10. Compassion

We aren’t all fortunate to see what the big wide world has to offer. You see what others who are less fortunate than you have to go through on a daily basis and you think yourself lucky that you don’t have to worry about what they do. It teaches you to be compassionate towards others whether you like it or not and you learn things about yourself that you never thought possible.

A life of endless travel will enrich your life in more ways than anyone could ever imagine; whether or not you take the step out the door is all up to you

What to Expect-The Contiki Interview Part Two

It is not easy, it is the interview that made me walk out not knowing how I did or if I was going to get the dream job.

I have received plenty of emails asking about what to expect in the Contiki Group and personal interviews and to be completely honest I don’t think our experiences will be the same. In Part One I explored how to go about writing your speech for the interview and now comes the nitty gritty

Having spoken to colleagues about their interview experiences it is fair to say that everyone had a completely different experience and they were all asked entirely different questions.

Putting that aside I will share with you my experience and the questions I was asked but more importantly how I held myself together in both Contiki interviews.

Walking into the interview in Sydney I saw 25 or so other nervous and eager faces waiting as patiently as I was to find out more about the position of European Tour Manager. My head was filled with my speech, repeating it over and over in my head so that I would not forget it when it came to the presentation.

The, then, Operations Manager got up and spoke for a solid hour about the position and she didn’t make it sound fuzzy and warm like you see in the brochure, she gave us the facts, the things we may not have known or rather chose to ignore about the job. Perhaps she wanted to see who was really there for the position and who was just there because it would get them a ride around some of the most incredible cities in Europe.

We were then tasked with an exercise; we had five minutes to chat to the person next to us, to find out a little more about them and then to introduce them to the audience and the Contiki staff.

Following this it was time for the presentations, the cliché of being able to cut the tension with a knife was an understatement. Starting in alphabetical order I knew I had some time to relax before I was called to present. The nerves in the room reached an all time high when the first girl fumbled numerous times, burst into tears and ran back to her chair. People were falling and we hadn’t even passed the first hurdle.

My turn came as I knew it would and I was slightly nervous. In my speech I mentioned how everything works in threes, luckily for me the Operations Manager had mentioned the power of three in her chat to us. She instantly lifted her head and I knew I had her attention. The audience giggled at my jokes and hardly noticed my fumble. I sat down confident and listened to all the other speeches, ensuring I wrote down each person’s topic next to their name.

We were then told that the interview was over and we needed to call back in just over an hour to see if we had made it to the personal interview. The wait was agonising. All us interviewees had decided to go for lunch and to call together. When the time came to call I was sat at the table of “NO”, my nerves were out of control, eventually I built up the courage and was told I had made it through and needed to be back in two hours.

The time came and I was finally called to the interview room where I met the Operations Manager and a senior Tour Manager, I gave them a big smile as I walked in, I didn’t get a smile back.

I was asked a series of questions with the interview lasting just over thirty minutes on a range of topics. My studies, intentions and skills were all questioned and scrutinised. Later I was given a scenario a tour manager may experience on the job and it was by no means easy. I had to think about what I would do as a tour manager with real clients who were having real issues. Almost all the interviewees got a scenario, they want to see how you would think about it and prioritise the necessary steps.

I felt confident about my responses and more importantly, I took my time. If I needed to think about something, I did, I made them wait for a response that I knew would be better than if I had rushed and blurted out something stupid.

I walked out of the interview not knowing how I did and it was only three weeks later that I received a response saying I was accepted on the training trip. It was one of the happiest moments of my life and I sit here a year later having had the best year of my life.

My advice to you about the interviews is just to be yourself, be confident because if you are really passionate and want the job then that will show.

All the best of luck and who knows, we may meet on the road.

3 Minutes to Impress- The Contiki Interview Part One

Well congratulations, there must have been something in your application that the Contiki office staff liked. Now comes the time to show them what you are made of, because trust me when I say, you don’t have very long.

Any job interview is daunting but an interview with Contiki, for the greatest job in the world, when you want nothing else than to be accepted onto that training trip, can be petrifying.

Over the past few months I have had a few emails from prospective tour managers asking me all about the interview process for Contiki and how to present your three-minute talks; so I am going to tell you about my experience and hopefully give you some tips and answer your questions regarding an interview that could change your life.

So you have received the email for your interview and in true ‘Contiki style’ you already have a ‘find out’. You need to do a speech about an assigned topic. This should be taken very seriously. Contiki want to see how you present yourself and whether or not the research, that you have spent ages looking up, is interesting and more importantly; relative to the 18-35 Contiki market.

Public speaking is the number one fear of the majority of people in the world and so don’t worry if you find it daunting, it is not something that becomes amazing overnight and not everyone has the gift of the gab.

Here are a few tips about your talk:

1. Stick to the 3 minute time limit

It is there for a reason, you are not the only person in the interview and you need to show off your information condensing skills. You also don’t want to bore your audience or make the Contiki staff daydream about where they would rather be.

2. Please make it interesting, PLEASE!

You need to remember that if you do get the job that you will be addressing Contiki clients, 18-35 year olds with diverse backgrounds. Make it fun, don’t just give a bland timeline “So and so was born on this day, blah blah”  everyone may as well just take a snooze.

Find the juicy information; the things we may not know about your topic. Surprise people and bring something different to the table. I chose to talk about the scandalous things Mr Galileo Galilei did, a friend had a photo of her historic person and offered a bottle of wine to whoever could recognise who it was. Or set the scene, give your audience a picture of what you are talking about.

3. Structure is important

If you do not have a beginning, middle and end to your speech you look as lost as a fart in a perfume shop. Having a structure and breaking your speech into 3 parts will also help you remember all the information.

4. Practice makes perfect

You are not allowed to use notes to help you during your speech so you had best make sure that you know it off by heart and the best way to do that is to practice. Say your speech to anyone who will listen and even if they don’t want to listen, say it to them anyway. See if they have the reaction you were expecting and if they don’t; then change something. You want to be as prepared as you possibly can and saying out loud may make you reconsider some of the things you have written.

5. Smile and use eye contact

Smiling and keeping eye contact with your audience makes them feel like you are engaging with them, they are also more likely to listen to what you have to say if you have good eye contact.

6. If you stumble, don’t panic

I stumbled in my speech but I stopped, took a breath and continued from the last point. Everyone is nervous and the Contiki staff know that. It is not the end of the world if you fumble. Whatever you do, do not give up and sit down! Don’t you dare! You deserve to be there just like everyone else and if you get so nervous that you run and sit down in your chair then it will be over. Giving up isn’t going to solve anything and while I am not judging your speeches I am sure that you will be looked upon fondly if you tried rather than giving up.

7. KISS-Keep it simple stupid!

Nobody likes a talk that confuses them and trust me when I say that some of the topics can be made more confusing than they need to be. Keep it simple, use everyday language and break it down into manageable bite size chunks that you and your audience can handle.

8. Try to enjoy yourself

You have made it to the first interview and this is your chance, your three minutes to impress, so do just that while trying to enjoy yourself. If you are passionate about what you are saying and enjoy yourself it will show.

In part two I will explore exactly what happens in the first Contiki interview and little tips that may help you find a place on the training trip, without giving too much away of course.

Happy speech writing.

“Give Me the Route For Today”-Contiki Training Part Four

It takes two to tango and it takes two to run a successful Contiki tour. It’s not all about the Tour Manager, the person who sits behind the wheel deserves some recognition because ultimately they carry 50 budding travellers safely around Europe. This one is for the Drivers.

As tough as training for Contiki was, we all eventually began to get used to the endless grind, the constant questioning and the fact that no matter how well we thought we were doing there was always room for improvement. We soon realised that this job would ensure we were constantly learning and if we did make a mistake we had to recognise it, learn from it and ensure that it didn’t happen again.

Often our mistakes could be put down to the fact that we were stupidly tired. On average we got about five to six hours sleep a night, if not less. I for one love an average of about nine and can survive on less but with full eighteen hour days where you run around and try and consume as much information as humanly possible it can begin to take it’s toll.

Coach days, where you travel from one location to the next, were notorious for having at least one person nod off from sheer exhaustion. The ‘to be’ tour managers weren’t the only ones to endure the gruesome sixty-six day training; the ‘to be’ drivers accompanied us.

Each morning they were tasked with explaining the route we would take to each destination, how far it was and calculate which services we were to use. Equipped with European road atlases we were on our way. Contiki don’t condone the use of GPS navigation devices during training, so how would you find your way around a bustling city if you couldn’t read a map while driving? The answer; route notes.

We were issued two standard lined books and notepads, which after many a late night and red palms, were perfectly ruled to specific measurements (checked by our trainers) allowing for precise route notes of Europe. As tour managers we also ruled these books but didn’t do nearly as many route notes as the drivers.

We had two trainers, one who focused more on training us tour managers and the other the drivers. Each day our driver trainer sat the front of the coach and using the microphone would read a series of route notes. These would then be drawn, neatly and with a ruler might I add, into the margins. So if we were to turn left and traffic lights we would draw an arrow left following traffic lights and so on.

The drivers did this relentlessly and were often jolted awake by the announcement of “route note” over the microphone. Each day they had to sit on the window and observe road signs, now this doesn’t sound so bad if you are an average height but nearly every driver on our training was above average. We had a variety of European drivers, many Portuguese. I’m not sure what the Portuguese feed their boys but they sure are tall! Sitting on the window took it’s toll on the 6 foot 4 inch plus frames of our drivers.

When they weren’t scribbling route notes, filling out worksheets, staring out the window or trying with all their might to stay awake they had to endure us! Each day we were called up to practice the speeches we had written, sometimes five minutes before, and since we couldn’t plug in an iPod and listen to music we all became the audience.

As tour managers we were often busy enough to continue the speech we were working on and block out whoever was speaking, our drivers didn’t have this luxury. They had to endure every speech. From histories to city introductions, city tours and socio economic talks, with not very many being remotely good or interesting on the very first try. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how they did it.

The incredible Bob
The incredible Bob

Each day a new driver was selected to be the ‘driver of the day’ and along with an accompanied tour manager they would run the day as if on tour. Now picture yourself driving and trying to reverse parallel park an average sized car down tiny European streets with crazy drivers surrounding you, honking their horns because you are in the way or because their patience level is at zero. It can be stressful and make you a little nervous. Now imagine doing it in a 13 metre coach with fifty passengers scrutinising your every move. It is no easy feat.

Our driver trainer is one of the most patient and calm people I have met and I take my hat off to him with the amount of patience he showed to our drivers on training. Allowing each driver to grow in confidence behind the wheel of the giant coaches which scatter the European continent each year.

I never gave the drivers enough credit during training, always thinking that we were working harder as tour managers, but I was so wrong. After a season on the road I have begun to appreciate my drivers more each time and the hard work and effort they put in to making each tour a success. They are the support system of the tour manager and become friends rather than colleagues. Their abilities amaze me, their sheer patience to put up with some of our crazy tour manager antics is endless.

It takes two to tango and while some may have two left feet, they are always willing to dance.

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