The tranquillity and friendliness of the Balinese people and the culture breeds an air of calm which is something so often lost in our crazy lives.
No travel experience is complete without submerging into the culture and the real hub of any city. You need to be able to work your way through the arteries to the beating heart where everywhere you turn there is something new and different.
Our second day in Bali was spent wandering the arteries to the stores in Seminyak. We couldn’t only keep to the walkway simply because the unstable ground below would have meant a sprained ankle. So we edged onto the road being cautious to not disturb the scooter drivers behind us who were already swerving to avoid vehicles and trucks.
The main streets in Seminyak buzz and are filled with the occasional toot of a horn. In Bali they seem to toot their horn to allow drivers in front to know that they are going to pass them and not a minute goes by without hearing a horn toot. Tourists end up dodging family filled scooters or receive the occasional swipe as they pass by. With tourists dodging left and right it does become somewhat of a quick step, this is also coupled with the fact that scattered along the store fronts are the daily offerings or what the locals call Canang Sari.
These offerings are given three times a day to the gods and inside a small woven basket; made from banana leaves with a light green colour to them, you will find an assortment of little goods which the locals offer to the gods. In many there were small flowers, little bits of food, money or cigarettes and most of the time there is incense burning out of the side of the offering. It is a beautiful tradition and one you are sure to see while in Bali as the locals place them in small shrines outside homes and businesses and they sprinkle water over them to give thanks.
The only problem with these daily offerings is that they often sit just outside the store fronts and so this makes it a challenge, while dodging the scooters and staring in bewilderment at the seemingly crazy driving, to not step on one of these offerings.
It is virtually impossible and when you do eventually step on one, because it is bound to happen, you have an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Guilt because you have essentially squashed a beautiful ritual and that karma is definitely not in your favour. The locals just smile and laugh however some give you a blank stare as if to say “You stupid bloody tourist”.
Walking past the stores you hear the shop owners bargaining with the tourists for an already inexpensive item and every second store is offering a massage or a manicure which cost less than a Happy Meal.
We wandered into a small store and had ourselves a manicure and pedicure with the ladies inside chatting away and telling us all about life in Bali. The time ran away with us which seems to happen often here on the island and we returned to our hotel to get ready for something a little bit fancy, a dinner at Ku De Ta.
We took our first taxi ride while in Bali and it was a terrifying yet hysterical experience which saw a one way alley become a temporary two-way street; where if cars did end up in a stand-off one would eventually give in and reverse just as far as necessary to allow for the other vehicle to pass but not before the buzz of a handful of scooters dodged their way through with fine technique. I found myself covering my eyes and hoping for the best as my heart raced a little quicker.
Ku De Ta is a well-known destination for sunset drinks and fine-dining and it certainly was an amazing experience where there was no holding back on the courses, all of our chips were on the table and we were ready to feast. The food was simply spectacular and the cocktails were something to be desired. I tried the Rumpelstiltskin Cocktail which a rum, ginger beer, Kaffir lime lychee and lemon grass which made it refreshing. To start I enjoyed steamed prawn and snapper dumplings with wilted cabbage, tofu and coriander. My main meal was a lamb shoulder with an eggplant puree, red braised vegetables and chimichurri accompanied by a glass of 2012 Pinot Noir. I thought my stomach was going to burst but I managed to fit in a small home-made magnum ice cream. It was coated in milk chocolate with cashew nuts and peanuts with a slight banana, caramel and vanilla flavour to the ice cream.
It was fair to say that at AUS$100 it was a pretty good deal. We rolled out of Ku De Ta, a little more bloated than when we had walked in and next was the one way hell road back to the hotel. This time I kept my eyes open because it was a thrill making my way back through the arteries to the heart of Seminyak.
Arriving in Bali the doors of the plane open and stepping out into the equatorial humidity hits you before anything else. This is a tropical island paradise where the life is slower, the people smile more and before you are even done with your first day you are sure to find yourself floating on an Indonesian cloud.
Denpasar airport is the first port of call and it looks like a oversized old ballroom equipped with art nouveau chandeliers. Instead of lushious round tables, bow ties and a jazz band playing this ballroom arrivals terminal is equipped with several small booths where the masses of tourists, mostly Australian, queue to get their visas to enter Bali.
Movement is natural, change is imminent and the longing to do both constantly seems instinctual.
Many ask why we wander and how it is that we can forever be chasing the horizon without a fixed address, with no plans of slowing down or stopping but perhaps only ever slightly changing the route from time to time.
It is an addiction at its very core. Just like any other addiction it takes hold, enticing you to want more and rendering you helpless to its grasp. At the same time it is the sort of addiction which gives you a sense of freedom; empowering you in a way which allows you to feel true happiness, even if just for a moment, no matter your surroundings.
We wander because it is normal although it may not be normal to those who stay put in what society considers ‘normal’. We wander to break the mould, to take ‘normal’ and to tip it upside down.
Essentially we are misunderstood souls searching for something which we temporarily call home; even though we often could not be further away from home. We live for the moments where we feel true happiness; whether that be watching fellow misunderstood souls singing in a bar for the love of it and not for the applause, eating local delicacies on the streets, noticing small details on a historic artwork which completely changes its meaning or waiting for the moment when we are alone and have an opportunity to enjoy the silence in our ever changing world.
We live and wander from one happy moment to the next because that what really matters in our life; being happy.
We crave going to new places and venturing beyond the tourist spots heaving with bodies. Not because we have seen it before but because we want a deeper understanding of our ever changing surroundings and what makes them so unique. We walk on the edge of the pathway to get to that hidden cafe a little quicker, we take the quiet streets, we notice the street art and don’t have a favourite lunch spot or favourite city because that would be too difficult a choice.
Many people say that wanderers are lucky. That is true; we see some of the most diverse and interesting places in the world. Our best moments are plastered for the world to see but just like anyone we have numerous bad days while wandering and working with situations where everything that could go wrong does.
Working in an industry where wandering and moving becomes a part of everyday life allows us to appreciate the little things, recognise those happy moments and live the life we made happen with plenty of determination and hard work.
We don’t know where our next step will take us or what the future holds just yet and while it can be a scary thought it is thrilling and exciting. We know that we wander to escape but that eventually we too will stop changing our horizons or chasing a new and exciting location. We will eventually live the ‘normal’ life where movement and change become a little more difficult because of life’s inevitable commitments. We stop chasing a temporary home and find a place we can be comfortable.
I am not sure the instinctual urge to move will ever disappear entirely; it is part of who we are. We are wanderers and when we do eventually stop we will have stories and memories that most people only ever dream of having and that we were happy to have lived.
Among the barren-looking wasteland where the surface of the unstable ground is volcanic rock and a soft green moss ground cover is the only form of plant life; sits a heaven on Earth. A heaven known as The Blue Lagoon.
This murky blue haven is where we spent our first full day in Iceland and what an introduction it was to this diverse and unique country. The Blue Lagoon are a series of geothermal hot springs set in the heart of the Icelandic landscape. They contain silica mud, sulphur and other magic minerals which help you feel rejuvenated after bathing, or wallowing, in the warm water. The springs are naturally renewed every two days and the healing and relaxation properties are something to behold.
Being November in Iceland it is cold but this did not stop us from wanting to visit one of Iceland’s major attractions. Arriving at the Lagoon it doesn’t look like much. The first thing that hits your senses with every breath is the smell; an undeniable egg, bordering on rotten egg, smell which is a result of the sulphur. With egg filled nostrils and after a few minutes walk through a walkway surrounded by tall volcanic rock we found the tall glass doors open into a reception where the clean-cut staff welcome you with friendly faces.
We had each paid a €60 as part of our package deal to Iceland with Reykjavik Excursions and Iceland Air. We received entrance to the Lagoon and its facilities as well as an electronic wrist band for the lockers and to form a tab and the bar and shop, a neatly folded towel and a fluffy gown along with a free beverage and an algae mask. Equipped with all that and a pre-booked in water massage we found ourselves to be giggling like little girls at the prospect of being pampered in this natural wonder.
The bathrooms are comfortable and clean. One tip I will give anyone wanting to visit this blue paradise; conditioner is key. If you don’t want your hair to feel like dried out straw or stale spaghetti from the sulphur in the water then use conditioner, more than you have ever used before and then add more, trust me it will help.
Wearing our bathing suits during an Icelandic winter certainly wasn’t what I was thinking of doing while on holiday but it was unforgettable. Walking out of the bathroom block we tip-toed onto the frozen wooden path, hung our fluffy gowns on the outside racks and quickly made our way from the single digit outdoor temperature to the warm double-digit murky blue water.
The temperature of the lagoon is like that of a nice warm bath, the floor feels slimy between your toes and at first we walked and then ended up ‘gracefully’ doggy paddling from one end to the other so as not to wet our hair; which realistically didn’t last very long. This is probably because any time we ever try and be graceful ladies one of us ends up failing in some sort of epic proportion and we break out into hysterical fits of laughter which has been described by any as a cackle.
With our giggles behind us we began observing others in the lagoon we saw they all had an interesting tinge to their skin. A white green gooey substance was being applied by partners and friends onto each others faces. One thing was sure; we wanted to do the same.
Faye and I awkwardly swam over to these large white tubs, which are scattered throughout the lagoon, using a plastic spoon we slopped this clunky substance into our hands and then began spreading it all over our face, neck and shoulders. This mud is silica from the lagoon, not only did it feel good but it has rejuvenating qualities which will make you reconsider using any other type of mud mask found on the grocery shelf.
We ‘gracefully’ rubbed silica mud onto our faces, followed by algae masks then we sipped on freshly pressed fruit juices and had a light lunch in the cafe. We nibbled on salmon sushi fresh from the Icelandic waters some 30 kilometres away.
The in water massages were next and it truly was a unique experience. We ‘gracefully’ swam over to our masseurs; Faye was rather happy when she found out she was with the Icelandic Viking looking man who possessed an extraordinary beard.
Being an in water massage we were told to lie on a sort of floating yoga mat, a soaked heavy blanket was placed on top of us and the massage began. Every now and then we were dipped into the hot springs to ensure we didn’t get cold. It was absolutely incredible and each and every minute of the hour spent getting that massage was heavenly. The massage was not the cheapest you could find in Europe but it was worth every penny and cost us around €95.
Before leaving the lagoon a staff member asked us how long we had spent in the lagoon. We had soaked in the Icelandic minerals for over eight hours but time did not play a role in this heavenly experience. Everything had exceeded our expectations; the service was excellent, the facilities were more than adequate and the price was reasonable.
The Blue Lagoon is an absolute must when visiting Iceland. It is an affordable experience which will leave you feeling rejuvenated and it will certainly be something you won’t forget.
So many people seem to call themselves well-travelled these days but many seem to live something they imagine to be the suitcase life.
Once you have lived out of a suitcase for over two or five years then perhaps you can call yourself reasonably travelled.
The idea of being well-travelled does not mean staying in 5 Star hotels and having mummy and daddy pay for it all. It means; getting lost and not knowing which direction to turn, scraping pennies for the £3 meal deal at Tescos, having all of your belongings stolen in a land where not a soul speaks English and waking up in the middle of the night with a swollen face from the bed bugs who have bitten you in the early hours.
I am well-travelled and this is something I would not trade for the world.
There are so many ‘travellers’ and impressionable bloggers out there who call themselves well-travelled but who have no real idea what it truly means.
In my job I travel every day and I take people for whirls around Europe. I enhance their experiences by showing them the time of their lives. Some of these people are what most consider to be well-travelled but really they are only beginning to get their first glimpse of what real travelling truly means. They have budgets and commitments which anyone who is travelling should have. For many of these temporary suitcase travellers they really do have the time of their lives, I know this to be true as many have said that they felt liberated, free and happy with the people they have slowly become by travelling over time by discovering new cities and cultures. They live the temporary suitcase life but ultimately return to normality where life is comfortable and constant; something we humans crave.
I like to think that I show them the real world and not some jaded image of how people think people should be travelling these days.
The real suitcase life means hanging around a laundromat until your washing is dry enough that it won’t smell like mould in the next 3 days, it means wearing flip-flops in the shower and hearing the person snoring in the bed across the dorm as you imagine throwing a pillow at their head; and in some instances you do. These descriptions merely scratch the surface of a real suitcase traveller.
I cross countries every two to three days and yes in my job I get a snapshot of cities; but these cities I return to, the locals become friends and the customs become ordinary.
To live the suitcase life means to you become a local; you are greeted in the language of the country you are in because you are seen as one of them. You don’t stand out and flash your Prada handbags and free top-notch accommodation because all that does is scream ignorant tourist and spoilt little brat.
You spend your free days (which are few and far between) searching for something new to do where the tourists do not exist and where you feel as though you fit the mould of a local. Your holidays are spent scouring any possible resource for the best bargain to the most remote place you know. It becomes a new adventure to add to the never-ending list you have not written down but have scrambled in your head with everything else you wish to achieve before you have to get “serious about life”.
To live the suitcase life is not for everyone but rather for those with the spirit for it. It is for those who have nothing to prove to everyone else. Nothing to show off to the endless followers with floppy hats claiming that they are wanderlust when really all they are is delusional. Delusional about reality and what it really means to travel.
I salute all who really embrace the suitcase life and all the hard times that go with it. I admire those even more who take those hard times with their suitcase and who make friends with people that they never thought they could, who live life on budget they never thought that they could manage, who fall in love with remarkable cities and who see the world with new eyes because they have truly travelled and know that they have gained a world of experience from it. To live the suitcase life is to take anything that comes your way and to turn it all into noteworthy memories and times that you shall never forget.
If you really live the suitcase life then you know what I am talking about because you are in it, living it and breathing it because the normality of life that humans crave does not fit us. We break the mould each day, we become locals in several countries because we know how they live. Everyday we get up and our suitcases are packed and ready to go, ready to see what awaits us at our next destination.
To those who truly live the in this never ending moving world that I speak of; go and make memories while living your suitcase life because it certainly is the best time of your life.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.