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.

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