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

“Start Again”- Contiki Training Part Two

Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker said “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

If there was one thing I learnt from training with Contiki it was that we would train with discipline. Continuously repeating ourselves and by learning through our failures and turning our goals into accomplishments throughout the sixty six day training, no matter how small.

Our first week was held in Hopfgarten where we all piled into our rooms as quick as we could. Next we were given the near impossible ‘reckie’ (short for reconnaissance) task of going down to town, a twenty-minute walk at best, and finding out all that we could about the area as well as getting back to the accommodation and finding out everything that we could about the accommodation. We were given forty-five minutes for the task, a task that would take any normal person an hour and a half to complete.

Here is the thing about our training, they didn’t want ordinary, they wanted us to push our boundaries and go from ordinary to something that resembles extraordinary, without getting cocky.

Not one of us completed the task successfully; we had failed, not as individuals but as a whole. This would not be the first time we failed.

Every morning we were tasked with completing tour codes, reciting ten different tours offered by Contiki and stating how long each tour stayed in various European cities. Now reading this you may think it was a piece of cake, on the contrary it was so nerve-wracking. We all dread that moment in school when we are asked to get up and present something that we know we have not prepared. The seemingly simple task of reciting and repeating tour codes took that feeling to an entirely new level.

We all sat in absolute silence, not daring to make eye contact with our first trainer. The cliché about being able to cut the tension with a knife was dead on and never mind hearing a pin drop on the floor, you could hear the heartbeat of the person sitting next to you. You dreaded hearing your name called, not because you didn’t necessarily know the sequence but because you did not want to mess it up in front of your trainer.

I remember the moment I was first called up to recite a forty-five day tour. I am not one to get nervous but I was shaking. I fumbled more than once, each time I was incorrect I was told “Start Again”, this method made me completely forget my train of thought and made me stumble more until I was ordered to sit down.

I lost so much confidence in myself, I was so close and to have to start over several times taught me something about myself; I wasn’t willing to give up not on myself or my trainers. Now this may sound brutal; losing confidence but we were broken down to be brought back up, we needed to be disciplined in order to make our goal of becoming a tour manager a reality and one my best accomplishments to date.

A Time for Smiling- Contiki Training Part One

Many have asked me about the training trip with Contiki and for a while I have thought about how and when I would write about it. Having just finished my first season and having been offered regional training next year, the time is now.

I simply cannot condense the immense training trip into one article and so I have broken into more manageable bite size chunks for your enjoyment.

I am not one to beat around the bush and I say things as they are without the cushion people crave. The 66 day training trip to become a tour manager with Contiki is the most difficult and challenging thing I have ever done but also the most rewarding.

I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of my fellow trainees some of whom I met before our journey began through the marvels of today’s technology. Prior to leaving Australia a handful of eager, want to be tour managers, including me, decided it was a good idea to go to Paris for a week before the madness began and try and come to grips with one of the most visited cities in Europe.

Snow! There is a first time for everything.
Snow for the first time.

From our assignment we knew that we would have to name and recite facts of over fifty monuments and places of interest before we could come to grips with what being a tour manager entails. I thought that was a challenge, I was in over my head.

We pranced around Paris in the snow, getting to know each other a little more and making friendships I now cherish more than most. We visited several monuments in Paris and had a few ‘study’ sessions in our tiny but adequate Parisian apartment. I was living in the clouds thinking that this was what training would be like.

Before we were thrown into the depths of the unknown we were told we should participate in a weekend away, an opportunity to experience the product as a client. Having completed a Contiki trip myself the year before I had some idea about what to expect but there were many prospective drivers and tour managers who didn’t know what the company stood for and represented. In hindsight it was a very smart of the company to give us the opportunity to experience the product because ultimately there is no way to sell a product successfully if you don’t know what it is you are selling.

Exploring Liverpool
Exploring Liverpool

We ventured off to Liverpool to and Oxford for three days. With smiles on our faces we did what normal clients do, we got to know each other, we experienced and learnt about the new cities and had a few laughs along the way.

Arriving back in London with a smile on my face and feeling as though the weekend went well I felt prepared for what was to come. Once again, I was silly to think that I was even nearly ready for what was to come and I was quick to wipe that smile off of my face.

Next it was time for Hopfgarten week or what our trainers liked to call ‘kindergarten’ week. You need to crawl before you can walk, or run in our case and boy you had to learn quick or you wouldn’t be around for long.

That is all I am going to leave you with for now as this was the time for smiling, before the real work began and the smiles were still around but between the serious working face.

A Successful Season of Living the Dream

It is about time I got back in the saddle and wrote about the last eight crazy months of my life. 

If I look back to where I was in March of this year and the person that I am now, I am not sure I would be able to recognise myself. Contiki has changed me, changed me in ways that I didn’t think a job could.

Leaving home with a suitcase, an assignment I had put months into and butterflies in my stomach, I was excited to venture into the unknown and try something new.

Over the next few weeks I will delve into my training trip with Contiki, the ups and the downs as well as the challenges I faced in the toughest training possible. Then I will give you some insight into life on the road as a first year Contiki tour manager.

For now all I am going to say is that if you are sitting here reading this and wanting to change your life in some way; do it. Don’t wait around or make excuses because if you don’t try you will never know. I took a chance, applied on a whim and in all honesty it was the best thing that I could have done.

Contiki have an incredible marketing campaign this year. It is all about seizing the moment, and making the one life that you have count. I have jumped on this bandwagon and I am living the dream, start living yours.

Keep an eye out for some substantial articles in the coming weeks.

The Calm Before the Storm

Relaxation and family time is just what I have needed here in the English Riviera.

I arrived in Torquay on Tuesday and haven’t really felt like I have left home at all, I have a home away from home here with my grandparents, cousin and aunt.

In my time here I haven’t done very many typical tourist outings. I don’t need to really, my family’s home is right on the seaside so when I walk outside I can see the sea and all the way to the way to France, on a clear day (which I haven’t had).

The first thing that struck me about England was the cold, next it was the friendliness of people. Aussies are friendly but the English are even more so. Everywhere I have been I have been greeted and had people take a keen interest in what I have to say, or maybe it is just because I have a funny accent.

Spending time with my family has been the best bit by far, now I am packing my bags and ready to make my way to Paris where it really begins.

I get to meet a few of the people who I will be training with and with so many incredible places to see and learn about, I know that I will be non-stop in Paris.

After that it is back to London for a few days before a pre-training weekend in a secret location then the craziness of training begins. To be honest I don’t feel very ready but perhaps it is because I am not entirely sure what to expect.

I will be sure to keep you as updated as possible with the very limited web access, so for now I will say that no news is good news.

Wish me luck!

 

 

So it begins

Finally I am off, truly I didn’t think that it would be here so quickly.

For some strange reason I am so calm. Usually when I travel I am a bundle of excitement and nerves which ensures I drop a boarding pass or passport somewhere on the floor of a foreign airport. It is always picked up, thank God.

It is all going well so far, the plane was empty, except for my row, typical. Now I am waiting to board the next part of the trip from Singapore to Dubai and using up the free wifi while I can.

I am so looking forward to finally arriving and seeing my family before the real adventure begins.

Be sure to keep an eye on the blog as I will update when I can. There is my boarding call.

Over and out.

La Petite Globetrotter

2013: Year of the Traveller.

It is that time of year again; when we kiss goodbye to another year, write our resolutions down that only last for the month of January and promise that the next year will be better than the last.

Surprisingly for some, the world did not end. Yes, here we are and we continue to live our lives just as we had before. Most people will go back to their mundane and repetitive jobs after the new year, but not me.

If anything, 2012 gave me the fuel I needed to ignite my passion for travel. I realised that the world is a pretty big place and that if you don’t give yourself a little shove and go exploring then you are missing out on a world of opportunity.

Enjoy the tranquility of an African Safari
Enjoy the tranquillity of an African Safari

An old family friend told me that I need to make myself a ‘Travel Bucket List’ with all the places I want to see before I leave this wonderful Earth. If you think about it, most people only take one holiday a year and if you are like me, you may find yourself with a long list of places to see. You better get to ticking some of those places off of the list.

I declare 2013 the ‘Year of the Traveller’. I will be travelling around Europe for nine months and seeing things I only see on travel shows. I am getting out there, seeing what the world has to offer, exploring fascinating cultures, meeting new people and immersing myself in everything that place has to offer.

Sing in the rain in London
Sing in the rain in London

I implore you to do the same. I am not saying you need to travel halfway around the world, just travel a little bit, even around your own country. You will be amazed with what places have to offer. Enjoy the little things, you shouldn’t have to spend a small fortune to have a good time.

Make memories that will last a lifetime and may 2013 open your eyes to some of the amazing places that the world has to offer.

Happy New Year!

Travel Writing versus Travel Waffling.

With so many travellers writing about their trips with tricks and advice, who do you really listen to?

Let me begin by saying that I am most certainly not the most experienced travel writer. If anything I am far from it and having only just begun writing about my tales I am learning about what it takes to be a good travel writer and get noticed.

Having said that, I know that what you write, in any situation, is aimed at your audience, so your writing should be directed to this all important fact. I just wonder when I see travel waffle what they are really going on about?

What does make a truly great travel writer?
Whatever it is, I want it.

One blogger in particular took me by surprise when they posted a brand new feature video. I thought it would be amazing and I was utterly disappointed when all I saw was someone in front of a camera for two minutes blowing kisses, winking and adjusting the camera with a little giggle while an up-beat tune played in the background. I asked myself, what on earth does this have to do with travel?

Like minded travel writers may think the same. Your blog is your space to share your travel adventures and to perhaps to give some much needed advice to your followers. Plus it is an amazing way to keep those you love in the loop about what you are up to on your adventures. There are some incredible travel writers out there and I am beginning to read what they have to say and realising what makes them so entertaining.

So many tales to tell.
So many tales to tell.

Although my tales thus far are about some of the crazy times I had in Europe and may focus on the little things in life that I find important, I assure you that I will continue to tell my tales and give you my advice as a novice travel writer. I will not subject you all to two minute videos of myself in my lounge with a tune in the background.

You may see a ‘selfie’ (self-taken shot) on occasion and if any video will be posted it will be one of me in an exciting place with adventure all around me.

This is my promise to you, my loyal followers.

La Petite Globetrotter, over and out.

Cruising Corfu Island.

A boating lesson for 10 minutes and then the 6 of us were let loose on a boat around Corfu Island.

The Greeks most certainly know how to live and life on Corfu Island is no different. Umbrellas and deck chairs with crisp and burnt tourists scatter the beaches. The more daring tourist can be seen zipping through the water on a jetski and then there are those that wander through the old town of Corfu, ensuring not to arrive ready to shop during siesta, when all the shops close in the afternoon so everyone can have a nap (tough life).

One way to see Corfu is to hire a boat, which is exactly what we did. The boat could hold six people and it wasn’t difficult finding ladies to join us. The initial cost to hire the boat for six hours was 150 Euro, which when you split it five ways works out to 25 Euro each, not bad for a day out.

Cruising around Corfu
Cruising around Corfu

We had booked the boat for the following day and we were told that we needed to arrive a little bit earlier for a ‘boating lesson’. The morning arrived and we did as we were told. Alexander our lovely tanned Greek greeted us and we jumped into the boat.

Our ‘boating lesson’ consisted of “Ok so you know, don’t get it stuck in the sand, this is how you raise and lower the engine and this is how you go forwards and backwards. Make sure you anchor if you jump off the boat. Ok you good? Good, you go now.” I looked at my friend and thought “well how hard could it really be?” no boat licence needed, we all jumped on with our snacks and bikinis in tow and we were off.

We were told about a shallow bay where the water came up to knee height and headed there first. I had to give Alexander my mobile number in case of an emergency and as soon had we arrived at the shallow bay I had several missed calls from Alexander, but we were far too busy swimming to be concerned with such details.

The Shallow Bay
The Shallow Bay

The wind began coming in and it made our stop at a local beach a little more difficult than I had expected, nonetheless we did what ladies do on a beach; tanned. Seeing the missed calls from Alexander I called him back. He said “Hello, you be careful the storm is coming and you don’t get my boat stuck in the sand, also they are waiting for you at the ‘taverna’ for lunch. Goodbye.”

With that we collected our tanning goodies and made our way back to the boat, we eventually found the ‘taverna’ we were told about and made our way to the dock. As we were arriving a Greek God of a waiter stepped out and helped us tie the boat to the dock.

Boats at the dock
Boats at the dock

Sitting right on the water we all took a moment to realise that we were cruising around the Greek Islands. We ordered typical Greek dishes, a mixture of freshly caught squid, calamari and fish, accompanied by a refreshing Greek salad. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Corfu.

Fresh Calamari & Greek Salad
Fresh Calamari & Greek Salad

After the journey back we were once again greeted by Alexander and we made the final payments. When you hire a boat you need to pay for the fuel you use as well as the use of the boat. After six hours cruising around the island we used 50 Euros of petrol which we once again split between the six of us.

The whole day cost us all roughly 50 Euro each, including our meals, it was a wonderful and relatively inexpensive way of seeing this relaxed and breathtaking island, a boating lesson is even included for those of you who, like me, have never captained a boat before.

So I say to you, happy cruising!

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