A few years ago I found myself wanting to go on more holidays but with limited options of who to go with due to apprentice wages, London living costs and/or university constraints. After a disastrous trip to Malta with my ex-boyfriend (Malta was beautiful, holidaying with an ex is not advised), and a lovely holiday to Portugal with my mum, which has grown into an annual mumma-daughter trip away, I decided to think about solo holidays.
To myself at the time, and I’m sure many others, the idea of a holiday alone seemed pretty daunting – organising travel, activities, trying to meet people, staying safe, eating alone etc, it all made a relaxing week abroad feel much more stressful than I wanted. I was talking to my mum about this and she suggested looking at 18-35 travel packages, which is where I found out about Contiki.
I have since then been on three holidays with Contiki – Turkish Sailing, Croatian Sailing (Split to Split) and Thailand East Island Hopper. I did the first two alone and enjoyed them so much I dragged a friend along for Thailand so we could extend it to Bali and the Gili Islands, and see even more.
I loved the sailing holidays, hence I went on two – though both were completely different experiences. The Turkish sailing trip doesn’t have a Contiki tour manager but instead you’re with the captain and skipper on the boat who were a lot of fun, always willing to get drunk and play games with us. Turkey was a very relaxing tour, all meals were included on the boat (cooked by the crew and everyone’s favourite part of the day was meal times!), we’d sail for a while, have a meal, stop in secluded spots for swim stops as we headed to our main location for that day. Although we were all in 2 person rooms, many of us slept out on the deck every night which meant waking up to incredible views such as the one above, where me and one of the others set up camp on the boat roof. My absolute highlight was the day in Dalyan, where we got lathered in mud in the mud baths, followed by a boat trip down to Turtle Beach where we spotted numerous sea turtles before sunbathing on the beach, and then had a bar crawl through the town with lots of dancing on tables and ended with a late night kebab. There were other quieter nights where we’d anchor in a bay in the middle of nowhere and chill out on the boat, playing card games and bonding – there are guys from this trip (over two years ago) that I remain in contact with even though they’re on the other side of the world.
Although also a sailing holiday, Croatia was a lot more full on, not least because there were 2 boat-loads of us setting sail! A few of us met up for a bar crawl in Split before the tour even started, so we had a chance to get to know each other in advance of spending a week sailing to Dubrovnik and back together. What followed was 7 nights of partying in some of the coolest locations – there were bars in caves and castles, on quiet beaches and the Carpe Diem island! We’d wake up on the move, start the day with breakfast (and beers) on the boat, before sweating it out on the roofs until we got to our next stop. Our tour manager in Croatia was fantastic, she was so enthusiastic about history and would give us tidbits of information as we nursed our hangovers. Although it doesn’t sound very cultured, during the days we explored the towns, kayaking around Dubrovnik, doing walking tours and hunting through markets.
After being so in love with my first two Contiki holidays, I branched out to one that didn’t involve living on a boat with a trip hopping between Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangnan in Thailand. I had a friend from home on this trip, but we were with so many other travellers that we actually spent a lot more time with the others than together. This was quite an intense holiday, as I signed up for every optional extra on offer on top of the general itinerary.
The islands all had something different to offer, and the hotels we stayed in were all special, though particularly in Koh Tao where our room opened up into a enclosed balcony space overlooking jungle and the sea. On this trip, I had my first ever attempt at scuba diving, visited numerous temples, saw wild monkeys and attended a Half Moon Party in the jungle covered in UV paint and glitter. On the one day that we had absolutely nothing organised, a few of us even went and attempted a Total Wipeout style course in the middle of a lake. Once again, we had amazing people on the journey with us including our Tour Manager who was somewhere between our best friend and mother (she cleaned my foot up when I ripped the skin off my little toe).
The thing in common that I’ve taken away from all of these is that travelling alone can be scary, but organised tours make them a lot easier. You meet wonderful, like-minded people from all across the world and become good friends in as little as a week together. Not having a partner, family or friends who are able to travel the globe with you shouldn’t stop you doing it yourself – sometimes it’s the best way to push you out of your comfort zone and see some of the wonderful things the world has on offer.
Tips for Contiki
- Decide what kind of trip you’re looking for – relaxing beaches, skiing, city breaks, party holidays etc, they offer all of it so it’s good to go in with an idea to narrow down your search.
- Save up – the trips aren’t the cheapest way to travel but are well worth it as they save you time and effort with having it all planned out for you. The ME time optionals are on top of the price paid upfront and are usually a lot of fun so make sure you have money aside to participate in some of those.
- Be ready to get social – I can be quite shy around new people but you’re really being thrown in the deep end if you go it alone, so be prepared to chat to everyone and don’t worry about making a fool of yourself. The other travellers tend to be in the same situation as you and being open with them will help bond you all for your trip.
- Relax and enjoy! You’ll meet some of the best people and have some of the best experiences, so while you may end up with some hazy memories, try to sit back and soak up the atmosphere.