I nearly choked. I hysterically called my roommate, who had to eventually hang up on me because all he could hear was, “SOUTHAMERICACONTIKIFREAKINGOUTOMGHELP.”
Upon receiving the itinerary, I was sceptical. Nine days to do ALL THAT? My excitement was blighted by concern. And then fear of flying. And a job offer from a company I love working for.
I’m so glad I took the trip.
There are a few reasons why Contiki is one of the most powerful tour operators in the world. Our FAM trip was built exactly to replicate a typical Contiki tour, and while the whole thing wasn’t pulled off without a few problems, I’d happily book another tour with them.
The friendships: By day 2, our little group of 30 had become tight. We poured in from all corners of the world, and by the time we left, we all had earned a few couches to crash on.
The experiences: We danced tangos, consumed pisco sours, sampled grilled guinea pig, and hiked ancient Inca sites. We were blessed by shamans and introduced to people we would never have met otherwise.
We’re actually helping the economy: I was initially plagued by a weird sense of exploitation; that my presence in Peru was actually negatively impacting their economy. However, while at Machu Picchu, our amazing guide Gaby graciously thanked us for coming. She explained that our visits and our dollars have actually allowed her to help keep her Quechua heritage alive. I had never thought of it that way.
You can cover a LOT of ground in a short amount of time: By the time we were halfway into the trip, I was bewildered by how much ground we had covered. Literally. I remember thinking, “We still have 5 days left!” and being comforted by this fact. I’d kill for that time back now.
South America works at its own pace: Things get delayed, answers are hard to find, and nobody rushes around with an urgent sense of need to get things done (except perhaps in Lima and Buenos Aires). Relax. Enjoy the fact that things are slower here–it’s a refreshing feeling.
Things don’t always go as planned: We had the frustrating experience of missing our flight to Brazil, and sitting in an airport for five hours waiting for answers from the airline when the whole thing could have been resolved by them in a matter of minutes (see previous point).
Our Contiki guides handled it perfectly, were super apologetic, and none of us actually cared much in the end. We spent a little more time in Buenos Aires, and partied in Lima instead.
It can get exhausting: After being sick and not sleeping very well, I was a walking zombie by the time I returned home. Most people handled it just fine, but I’m a notorious insomniac and others may have similar difficulties. I recommended loading up on drowsy anti-nausea pills. You’d be surprised how often those come in handy.
Overall, I’d book another trip with Contiki any day—their travel style fits me perfectly. The opportunity to meet new folks and have a little taste of a place is too good to pass up, and at least now I have a better idea of how South America works if I should ever return. I hope I do.
This video by vlog master Corey Vidal sums up the Contiki camaraderie perfectly! Watch for my sexy tango face. You’ll love it.