Every Contiki tour starts with a pre-departure meeting. The meeting is typically the night before the tour starts. It’s a bit of an introduction to the tour, and a chance for the tour manager (TM) to collect some information about those on the tour before the tour starts. In London the pre-depature meeting takes place in the Contiki basement, but the location doesn’t matter that much, the meetings are all pretty similar. It goes something like this:
You arrive about 15 minutes early, that will get you a good seat and a chance to check out the people on the tour as they come in. Initially, everyone is sitting apart, but as people arrive they fill in the seats. There are a lot of single women scattered in the room, there is little conversation going on. Then some couples arrive, they stick close together. Friends arrive, maybe just 2 people, or maybe a group of 4 people. They seem to bring a little life to the room, they are actually talking to each other as though oblivious to the excited, nervous, tension in the room. As the group grows you start to wonder, how many people are in here? This looks like more then 50, maybe there are 2 tours? But what is the other tour, and who is on my tour and who is on the other tour. Wait, there are 3 staff memebers here, but I know the one girl works here, so which of the other 2 staff members is going to be my TM? Of course there are the people that you look at and make the snap judgment about and pray they’re not on your tour – they just look weird!
Then the meeting starts, a few minutes late since people were still trickling in. One of the TM’s starts, introduces herself and which tour she will be running and introduces the other TM, who will be running the other tour. They both look cool and friendly, but yours looks like the better TM. Or maybe you’re disappointed that the cute TM isn’t your TM. They tell you what time to arrive the following morning, and suggest getting something tonight to eat for breakfast the following morning, breakfast on the first day is not included in the tour. The TM’s break up the groups, the cute TM takes the other tour to the other side of the Contiki basement, and they take that weird looking person with them.
Your group moves in a bit, taking up the empty seats that opened up when the other group left, you notice a lot of girls in the group and a lot of the guys seem to be in couples. It doesn’t look like you’re finding the love of your life on this tour. Your TM gives a little introduction of themselves, they’ve been with Contiki 4 years – good, that means they know what they’re doing. He/she gives some information on what the first day or two will be like. You look around at the people, some have their contiki documents in the documents folders, others have them separate. Are they saving space or trying to be cool? Then the TM starts collecting paperwork. Those in front quickly jump on line while many of the others hang back and start to introduce themselves. Who’s from Australia? You’re from New York? I love New York! Someone annnounces that a bunch of people are going to dinner and drinks at The Pub after the meeting. After a while you realize that you might have gotten rid of the initially weird looking person, but realize that you do have an annoying person on the tour, the one who knows everything and talks a lot. Mental note to steer clear of them. Eventually you turn in your paperwork and then make your way to The Pub. There’s only a dozen people from tour there, but you start talking to people, find the guy who is the one who thinks everyone would be happier if they were drinking and hope they don’t try to push alcohol on you the whole tour. After a while you decide it’s time to leave, who wants to start a tour hung over and tired, you have 2 weeks to get to know everyone and besides, that guy does keep trying to push drinks on you.
Note: This is a fictional account of a pre-departure meeting, made from a cluster of memories of various pre-departure meetings and embelished for your entertainment.