Thoughts on group tour holidays as a thirty-something

You know how I don’t do guest posts on this blog? Well, when I say that I just mean I don’t do those ones from someone who addresses me as ‘dear’, clearly has never read this (or any?) blog, and can neither spell nor grammar their way out of a paper bag. I will, of course, always make space on this humble blog for actual real life friends and relations of mine, whose writing I always enjoy reading myself. I figure you’ll enjoy it just as much as me.

So would you please welcome my big sister Diana to the blog?

Diana recently embarked upon a group tour holiday in New Zealand all by herself, and she had some thoughts on the whole situation. Here they are, unfiltered, unglossied, not optimised for SEO. Just the way I like it.

Working title: Group tour holidays for the uninitiated and frankly terrified

I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who opined ‘Do something everyday that scares you’. Kind reader, I need to confess that recently I readily signed up to two weeks of fear, parting with my own stashed-away cash to stretch my comfort zone to its highly itchy and scratchy limits. Yes, that’s right, I went on a two-week organised group tour to North Island, New Zealand, for 18-39 year olds.

Let me contextualise if I may. I’m a group tour novice, having recently got up to all sorts of scrapes and jolly japes as a solo holidayer (you can read all about my exploits here). I’m also at the upper end of the age limit for this particular group ‘adventure’. I can just about still remember my uni graduation day (in the recesses of my mind I recall I had to get up very early. E.g. well before midday).

Club 18-30 in a minibus? ¦¦ The worries in my head went something like this. Would the tour be some sort of club 18-30s holiday, somehow awkwardly crammed into a minibus? What if I don’t fit in? Conversely, what if I do fit in, forget all my finely honed scruples and embarrass myself, spinster aunt-stylee, in front of a group of youngsters, born when tinterweb was already a thing?

Hopes and fears. And fears ¦¦ …What if I get seasick on the boat ride on the Bay of Islands, somehow manage to drown myself sea-kayaking or surfing in Raglan, get lost or abducted by a stranger on the Tongariro national park hike (or arggh, run out of emergency snacking pumpkin seeds?)

Sharing? Scaring? ¦¦ And the ultimate concern which I’m happy to reveal to you, my blog friends. The accommodation was shared dorms throughout. In life I try very hard to have my own room to sleep in *at all times*. What if I make those funny noises in the depths of my slumber again?

C(+) for effort ¦¦ Well, look. I can claim a 5/10 success with the integration with a far younger group of people challenge this trip presented. Apparently appearance-wise I can pass off as younger in years than I really am. High five!

Editors note: further proof of (both of us) looking far younger than our years – in this photo we look about 8 and 13 but were in fact more like 13 and 18. I wish I were exaggerating.

However, my lack of knowledge of contemporary popular music caused my cover to be blown quite spectacularly halfway through the trip. Is that Dubstars* playing on the in-minibus stereo, perchance – or Nicki Minaj?

There were the obligatory drinking games at certain strategic moments during the trip. I tried my hardest to remain aloof throughout, no doubt doing the opposite of endearing the fun-loving contingent which (who?) made up a high proportion of our motley tour crew.

Seasickness was averted by a combination of ginger tablets and a reality check – the boat was an enormous hulk of a thing, with a concrete bottom, and thus practically immobile.

Paddle your own kayak ¦¦ A special nervousness was reserved for kayaking. With memories of enforced capsizing in a canoe in the swimming pool of my childhood firmly rooted in my mind, I approached the kayak for the night-time kayaking session with Extreme Caution. But guess what: once safely in (it may or may not have taken two instructors to help me – who’s to say?), I saw the Milky Way, a glitter of stars of distant constellations. The water dripped like silver jewels with every stroke of the oar, due to something called phosphorescence.

Who needs oxygen? ¦¦ Surfboards and this blog’s author do not make a natural pairing. I’m tall and spindly and reckon I have a really off-centre centre of gravity. Plus, putting on an already damp wet suit plus optional extra wet T shirt in order to attempt to surf? Call me high maintenance, but that just sounds like way too much hassle to me.

So I’ve zipped myself into my wet suit after much pulling up, and pulling up (and once more for luck). Rather like the oxygen mask on the A380, I then felt inclined to help my tour group friends, who were also struggling to do up the long zip at the back of their rubbery onesies.

Marshmallow calories and Loggers Leap ¦¦ In the sea with the surfboard, I just about managed the periodic ‘getting submerged in the sea whilst clinging to board with one arm’ manoeuvre. Which of course comes under the category of messing about.

I despaired, though simply thrashing about in the sea was most invigorating and undoubtedly burned a few marshmallow calories. But then, the magic happened. With 10 minutes of my surfing lesson left, the teacher focussed her attention on me.

Remember the four steps to standing up on the surfboard and keep your eyes fixed on the horizon. It worked. I stood up, oh so briefly on the board, and the adrenaline rush I got? Just like going on the Loggers Leap ride at Thorpe Park (much less queuing involved, happily).

Advanced negotiation: crash course ¦¦ There’s nothing like sharing bunk beds in a dorm-style room to fast-track friendships with complete strangers. Opportunities for negotiation are rife – who will take the top bunk (why do they make the ladder so narrow – answers on a postcard…)? And who is going to use the ensuite tiny bathroom first, ahead of the 6am start the following day (easy default answer: nobody – hence we all had the unspoken agreement that we’d just smell somewhat for most of the tour). What time do you set your alarm for, knowing you’ll wake 3 other people in the process?

As for whether I made those unusual noises. Who is to say what happened in the depths of the night? That’s a secret that remains between my new roomies and me.

Scratch that itch ¦¦ And if you dared to wonder, I’m still using the Superdrug bite and sting relief cream vicariously. Someone please tell me. When will this itching and scratching end? And how?

Rachel has kindly granted me this slice of virtual reality space to ramble on about my travelling exploits. With the proviso that I need to explore beyond the confines of the Home Counties, I may be granted a blogging encore. Amigos, grasp that nettle forthwith. And stay tuned to Hapless Adventures FM.

Have you been on a group holiday, managed to secure the bottom bunk and the back seat of the tour minibus on more than one occasion? Whatever your tale, please spill the beans below…

– Anon, now outed as Diana

*Editors note: I have never heard of this person/group/?? which means I must be terribly unhip and I am now reevaluating my life in the light of my obvious nana-status.

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10 Comments

  1. Jen
    13th September 2017 / 10:35

    Oh wow! This is so cool! I think it would be interesting to do something like this on your own.

  2. 13th September 2017 / 13:02

    This sounds so cool! Id totally do it.

  3. 14th September 2017 / 06:11

    I think I’d have all of the same fears. Mainly that I’d just be surrounded by 18 year olds who were on a boozy holiday! I actually haven’t ever been on an organised group holiday.

  4. 14th September 2017 / 10:48

    Dorm-style rooms force you to make friends very quickly. Lol.

  5. 15th September 2017 / 15:34

    I’d love to give something like this a try – my sister was firmly in the age range for the tour and had a blast drinking her way around a lot of the US, but she had so much fun she’s done it twice and while I’m much older I think it would be a different way to see things.

    Not sure on the room sharing thing though – that would be the hurdle for me. I like my space, not being able to decompress at night and just enjoy my own company might make me a very grouchy travel companion, haha! I do have to experience New Zealand one day though!

    My parents are off to do it next week – if they’d organised it a bit further in advance I would have loved to have joined them, but we do have our Sydney trip coming up soon.

    Hope you are having a lovely week so far 🙂

    Away From The Blue Blog

  6. Richard
    15th September 2017 / 20:45

    Sounds like you had a great adventure. Keep pushing the comfort zone, who knows what’s beyond..

  7. 24th September 2017 / 10:35

    I’m just catching up on blog world and this is great! Love that you had your sister post and love her writing style as well. I’ve never been on any type of group tour situation and I would 100% have the same fears.

  8. 28th September 2017 / 22:46

    I’ve done a few organised tours – mainly when time constraints mean they’re the best way to see all the places I want to see. I did a Contiki tour (18-35) when I was 21 and I would definitely be worried about doing another one of these again so I’m glad your sister still had a great time. That kayaking experience sounds unreal!

  9. 3rd October 2017 / 18:52

    I did a few (short) group tours around Australia in my early thirties and loved them. Inevitably, my fellow travellers were much younger than me, but I adopted the attitude that if you can’t beat them, join them! I think the older I get the more hung up I get about the group tour situation. One thing I’m sure of is that I’m way too old for a dormitory style sleep situation! I hope your sister gets a regular spot on the blog 🙂

  10. 19th October 2017 / 00:40

    What an adventure! I’m not sure if I could do it. Hopefully, your new roomies stayed in touch upon returning home. It’s always awesome to make new friends!

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