The passage of time
A Contiki tour of Europe seems to have been a “coming of age” event for generations now. Our kids have done crazy things on their tours, and in 1971 I was no different.
Our driver, Brian, somehow got us from London to Istanbul and back in a second-hand Ford Transit van, 13 seats, camping gear on the roof. Among our group were a married couple and 11 good-looking Antipodean girls in their early 20s. When the vehicle regularly needed repairs, local men went crazy over a busload of unchaperoned young women. In the campgrounds (no hotels for us) we often spent the night huddled together for safety in the cook-tent to protect us against the anticipated siege of local youths. The van had one music tape, played daily for 14 weeks; I can still sing every word of The Beatles’ Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. We had left our families to see the world. When we could afford stamps, they received postcards or an aerogram, or a brief phone call at Christmas. We relied on traveller’s cheques, not credit cards, and there were no mobile phones, internet or Facebook. Photos had to be developed from film. There was no McDonald’s when money was short and we were hungry, but we lived frugally and funds stretched. Casual jobs were plentiful; we worked to travel and were self-reliant, even so far away from home.
In 2005, one of our group tracked down the others and we held a reunion in Adelaide. Not everyone could attend but most did and it was hilarious. We were from Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and New Zealand. Diaries were brought out and read, with notations as to who was put to bed in a collapsed state, how often the bus broke down, names of boyfriends picked up along the way, and the consumption of ouzo and wine.
There have been several more reunions. We are all still travelling, have brought up families, had careers and some of us are retired. Nowadays, as I sink back into my business-class seat and look forward to five-star accommodation, our Contiki trip seems light years away. But as soon as I see the gang and the diaries are read and the songs sung, I’m 21 again with Europe at my feet. We were Contikis then. More like “Antique-ies” now, unfortunately.