Solo travel has received its fair share of media attention and for good reason. There are many pros to travelling as a lone wolf (be it truly solo, or solo as part of a group with people you’ve never met before.) But one travel style that is still somewhat “under exposed” is that of couple travel. Is it as awesome as some make it out to be?
If you ask Carla and Jean Pierre Verster, they’ll answer with a resounding “YES!”
This South African husband and wife duo have explored over 40 of the world’s most popular destinations with Contiki – a company well-known for it’s wide range of tours aimed at the 18-35 age group).
Carla and Jean Pierre’s first Contiki experience was the Bali Resort in 2006 and their first real tour was the European Experience in 2008. “We chose Contiki at that time because it was an easy, affordable way to travel as a young couple,” says Carla.
To date, the couple has been on 18 Contiki tours and counting.
“We have visited Western Europe (England, France, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands), the USA, Canada, China, Spain, Gibraltar, Peru, Thailand, Eastern Europe (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia), Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway), Russia and Belarus, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos islands, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Japan, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and, most recently, Egypt.”
Affordability and making it happen
That’s a lot of travel for one couple. And, the big question… How have they afforded it?
Jean Pierre notes that they couldn’t afford overseas travel while they were students and only started travelling abroad from their third year of formal employment, after they’d saved a bit of money. “Since then, every time we got a raise or progressed in our careers, our budget increased. We never travel on debt. We’re very disciplined with our personal finances. Contiki is the best value for money when it comes to an unforgettable overseas travel experience with other young people, in our opinion,” says Jean Pierre. Carla adds that they invest and save a lot. “Instead of buying a new car, we’d rather take a trip.”
Their favourite worldly adventure so far?
Carla will tell you that she gets this question a lot and has difficulty answering it. “Each continent, country and tour has its own flavour and feel to it. I personally loved the Contiki Thai Island Hopper West, which was a significant one as I turned 30 on that tour. I loved that it felt like a holiday – the difference between travelling and holidaying is huge in my mind. I adored Peru for its colourfulness, the friendly people and yummy food. The USA had the best group of people aboard the tour and we had a great tour manager who made it extra memorable. I am absolutely in love with the world – it’s like asking a mother to choose a favourite child.”
Jean Pierre adds that he thoroughly enjoyed Japan due to its unique culture and the extremely friendly and polite locals.
Couple travel: advice
Carla’s biggest piece of advice for couples who’re planning to head off on a tour together? Socialise with all different kinds of people. “Don’t be all ‘couple-y’ and exclude yourself from group activities. Sit with different people at dinner every night and try to strike a good balance between doing things alone (with your partner) and doing things with the group.”
Jean Pierre echoes Carla’s sentiments and notes that Contiki tours generally have a good balance between group activities and free time where one can do something in a small group, as a couple, or even alone. “When travelling, we make a conscious effort not to isolate ourselves, which is an easy thing to do when you travel as a couple. You’ll also learn a helluva lot about your partner when you travel together. Be considerate, patient and still do the majority of activities with the group.”
As for the couple’s practical tips? Take earplugs, vitamins and a good sense of humour. “As one of our tour managers taught us: ‘You’ve got to roll with the punches!’”
Whether you’re a solo traveller or looking to travel as a part of a couple, one thing is for sure – once the travel bug bites, it bites hard! Carla and Jean Pierre are a prime example of this.
Warning: It’s addictive!
“You could say that travel is an addiction of sorts. The more I travel, the more I change and grow. Travel changes everything about you. You cannot travel extensively and not come back a changed (and better) person. The world makes more sense every time we go somewhere. It’s like building a puzzle; every time we learn about a new country’s culture and history first-hand, another piece of the puzzle falls into place,” Carla adds.