It doesn’t have to be the young people. When you picture shocking things happening on tours, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the budget backpacker trips around Europe – but that’s not where the crazy stuff begins and ends.
On any tour you do around the world, no matter what the age of the passengers or the place it’s set, you’ll find some shocking things going on. Trust me, I’ve done these tours as a passenger, and I’ve run these tours as a guide. This is what goes on…
That’s it in a nutshell, really. All of those crazy things you imagine, the drunkenness, the silliness, the hook-ups, the fights, and the occasional bouts of sightseeing – they all happen on tours. They don’t happen on every tour, but they certainly happen.
This one is a given. Put 40 young people together in an enclosed space for five or six hours and they’re going to be itching to get their booze on by the time they’re allowed out. And nothing helps you on the way like a drinking game. One of the best I’ve seen is “Irish Poker”, taught to me by an American college student. If you play this game, expect to wind up extremely drunk.
It’s incredible how much people – young and old – whinge on tours. The stops are too short, or they’re too long. The hotels aren’t up to standard. The campsites are gross. The sights aren’t as good as they pictured. The food is bad. The other people on the tour suck. You’d think they were trying to have a bad time.
This doesn’t happen much during the night, but it does happen a lot during the day. I was with a tour group once, driving through the Swiss Alps, probably the most naturally stunning place in the entire world, and they all pulled the window shades down and went to sleep.
Some of the backpacker tours of Europe I worked on were pretty sedate. No one really hooked up at all. But on others… there were threesomes in tents (how is that even possible?). There were things being done on the bus – with everyone else on board. And then there were just the regular old hook-ups. It happens.
You see some ridiculous, petty things happen over the course of a few weeks with a whole group of people in a confined space. Little arguments. Rumours being spread. People who stop talking to people. People who refuse to sit near each other. It’s like being back in high school.
There are little moments when you get upset – and then there are full-on temper tantrums that no one on the tour will readily forget. I’ve seen people seriously throw their toys out of the cot, whether they’re fighting with friends or they’re just sick of tour life and want to get off. It’s not a good look.
Here’s the deal: I’ve found that all it takes is two, maybe three people who are vocal whingers to bring down an entire tour group. That sort of energy gets picked up by others, and all of a sudden they start to complain as well. It’s a nightmare. Conversely, if you have two or three extremely positive, happy people on board, everyone else will go along with them and a great time will be had.
This isn’t just passengers – it’s crew. I’ve worked on tours where we’ve gone round and round in circles for hours looking for the campsite or the attraction or even just a place to park. Don’t assume your bus driver knows what he’s doing. If it feels like you’re lost, you probably are.
…call for desperate measures. And I’ve seen some hilariously desperate things take place. On one tour we’d allowed people to bring beer onto the bus, which meant everyone was using the on-board toilet, which meant that pretty soon it was full to the brim. The solution? Open the taps and dump the tank. On the highway. At 110km/h.
There are always mishaps. One passenger fell off a table (where she’d been drunkenly dancing) and broke her arm. A crew member I knew stepped out of the bus, tripped, and broke his ankle. And there were plenty of minor scrapes and bruises in between.
It sounds crazy, but some of the random hook-ups that happen on tours blossom into long-term commitments – I even know of former travel buddies who are now married. And there are plenty of crew members who’ve wound up settling down with the people they were there to look after.
Seriously, this actually happens. In amongst all of the drinking and sleeping and arguing and pashing, some people on tours actually go out and see the sights and enjoy them. In fact, plenty do. It’s just that it’s not talked about anywhere near as much as the other stuff.
Only once I saw this. It was a combination of too much booze and way too much testosterone, which resulted in two Kiwi guys coming to blows in the back of the bus. Several other passengers had to separate them. They were best mates a few hours later.
Some of the stuff above might make you shudder and think twice about booking a tour, but trust me – these are the extremes. And even when they do happen, the dirty secret about tours is that most people on-board them have a hell of a lot of fun. You make friends, you see sights, and you have a ton of laughs. It’ll probably be the highlight of your travelling life.
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