Most travellers raise their nose at the sound of a Contiki tour.
For many, a sardine can on wheels carting drunken tourists around is the antithesis of the travel experience. Thinking back to my tour, I view it as I do with an old pair of electric green rave pants. I was young, and the whole thing is slightly embarrassing.
However, thinking back, there was one moment of redemption.
In Venice (where I’m sure we ate pigeon) our hung-over bodies were dragged into the Piazza San Marco. After spending four hours watching an Italian man fashion a horse out of glass, I decided to go wandering.
Venice is always fun, but after a while, it turns into the background of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. In the repetitious haze, there was a shift in the air, and a connection with my eardrums.
A warm guitar tone bounced through the corridors of the water city, a soft purity slicing through the clash of the noisy vendors.
In cartoon fashion, I was lifted off the ground by the sound, and carried to it.
When I landed, a striking Polish man with piercing blue eyes met me. He was a simple busker, but the mastery of his instrument was other-worldly.
I was sure he was a time warping alien, with the ability to compress 500 years of guitar skills into a 35-year-old. The tourists meandering through the streets paid no attention to him, driven by capriciousness.
But I, the dedicated lunatic, sat squarely down, transfixed by the music.
Like most who experience abduction, hours passed in no time. I was snapped back to reality by my phone. My Contiki mates had boarded the boat back. It was time to go. Like Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, I was met with a choice; stay with my newly found guitar master, or travel to the next drunken destination.
My naivety drove my decision. I hastily threw cash into his case, gave a thumbs-up and hurtled back.
Coursing through in record time, my friends urged me aboard, asking where the hell I was.
“I have just seen the greatest guitarist in history”, I replied, out of breath.
No-one really heard my answer though. No one really cared. It was on to the next booze fest, and that’s all that really mattered.
I often think back to that time, and wondered if he was actually a real person. I’m not sure if I went back there, I’d ever see him again. But now, when I travel, I have a rule, whenever I am carried somewhere by something that hits me in the heart: Always follow it.
That is, unless it’s to another rave. Those pants are staying exactly where they should.