Contiki bus tours are the perfect place for meeting people

Relationships will often blossom during the shared experience of travel.

The feeling hit Rhonwyn Newson like a lightning bolt.

It was the year 2000 and the 19-year-old from Johannesburg was based in England on her gap year, exploring Europe on a two-week Contiki tour.

She was shopping along the streets of Germany's romantic Rhine Valley on the second night of the trip when, just like in the movies, she looked up and saw her future husband.

"Back then you could use reverse charges on payphones. I phoned my mum in South Africa and said, 'I think I've just seen the person I'm going to marry.'"

Just one problem - she hadn't actually talked to him yet. But that all changed later that evening, when her Contiki group met up at the hotel pub.

Her mystery man, it turned out, was a Kiwi bloke named Chris, who was on the same tour.

The pair immediately hit it off, and though they were travelling on separate buses, they spent the rest of the trip meeting up and enjoying Europe together.

At the end of the tour, they carried things on in England, where Chris was working in a pub on his OE. But soon it was time for Rhonwyn to head back to South Africa for university, and Chris eventually went home to New Zealand.

"I phoned my mum in South Africa and said, 'I think I've just seen the person I'm going to marry.'"

"We tried having a bit of a long-distance relationship for a while, but it didn't really work out. But we always kept in contact via email and phone calls."

In 2004, he rang her to wish her a happy birthday. They got talking, and it turned out they were both single - and the feelings were still there.


"He said, 'Why don't you come to New Zealand and check it out?' So I did. I quit my job and packed up my suitcase.

"I came out here and it was as if we'd never been apart, we just picked things up straight from where we had left off."

When she arrived, all she knew about New Zealand was the All Blacks. But she soon fell in love with the country as well.

The pair got married in 2009 and are now living in Whangaparaoa near Auckland with their daughters, Maddi, 5, and Olivia, 2.

Tony Laskey, Contiki regional director for Asia and New Zealand, says while there are some couples on every tour, more than half of their travellers are single, which makes it perfect for meeting people.

In fact, Laskey met his own wife Catherine while working as a trip manager on a European tour in 2000 - she was a customer.

[Tony Laskey was working as a trip manager for Contiki when he met his wife Catherine.]

Tony Laskey was working as a trip manager for Contiki when he met his wife Catherine.

Relationships formed during the trips tended to be more than just a "holiday fling",  Laskey says.

"If you went on a flop-and-drop type holiday to a beach resort or whatever, holiday romances can blossom in those environments.

"But with Contiki, because you're actually around your fellow travellers for up to 46 days, you get to know people really well."

Sara Jackson, Contiki sales, marketing and operations coordinator, also met her husband while working on a Contiki tour. She was the trip manager, he was the driver.

Even now, she still finds out that people who got together on her tours are engaged or married.

Sara Jackson and her husband Adam, pictured in the blue shirts, met while working for Contiki.

It was not uncommon for couples to get engaged during the trips, picking fairytale spots like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the gondolas in Venice to pop the question.

The rest of the people of the tour would often be in on the surprise, celebrating along with the couple.

"I think travel is one of those things that you're sharing an experience. You're there in the moment and you see the best and worst in people. It's not just relationships like couples but the friendships that form throughout that as well.

We found love in a foreign place.

"You're together 24/7, you're all experiencing the same things at the same time. It's this concentrated environment that really brings people together and they bond over so many things along the way."

See also: Ben Groundwater - my life as a tour guide

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