A Contiki Pride trip was the first time I could fully be myself. This is where I belong
Pride season 2023 is officially upon us – and Contiki are bringing young LGBTQ+ people and allies aged 18-35 together to make the most of a truly global celebration of love and unity with unmissable Pride trips full of fun, friendship and unforgettable moments.
Travelling as an LGBTQ+ person can often come with added personal considerations, and venturing abroad to make the most of Pride in the world’s most exciting destinations is no exception: Where to stay, what to do, and how to link up with people who are on the same page as you in a safe and comfortable environment are always high on the agenda.
Luckily, LGBTQ+ people know that being a part of a global rainbow community is the ultimate cheat code to establishing connections when exploring the world, and Contiki Pride trips are giving inquisitive travellers a head start with tailor-made trips that shine a queer light on some of Europe’s most exciting cities during the height of Pride.
Whether it’s a 10-day Contiki Pride extravaganza that bursts into life at Pride in London and climaxes at the inimitable Amsterdam Canal Pride Parade via a queer culture-rich stop in Paris, or an epic four-day Amsterdam Pride trip, Contiki is ensuring LGBTQ+ travellers and allies revel and share in the moments that matter most to them.
For Shannon, a 26-year-old model and creative from London, heading to the sun-kissed cities of Spain for a Contiki Pride trip with a group of fellow travellers in the summer of 2022 proved to be an ‘eye-opening’ – and unexpectedly “emotional” – experience.
While there, she forged lasting friendships as well as a newfound confidence in her own identity as a bisexual woman – all while soaking in a series of tailored events that support local queer culture and which culminated in the mother of all Pride parties in the teeming streets of Barcelona.
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“Within seconds of getting to the airport, it just felt like I had been friends with these people for years,” Shannon tells PinkNews. “It was just really beautiful… it felt like a holiday with a bunch of mates.”
Despite being “well-travelled”, Shannon admits she’d previously been a bit of a “hermit” when it came to throwing herself into the LGBTQ+ scene and events. But all that was firmly in the past by the time she found herself atop a Pride float in Barcelona for the first time.
“I felt so honoured because even though I am part of this community, I’m not from Spain, so to feel as if everyone is not only a community within LGBTQ but also just like everyone’s different backgrounds, everyone’s different ethnicities, it just felt so special,” she grins.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience”, the Londoner adds. “I was like “No, I don’t want to leave! This is where I belong”. It felt like home.”
Shannon recognises that LGBTQ+ people can often be “very conditioned” to “hide ourselves”, particularly in new situations – something she herself had been no stranger to in the past.
Recalling how things changed for her on the trip, she comments: “I’ve always felt that just through how I express myself sometimes – being quite flamboyant, I have crazy wigs, I love to wear loads of colours – I would want to do it less, because I didn’t know whether that would portray more that “Oh, she likes guys and girls”, or “She’s a little bit different, she’s a little bit weird”.
“I think the trip was the first time I could fully be myself, especially amongst strangers. I was just like “Yeah, forget it, I’m just going to be loud and proud – and if anyone has a problem with it, that’s up to them!””
Pride has always been more than just a party (though there’s plenty of time for that too), and Contiki Pride is ensuring that travellers can immerse themselves in local queer culture with tours of LGBTQ+ districts and a dedicated Queer Trip Manager – the latter of which Shannon says made her group feel “looked after, cared for and listened to” during their trip.
“You want to make sure there are places that are safe for you and that you won’t have to concern yourself with anything that could go wrong”, she explains.
Contiki is making sure that their other trips to six continents around the world are just as impactful and inclusive for LGBTQ+ travellers after welcoming entrepreneur and activist Aisha Shaibu-Lenoir as their new LGBTQIA+ Ambassador earlier this year.
Aisha stressed the value of creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ travellers during a recent roundtable with Contiki, noting that “despite the fact there’s a queer population, often in the middle of cities you can feel alone.”
Asserting that “world is ours for the taking”, she added: “I feel like anyone that might be a little bit shy or unsure, I will say going forward you will learn so much about yourself and about trying new things.
“Regardless of your experience, there will be something that will be unforgettable on this trip.”
For Shannon, who has her eye on Thailand as the next incredible destination she’s keen to explore, that Contiki Pride trip to Spain will always stand out as a transformative moment of connection with the wider community.
“I really do feel like the Contiki trip was definitely an eye-opener in being a little bit more expansive with where I go, what I do, who I hang around with”, she declares.
“I would say I’m connected now, for sure.”
Book your Contiki Pride trip now at contiki.com.
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