'My life as a Contiki tour manager'

Last updated 05:00 13/07/2014
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SHOW OFF: Katie Lupton performs a backbend atop Pulpit Rock in Norway.

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LIVING THE DREAM: Katie Lupton.

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Katie Lupton is living the dream as a Contiki tour manager.

What inspired your move to Europe, and how long have you been there?

I'd always wanted to travel from hearing my parents' stories as I was growing up. I'd done a lot myself and the bug had definitely bitten and so ideally I wanted to travel for work. That's where Contiki came in. I've been a European tour manager for just over a year now.

What do you do?

I travel Europe with about 50 18-35 year olds from around the world, and show off Europe. You name it, that fits into my job description every day.

What are the greatest advantages?

Being able to immerse myself in so many amazing, rich and diverse cultures every single day - I tick bucket list boxes all the time. Every day is different with new sights, sounds, tastes and experiences and then I get to see the look on people's faces when I take them somewhere they have been waiting their whole lives to see.

Disadvantages?

To travelling around Europe and getting paid for it? I don't think so! Not seeing friends and family very often would be the biggest one though.

What do you do in your spare time?

I travel. I have my own list of places that I want to explore that work doesn't get me to.

How expensive is it compared to New Zealand? How much is a beer?

Different countries vary in cost. Switzerland, for example, is expensive and you can drop 100 francs (NZ$128) without even realising it. A litre of local beer in a beer hall in Munich in Germany will cost you €7.60 (NZ$12), so definitely a lot cheaper than back at home. And then a place like Macedonia you can go out for dinner and have a starter, main, a few pints of beer, leave a generous 35 per cent tip and still get change from MKD500 (NZ$13).

What are the local delicacies you would recommend?

You are not truly travelling unless you are trying the food. I say this to my groups all the time. I recommend casting aside any doubts you have, and try everything that a new place puts in front of you. From snails in France, sangria in Spain, souvlaki in Greece, giant pork knuckle in Germany, raclette in Switzerland, egg flip mousse gelato in Italy . . .

Easiest way to get around?

Contiki, of course! But two feet and a heartbeat when you are out and about exploring cities. Gondolas in Venice, donkeys in Greece, the infamous tube or Boris Bike in London.

What's the shopping like?

From bartering in the markets in Camden, London, to strolling (and window shopping only) along the Champs-Elysees in the world's fashion capital, Paris, Europe has it all. I have my favourite vintage store in Florence, underwear store in Amsterdam and then the fiercely competitive world that is online shopping in London - you can get anything you want to suit any budget in Europe.

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Best after-dark activity?

The obvious answer here involves an alcoholic beverage. A typical London pub that's hundreds of years old; drinking wine made from the grapes grown in a local vineyard in France; ruin bars in Budapest; sampling any of the 300 shots on the menu at a shots bar in Amsterdam; exploring the maze of alleyways of clubs in Hora, Ios; or watching the sunset from a rooftop bar with a bellini in hand in Italy.

Best time of year to visit?

Anytime. Summer brings crowds but also sunshine which means surf, sand, sounds and killer tans. Winter is also amazing with less crowds, you can explore Christmas markets, enjoy mulled wine, no lines and some of the best mountains in the world for snowboarding and skiing on an epic scale.

Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?

A set of drawers to house my clothes in - I've lived out of a suitcase every day for over two years now. The sand between my toes and the grass beneath my feet! Cooking. The farm I grew up on and the wide open spaces. Christmas in the summer time. Driving. And of course Black Forest chocolate.

What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?

Way more than three! 1: Go up - a bell tower, a mountain, a roof top bar - for that extra special view. 2: Get lost - you're never truly lost anyway. You have a map, a mouth and arms to point. This is when you find the most amazing off the beaten track stuff. 3: Stop and stare - lean over a balcony and drink in the view and the moment, take stock of where you actually are. 4: Feel the vibe - wander around a city and soak up the atmosphere. 5: Look back. Quite often, once you think all your photo-taking is done, that last glance back is actually the best shot.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?

It takes about 30 hours with a stopover or two.

For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?

You could be here for a good time or a long time and you'll find work. Kiwis have a solid reputation for being hard workers so with a bit of patience finding a job in Europe is generally not an issue.

Even if it means getting on the other side of a bar and pouring a few pints to tide you over for a couple of weeks until that dream job comes along.

If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from hom, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

- Sunday Star Times

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