Way back in the 1970s and 1980s doing a ConTiki trip through Europe was almost a rite of passage for every young NZer or Australian going on their OE. This was what you did first - hot off the plane, and onto a big bus. How else were you supposed to meet new people, do new things, go to new places? I would regularly slope into travel agents' around the city and make off with numerous brochures advertising these coach tours for 18-35s, and ConTiki was the one that always looked the most exciting, the most fun, the coolest one to be doing.
This book is the story of the roller coaster ride that is the ConTiki story, told from beginning to end by John Anderson, the young NZer who in 1962 sailed away from NZ shores to England. A few months later, looking for a way to trip around Europe with like minded individuals, and 25 pounds in his pocket he did just that. Beginning with a combi van that seemed to be barely held together and 11 brave young souls, John, blessed it would seem with the gift of the gab, proceeded to take this group of unknowns on a tour of Europe. Epic. And from that one 'done on the smell of an oily rag' trip, John knew he was onto a winner. He became unstoppable in his dreams and his plans to take over the world in coach tour holidays for the young. Naturally there were hurdles - some managed well, and others not so well. And that is what this book is all about.
This warts and all tale is travelogue, entrepreneurial handbook, motivational guide, autobiography, business textbook all rolled into one. And it is a highly entertaining and interesting read. The author is very open and candid about the development of the business, the personalities involved, his aspirations, the successes and failures. The staff and the passengers, naturally, provide the best stories, and there are some beauties in here. John Anderson is a legend, and I really hope he gets onto organising some of those tours he mentions for all of us who will never be between 18-35 again! ConTiki is now one of 24 travel/holiday related businesses owned by Travel Corporation. And its brochures look wonderfully similar to those of 30 plus years ago. Long may they reign.