As I write this, I’m on day 3 of my two weeks of vacation time before school starts back up again for the year. In case you don’t already know, I teach English in Spain, and this summer I have worked through July and August giving intensive courses for students who wanted to prepare for exams in the fall. I’ve been enjoying my time relaxing at home, but honestly I’m getting a little bored, because I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my TRIP TO ITALY WITH TOUR RADAR IN FOUR DAYS!!
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll probably have realized that I haven’t done much traveling over the past couple of years. Simply put, we’re in saving mode and travel hasn’t been high on our list of priorities. I’ve gone on two long-weekend trips this year, which, compared to my first couple of years in Spain, is pretty tame. But, that isn’t to say I’ve lost the travel bug. Quite the opposite. The more I budget my money towards other things (like moving to England), the larger my desire becomes to say “screw it!” and blow it on a big trip. Unfortunately, I’m trying this thing called “adulting,” and being responsible 70-85% of the time is a big part of that.
But a girl can dream, right?! Have you ever seen trip contests floating around Facebook and never given them a second glance? Me too. I follow a lot of travel bloggers on Facebook (see, told you the bug was alive and kicking) and as such, many of the contests they share roll through my news feed. I used to largely ignore these impossible-to-win contests and sweepstakes (because really, who ever wins those things?!) until another blogger I follow (Jessica from Curiosity Travels) won a trip to Brazil! I watched it play out in real time on her other social media networks as she got the news, freaked out about it, and subsequently, went on the trip! I weirdly feel like I “know” Jessica after following her blog for so long, so I immediately thought to my self, “hey, if someone I know can win those things, I could too!”
In March 2015, I saw a link someone shared for the Live Like a Local contest from Tour Radar, a group tour company. We had just finished eating lunch, and in order to procrastinate before heading back to work, I clicked on the contest to enter. The rules were simple: enter your name and email address and choose which of the eight trip options you’d like to win. After a dismissive 30-second conversation with Paco, we decided on a sailing trip on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.
Life went on. I forgot all about the contest. A month had probably gone by when I was sitting at an outdoor cafe with a couple of friends sipping a too-hot coffee. I looked down at my phone to see that I had some new emails. I hate the little red notification circle, so I always open the emails and click through just to make it go away, and this time was no different. However, my interest had been piqued by an email from Tour Radar with the subject line “✭ Winner Announcement ✭”
While still paying attention to my friends with one eye, I clicked on the email and had this deep-down gut feeling that the winner HAD to be me. I know it sounds crazy. I still think it sounds crazy, but it’s the complete truth. I somehow used my power of positive thought in that moment to manifest what I wanted from the universe, and then I saw this:
My heart practically stopped. Blood rushed to my head giving me an acute case of tinnitus, and I couldn’t hear a thing. I’m pretty sure I would have passed out if I hadn’t been sitting down, but at the same time I was in a state of utter disbelief. I was TOTALLY freaked out and felt like I had just used mind control to make my name appear on that screen. Had I really willed my name into being selected as the winner in the moment I opened that email?? It was the most bizarre thing that has happened to me, maybe ever, and I think my face was showing it, as my friends stopped their conversation to ask if I was okay.
I showed them my phone with the above photo and asked them if it really said my name. Maybe I was hallucinating. Yes, they confirmed, that says your name. Why? I hastily explained how I had applied a month earlier and totally forgotten about it and they quickly resorted to calling me a Lucky Bitch and I silently freaked out while having a major realization about consciousness and spirituality. I kid you not.
A few people congratulated me on Facebook (as that same email had been sent to all of the contest entrants) and it started sinking in that I had actually WON. Holy mother effing shit.
Now back to present day. After patiently waiting for five months for a day I thought would never come, it’s almost here. In the name of total transparency, I must disclose that this trip is not completely free. The airfare and other transportation costs to get to the meeting point of the trip, dinners, extra activities (like visiting Pompeii and castles and stuff) are not included in our prize. Nor are the tip for our “skipper” (did I mention we’ll be sailing for a week on a yacht??) or the “kitty” fees (basically the group pot to used to buy snacks and stuff for the boat). We also had to purchase (mandatory) travel health insurance. What IS included is accommodation on the yacht, breakfasts and lunches, and the guidance of our tour operator.
So, though we’ll each end up spending about €500 to go on this trip after all of the transportation, food, and sightseeing, we save the cost of the trip itself which is over €1,000 per person on Tour Radar. Plus, it’s the trip of a life time and I would have NEVER booked this trip if I had to pay for it because it’s way out of my budget. We never had to give credit card information to Tour Radar and all of the transportation and extras were purchased at my own discretion so I was able to choose the best deals, and so on. Unbelievably, I almost didn’t go on the trip at all. I couldn’t justify paying so much to go when we have important things to save for, but, in the end, a friend convinced me that this was something I couldn’t pass up and that I’d really regret not going. So that’s that!