Simon Thompson, 32, is an architect from Birmingham, UK. He joined us on our action-packed getaway to Chile in 2017
I had never been to South America before and Flash Pack’s itinerary for Chile seemed like it covered a lot of interesting places. I liked the fact that you could go from running down sand dunes in the Atacama Desert to climbing snow-capped peaks in the Andes within the space of a few days. And the focus on adventure sports rather than just sightseeing appealed to me.
Travelling with Flash Pack was a bit like visiting relatives or friends in a foreign country. I never had the feeling I was following the typical tourist routes, and they would always arrange something like a private lunch spot or an exciting powerboat trip to the next hotel to make it more unique.
I’ve done a fair amount of solo travel in the past, so I’m used to meeting and travelling with strangers; but this was the first organised group trip I’d been on.
One of the things I enjoy most about solo travel is meeting different people. So it was great getting two weeks to get to know everyone in the group. It’s not always that easy when you’re travelling alone and meet people travelling on a different itinerary.
Even before arriving in Chile, we had the opportunity to get to know the rest of the group by messaging each other on a Facebook page Flash Pack set up for us. This meant that by the time we arrived at the first hotel, there were already familiar faces.
Everyone in the group got on really well. Because we were all of a similar age and life stage, we all wanted the same experiences from the trip. No-one was there just to party every night and, equally, no-one wanted to sit by the pool all day.
The local guide, Felipe, was really passionate about his country with great insider knowledge that isn’t written in the guidebooks.
It can’t be easy getting 14 people 3,000 miles across the country in two weeks whilst making sure everyone is having a good time. But he made sure we didn’t have to deal with any of the hassle you might have if you were travelling independently. By the end of the trip we all thought of him as part of the group and not just our tour guide.
I am still in touch now with the Flashpackers I met in Chile. A few of us had a mini-reunion in London a couple of months after we got back and I’m trying to organise a hike for us later in the year.
If you’re thinking of travelling with Flash Pack, my advice would be to just go for it! My trip was a bit of an impulse purchase on my lunch break at work and it turned out to be one of the best adventures.
It might seem unlikely that 14 strangers are going to share similar interests and get on with each other but everybody is on the trip for the same reason: to have a good time with like-minded people in some incredible destinations.
When I’m booking trips myself I tend to stay in cheap hostels, so to stay in some interesting and unique hotels was a bit of a treat. The hotel in Torres del Paine National Park was a particular favourite.
It sat on the edge of the Serrano River with amazing views of the Andes and it had a really nice, relaxed family-run feel to it. It was in a tiny little town, so it was a great opportunity to switch off. Watching the sun rise over the Andes from the deck at the back of the hotel was the perfect way to end the trip.
One on my highlights of the adventure was white-water rafting and cliff-jumping. The Petrohue River sits at the bottom of a volcano and the views are pretty spectacular; that is, when you get the chance to look up from the boat or clear water out of your eyes! It was a great ice-breaker for the group as well.
Do you fancy challenging yourself with glaciers, geysers and white-water rapids in the spectacular landscape of Chile? Don’t miss our game-changing escape
Images: Simon Thompson and Flash Pack