I’ve traveled with Flash Pack four times, to Myanmar, Jordan, Costa Rica and, most recently, Turkey. The adventures are always lively with a balance of unique experiences. Some of the biggest highlights for me, though, can be found within the unexpected moments. In other words, it’s the encounters that aren’t listed on the itinerary – or those that go above and beyond my expectations – that I’ve really loved.
In Turkey, our group reached the end of a long day in Cappadocia when we had a wonderful surprise. We’d been hot-air ballooning at sunrise, hiked across ancient plateaus and attended a pottery workshop and then, as if that wasn’t enough, we traveled onto a wine event in the evening. I was expecting a wine cellar of some sort, but instead we drew up at this beautiful lavender field in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the contours of Central Anatolia’s historical region.
My friend Vicky was so overwhelmed she started to cry
The sun was starting to go down and the field was dotted with tables for two between the lavender – each one heaped with cheese boards and cured meats, as well as three different kinds of wine, generously topped up by a host passing between the tables.
The view over the tables was stunning and the whole spectacle was completely unexpected. My friend Vicky, who joined the trip with me, was so overwhelmed she started to cry. It was so beautiful. As we were situated in pairs, rather than the larger group together, the atmosphere was really peaceful and calm.
The sunrise hot-air balloon ride was incredible
A similar moment of delight came when we explored the valleys and fairy chimneys of Cappadocia via quad bike. Vicky drove and I jumped on the back, so that we could chat together; it was more fun that way. Then we stopped at this incredible viewpoint and our guide, Suli, opened a bottle of champagne. Fizz in hand, we watched the sun go down together.
The sunrise hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia was incredible, too. Not least because we landed on the back of a lorry. As we came down, it looked like we wouldn’t make it to the exact spot but, in fact, it was the perfect landing. We toasted the moment with a champagne breakfast, swiftly followed by our actual breakfast back at the hotel.
Our Pack Leader played a central part in making the trip come to life
Paragliding in Fethiye was another standout moment. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a bit scared because we had to run off the hill at an angle, in tandem with an instructor, to get started. But the whole thing was great. It was an amazing thing to do.
Suli, our Pack Leader, was brilliant; he played a central part in making the trip come to life. He has a lot of contacts, including a local family in the village of Çamlik. He explained beforehand that the father in this family had passed away and they didn’t have much money. Their neighbors were trying to work out how to help them and it was suggested that we go there for a paid lunch.
The Nisanyan was a highlight – a remote, family-run retreat in the hills of Sirinçe
When we arrived, everything was laid out on a long table in the family garden. We got to speak to the mother and her daughter, who helped to deliver various dishes. We had dozens of different cold and hot mezze and plates piled with breads, cheeses and salads. It was one of the best meals I’ve had. It was wonderful to be able to experience hospitality like that in a local family’s home.
These unscripted moments also occurred at the hotels we stayed at, too. With Flash Pack, you know your accommodation ahead of time. One of the best hotels in Turkey was Nisanyan, a remote, family-run retreat in the hills of Sirinçe. We stayed in individual cottages spread out among the forest, with their own patio areas overlooking the mountains. At night, you could see the surrounding villages light up in the distance. It was so quiet and private.
I’ve been drawn to the group dynamic of Flash Pack trips
Another unscripted part of these trips comes from the people you travel with, too. I’m an introvert, quite quiet and I prefer being on my own, although I’ve learned to be more outgoing due to my job as a Microsoft trainer. So, it’s funny, in a way, that I’ve been drawn to the group dynamic of Flash Pack trips.
In Turkey, the group were friendly. But it was my adventure to Myanmar in 2018 that I enjoyed the most. I was running late when I first arrived. I had that uncomfortable feeling of walking into a room of 11 strangers with the introduction meeting already underway. The girl opposite gave me a big smile and I thought, “Oh, it’s all going to be alright.”
We felt like we’d known each other forever
We had an amazing group on that trip; right from the very first night we felt like we’d known each other forever. One of them is now my best friend and five others I continue to see. Eight of us went together on a subsequent trip to Jordan. It just goes to show, with group travel, you never know what life-changing moments are just around the corner.
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Images: Courtesy of Deb Ashby