Guest Post: Preparing for Contiki’s Simply Italy Trip

Contiki passenger JohnnyWe’re excited to introduce a series of blog posts from an actual Contiki passenger!  Southern California resident Johnny Newnes is embarking on his first Contiki trip – Simply Italy, and will be documenting his adventures when he returns.  Here is his introductory post – where he shares his thoughts about taking his first trip to Italy – a bucket list item he’s always had.  Enjoy!

Guest post by Contiki traveler Johnny Newnes

If you are reading this blog, then chances are that you are a traveler or are interested in becoming a traveler. I am one of you. I have traveled some, however, I have not traveled nearly as much as I would like to. My bucket list of places to see runs long and I can only hope to eventually check each place off of that bucket list. Looking over said list and the great number of places written on it can be daunting at times, but right now in this moment, I am completely content. Right now, I am preparing to cross off my number one destination from that list; right now I am preparing to travel to Italy.

My name is Johnny Newnes and this is my first time with Contiki. I am from and live in Orange County, CA, USA where I work as marketing coordinator for a large restaurant chain. Being a young professional in corporate America, it can be difficult to plan an adventure half way across the world, let alone actually go on that adventure. So when I discovered Contiki and the tour being offered; Simply Italy – a 12-day excursion that leads you through almost of all of Italy – I jumped on the opportunity and took it as a sign that now is the time to make this journey.

Contiki traveler JohnnyItaly is truly a special destination for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am half Italian by descent on my mother’s side and grew up with a strong Italian influence in my life; the cooking, the gestures, the laughter, and the efforts to mix a little of “la dolce vita” into our American lives. For me, going to Italy feels a little like going back to a former home even though I have never known that home. I am anxious to see from where part of my family hails.

Secondly, I am major foodie. I mean, growing up in an Italian family, how could I not be? Cooking, and eating, are both passions of mine that have really defined a lot of who I am. I do marketing for food, I was a mildly popular food blogger once upon a time, and I am known as the “domestic god” amongst all my friends for the dinner parties I have been known to host. Now I am heading to perhaps one of the most brilliant culinary countries in the world. I am literally counting down to that first bowl of pasta paired with a nice glass of Chianti. As a foodie, I am just excited to experience all the flavors each city we visit has to offer; and I plan to ignore my normal yogi-healthy dietary habits and eat with reckless abandon on this whole trip. Buon Appetito indeed!

Johnny 1Lastly, I am admittedly, a history buff of sorts. I have always been interested in Greek and Roman history as well as mythology. Name any TV show or movie that had anything to do with the Roman Empire, I watched it. And at last, I am going to see where all that history took place. I am going to swim in the Mediterranean, the sea that supplied and nourished some of the greatest civilizations known to man, the sea that fed half of my ancestors. I am going to be sleeping near the Coliseum, I mean, do I even have to say it? I am going to a place so richly steeped in history, art, and culture. The wait is killing me!

As I sit here trying to figure out just what shirts I want to bring with me for this 2 week trek, I am flooded with day dreams of what my time in Italy will be like; how the views of the Tuscan countryside will look at sunset as we taste wine, how the gelato will taste as it melts in my mouth, how I will feel standing next to structures crafted so many thousands of years ago. And when these day dreams are done, I know that anything I can picture in my mind’s eye will pale in comparison to the journey ahead. I simply cannot wait to finish packing and get moving.

Needless to say, I have a long and exciting venture ahead of me. I am really grateful for how easy Contiki has made this once in a life time trip possible. And I can’t wait to share my experiences with you when I return! Ciao!

The RoadTrip 2014, Powered by Contiki – Watch it Now

The RoadTrip

If you missed The RoadTrip 2014, you’re in luck – all 9 episodes are now readily available for your viewing pleasure! Starting in Barcelona, traveling to the French Riviera, Florence, Rome, and ending with an ultimate Gathering in London – our 13 hand-selected YouTubers weave the tale of a Contiki traveler and show you the highlights that Contiki is known for.

You can watch ALL the episodes right here:

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Experience

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Much like travel experiences, your college years influence the rest of your life. During these formative years, you meet new people, form new opinions and ideas about the world, and you are tasked with finding your passion (as well as your future career path). Here at Contiki, we think that traveling the world also helps shape the type of person you are, so we’re sharing our 10 ways that you can make the most of your college experience…and adapt this to your travel life as well!
1. Join a Club or Group
Whether you decide to go Greek or want to join the local group representing your chosen major, associating with like-minded individuals helps you better socialize with people later on. You’ll get the opportunity to go to fun social events and parties (or even plan them!) and perhaps discover a group of friends to travel with on your next adventure.

2. Take a Public-Speaking Course
We’d all like to charm the socks off everyone when we have to speak in public. Sometimes, getting out of your comfort zone and taking a public-speaking course not only helps you get rid of your stage fright, it helps elevate your inner extrovert–you’ll be more personable, open, and engaging with all different types of people around the world.

3. Learn a Language
Knowing a second language (or being multilingual) is hugely beneficial once your college days are done. It is a marketable skill that is great for your resume, but can also expand your horizons to different cultures. Plus, when you decide to travel the world, you can use your language skills to tap into undiscovered gems that non-native speakers may not know about.

4. Invest in Meet-Ups
There are plenty of off-campus opportunities to meet with people who share your interests and hobbies. Maybe you enjoy cosplay and Comic-Con, or you need a language buddy (see Tip #3!). Investing in a meet-up group (see Meetups.com) will help you meet new people and keep you busy in projects that are unrelated to required classwork.

5. Do Things on Your Own
Learning to be independent–from parents, friends, classmates–and doing things on your own around campus will give you a greater appreciation of the time you get to spend with friends having fun. If you’re comfortable being alone and doing things on your own, you’ll be able to adapt that to many aspects of your life–perhaps even solo travel!

6. Network, Connect, then Disconnect
Networking is essential–we use sites such as LinkedIn to connect with potential employers, colleagues, and future business partners. Start building your network while you are in college–you never know how those people will help you. Also, don’t limit yourself to those online connections–make sure to disconnect and get the chance to meet these people in person–who knows, you may create long-lasting friendships, too.

7. Shop Locally
It’s easy to get sucked into the convenience of the big retail stores we know and love. But it’s good to get to know your campus surroundings and boost the local economy by shopping locally. Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite pub or the best place for a good sandwich. You’ll be exploring the local culture, which is a great way to explore a city abroad, too. (Who wants to eat macarons from McDonald’s in Paris when you can have them at LaDuree?)

8. Discover New Foods
We all know what the “Freshman 15” is. It is usually attributed to college life + lack of options. Don’t get bogged down by the sea of fast-food chains that have made a homestead on your campus. Instead, gather up those newfound friends of yours and explore the different local cuisine hotspots. Develop your palate with cool plates of sushi, get a taste for some spice at a Thai restaurant, or cool off with a strong and sweet Vietnamese iced coffee. By diversifying your diet, you’ll also keep your diet varied enough that you’re not craving greasy cheeseburgers all the time.

9. Participate in Cultural and Special Events in the Area
Expand your horizons by visiting local festivals or going to cultural events with your friends. Whether it’s the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California or an Oktoberfest festival at your local German village, going out and exploring cultural traditions that are different from your own will make memories from the event and also expand your horizons.

10. Travel
It goes without saying, but here at Contiki we think you should make the most of your college experience by traveling every chance you get. Whether you’re looking for choices for spring break getaways or you want to explore the architecture in Spain or Prague, getting away from home and taking time to explore the big wide world will reap you rewards when you come back–and the best time to do it is when you’re young!

Want to make the most of your college experience with an epic trip abroad? Contiki and Follett have teamed up on the “Adventure 101: Win an Epic Trip for Two” sweepstakes– enter now for your chance to win! (If you reside in Canada, please click here.)