11 REASONS TO GO TRAVELLING WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG

If you haven’t already heard, STA Travel has a little something called BlueTicket – a game changer for those under 30 who are wanting to snag exclusive airfares! So, in the spirit of feeling young, fun and free, we thought we’d compile a list of reasons why we think travelling when you’re young is the one (although we do advocate it at any age!)

You can hack the backpacker diet

Packet noodles for days, fast food for breakfast, endless amounts of toast – that beautiful thing called ‘fast metabolism’ accepts this messy diet.

You can also hack the hangovers (better, anyway)

We’ve all experienced hangovers getting worse with age, except those rare beings that never get a hangover – how do you do it?! You’re much more able to bounce back, fresh as a daisy, after a hostel drinking sesh when you’re younger… believe us.

It looks amazing on your CV

It sounds old and repetitive, but travel really does look great on your CV. Travellers are known to leave their comfort zones, take on new responsibilities, successfully navigate the world (usually), and also go through some life-changing experiences – who wouldn’t want to hire them?

Free accommodation in different corners of the world

You’ll make loads of friends, and a good handful of them will be from a different country. If you make life-long friends, you’ll stay in touch and your pool of places to visit (with free accommodation) will grow over the years. As long as you’re happy to give up your own couch once in a while.

Confidence for future job situations, networking, interviews, etc.

There’s nothing that prepares you more for future networking situations than approaching fellow travellers when you’re trying to make friends in a new hostel.

Longer to tick all the world off your list

The younger you start, the longer you have to tick off all your bucket list destinations.

It’s much easier to do when you have no real responsibilities

Coming out of school/college/uni is the perfect time to go travelling! You’ve got no real responsibilities holding you back – no job, mortgage, or family to look after. Who wants to go straight out of working in uni to a 9-5 office job, with no time to explore?! Not us, that’s for sure.

You could find what it is you want to do with your life while travelling

You are definitely not alone if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, when everyone says you’re supposed to. The experiences you have while travelling could open up a whole world of opportunities to you – from sponsorship in Australia, to teaching English in Asia, or working in travel when you get back home.

Budgeting

If you’ve not mastered the art of budgeting yet, travelling will force you to. Even if it’s eating cold beans out of a can and drinking cheap beer so you can afford all the other fun stuff!

It humbles you

Experiencing the way other people live their lives, or seeing how little people need to be truly happy, makes you realise that life doesn’t revolve around you or material possessions, and makes you grateful for what you have.

Your body can tolerate a lot more

A springy bunk bed in a hostel, a crazy cliff dive into the ocean, a skydive across the beach, or a rickety 7-hour bus journey – whatever it is, your young body can tolerate it a lot more than it will in 20 years’ time. Use your time wisely!

Thinking about travelling Round the World? Well, we suggest taking a look at some of our Hot Deals to find a trip that will suit you!

New Year, new plans, new holiday allowance.

We’ve pulled together our list of the top destinations to visit this year, whether they be an up and coming country or an old favourite making a resurgence. All these destinations are longing to be explored by your wandering souls this year…

1. Sri Lanka

shutterstock_240895309_Mirissa_ Sri Lanka

Why? At the time of writing this, Sri Lanka is ahead in our customer poll by double any other country. Continually upping its game, this teardrop-shaped island is the Asian hotspot of 2018, home to a diverse range of natural beauty and ancient wonders, and you travellers can’t get enough.

Must-dos:

  • Ride the winding train tracks that skim the tea plantation-clad valleys between Kandy and Ella, frequently awarded the title of ‘the best train ride in the world’. *sigh*
  • Sit amongst the clouds after successfully traversing Adam’s Peak. The 7000 steps are best climbed in time for sunrise.
  • Head north to Sigiriya and the cultural triangle, full of ancient temples, city ruins and buddha-clad caves buried inside cliffs.
  • Take to the crashing waves on the white sand surf meccas of UnawatunaHikkaduwa or Arugam Bay.

Take a walk on the wild side! Get lucky with a sighting of grazing elephants and leopards in Yala National Park, or have your own Life of Pi moment aboard a boat, spotting whales at sunrise inMirissa or Trincomalee. (Psst, there’s turtle nesting spots, too).

More info: Travel to Sri Lanka

2. Colombia

Colombia (1)

 

Why?

Netflix’s may be responsible for a peak of interest in Colombia’s shadier past, but there’s so much more that makes this colourful and biodiverse country contender for South America’s most up-and-coming tourist destination.

Must-dos:

  • If you travel here in 2018, La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) needs to be on your bucket list. Colombia’s answer to Machu Picchu, but with a lot less tourists, the Lost City is the destination of the four or five-day trek into the steamy Sierra Nevada jungle.
  • If trekking ain’t your thing, the port city of Cartagena surely will be. Think cobblestoned streets, colonial history, cocktail bars, rich culture and colour everywhere…  This is a traveller’s paradise.
  • The locals. (although you don’t have to literally ‘do’ the locals). What will strike you most about Colombia, is how welcoming the people are. English isn’t that widely spoken still, so brush up on your Español and ask the Colombians what they love most about their home.
  • Tayrona National Park is your typical slice of Caribbean paradise. There’s amazing marine life, rainforests and plenty of palm-shaded beaches to get stuck on, Pina Colada in hand.

3. Western Australia

Western Australia

Why? This is an untouched world away from the well-trodden path of Australia’s East Coast. Bordered with an idyllic coastline, home to vast deserts blanketed by the mind-melting Milky Way and teeming with incredible wildlife, Western Australia is a marvel of its own.

Must-dos:

  • Head to Rottnest Island, near Perth to meet the residents – the cheery, curious quokkas, who we predict will be the next huge animal trend to sweep the world with sloth-levels of magnitude.
  • Hire a camper van and tour Western Australia’s incredible national parks (KarijiniKalbarriand the Pinnacles to name a few).
  • Stop off in Ningaloo Reef in Coral Bay  – where you can swim with gentle, ginormous whale sharks and manta rays.
  • Meet wild dolphins on the shores of Monkey Mia.
  • The town of Broome, where you can embrace the natural phenomenon of the Staircase to the Moon and ride camels across the extensive tidal flats, before blazing off in a cloud of red dust into the beautiful, unchartered territory of the Kimberleys.

More info: Western Australia camper adventure

4. Slovenia

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Why? The last few years, everyone has been banging down Croatia’s pristine, wave-lapped doors to get in, but this year, it’s northern neighbour Slovenia where we predict a travel trend emerging. When they said ‘hidden gem’, they meant to say ‘hidden-in-the-most-stunning-picturesque-paradise-in-the-Balkans-gem’. This impeccably beautiful country is a gift to the eyes… and the camera. Slovenia is bursting with history, culture, turquoise swimming spots, Venetian style architecture and snow sprinkled peaks. If you aren’t shredding powder or hiking through thick snowfall in the Julian Alps, then you can explore the Hungarian style farmhouses in the harbour towns (located a few hours away from both Venice, and northern Croatia), or bless your soul with a little bit of Lake Bled. #onefortheoutdoorstype!

Must-dos: 

  • If you came to Slovenia for one reason alone, it would have to be Lake Bled. Nestled in the Julian Alps, this crystal clear lake houses Bled Island. Hike, swim, and marvel for a few days amidst one of Europe’s most picture-perfect spots on the map.
  • Spend 24 hours in the capital city, Ljubljana, which is full of cool clubs, riverside bars and a pretty epic castle.
  • Explore the 24km long Postojna Caves. These contain weird and wonderful rock formations and even a concert hall fit to hold 10,000 spectators. Skocjan is another awesome cave system you could visit as an alternative.

5. Namibia

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Why? ‘It’s the cirrrrrrcle of liiiiifeeee!’. Need we say more?! Prepare to walk onto the set of the Lion King, as Namibia is home to the largest red sand dune desert in the world.

Must-dos

  • Explore the giant sandpit of the Sossusvlei desert, fringed on all sides by giant dunes.
  • Climbing up ‘Big Daddy’ (the largest dune in the world), and hiking your way along the famous Dune 45. Extra brownie points for those who make it there for sunrise.
  • The Caprivi Strip. Here you will not find yourself sipping on cocktails or dancing the night away but instead experiencing a wetland wildlife paradise, where water-loving animals live out their days. Expect to see hippos, crocodiles and buffalo bathing in the pounding heat of the African sun. No humans allowed in the water!
  • Those who dare can blaze down the Skeleton Coast via a tour, or overhead in a helicopter. Dotted with decrepit shipwrecks, this vast stretch of coastline is where the desert meets the unforgiving ocean.
  • Creep, climb and crawl (with your camera firmly in hand) around the eery and surreal sand-filled houses in the abandoned town of Kolmanskop.

More info: Travel to Namibia

6. Georgia

shutterstock_280828427_ Tbilisi_ Georgia (1)

Why? We’re not talking about the American state, here. Sandwiched between Europe and Asia, Georgia is an unknown treasure and a dip into Eurasia’s beauty and humble local life. Visiting this country will provide your travel-lusting soul with fresh perspectives, rugged mountains, carpets of yellow and green meadows and unexplored valleys.

Must-dos

  • The Caucasus mountains are a travel photographer’s dream. Head to the foothills of them for hiking, skiing or straight-up chilling.
  • The country’s capital city Tbilisi is home to the mesmerising Narikala Fortress, and some seriously crazy nightlife. Who knew  Georgia had nightclubs to rival Berlin’s!?
  • Georgian cuisine. Rich, comforting and varied, traditional Georgian cuisine blends traditional Eastern European food, such as beef stew and cheesy khachapuri (pancakes), with Middle Eastern spices.

7. Norway

Unsplash_Girl on rock_Trolltunga_ Norway

Why? The Jewel of Europe, Norway offers a dazzling mix of history and stunning natural wonder. The old meets the new seamlessly within the surrounding mountains, fjords and gorges. You could allow yourself weeks of exploring here. Must-dos:

  • Spot the Midnight Sun. Iceland might have trended as a destination in the past few years due to the mysterious glow of the Northern lights, but you’ve got just as high a chance of spotting them in Norway from September to March, too. (#topofthebucketlist)
  • Head to Bergen, the picturesque southwest city and jumping off point for Norway’s famed fjords. Be sure to climb the most popular of many ‘city mountains’, Mount Floyen.
  • Cruise the fjords like the Geirangerfjord region, home to unmissable sights such as Seven Sisters waterfall.
  • Be careful and don’t look down as you pose for the ultimate travel’gram 1,100 metres above the fjords below, atop of Trolltunga.
  • The beautiful capital city of Oslo – you can even check out an epic Viking ship here

8. Guatemala

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Why? Guatemala is the beating Mayan heart of Central America. A hop over the border from Mexico and with charming colonial streets, jungles, ruins, culture, history and some mad volcanoes, this country is bursting at its seams. Are you ready to fall in love? We already did, years ago.

Must-dos:

  • Play Indiana Jones amidst the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, deep in the dense northern rainforests. Get in early, wander through it while it’s still empty and feel like you’re discovering it for the first time.
  • Chill on the ginormous Lake Atitlan, fringed by cute hippie villages, three volcanoes and the Sierra Madre mountains. This could just become your favourite backpacker spot in the Americas.
  • Sharpen your salsa moves and gorge on delicious street food in the lively markets of Chichicastenango.
  • Hit the coast! Guatemala’s surf is insane and the beaches are perfect. We recommend El Paredon and Sipacate.

9. Cappadocia, Turkey

Turkey - Hope Harman-Reid - 2015

 

Why? Prepare your eyes for a whimsical fairy-tale dream. This marvellous lava-sculpted chimney fortress in central Turkey is one of the most unique landscapes to be seen on the planet. Spend your trip exploring the hundreds of pinnacles, caves and underground cities, like Derinkuyu. Or soar above the moonscape areas in a hot air balloon and experience a bird’s eye view of this captivating and interesting place. If Cappadocia isn’t on your bucket list, then it should be.

Must-dos:

  • Explore one of the dozens of underground cave cities; beeline for Kaymakli.
  • If you can’t afford to stay in a cave hotel a la @Doyoutravel and @Gypsea_lust, make sure you drink or dine atop of one for the amazing views.
  • Take a hot air balloon ride above the formations to watch the sun slowly illuminate the whacky landscape.
  • Check out Pasabag, an area famed for its chimney-like formations, shooting up from the ground like mushrooms. Inside one of these, there’s a chapel!

10. Taiwan

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Why? A visually spectacular, mountainous island, Taiwan is a natural splendour waiting to be travelled. Although its neighbouring countries – Japan, The Philippines and China offer exciting elements as well, Taiwan is surely not too missed from any travellers list. Pack your swimsuit, your hiking boots and your appetite…

Must-dos:

  • With a capital city such as Taipei, there is an abundance of history, tradition and new modification to uncover within the culture of Taiwan. Take in the views from Taipei 101, then head to the night markets or Yongkang Street to feast on some of the best and most varied traditional east Asian fare.
  • Discover sweeping mountain ranges and awesome hiking trains in Takoro Gorge
  • Taiwan is full of natural hot springs – our favourites are Chingchuan, Guguan, and Beitou – the latter is easily accessible, being just a short train ride outside of central Taipei.

11. Utah

Welcome to Utah Sign

Why?  Utah is an up and coming ‘must-do’ for the Instagrammers, the nomads, and the adventure-lovers. It is a world-class outdoor recreation spectacle, with vast expanses of desert and national park. Hire some wheels or jump on a tour and prepare to hit the vast open road…

Must-dos:

  • Who said rocks were boring? Zion, Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley National Parksall offer landscapes to rival their big, famous cousin over in Arizona. Be sure to also explore the Dali-esque melted rock formations in Goblin Valley.
  • Wasatch Mountain range, which offers a top of the range Skiing experience up in the snow-dusted peaks.
  • Kick back and enjoy the high-life dining and nightlife scene in Salt Lake City.

More info: USA destination guide

12. Bhutan

shutterstock_242969983_ Bhutan_ in a mountain cliff.

Why? The last great Himalayan Kingdom, Bhutan is overflowing with magic and more mystery than pretty much anywhere else on Earth. If you’re thinking of packing your bags and heading to uncover this spiritual land, expect to pay around £180 ($250 USD) a day to stay, but that will provide you with an all-inclusive, once in a lifetime trip, complete with your own guide.

Must-dos:

  • Get some zen. Be guided through the many traditional towns of the deeply Buddhist country, soaking up genuinely untouched culture and customs. The open-minded people of Bhutan are ready to welcome you with open arms.
  • Absorb the majestic fortresses and the famous monastery of Paro Takstang placed beautifully on the side of a cliff known as Leaping Tiger Gorge.

Do you have your heart set on a new destination? Maybe you’re in the flow of being inspired and want some more. Check out our new 2018 destinations hub to fill your travel-hungry boots!

Our guide to the Texas food & music scene

Home to the rodeo, Willie Nelson, the Wild West, and finger lickin’ BBQ food, the Lone Star State is not to be overlooked. So, in true STA Travel style, we’re here to delve in to the food and music scene in Texas, giving you the low-down on where to go to soak up all those warm and welcoming Texan vibes…

SAN ANTONIO

If you’re a lover of food:

Big Daddy’s Eats & Treats in San Antonio – colourful shaved ice, hot cheetos with corn in a cup, or HUGE cucumbers with tons of toppings?! Sounds oddly intriguing…

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Mi Tierra Café and Panaderia – this little family run café was opened in 1941 by Pedro and Cruz Cortez, who wanted to serve the hard-working early risers in San Antonio. Nowadays it’s world-famous, run by the same family, and serving up authentic Mexican food (and margaritas) with a warm Texas welcome.

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If you’re a lover of food AND music

County Line River Walk in San Antonio for proper Texas country roadhouse vibes and a plate of legendary Texas BBQ. Hit the BBQ house on a Thursday or Friday and you’ll be treated to some damn good live local music.

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AUSTIN

If you’re a lover of music:

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport – you don’t even have to leave the airport to get a taste of Texas’ music roots – the airport hosts Music in the Air, which delivers 23 shows a week in six different venues in the airport.
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Continental Club – one of Austin’s oldest clubs opened in 1955 and since then it’s lived through a few refurbs (swanky supper club, Austin’s first burlesque club, a working man’s blue collar bar, punk rock ‘n’ roll venue) all the way through to what it is today – a retro club dedicated to roots, rockabilly, country and swing music, and refurbed to its original 1950’s style. You’ll find a classic neon sign out front, murals on the walls, and an old-school interior – it’s easy to see why it’s often been named one of the best bars in America.
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Antone’s Nightclub on East 5th Street, Austin – for the music lovers who really want to catch some great Blues music, head to this oldie but goodie. The club opened in 1975 and has hosted legendary artists like BB King, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton & Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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If you’re a lover of music AND food:

Gospel brunch at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q in Austin – slow smoked Texas BBQ and live gospel music on a Sunday. We didn’t know we needed gospel music while eating BBQ food… until now.

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Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park – a huge annual festival that’s made up of 8 stages over two weekends. The October 2017 lineup included the likes of Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gorillaz, Martin Garrix, Vance Joy, and The Killers. Like any festival that’s worth its salt, ACL also has a banging food court – ‘ACL Eats Food Court’ brings in all the surrounding area’s best restaurants and lets them set up shop to ensure their customers are well fed and watered.

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FREDERICKSBURG

If you’re a lover of food:

Vaudeville Bistro in downtown Fredericksburg – devour artisanal wood fired pizzas and charcuterie boards, wash it down with some tasty local wine, and then browse home furnishings and the contemporary art gallery upstairs. Oooo, fancy.

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If you’re a lover of music:

Luckenbach Texas in Fredericksburg – this little gem was made famous by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson (aka the bad boys of country). If that’s not enough to draw you in, then maybe the promise of a quirky country hangout with a daily dose of live music will. Make sure you’re there for the pickers circle at 4:30pm, where local singers jam together under the old oak trees. Ahhh, country life.

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STATEWIDE

If you’re a lover of food:

Torchy’s Tacos – what started as just a taco-loving guy with a red Vespa scooter, quickly became a Texas sensation; a well-loved taco heaven located in stores and trailer parks all over Texas. Mike, his team and his customers are now living the taco dream across the state. Try them out and you’ll quickly see why Torchy’s Tacos have won awards… I mean, LOOK at that shot! *Drools over the cheese sauce*

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Local food trucks are a serious trend in Texas, and you can find them almost anywhere. If you’re a big fan of casual street food, some of the best bites are served up in these vans. From BBQ platters to desserts…

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Feeling the Texas inspiration right now? We sent two amazing film makers, Abigail Green and Philip Eder, along with our very own Nicholas Cooper as chaperone, to experience all this state has to offer, and they made a film about it! Head over to our YouTube channel to give it a watch.

6 Reasons why New York State should be on your 2018 bucket list

Stop thinking small: forget the CITY that never sleeps, it’s all about the STATE that never sleeps; New York State! Here’s why we’re crushing on the Empire State.  

Sail away with me 

Bellow “just around the riverbend” as you kayak along the Hudson River and soak up all the surrounding sights. Be sure to cruise under Pollepel Island’s abandoned and Instagram-worthy Bannerman’s Castle.   

https://www.instagram.com/p/BW5c_7jF0KG/?taken-by=stormkingadventuretours  

Go back in time  

You’ll be feeling like a king or queen exploring the grounds of Staatsburgh State, that used to house the Governor of New York! Where’s my crown at?   

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaBtvXuDOg6/?tagged=staatsburghstatehistoricsite  

Or choo off  

No more dull train journeys because in New York State they do things a little differently… Head to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for a cute day or evening rolling your way through Oneida County as you try the local beer and wine! And when you’re ready to boogie, there’s a place for that ON BOARD. We’ll cheers to that!  

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Get lost 

Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park offers up epic landscapes and over 66 miles of hiking trails to choose from. Explore lush forests on horseback, bike and even snowmobile as you seek out the three-major waterfalls. Short on time? Make sure the Big Bend and Lower Falls are on your to-do list!  

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcWEqANAJ1K/?tagged=letchworthstatepark  

Time to climb 

You can find Breakneck Ridge Mountain sat along the Hudson River in New York State. Get ready for some challenging trails to the summit but don’t worry, it’ll all be worth it at the top for sweeping views across the river and an ‘I’m on top the world’ moment.  

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‘Fall’ in love 

You can’t come all this way and not see Niagara Falls. Straddle Canada and the US as you float through the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Blue rain ponchos are optional but unless you want a good soaking, highly advisable!  

If you don’t fancy getting wet and you’d rather get an aerial view, put aside time (and dollar) for a helicopter ride above the falls. It’s costly but the views are out of this world!  

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcWORmfFq2p/?tagged=niagarafalls  

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU RETURN HOME? THE CYCLE OF TRAVEL

 

The December holidays are firmly behind us and a new year has kicked off. If you’re like most people who took a holiday in December, you probably feel like you already need another one. The good news is that with STA Travel, you can book now and pay later (so no need to worry about being cash-strapped in January!) But what else happens when you return home from a trip? In this guest blog post, Natalie Siagian unpacks that question.

Guest blog by: Natalie Siagian 

You’re about to step on a plane and go back home. You find your seat, passport still in hand, and gaze wistfully out the window. Your incredible adventure that you spent weeks planning and months longer dreaming about, has finally come to an end. Within just a matter of hours, your feet will be touching down on home turf and that feeling of familiarity slowly sinks in. But deep down, in your heart of hearts, you have an inkling that the open road is where you really belong…

 

Whether you’ve been gone for two weeks, two months or two years, the second your feet touch home soil, you’ll be hit with a confusing emotional cocktail of excitement, confusion and instant nostalgia – because you just know you’re coming back a different person. It’s a shifted perception of the world, an appreciation for how small it really is, how interconnected we all really are. The people you’ve met, both locals and those who shared your adventure, have changed something in you. Call it cheesy AF, but it touches on something like an awakening.

Time passes quickly

In the first few weeks of your return, your travels are the topic of conversation and a breath of fresh air for those who are slaves to the daily grind. You see your friends, your family, the old room you left behind, and it slowly dawns on you that whilst you’ve been away having this enlightening experience on the other side of the world, life for everyone else has remained the same. Well, everything except for the new relationships formed, engagements popping up on your feed left, right and friggin centre, people purchasing their first home and job promotions that followed. You know – the standard.

Your days are no longer filled with spontaneity, they’re semi-structured. No more midnight swims, cocktail hour at 11am or getting lost just for the hell of it. You’re back to routine and that sense of freedom and adventure, seems lost.

You feel confused, angry almost. Your mind begins to wander, asking if this is where you’re supposed to be – familiarity. Old territory. Is this really right for you? You know that this trip opened your mind, heightened your sense of awareness and appreciation. The stamps on your passport act as a reminder of all the countries you visited, the borders you crossed, and the stories you’ll tell time and time again. You’ve got a serious case of the itchy feet.

And the fact of the matter is, your soul is elsewhere…

Makara Beach cycle travel

Bits and pieces of it scattered around the world. Your soul is a jigsaw puzzle; each piece lost to the beautiful shorelines, snow-capped mountains or skyscraper-lined streets that you visited, or in your most treasured moments from your travels. You feel incomplete.

Conversations become slightly less meaningful as people struggle to relate to your experience of driving through the Canadian Rockies and seeing a glacier for the first time. They don’t understand the true meaning of the picture as you stand tall atop Machu Picchu, your arms spread wide.

So what do you do?

Sit there feeling sorry for yourself as you scroll through pictures of your adventures, pining for times gone by? No, don’t do that.

What you’re experiencing are the dreaded, and very real post-travel blues. During your adventures you’ve seen too much, experienced too much, been opened up to new cultures and new ways of living. And there’s no going back from that. Your mind has been opened. Your vision has been refreshed, your passion for the world and it’s inhabitants re-ignited, or even discovered. You are an entirely new person. And that is the biggest, and coolest gift travel can give you.

By this point in the cycle, you have been well and truly bitten by the travel bug

It’s seeped into your mind, and everything from this point on becomes a new possibility to your next big plan. Each conversation becomes a new idea; a new country to dream of, a new adventure to wish for. You are addicted to this high and your drug of choice is travel. Whether it’s a job change, moving to a new city, meeting new friends or best of all a whole new travel plan, use this positive energy to propel yourself forward to where you want to be.

This is the cycle of travel, and it never fades. A sequence of reciprocal cause and effect, while you’re dreaming of an adventure, your conscious mind is mentally planning another trip which one day will come to full fruition.

“TRAVEL ISN’T ALWAYS PRETTY. IT ISN’T ALWAYS COMFORTABLE. SOMETIMES IT HURTS, IT EVEN BREAKS YOUR HEART. BUT THAT’S OKAY. THE JOURNEY CHANGES YOU – IT SHOULD CHANGE YOU. IT LEAVES MARKS ON YOUR MEMORY, ON YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS, ON YOUR HEART AND ON YOUR BODY. YOU TAKE SOMETHING WITH YOU….HOPEFULLY…YOU LEAVE SOMETHING GOOD BEHIND” – ANTHONY BOURDAIN

If you’ve got the urge to travel again, why not check out our destination hub for some inspiration for your next trip? A Contiki is an awesome option if you’re looking to explore a variety of places with a group of likeminded individuals with a passion for travel. And the best part is that with STA Travel, you can book now and pay later!

 

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO ITALY

 

Guest blog by: Danielle Kirk (via Contiki six-two)

Planning a trip to Italy you say? Stupefacente! Here’s everything you need to know before you travel to Italy, including a quick language lesson, what you need to know about the food and the best places in Italy.

 

DO YOU NEED A VISA?

Visa requirements vary from country to country but it’s likely you’ll need one for Italy unless you hold a UK or European passport (if you only have a South African passport, you’ll definitely need a visa). Even if a visa is not required, all non-residents are required to complete a declaration of presence when entering.

 

BRUSH UP ON SOME ITALIAN LANGUAGE BASICS

Unless you already speak Italian (good for you!) you may want to learn a few key phrases in Italian. It’s SO much fun ordering your coffee in the local language, even if you don’t understand the reply.

Hello – Ciao

Goodbye – Arrivederci

Please – Per favore

Thank you – Grazie

You’re welcome – Prego

Where is the bathroom? – Dov’è il bagno?

How much is this? – Quanto costa?

Can you speak English? – Parla inglese?

What flavour is that gelato? – Che sapore è quel gelato?

One cappuccino please – Un cappuccino per favore

Delicious! – Delizioso!

trip to italy - ice cream in Venice

WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEE PLACES IN ITALY?

We’ve never been to an area of Italy we didn’t like, but if you only have a limited time, we recommend hitting these popular spots:

Rome – Italy’s capital and an ancient (yet somehow modern) metropolis steeped in history, art and culture.

Amalfi Coast – A stretch of coastline in Italy’s south with pastel villages, hidden beaches and delightful vineyards.

Pompeii – Famous for the volcanic disaster, this city near Naples is perfect for history lovers.

Florence – The stunning capital of the Tuscany region and home to countless priceless artworks.

Cinque Terre – A string of beautiful seaside villages with to-die-for seafood and endless swimming and hiking options.

Lake Como – George Clooney. That is all. Kidding! The azure lake has a stunning vista of the Alps and some of the best food you’ll find in the entire country.

Milan – A global capital of fashion, design and taste. Milan is high end!

Pisa – Famous for the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Best as a quick stop rather than an overnight stay.

Bologna – Sprawling plazas and medieval towers and architecture make this city very ‘Gram worthy.

Venice –Ahhh the floating city! Make plans to get lost in the labyrinth of streets, and enjoy the uniqueness of this amazing place.

trip to italy - men taking pictures in florence

LOOK AT YOUR BUDGET

We can’t comment on your shopping habits, and Italy will be a trust test of even the sternest anti-shopper. Breakfast will be covered by the Contiki stays, but that price should cover you for lunch, dinner, snacks and a couple beers and wines. Keep in mind big cities are ALWAYS more expensive, so if you’re on a tight budget, have street pizza in Rome for lunch.

 

GET SOME COLD HARD CASH

Italy has card facilities of course, but a lot of shops, cafés and restaurants accept cash only. Since a cappuccino will only cost you a euro or two, it makes sense to carry cash for small purchases, so be prepared.

 

trip to Italy - couple in cinque terre

BE PATIENT WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Buses and trains are quick and easy ways to get around BUT they can often run to their own timetable so don’t cut your trip too close to the wire or you may be left frustrated when you can’t make it back to your hotel in time for dinner.

Pro tip: always remember to validate your train or bus ticket. Buying a ticket is not the end of the process, you must also stamp or scan it when you board.

 

ITALIAN FOOD MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK

Italy was unified as a country in 1871, and before that each of its 20 regions was completely autonomous and today they still retain much of their unique culture. This includes food! Your much loved spaghetti bolognaise may not be on the menu everywhere, and even pizza will differ from place to place. Be prepared to try anything and everything. If in doubt, just ask the waiter what is local and a translation of what it is in English if possible (tripe is a very popular Roman dish on Sundays…).

trip to italy - girl exploring Florence by Vespa

WHAT YOU SHOULD BRING

Besides your regular clothes, underwear and toiletries, here’s some essentials and items you may be trying to decide between:

  • Euros in cash (for the reasons mentioned before) and a reliable debit card so you can access more.
  • A European two-pronged round pin travel adapter and a power board for maximum charging fun.
  • Your student I.D. if you have one. Yep, even though you’re not an EU citizen, Italy accepts most student cards from around the world and you can get some great discounts at monuments and museums with one.
  • A backpack instead of suitcase is recommended simply because of cobblestone streets in many parts of Italy. You have never seen a frustrated person until you’ve seen someone drag a bag over cobbled ground.
  • Comfortable shoes. Similar to the suitcase thing, cobblestones will not be forgiving with stilettos! Wear cute ballet flats, sandals or sneakers, and if you must wear heels, opt for wedges.
  • A light scarf or shawl. It’s considered polite and respectful to cover up in churches or places of religious significance, so carry one with you so you don’t risk being turned away.
trip to italy - girl exploring venice

This article first appeared on Contiki six-two.

Contiki has a variety of trips that take you through beautiful Italy. Be sure to check them out here.

ONE DAY IN PARIS? HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO….

Guest post by: Emily Carter (via Contiki six-two)

Everyone dreams of Paris; the city of love, sweet treats, and stunning architecture. I know I have ever since I was small. I’ve always had visions of all the amazing places and of course the enticing food – so when I actually had the chance to visit Paris for a day on my Contiki tour, I can’t deny that I was ridiculously excited.

If you get the chance to wander around this enigmatic city for one day only, here’s what you NEED to do.

 

STROLL DOWN THE CHAMPS ELYSEES

Start at the amazing Arc de Triomphe (or even climb to the top if you’re game and want to see an amazing view of Paris), then definitely make a stop in Cartier and Louis Vuitton so you can dream of (or maybe even splurge on) some amazing pieces of wearable art. Then you can pop into Laduree to test some scrumptious macaron flavours.

Champs Elysees ttp Paris

PICNIC IN THE JARDIN DES TUILERIES

Take a rest from the sun under a shady tree, and feast on the best baguette you will ever taste. Perhaps even branch out and test some iconic snails (much better than you could imagine, I promise).

TAKE A PHOTO IN FRONT OF THE LOUVRE

Whether you capture the stunning glass pyramid, or the majestic building itself; you will be proud to show your friends this little piece of proof that you were actually there – even if you don’t have time to venture inside and marvel at the brilliant artwork.

 

JUMP IN A FRIENDLY RICKSHAW

It may be a little pricey, but these friendly Parisians know the streets like no other and will have you to your destination in a flash. It’s a sight-seeing experience in itself; beautifully detailed Notre Dame cannot be missed as you whirl past, and the architecture will have your chin hitting the ground in awe.

Notre Dame Paris

WANDER ALONG THE SEINE

Head back along the Seine, and have a look in all the wonderful little stalls set up along the wall – maybe even buy some unique street art if it takes your fancy. You could pop into the Shakespeare and company bookshop, or venture through the Musée d’Orsay, and then stroll past the Hôtel National des Invalides.

The Seine Paris

CLIMB THE EIFFEL TOWER

Forget how tedious waiting in line can be; this view is well worth that wait. If you can go at dusk, you’ll capture a majestic sunset. Once you come back down, sit in the Champ de Mars with a bottle of gypsy wine and watch the tower sparkle before you!

 

View arc de triomphe Paris

 

This article first appeared on Contiki six-two and was created for The Travel Project by Emily Carter, who always had a passion for travelling and experiencing new things, and would travel for the rest of her life if she could.

If this blog post has you yearning to explore Paris for yourself, why not check out the various Contiki options for Europe?