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A spirit that is not afraid

Student starts international group travel business

<p>Jonny Bradford in front of Petra, a popular tourist site in Jordan.</p>

Jonny Bradford in front of Petra, a popular tourist site in Jordan.

 As a college student, Jonny Bradford thought traveling to Europe was out of the question.

Like many students, he believed that the cost of travel was too high and that he wouldn’t have enough time off from school.

Two years after his initial trip to Europe, Bradford, a fifth-year senior in industrial engineering, has traveled to 64 countries in Europe, covering the entire continent. 

“I thought you needed thousands of dollars and multiple weeks of vacation to even consider going that far away for that long of a time,” Bradford said. 

On his first trip, he spent four days traveling through Scotland, returning to class on a Tuesday.

“I found a $71 flight to go to Scotland from Atlanta,” Bradford said. “I’d never thought that traveling that far was that accessible or affordable.”

This first glimpse of Europe inspired Bradford to pursue his passion for traveling. He now plans to use his experiences to help others achieve their dreams of seeing the world.

“[This] is more of a business that helps connect people to places and [to] people in those places through affordable group travel,” he said.

The company, Jonny Trvl, works with people to take care of flights, finances and lodging. He said it also provides a host to accompany the groups on their excursions. 

Bradford added that the online business will be based out of Croatia. He said that he hopes to provide others with the same immersive experience he has been afforded.

“I’ll be hosting group travel experiences for probably eight months of the year,” he said. “For me, it’s connecting to people and figuring out the local way of life.”

When he travels to a new country, Bradford said he spends time with locals to see what a typical day is like for the average person in that region.

“The first day there, [I] start my morning by having coffee or breakfast with them and figuring out how they see their city and how they want to show people their city and showcase it to the world,” he said.

Bradford said that traveling has allowed him to grow as a person, learning from different cultures and different perspectives of people from around the world.

“When we travel, although it’s an exterior journey of us physically going somewhere, we’re also kind of on an inward journey, finding different parts of the world that resonate with us and can maybe make us a better person,” he said. 

A native of Birmingham, he said his travels have also shifted his idea of what hospitality means.

“The definition of the experience and the commitment of family in Morocco, or the ability to kind of let life come to you and let things work out that people of Greece and Italy embody … all of those have redefined how I approach hospitality,” he said. 

While he has not done much promoting, Bradford said a key aspect of raising awareness of his company is word of mouth, specifically from those who have traveled with him before.

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“Thirty-three people have traveled with me before,” he said. “A huge part of it is having those 33 people say, ‘This guy is trustworthy. We had a great time with him. We had a safe experience.’” 

Bradford said, in part, it was Auburn’s international student body, which represents more than 100 countries, that piqued his interest in traveling.

“It started as being in the living rooms of people here,” he said. “Instead of having them in my living room, let’s go to their living room and their country.” 

Although he is an industrial engineering major, Bradford said his life experiences have shaped his vision of a long-term career.

“A college major is a few things … it’s more of a way to reframe how you think and how you approach life so that when opportunities come up down the road, you can take them,” he said.

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