The wind is blowing in your face, which is usually a pleasant feeling but today it’s making the riding one hell of a lot tougher. Your head feels heavy and your eyes are fixed on the tarmac just inches ahead of your front wheel, the beautiful scenery stopped mattering a long time ago. As the sweat drips from your face, you struggle to find your breath and you wonder, “How in the hell was I ever talked into going on an active travel trip?”
The first experience I had with the Italian fear of wind came after a gym workout with the host mom for whom I was au pairing. We both took showers, and she emerged with her hair dry. I knew we were tight for time, but I had a case of grease-head so I had done a thorough wash. I’m accustomed to walking outside while my hair air-dries, so I grabbed my stuff and met my mamma at the door. She looked at my wet hair with a horrified face. “Go blow-dry your hair, the wind will make you sick!” So I did.
One of the best parts of a Backroads trip is the connection with a place and its locals, and one of the best parts of being a Backroads leader is creating our own connections and facilitating them for our guests. At the beginning of my first season leading trips in Italy, I was unsure about my ability to provide this connection.
For me, the last few years have been nomadic to say the least, as I have lingered in no particular place longer than a month or two at a time. And the few phrases that I know in various Asian languages scarcely afford the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. So, while traveling I choose to experience a culture in a different manner. I choose to experience a place through its cuisine. And that’s exactly what I did in Vietnam.
Minarets and church spires. The call to prayer and tantric beats of lounge music. These are just a couple of the contrasts you’ll encounter wandering the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. The dynamics of this city have been thousands of years in the making and while it’s known for its history, this fascinating international hot spot is quickly gaining a reputation for its contemporary culture.
Here’s the first thing you should know: how you perform at high altitude can have very little to do with your fitness level. So let yourself off the hook for that one. Of course, being fit and healthy always increases your resilience and helps you recover more quickly from challenges. So it doesn’t hurt. Get fit. But don’t beat yourself up if you’ve done all your stair training and still find yourself breathless in Iquitos.
After finishing a Backroads’ trip, do you crave more hours in the saddle? More time on your bike? More adventures?! One of my favorite ways to spend time cycling in between leading Backroads’ trips is on “bike tour.” What is this? It’s when you head out on your bike for overnight adventures.