We always think of traveling as a way to discover the world and to learn about different cultures. For me, travelling is also about returning to my roots and rediscovering who I am. Leading the Active Gourmet trip in Tuscany is a chance to see my homeland through the eyes of our guests and to learn new things about myself. After all, food and wine are just catalysts. In Italy it’s all about sharing. And talking. Very loudly!
Red Nose Day is a campaign dedicated to raising money for children and young people living in poverty. To support the cause, NBC’s The Today Show co-anchor Matt Lauer decided to embark on a “Tour de Red Nose” bike ride from Boston to New York City, raising money along the way. The show’s producers asked Backroads to help by planning the route, riding alongside Matt and supporting the navigation of the entire crew. We couldn’t say no!
To be bewildered, amazed and humbled by nature is a phenomenon that most of us are familiar with. Nature in its purest form is a compelling force that provides profound lessons about our place on this planet. It pushes our boundaries. It challenges our definition of comfort. But most importantly, nature can help us realize what we’re capable of. The concept of personal growth through outdoor activity and the chance to share that experience with others is what allures many of us to become Backroads leaders. It’s also what inspires many leaders to volunteer to help make these experiences accessible to underserved populations.
Is there anything better than hearing your teenager tell you that you made a great decision (words you likely don’t often hear)? Better yet is hearing that they had the best vacation ever and it was with you–wow! The key is to get everyone involved and make most of the decisions before you go, so the choices you do make on your trip are as simple as what to eat off the menu.
I grew up in San Francisco and moved to Marin County (a stone’s throw over the Golden Gate Bridge) decades ago when I got married. Surrounded by so much natural beauty for so long, I’ve come to take the trees, the coast and the open spaces for granted. It wasn’t until I started traveling more that I realized how special this place is and how blessed I am to call it home.
In late December, my wife, son and I went for a walk to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall just outside our village. I grew up here, right along the border between East and West Germany. You might be thinking, “But the Wall fell on November 9th, 1989.” And so it did, in Berlin. However, I lived along the further westward inner German border–the 870-mile double-barrier of steel mesh fencing, anti-personnel mines, barbed wire, watchtowers and dog runs. The opening here began on December 22nd 1989, with just pedestrian access and only in specific towns.
Travel offers a deeper understanding of the world and I try as often as I can to make the leap from tourist to Insider. And that requires a commitment to always wanting to know and see more. To always asking questions and pausing long enough to listen to the answers, whether they come or not. It’s just as much about the people attempting to provide the answer as it is about what exactly they have to say. And the folks that might answer honestly tend not to be the ones on the main avenue selling trinkets or day tours.
Starting with the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, we set out to see how Backroads-quality biking could be combined with a luxury floating hotel. We quickly realized that this is the perfect blend. The Danube is known for having the longest bike path in the world along its banks, known as the Donauradweg. But our job was to look for more than that, to find “backroads” so guests can get off the well-ridden path and really get to know the region via bicycle.
These books, along with an insatiable desire to explore, led me down an unconventional path to world travel, exciting (and sometimes insane) adventures and an active lifestyle that I parlayed into a career as a Backroads Trip Leader. So which stories have inspired me to explore, seek adventure, change the world for the better and do so confidently? Here are my top five.
I love cycling and pushing my physical limits, but I’ll admit that my training tends to drop off around the holidays. Winter weather hits, I don’t eat as healthy as I’d like and social engagements take up most of my weekends. By the time spring rolls around, I want to kick it into high gear to get in shape for my summer cycling season. I start doing my typical after-work loops and venture a bit farther away from home for longer rides on the weekends. But this routine can become…routine. That’s why I helped develop Backroads’ new Spring Training Biking trips.
Last week our Cuba Trip Expert Lara and I returned from our annual Cuba “dry run,” where we prepared for our upcoming Backroads Cuba trips starting in November. We were once again reminded that the vibrant personalities, artists and friends we encounter on this trip make an impact that lasts a lifetime. Cuba is changing so rapidly that the time to visit is now, and our Cuba Insider Trip is the best way to experience it!
Have you ever wondered who answers the phone when you call with questions about a trip? Mark Vashro is one of our newest members in the Guest Services department at Backroads. He’s been a Trip Leader in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Maine but has recently accepted this new position in our Berkeley office in order to have a more geographically stable life. Why? Mark’s in the process of finishing and releasing his documentary, Bike Against the Wind.
For many of us, the brain’s parsimonious nature seems to record time with less fidelity as we age. What happened in 2004? 2006? Do we remember a hundred things? A thousand? Ten? All is not lost! We have the opportunity to bring back that “child’s mind” of discovery, growth, novelty and lush memories. Unlocking this secret is incredibly straightforward: change things up. Try something new every day. Vary your routine. Or, even better, go on an adventure!