We’re proud to announce that our very own leader Kelsey Tonner has made the short list for the Wanderlust World Guide Award, the only global award for tour leaders and guides. Wanderlust is a British travel magazine that focuses on intelligent and inspirational travel, and Kelsey helps provide just that. We caught up with Kelsey to learn more about him and the award.
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.
Where in the World Is Kenny Brushett? Well the thing is, you never quite know. But you can be sure of one thing: if he isn’t hosting guests on the trip of a lifetime in some exotic locale, he’s bringing the world home in flavorful ways. An exceptional mentor, leader, photographer and culinary wizard, Kenny is unlike anyone I’ve ever met.
Jenna Barnes is no ordinary Camp Chef at Backroads, but then again, she’s no ordinary individual. She stands apart as someone who believes strongly in the power of food as a means to fuel and heal your body. She inspires people to eat well and inspires people like me to experiment with new dishes when working as a Camp Chef. To Jenna, food is life and she has an incredible gift showcasing absolutely all of its wondrous potential.
I’ve been lucky in my time as a Backroads leader to have some amazing guests, like Andy Russell. If that name rings a bell, it’s because Andy was an NFL star in the 1960s and ’70s. It was day three of our trip and Andy and I were riding along a gorgeous stretch of road. Something shiny coming from Andy’s handlebars caught my eye, so I took a look: a ring. It looked like a Super Bowl ring. I had to ask…. Andy, who hadn’t mentioned anything up to this point, grinned a little grin and told me his story, and what a story it was!
It was pure serendipity that allowed Collier Lumpkin and me to be here together, enjoying an enormous fish stew at Ristorante Belforte overlooking the tiny harbor of Vernazza in Italy’s Cinque Terre. Our lives had been running parallel paths for some time, but it wasn’t until a year before that our worlds finally collided on a Backroads trip in Puglia.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” For me, this is travel. As a soon-to-be junior at Wake Forest University, constantly bogged down by the pressures that come with college, the opportunity to travel is something that I could never turn down. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family that makes travel a high priority (active travel in particular), but it wasn’t until recently that I began to fully understand why I appreciate travel so much.
It was springtime in northern New Mexico. The snow was melting off the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the wildflowers were blooming and the bold colors of chiles rojos y verdes adorned my plate night after night. Our first Backroads Santa Fe & Taos walking tour of the season was infused with that ethereal ebullient light that has attracted many to reflect and interpret its artistic form.
“Tourism: Your everyday life is somebody else’s adventure.” Staša Kraljiĉ uses this quote from international free speech organization Loesje to rationalize her love for working in tourism, which she has done–to some extent–since she was in college. You could easily replace ‘tourism’ with ‘Staša’ in this quote, as this Backroads Leader is a fun-loving, globe-trotting polyglot who tirelessly lives life to the fullest.
We at Backroads know bikes. Those of you who travel with us know bikes. We are bike people. We love our world on two wheels. They give us great joy and take us behind the scenes. We speed through the countryside along quiet trails. We feel empowered with the wind in our hair and the strength of our pedals.
During my time in Tuscany, I led the Backroads biking trip several times but I have never had the feeling I was repeating something. I just love being with people and getting to know their stories: that’s the main reason why I applied for this job in the first place and that’s also why every trip is so unique.
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.
Why is it that when some people are brought together, they end up falling in love? Is it similar personalities or shared interests that connect them? Perhaps it’s purely chemical. Or maybe it’s something more dramatic, like conquering a feat together…