Before heading out to lead Backroads trips in Italy, I had already gathered that Italians have an ongoing love affair with olive oil. However, I was almost completely ignorant of the pepper to this salt: balsamic vinegar. “Italian dressing” in my household was a mix of spices shaken with olive oil and white vinegar–no balsamic included–and I wouldn’t consider putting the bitter stuff on ice cream. Not even in my dreams would I suppose that some balsamic vinegars cost hundreds of dollars for just a few ounces. I had a lot to learn.
Imagine a fruit so creamy it might be considered a part of the custard family. And so key to survival that it might be grouped with the apple. And there you have my favorite fruit, the cherimoya. I’ve loved cherimoya since I first laid taste buds on it in Costa Rica in November of 2005 (yes, I remember the date-this fruit is that impactful). I drank it in batidos (delicious Costa Rican fruit smoothies), I ate it fresh from the market and I made sure that it took part in every picnic I prepared. You might say I was obsessed.
Nestled deep within lush tropical foothills sits a cluster of over a dozen tiny villages that comprise the tranquil town of Ubud–the artistic and cultural center of Bali. The jungle-covered hills and terraced rice paddies surrounding this laid-back locale are dotted with ancient temples and palaces that still play a central role in the country’s complex culture.
If you’ve ever imagined a small desert down, Moab might be the place that you’ve pictured. This tiny Utah town is nestled between glowing red rocks and natural wonders that draw visitors from all over the world. It’s a mecca for outdoor activity, where adventurers come for world-class climbing, mountain biking, rafting and off-roading. Weeks of exploring could not even graze the surface of Moab’s wonders. However, if you have just 24 hours in Moab, these activities will give you a good taste of what it has to offer, and will surely leave you thirsting for more!
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.
When people ask me about my cross-country biking adventure, they almost always ask, “Where was your favorite place to ride?” Perhaps it was because we were tired, sun-burnt cyclists, worn out by the consistent headwinds and 105-degree heat of Kansas, but my answer is almost always Missouri. Yes. I said, Missouri. Last summer,
The punctually repetitious ezan (Islamic call to prayer) will forever ring distinctly in my ears–that shrill wailing cry echoing from loudspeakers perched on minarets towering above nearly every town throughout Turkey. And never will I forget the hospitality that I experienced during my six weeks of cycling from the rocky eastern Black Sea coast, through the historic hills and caves of central Anatolia, and along the rugged sun-drenched Mediterranean coast before eventually turning north to Istanbul–the geopolitical gateway between Europe and Asia.
Is spinning a good training for a biking trip? Will it make you strong enough to face the demanding hills of the Canary Islands? I was curious about this topic and I tried to investigate a little bit. I eventually found all the answers I was looking for when I met an extraordinary sporty couple: Andrea and Caterina.
Trying to stay upright, I slowly place one foot in front of the other, and I focus on the encouraging face of my Malagasy guide. One false step and I’ll be in the drink with all my gear. I’m crossing a stream on a slippery log in southern Madagascar on my way to learn how to develop sanitation projects in remote communities. This is pretty incredible, considering that just 48 hours earlier I was staring at two male lions in the comfort of a Land Rover while leading one of Backroads’s most impressive trips: South Africa & Botswana Multisport. Now, here I am trudging through the lush green countryside of one of the poorest countries on earth: Madagascar.
If you’re taking a Backroads trip through Tuscany or Umbria, your pick-up city will be Florence. Before you meet up with your fabulous Backroads leaders, we strongly suggest that you take a day (or 2 or 3!) to acquaint yourself with this timeless city.
“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’s 50-something degrees out and you’re soaked to the bone. You’re on an epic ride and your heart is beating like the bass drum of a metal band–fast. While standing at the top of a gnarly climb, you’re sure that the well-deserved descent will be steep and send you screaming past moving cars like they’re parked on the side of the road. The only dilemma is that you’re dripping sweat, fully kitted out in spandex, and going 45 mph sounds awfully chilly and unpleasant. With hypothermia around the corner, you realize you might have to squeal the brakes all the way back down the mountain. Having a windshirt would have turned this epic fail into an epic win.
I do know a thing or two about getting kids on bikes, and doing so at the earliest possible juncture. Also into baby joggers, backpacks and the like, but that’s a whole other story. It started 19 years ago with my oldest child, now a college sophomore who has recently emerged from what I would call “my parents dragging me around the world” stage into a delightful appreciation for all things travel. What a wonderful metamorphosis. Have faith ye of teen children!
Oh, Canada…such a beautiful landscape, which we get to ride our bikes through! While the land of the maple leaf is known for its incredible scenery, what you don’t often hear about is the fantastic cuisine that can be found here.