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Backroads Trip Leaders: Meet a Few of Our Trip Leaders



U.S. Trip Leaders

Lizelle Jackson
Lizelle Jackson
Leader since 2012

As a child growing up in Southern California, I was hard-pressed to find a summer that was not occupied by outdoor adventures and travel. My family was extremely active and always on the go, using the Southwest as our stomping ground. Whether we were hiking the Zion Narrows, kayaking down the Colorado River or mountain biking in Mexico, these were the vacations that made me want to explore more of what the world had to offer.
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Backroads Trip Leader Austin Render
Austin Render
Leader since 2013

Working as a park ranger in Ozark National Scenic Riverways, at nineteen, I remember honestly answering the question of what I'd like to do with my life. "Well, I'd like to make a living doing what I love," I responded, chuckling at the notion of getting paid to ride a bike and play in the mountains. Shortly thereafter I found myself back at university studying accounting—the obvious path for anyone who wants to spend every day outside, right? Read more...


 

Joey Coe
Joey Coe
Leader since 2012

I rolled past a charming red farmhouse, yellowing oak trees, old grain silos and took a deep breath of the cool fall air from the saddle of my bicycle. That's when I asked myself "should people be this happy in their job?"

I've come to decide that the answer is yes, because happy people beget happy people. What makes me happy about working with Backroads is watching how active travel and the outdoors strengthens people's connections with others and (most interestingly) with themselves. And speaking personally, it's a job that forces me to use many of my skills, and we all love putting our skills to use—it's very fulfilling. Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Molly Aiken
Molly Aiken
Leader since 2013

After my sophomore year in high school, I decided to move to New Zealand and homeschool myself for my junior year. The next six months were life changing. I mean, who doesn't just pack their bags and make their way to "Middle Earth"? Following my adventures in New Zealand, I participated in a horse-packing course in the Wind River Range of Wyoming with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). After graduating from high school, I decided to "hang up the saddle" for a few years and traded my spurs for campus life at Ole Miss (can I get a "Hotty Toddy," anyone?) and learned about the importance of community. I majored in Hospitality Management and enjoyed gaining insight into numerous aspects of business, from economics to sociology. My junior year was spent in Italy where I fell in love with the Italian culture and spent the weekends seeing as much of Europe as possible. In each place, my eyes went wide, and my heart was filled. I had to see more. Read more...


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Ed Krajsky
Ed Krajsky
Leader since 2010

I'm not what one would consider a "typical" Backroads leader. For one thing I'm older, (I got a Father's Day card from the other new leaders during training), I'm married, have a full-time job as a hotel manager and a son in college. But it works! I end up working a number of trips in the summer in an area I love and a region where I live.
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Backroads Trip Leader Chelsey Funis
Chelsey Funis
Leader since 2013

A few years ago while running my first half marathon, I stumbled across a quote written on the back of a woman's shirt that read, "One day I won't be able to do this. Today is not that day." That quote really stuck with me and has proven to encourage and inspire me long after I finished those 13.1 miles. Read more...


 

Jayne McDonagh
Jayne McDonagh
Leader since 2003

I've always worked but somehow never really had a "regular job" as my friends call them. I got my degree in marine biology and imagined myself working alongside someone like Jacques Cousteau. But marriage and kids changed my priorities and flexibility suddenly became more important than adventure for a while. I spent the next decade and a half coaching swimming and teaching lessons in backyard pools, working for caterers, making wedding cakes, sewing active wear, guiding sea kayaking trips in San Francisco Bay, taking people on hikes and teaching kids cooking classes through the local park and rec. department and, of course, raising kids! You name it, I did it and I loved every minute of that time of my life. Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Russell Grange
Russell Grange
Leader since 2014

It's hard not to smile when people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them about my job as a trip leader for Backroads. To so many people it sounds like a dream, and for me, that's exactly what it is. I feel very fortunate not only to be working in such a great job for such a wonderful company, but also for a background that prepared me for life as a Backroads Trip Leader. Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Alison Wren
Alison Wren
Leader since 2014

My mother and grandmother were in the travel guiding business so I think my destiny was chosen for me. I began living abroad as soon as my parents would let me, at the ripe old age of 16, and I haven't stayed in the US for more than a year since. I have taught English in Chile, been a nanny in France, volunteered on horse farms in Spain, rafted beneath the Himalayas, developed urban garden projects in Central America and watched the salmon run in Alaska.
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Katie Roda
Katie Roda
Leader since 2012

I was born and raised in Southern California and spent most of my youth playing soccer or joining the family in outdoor adventures—skiing, hiking, camping, river rafting and the like. I have always found that I am happiest when I'm spending time exploring new places and cultures or getting wrapped up in a wonderful conversation. Prior to coming to Backroads, I earned my undergraduate degree in neuroscience and my graduate degree in business. I worked in various corporate environments including five years as a marketing manager at Microsoft. It wasn't until I joined Backroads that I realized you really can make a career out of doing something you love—being outdoors, staying active and engaging with people. Read more...


 


Canadian Trip Leaders

Jasmine Verrall
Jasmine Verrall
Leader since 2011

Having grown up in a mountaineering hostel in Canmore, Alberta, I was immediately immersed in the outdoor adventure culture. I was so fortunate to have an endless forest as my backyard and to be in the presence of so many travelers from around the world. A passion for adventure and travel was instilled in me when I was only five weeks old and my parents packed me up into their van and headed north to the Yukon for two months. Ever since, I have not been able to sit still and I spend as little time as possible with walls around me.
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Ken Brushett
Ken Brushett
Leader since 1997, Trip Expert Canadian Rockies & South Africa, Hiring & Training Coordinator Canada

Once I began working for Backroads, I have never looked back! I think my parents noticed early on that my life path was going to be a little different from most. From about the age of 12, I started reading National Geographic magazines and spent most of my time outdoors poking around and looking for "critters." While I managed to earn degrees in Biology and Education and teach in the public school system for a while, it was on a soul-searching backpacking trip to Central America that I finally decided I wanted to explore a career path that would incorporate my love for adventure travel with education. I stumbled across a hiring ad for Backroads in Outside magazine and the rest is history. Working for Backroads has exceeded every expectation I had in terms of experiences, co-workers and opportunities. Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Jeremy Wishart
Jeremy Wishart
Leader since 2014

Having grown up in Tasmania and New Zealand, wild and rugged landscapes have always been home to me. The outdoors is where I feel most alive. Working in the outdoors with like-minded people is a rewarding experience and I sometimes can't believe I have the opportunity to do this as a job. It's inherently different to corporate cultures I've been more familiar with in recent years. At Backroads, the job is very dynamic and the workplace energy is contagious. Leaders are immediately given the responsibility and autonomy to shape the experiences of their guests. It's a successful model that empowers employees to customize their progression around their passions and interests. Read more...


 

Pam Fritz
Pam Fritz
Leader since 1999, Winter Trip Development Coordinator

I grew up in a small town in Ontario and spent my summers playing on the shores of Georgian Bay. I've always had a love for the outdoors, adventure and being active. After five years at Queen's University in Kingston, I completed my B.PHE as well as my B.Sc in Biology and my B.Ed. After graduating, I decided it was time to go for my B.Happy! Teaching jobs were a dime a dozen at that time, but deep down I was looking for something more. A friend was applying for Backroads—and when she told me about it I thought, "that is EXACTLY what I want to do." We both got hired and started as Trip Leaders in the Canadian Rockies. I had the best summer playing and working in the mountains—it was all one and the same to me.
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Kelsey Tonner
Kelsey Tonner
Leader since 2011

On the day I was born, my mother and father decided they would take a trip around the world. They spent the whole year exploring the far reaches of the globe and brought along with them a small, chubby, blue-eyed newborn baby. While that baby would one day resent the fact that he could not remember one moment of that incredible journey, he would also realize that it shaped the man he has become today. Read more...


 

Mitch Sime
Mitchell Sime
Leader since 2012

My first year with Backroads offered a unique opportunity for me to share my love for the mountains and region as we travelled through my hometown in the Canadian Rockies. Some of my earliest memories are on these very trails, hiking and biking through the timeless landscapes. I take great pride in welcoming people into the mountains, the same way my parents and my grandparents introduced me to the land. The companionship that comes with travelling in the wilderness is unparalleled and the bonds made between friends and family last a lifetime.
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European Trip Leaders

Backroads Trip Leader Tommaso Spinelli
Tommaso Spinelli
Italian, Leader since 2014

I was born in Italy in the small coastal town of Livorno. In contrast with the stereotype of Italians, I broke my mother's heart and moved to Rome right after high-school to attend the National Film School. Since then, my life has been on the move. I have lived and performed all over Italy and Europe. Traveling quickly became one of the few constants in my life, the best way to challenge myself, meet new people and grow. At the same time, I became a University of Cambridge-certified teacher and started teaching English and public speaking, while translating plays and art exhibition catalogues.
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Vincent Soyer
Vincent Soyer
French, Leader since 2004, Argentina & Patagonia Trip Specialist

After receiving a B.A in Economic Sciences, I studied international commerce in Montpellier, France, and graduated in 1988. My first job was to sell software all over Europe for a company based in London. But I was dreaming of discovering the world... Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Karlijn Laman
Karlijn Laman
Dutch, Leader since 2014

I started biking at the age of four because in the Netherlands, that's what we do! My parents took me on my first bike tour through the Netherlands and Germany when I was nine years old. I was proud to announce to the rest of my class that I biked 700 kilometers by myself! It set the tone for future trips. Me and a bike? Yes please. Read more...


 

Federica Vergano
Federica Vergano
Italian, Leader since 2010

Though I am one hundred percent Italian, I spent many years bouncing all over the world, having new experiences, facing new challenges and meeting new people that enriched my life with joy and passion. I always felt incredibly lucky to be able to travel and enjoy the wonders of this world. However, when I realized that being able to share these beauties with someone is what makes them truly memorable and significant, I decided to become a Trip Leader. Read more...


 

Backroads Trip LeaderFabio Marzi
Fabio Marzi
Italian, Leader since 2012

I grew up in Tuscany, near Siena, in a tiny village of only 400 people! I have a Masters Degree in Nature Science and I've always loved nature and outdoor life as well as travelling and meeting people. That's why I have always wanted to be a tour guide. I started my career working and living in Kenya leading safaris and treks into the tropical forest. After that, I worked in a diving center as a scuba diving guide. Then I applied for the Backroads Trip Leader position and was thrilled to get the job! Read more...


 

Jakub Stanek
Jakub Stanek
Czech, Leader since 2007, Trip Specialist & Regional Support Specialist Czech Republic

Where to start? Growing up in communist country meant my family did not have many opportunities to travel in my early childhood. We were unable to visit the western world until years after the Velvet Revolution, and the furthest I had ever traveled by the age of 12 was neighboring Yugoslavia. I guess the memory of this limitation is still deep inside of every Czech. This might be one reason why you can find Czech natives in literally every country of the world. We're all compensating for the freedom we once did not have. Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Petra Skerlj
Petra Skerlj
Slovenian, Leader since 2013

I have always had a passion for travelling and I realized at a young age that nothing else would make me experience life more intensely. I grew up in Slovenia, when the country was still part of old Yugoslavia when traveling abroad was not easy. But growing up in a small and diverse country, surrounded by nature, mountains, sea and active parents, gave me the opportunity to stay outdoors all the time. My earliest memories from childhood are camping holidays through the Dalmatian Coast with my family where we have spent endless summers swimming, fishing and smelling the pine trees.
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Zuzana Salajova
Zuzana Salajova
Slovakian, Leader since 2006

Growing up in a post-communist country, the rest of the world seemed very inaccessible and mysterious. During my primary school geography classes when we had to memorize boring facts about the agriculture and industry production of different countries, I was always curious how people actually lived in the countries I was learning about. I dreamt about traveling to these distant destinations one day. Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Christian Gonzalez-Iriarte
Christian Gonzalez-Iriarte
Spanish, Leader since 2014

I'm originally from Spain but have lived many places in the world including France, Czech Republic and the USA. I'm also an avid traveler and I continually seek out extreme adventure. I love nature but what I really love is pushing the limits outdoors, whether its rock climbing, sky diving, surfing or mountaineering. I feel at my happiest when I'm outside doing something active. My professional background is in structural engineering and I'm also an entrepreneur. While working as an engineer, I realized how passionate I felt about being active in the outdoors and I decided to take the plunge, quit my job and join the active travel industry. Read more...


 

Eoin Canny
Eoin Canny
Irish, Leader since 2006

I came to San Francisco in 1999 for a software engineering job. It was a great career move, but the biggest payoff came in how my horizons expanded outside of work. I took up hobbies such as trail running, mountain biking, snowboarding and backcountry camping. I sampled cuisine from all over the world, and made friends from a multitude of backgrounds... Read more...


 

Backroads Trip Leader Thibault Astruc
Thibault Astruc
French, Leader since 2014

I grew up in France and my "travel bug" began when I was 17 and an exchange student in South Africa. After that experience, I took off with my backpack and traveled all around South America, then throughout Europe and finally off to the beautiful sights of North America.
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Alexandre Visage
Alexandre Visage
French, Leader since 2007, French Regional Coordinator

I was a student in Paris, and I love busy cities. However, during my summers, I need some fresh air, new places to visit and new people to meet. Read more...


 


Other Trip Leaders

Wally Bruce
Wally Bruce
New Zealander, Leader since 1995, Work authorization for Canada

My Backroads journey has been a life-changing experience. I started as a subcontractor for Backroads in New Zealand for a number of years—leading the white water rafting portion of trips. Before long, I was also biking and connecting with guests before we began the white water rafting action. I applied three times to be a full-time leader and eventually I became the first 'foreign' employee (not Canadian or American). Backroads became my priority and I sold my company and became the New Zealand expert—bringing my knowledge and love of the country to our guests. When not helping develop walking trips in New Zealand and Australia, I work in countries around the world—US, Scotland, Norway and Canada to name a few.
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Backroads Seasonal Trip Leaders

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"I may work every day in July, and none in January—and that suits me. I love the variety of this life—I can be drinking coffee in a European bistro, or tasting street food in Asia, or hiking on a Tuesday in Zion during a week off—and it's all just 'another day at the office.' I like the intensity of working hard and playing hard—and yet, in the end, quite often—it's all just one and the same."

Chuck Bartelt
Leader since 1998, India Trip Specialist, Hiring & Training Specialist