Meet Some of Our Leaders
Our leaders are what really set us apart. Choose Backroads and travel with the world’s best. Among our talented Trip Leaders are:
Trip Leader Since 1999
Pam Fritz grew up in small-town Canada and spent her summers playing on the shores of Georgian Bay. A varsity athlete and always a lover of the outdoors, she received degrees in biology and education with the intention of becoming a teacher. But the desire to travel and spend her days outside led her to Backroads and she’s never looked back. Six months of trekking through the Andes and volunteering in the Galápagos Islands sparked a genuine passion for life in Latin America. Now based in Costa Rica, Pam leads trips throughout Latin America as well as Asia and South Africa, always traveling with her camera—she’s a regular contributor to the Backroads catalogs.
A 36-year veteran of guiding in the Andes, Aurelio Aguirre feels a deep passion for the mountains and the Quechua people who live there. In 1978, he founded the Cusco Mountain Club, which trains local trekking and mountaineering guides, and was recognized as Tour Guide of the Year by the Peruvian government. Skilled at bringing 5,000 years of native culture to life, these guides treat you to a unique Andean experience, and share intimate knowledge of regional customs, history, folklore, music and food.
Trip Leader Since 1999
After earning her international relations degree from Northwestern University, Caeli set out with Backroads, leading biking and hiking trips around the world. In 2003, she settled in Whitefish, Montana, near Glacier National Park, just as scientists were exposing the serious effects of climate change on Glacier’s trademark glaciers and its ecosystem. Inspired and determined to positively affect the issue of climate change, Caeli, along with another Backroads leader, founded the Climate Ride, a five-day bike ride from NYC to the steps of the U.S. Capitol to raise awareness.
Paris-born and Sorbonne-educated, author and scholar Marie-Charlotte enchants Backroads guests in Provence with her encyclopedic knowledge and passion for van Gogh. In this photo she's on the grounds outside the St. Paul de Mausole asylum, in front of an ordinary grove of olive trees. She's holding a reproduction of Vincent van Gogh's painting of the exact same scene - and suddenly the unassuming trees are transformed into a riot of vibrant color and movement. Momentarily, you're transported into the world of artistic genius. Walking with her in St-Remy, "in the very nature recreated by van Gogh," is a definite highlight.
Trip Leader Since 2005
Born in Chile and raised in the U.S., Bryan has always felt the pull to explore new cultures. After receiving an MBA in international management and working in the corporate world for ten years, Bryan applied to be a Trip Leader because it combined his love for travel and nature. He says the highlight for him is leading in his beloved Patagonia. “From the quaint little towns in the Lakes region to the open spaces of the southern pampas and glacial fields, there is no spot on earth quite like it, and the best part for me is that its home. I feel a great sense of pride when sharing my knowledge and passion for Chile and seeing guests’ appreciation for the country’s culture and natural beauty. It makes me feel thankful for where I've come from and where I am today.”
Our experience in Costa Rica's national parks is brought to a whole new level thanks to local expert Maurilio Cordero. A dedicated guide and naturalist for the past 18 years, Maurilio will amaze you with his knowledge of the region's diverse ecosystems and delight you with his uncanny ability to spot seemingly invisible wildlife hidden in the jungle. With his experienced eye and trusty scope, you stand an excellent chance of seeing creatures - such as collared aracaris, "Jesus Christ" lizards, lazy perezosos (sloths) and perhaps even a few endangered squirrel monkeys—that other visitors might completely miss.
Trip Leader Since 1990
A history major and a former minor league baseball player, Paul Smith has led more trips than anyone in Backroads’ history. Married to another long-time Backroads leader—and now a dad to two sons—Paul has been sharing his passion for China, Bali, New Zealand and the Northwest for nearly two decades and looks forward to new discoveries with every visit. His attention to detail, witty humor, knowledge of the local haunts and uncanny ability to discern the needs of each guest is legendary.
Helena has been our guiding light in the Czech Republic since our foray into the region a decade ago. A professor of English, she boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of Czech culture and history that is invaluable to first-time visitors and old hands alike. In Český Krumlov, she connects you to the spirit of Bohemia on a walk through the town's labyrinthine streets. Still have a burning question? If you stump Helena during her informal Q&A, you can justly feel proud—we've tried for years!
A former member of the Bhutanese parliament, Namgay is a gracious host and an invaluable resource during our travels in Bhutan. Accompanied by Namgay, we observe and participate in the rituals of daily life—from our visit to a 15th century temple where we receive a blessing, to the hanging of traditional prayer flags. Namgay is actively involved in the community; he oversees and contributes to numerous programs that benefit disadvantaged children, from sponsoring their education to improving the living conditions at two monastic schools, where young students (many of whom are orphans) learn sacred musical practices and study Buddhist scriptures as well as English, math and science.