As I pedaled along the riverside bike path on a clear and sunny day, I couldn’t let go of the feeling that something about this riding just felt different. I was leading our Rhine River Cruise biking trip last summer and the thought kept dancing in the corner of my mind, ever-present as the smile that wouldn’t leave my face. Finally, it dawned on me.
It isn’t just cool that we’re a group of chicks on bikes, it’s phenomenal that we’re a team of women riding vintage bicycles in a historically male-dominated Tuscan race. We’re five Backroads Trip Leaders who have each led trips in Tuscany, and we’ve been planning to partake in the famed L’Eroica vintage bicycling race together for almost a year. This is my second experience racing L’Eroica in Tuscany, and this time I feel like I belong.
I’m never as fully present as I am on Backroads trips because I’m not the planner, the cook, the executor nor the “go to” person. It’s pure decadence. I don’t care about the weather or the terrain. I’m always delighted by the food, scenery, ambiance, and extensive research and planning that has obviously gone into making each trip seamless. And I’m never, ever in a hurry!
Not a single complaint. Not even a sibling spat. Not while we’re biking in sweltering 100-degree weather. And not while we’re biking in a downpour. “I’ve never seen 30 people volunteer to bike in the rain, and smile about it,” said my daughter, Reggie Foldes. Anyone who has traveled with kids knows it’s rare–very rare–for such amiability on a family vacation. “We’re usually arguing about everything, even where to eat,” said Jenna Bronfman, 18. That’s one reason why her parents and the other families had signed on for this Backroads trip for families with “Older Teens and 20-Somethings” in Europe. “Backroads takes all that stress away,” explained Jenna’s dad, Matt Bronfman, noting this is his family’s fourth Backroads trip.
What happens when 65 Backroads employees take almost 600 DaVita staffers on vacation together? It’s called Tour DaVita and it’s the biggest deluxe camping and bicycling trip that Backroads runs! This annual event was extra special last year — not only did it mark Tour DaVita’s 10th anniversary and a return to Nashville where the bike trip originated, but it was also the largest with nearly 600 riders, almost 400 tents, 250 miles of cycling, one enormous catering operation, two mobile shower trucks, a mobile dialysis center, live country music and tons of Tennessee sunshine. Right now we’re gearing up for another incredible tour in Washington at the end of September!
Over the holidays, I lead Backroads family trips in Costa Rica. Since schools are on break during this time, it makes for a great chance to take a family vacation. And a trip together is the perfect occasion to strengthen family bonds, make memories that last a lifetime and even create new traditions.
Over the decades, we’ve learned a thing or two from our guests, our own excursions and our intrepid leaders. While I could write a book on our evolution, I’ll narrow it down to a brief(ish) list of my favorite improvements in recent years.
Backroads Trips aren’t cheap. We get it. As a Backroads leader, it’s not uncommon for me to hear (always from someone who hasn’t traveled with us yet) “I could go there and do it myself for half the price.” When I hear someone say something like that, I usually just smile and say, “Well, there are certainly a lot of ways to travel, but you’d be surprised at just how much you get from a Backroads trip.” And the reason for my smile is that, having seen firsthand what our guests experience in the course of their trip, the question of “Where is the value?” is hardly a question at all. I’ve lost count of how many guests have expressed to me how worthwhile their experience has been. So what is it? What makes a Backroads trip so well worth the price?
Our guests often ask Backroads Trip Leaders, “What’s your favorite trip?” While I jokingly say we don’t offer tours in ugly places, I do have an answer: hands-down my favorite trip to lead is our New Zealand Walking & Hiking Tour.
It’s often said that one of the best ways to explore a city is with your nose. Fortunately, Paris is no exception, as the city is burgeoning with intoxicating aromas wafting from bakeries, bistros and bars. From sweet to savory, creamy to crunchy, no matter what neighborhood you find yourself in, there’s a plethora of places to eat in Paris. And the best part is that many of the city’s tastiest meals are small, simple and inexpensive.
Pico Iyer, the author of Tropical Classical and other travel books, once said: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” Regardless of whether you’re young or old, wealthy or poor, an introvert or extrovert, travel is always a good idea. If done right, it enables people to completely “lose themselves” in their new surroundings and stretch the boundaries of their comfort zones.
How do you narrow down days of hiking with your favorite people–amid some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable–into a “top 3” list? It’s not easy. But I always appreciate tips from other travelers to help me make my travel decisions, so here we go…
India is everything you’ve heard plus a million more sensations. The contrasts knock you to your knees, humble you and build you back up within a matter of moments. It takes “exotic” to the next level and stamps the reality that we’re from vastly different cultures but we’re similar in so many ways.
As a Backroads leader. I rely on books to help connect me more deeply to the social and natural histories I encounter along my hikes and bike rides, which makes each step or pedal stroke feel that much more meaningful. For anyone heading into the open skies west of the Mississippi this summer, here are five terrific reads that will enhance your travel experience.