Looking through the window of the bus that was driving me from the airport through town, I understood this trip was going to be very different. I could see many people walking the dusty streets of the capital in oppressive heat, some of them carrying jugs of water on their head. For the first time of my life, I was in Africa.
I raised my children in a blur. I was in my early twenties when they were born and divorced before they started school. I completed college, launched a career and elbowed my way up the career ladder--rung by rung--as a single mother. Needless to say, transferring values was the last thing on my mind, followed closely by teachable moments. Survival was the order of the day.
Lauran and I met on a school bus. She was wearing a propeller hat and fake glasses with tape on the bridge and rainbow suspenders to hold the outfit together. It was love at first sight. Ok, not really, but we did meet on the school bus during the Backroads California Staff Ride in 2010 and the theme was "Back to School."
Since very early in the Backroads days, we have run annual staff rides that gather our employees in one place for a multi-day adventure. These trips get everyone in the same space after being spread out across the globe for much of the year to revel in our strong community and just plain have fun together. Last month, it took place in Vietnam--right in the middle of one of the biggest typhoons in decades.
The one thing that has always attracted me to New Zealand--and what I continue to search for while I'm leading Backroads Trips here--is the feeling of living in the moment. In New Zealand there are so many ways to escape and be present with the people that you're traveling with. I recently had the opportunity to tour the country with my family, and while everything was truly incredible, there were three unique experiences that stood out above the rest.
Chi: Our fearless guide. Four-foot-ten on a good day, eighty pounds, twenty-seven years old, mother of two. She's a Sapa trekking guide and woman extraordinaire. She's honest, fiery, fierce and tells it to you straight. Her hair is long and without a kink, falling to her hips even when pulled back. She carries a purple umbrella, protecting her skin from the strong sun.
If you've done much traveling, you've likely encountered a UNESCO World Heritage site. The term may spark immediate interest but what exactly does it mean? While UNESCO is best known for identifying its famous World Heritage sites, it's an incredibly nuanced intercontinental coalition with enormous goals.