The Florida Keys are a string of coral islands that stretch southwest from the end of the state. They were historically oriented toward the Caribbean, and a center for boat trade and commerce. Key West was the largest town in Florida and the richest per capita in the US. In the early 1900's, Henry Flagler connected them to the rest of Florida by railroad. Today, 42 bridges connect the archipelago, and many of Flagler's original bridges have been designated as part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail for biking, fishing and walking. The Seven Mile Bridge, south of Marathon, was an engineering marvel and the longest in the world when built.
When my kids were small, I poured over Backroads catalogs while they slept. I dreamed of exotic vacations where I’d bike through amazing scenery and eat better food than the boxed macaroni and cheese my children liked. But those were just pleasant daydreams.
I’m not a fan of buzzwords, especially when it comes to travel. “Experiential,” “curated,” “transformational…” Labels like these often dictate what the traveler should be getting out of the experience, ironically building limits around what is and isn’t possible on a trip. An experience that embraces the individual gets lost. In contrast, the most important outcome at Backroads is that our guests have the freedom and support to seize unexpected opportunities, to go whatever pace feels right at any given moment, to craft their own adventure with no limits or boundaries and have a genuine, one-of-a-kind experience.
Italy never ceases to amaze. Just when you think there's little more to discover, this place offers ancora di più (more and better). As the regional manager for Backroads' trips in Italy, I'm no stranger to the country's diverse regions. Nevertheless, as we sought to craft new itineraries in the heart of "the Boot," I was amazed when Italy revealed an endless array of quaint villages and stunning landscapes waiting to be explored. As you'll hopefully soon see for yourself, the addition of Monti Sibillini National Park and the neighboring village of Norcia to our Walking & Hiking Trip in Tuscany and Umbria is a true bonus.
Our friends, Mike and Kathi, broached the subject once again. "You guys really should think about coming with us on this Tuscany biking trip." As I lowered my head and peered at them over my sunglasses, I remember musing: "Are you insane?" "We'll think about it," is what came out of my lips.
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.
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.
Over the course of history humans have embarked on adventures and expeditions to discover new territories, gain wisdom and question the known. In the 1200s Marco Polo was the first explorer to set out on a ground-breaking journey to Asia and China. The Portuguese Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India. Sir Francis Drake was the first to circumnavigate the world in 1580. But it wasn't until the mid-1800s that adventurers began to push the limits of mountain climbing and river rafting, ascending famous peaks and mountain passes, inspiring people to attempt their own expeditions and experience the unknown.
As Backroads leaders, my coworkers and I often get asked how we got into the sport of cycling. For me, it started with my dad. For as long as I can remember, my dad’s been a cyclist. He and his biking buddies have been going out on Saturday morning rides at 7:30 a.m. since I was a little kid, when I patiently waited for him to get home and make blueberry pancakes for breakfast.
Why do you take Backroads trips? This is a question that Trip Leaders often ask guests on the first night of the trip, along with why you chose that particular trip. Although highly valuable questions, as a Backroads leader, I’m more interested in asking a third question at the end of the trip: How has your week with us influenced your life? I, as well as my colleagues, wonder what our guests will take with them and incorporate into their lives back home.