I’ve been a Backroads Trip Leader for seven years and one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by my guests is, “What’s the life of a Backroads Trip Leader like?” It’s a simple question, but not an easy one to answer. When I applied for a leader position at Backroads, I had no idea of the complexity of this job and how much it goes beyond any regular work environment.
It might seem ironic to highlight the benefits of disconnecting from technology via an online blog, but I'm not here to say technology is bad. On the contrary, smart devices help us connect with others, allow for new learning, and can provide deeper insights into topics as diverse as politics and science. But when do the scales tip in the other direction? At what point does constant connectivity begin to do more harm than good?
A Backroads trip is unlike any other vacation. As an athlete all my life, and an avid CrossFitter, I want to remain active when I travel: hiking mountains, biking along the coast, kayaking hidden coves and exploring the scenic back roads of the world.
Active travel is immersive. It's tangible. It awakens every one of your senses. You're not on a tour bus with a window between you and what's around you. As Backroads founder Tom Hale puts it, "On foot or on a bike, you can really get a visceral sense of place. Without any filters, you're free to truly be where you are." In my experience, it doesn't matter if where you are is sitting at a roadside café sipping a perfect Italian espresso or hopping in the Backroads shuttle so you can freshen up before taking a tour of an Oregon brewery. The beauty of the Backroads approach to active travel is that you'll always have the freedom and flexibility to create your perfect adventure, with all the details and logistics planned to perfection by Backroads so that you can stay focused on what matters--the memories you're creating.
The world’s most stunning hiking trails, charming streets and cultural sites are begging you to explore them. Obtaining the right gear and trying it out beforehand will definitely help you get them most out of your hiking trip.
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.
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?
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.
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.