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.
Exploring a new place actively, whether on a bike or your own two feet, sets a pace that enables you to appreciate its sights, sounds and smells, to experience its depth beyond the tourist attractions, and to notice details of its character that might slip by if viewed from a car or a tour bus. Both cycling and hiking offer excellent ways to experience a new place, and whether you want to push your limits or take it easy on your trip, Backroads offers a trip sure to appeal to you. The question is: how do you choose?
In today’s fast-paced world, it can be a challenge to find quality family time. Parents are working, children are in school, playing sports and pursuing extracurricular activities. So how do you make quality family time happen? Here are five simple ideas to help you not only make time for each other, but to make the best of that time and form meaningful connections.
For the last seven years, I have been an outdoor guide: three years of working on guest ranches in Wyoming and Colorado, and four as a Trip Leader for Backroads. For me, working with my hands, outdoors and with people is what truly brings me to life. And you can throw travel in there as well. Finding a connection with someone from a completely different culture, who perhaps speaks a different language, is an experience so gratifying that I have forever pledged my allegiance to the strong and ever-growing global community of wanderlust junkies. This is why it pleases me deeply that the United Nations has declared this year–2017–as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
With National Bike to Work Day on May 19th, it’s not really about the route, it’s about the notion: Who needs a car anyway? Whether you do it every day or once a year, pedaling to work is worth celebrating. If your commute isn’t scenic, then allow your mind to drift to one of our Top 10 friendliest bike regions in the world.
It’s pretty wild that last year, between the end of April and the first week of December, I didn’t sleep in the same bed for more than three consecutive nights. Somehow seven months flew by since that spring day when I packed up my temporary home in Marin County, California, as did my time in about ten states, four countries and who knows how many cities. And at the end of it, I was just weeks away from going to South Africa— my first time in any African country! This year is already just as action-packed.
As a Trip Leader, a phrase I find myself coming back to often when speaking to guests or potential guests about traveling with Backroads is some version of, “We take care of all of the annoying aspects of travel to let you enjoy the good stuff.” This philosophy applies to every trip Backroads offers, but after leading trips for two years, I can see no time that it’s more valuable than when my guests are traveling with kids.
Take me back to the beautiful San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington State. During my first summer working for Backroads, I led a trip there for a lovely family. An endlessly interesting grandfather invited his two adult children to bring their families along for a Private Trip in the Pacific Northwest. It was a wonderful week of outdoor exploration, shared meals, wildlife spotting—and most importantly, undistracted family bonding.
It is easy to express the beauty of Alaska in words but seemingly difficult to articulate the impression this place leaves on the soul. Some say, once you visit Alaska you will never be the same. Not always such a dramatic life change but often times a subtle shift. It is the encounter with the wild that often times brings you closer to your true self.
One of the reasons I joined Backroads as a Trip Leader a decade ago was because it was one of the only active travel companies that had trips in Norway. Growing up, my father always loved studying our family genealogy and especially our Norwegian roots. He and my mother had visited Norway in search of family roots on their European travels back in the 1970s, when they were first married. So Norway was an obvious choice for a family trip abroad, back in 1998. On that trip we followed the family tree down to the roots but could only find the small valley our family had come from. Nothing much came from the trip other than a deep feeling of connection for myself and a little more context for our family heritage.