Finding Backroads in Chile

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Chile Photo Exhibit by Backroads Leader Tatyana SchmidI’m often asked how I found my job leading Backroads trips… Fate. Magic. Luck. … Well, perhaps a combination of those things. It’s a unique story that involves a photography exposition, a small community in northern Chile and two random backpackers high in the Chilean mountains. And it’s a story that put me on a path to helping develop a brand new Backroads trip launching this coming December in a corner of South America that is easily one of my favorite places in the world.

In 2011, after graduating from university, I went to Chile to travel with a photography exposition that I had created as my thesis project. The project documented a community in Northern Chile that had been contaminated with toxic waste for over 20 years. After meeting with the neighborhood women and hearing their tragic stories, I knew this was a place where my work could possibly make a difference. A year and a half later, I flew back to Chile to exhibit the work and reconnect with the community.

Cows and Volcano - Backroads in Chile

I spent the first two months traveling and working on organic farms in Chile’s Lakes and Volcanoes district while organizing the expositions from afar. One farm was outside of Puerto Montt and was a goat, vegetable and bee farm where I woke up early every morning to milk the goats and make cheese, then spent the rest of the day doing a variety of farm tasks. In the evening I would hike down to the sound and free-dive for mussels, or head to the lake up the hill for a swim. It was paradise. Verdant green hills overlooking the beautiful bay below. Beautiful sunsets, no phone, no internet. Just being present with the steady pace of farm life.

Backroads biking in Chile

Backroads Trip Leader Tatyana Schmid in ChileMy next stop was another paradise, a refugio (hostel) up in the mountains in an area called Cochamó, otherwise known as the Yosemite of Chile. It’s a valley that can only be accessed on foot or by mule surrounded by epic granite peaks. A rock climber’s heaven. It was here where I met Kate and Liz: two Backroads leaders passing through in their time off. When they told me about their jobs, my jaw must have dropped… “You travel and hike and bike and work with people for a living?” I didn’t even know that was possible. The sparks went off and from that moment forward I knew I had found my calling.

Biking in Chile with BackroadsFast forward to the present… July, 2017. I have spent the past six years leading Backroads trips all over the world. This job has sent me on unbelievable adventures that I couldn’t have even imagined in that moment of meeting Kate and Liz. This past December, a position to manage and launch a brand new trip in Chile opened up. I couldn’t believe it. For the past five years I had been campaigning to bring Backroads back to Chile and when I saw the position available, I felt that once again fate, magic and luck were with me. One month later I got the news that I had been accepted as the Trip Expert for the new Chile’s Lakes & Volcanoes District Bike Tour. Life answers when you ask it to.

This December, after much hard work and planning, our Chilean team will be launching an incredible Biking Trip in one of my favorite parts of the world. Seven days of cycling breathtaking roads past epic snow-capped volcanoes, pristine lakes, bright blue glacial rivers and tiny colonial towns that will steal your heart, just as they did mine.

As our only Biking Trip in South America, this truly is the chance to explore some uncharted territory in an amazingly unique way. Besides biking past some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world, we’ll be visiting a working dairy farm, sampling homemade manjar (Chile’s version of dulce de leche), and visiting National Parks such as Parque Futangue and Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, which are teeming with virgin forests, lava fields, waterfalls and hot springs. We’ll even be welcomed into the home of a local Mapuche family for a traditional meal and ceremony.

I can’t wait to share my love for this unbelievable part of the world with all of our Backroads guests this coming year. Every now and then I’m reminded that life is a lot like riding a bike down a road you’ve never been before… you just have to trust that it will lead you somewhere beautiful and know that every bit of the journey is just as important as the destination.

Backroads Leader Tatyana Schmid on a road in Chile


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Tatyana Schmid

Tatyana Schmid

Trip Expert at Backroads
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Tatyana now spends most of her time leading Backroads trips south of the US border, from Panama to Costa Rica, Patagonia to Peru. She studied photography and Spanish at Bennington College in Vermont, spent one year living and working in Chile, and soon after graduating fell into her job with Backroads, where she currently is the Trip Expert for our brand new Chile's Lakes & Volcanoes District Bike Tour. She is a lover of adventure, anything involving bikes, mountains, surfing, diving and, of course, delicious food, beer and wine. A seasonal resident of Oakland, California, you may also find her singing and playing ukulele in various bands with other Backroads leaders around the Bay Area.
Tatyana Schmid

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