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.
Game hunters in Africa originally coined the phrase “Big Five” to describe the five animals deemed hardest and most dangerous to hunt on foot: the elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo. Because of their size, aggression, intelligence and speed, these animals were trophies that came with significant risk, and were therefore prized above all others. Safari operators now use that same phrase to describe the animals they know their clients hope to “shoot” with their cameras.
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.
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.
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.
Iceland is home to the world’s oldest parliament, Europe’s largest glacier (by volume), Björk and now you for at least 24 hours! Whether you’re spending the day in Reykjavík before or after your Backroads Iceland trip, this guide offers an easy plan for a great day in the city, maximizing your time and showcasing all this capital has to offer.
As Backroads leaders, we wear many hats in a given day: concierge, mechanic, translator, chauffeur, navigator, motivator… the list is infinite. One of my favorites to don, however, has to be that of “chef,” because that’s when we get to perform the magic that results in the famous Backroads picnic lunch!
There’s something about San Francisco. Something that sets it apart from other major world cities. Is it the natural setting surrounded by indigo Pacific waters? Or the way the hills display the shining city like diamond on their hand? The parade of Victorian pastel houses paired with a riot of street art? The homegrown food scene with its year-round access to fresh local produce and pioneering chefs.
When I first rode my bike across the border from Croatia into Montenegro, I had little idea of what to expect. The small country on the Adriatic Coast is just 18 miles south of the Backroads’ Trip Leader house in Močići, but as I descended towards the border city of Herceg Novi, something in the air changed.
In my travels throughout the world, I’ve continually heard people naming Costa Rica as an all-time favorite destination. There’s talk of vacationing on the Nicoya Peninsula for a week, doing a yoga teacher training in Nosara, moving to Tamarindo for a season or even moving to Costa Rica permanently. So why is Costa Rica such a hot spot right now?
The mother of two children clinging to her long, woven skirt encourages her two-year-old son to wave to you by grabbing his wrist and saying “sabaidee,” which means “hello” in Lao. When you pass by on your bike, waving back, the woman’s daughter calls out, “Bye-bye!,” a phrase she probably learned at an early age to use to address passing bike tourists. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, try biking in Laos. Laotians in remote villages don’t see many Westerners rolling through their homeland.
Expanding Backroads internationally is a tale of necessity, entrepreneurialism, and of course, adventure! My bet is that many of you will relate, as you might be growing your own companies, trying to connect with someone from a very different culture, or fondly remembering your own international adventures.