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.
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.
The one thing that has always attracted me to New Zealand–and what I continue to search for while I’m leading Backroads Trips here–is the feeling of living in the moment. In New Zealand there are so many ways to escape and be present with the people that you’re traveling with. I recently had the opportunity to tour the country with my family, and while everything was truly incredible, there were three unique experiences that stood out above the rest.
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.
As I pedaled along the riverside bike path on a clear and sunny day, I couldn’t let go of the feeling that something about this riding just felt different. I was leading our Rhine River Cruise biking trip last summer and the thought kept dancing in the corner of my mind, ever-present as the smile that wouldn’t leave my face. Finally, it dawned on me.
Not a single complaint. Not even a sibling spat. Not while we’re biking in sweltering 100-degree weather. And not while we’re biking in a downpour. “I’ve never seen 30 people volunteer to bike in the rain, and smile about it,” said my daughter, Reggie Foldes. Anyone who has traveled with kids knows it’s rare–very rare–for such amiability on a family vacation. “We’re usually arguing about everything, even where to eat,” said Jenna Bronfman, 18. That’s one reason why her parents and the other families had signed on for this Backroads trip for families with “Older Teens and 20-Somethings” in Europe. “Backroads takes all that stress away,” explained Jenna’s dad, Matt Bronfman, noting this is his family’s fourth Backroads trip.
Over the holidays, I lead Backroads family trips in Costa Rica. Since schools are on break during this time, it makes for a great chance to take a family vacation. And a trip together is the perfect occasion to strengthen family bonds, make memories that last a lifetime and even create new traditions.
Over the decades, we’ve learned a thing or two from our guests, our own excursions and our intrepid leaders. While I could write a book on our evolution, I’ll narrow it down to a brief(ish) list of my favorite improvements in recent years.
How do you narrow down days of hiking with your favorite people–amid some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable–into a “top 3” list? It’s not easy. But I always appreciate tips from other travelers to help me make my travel decisions, so here we go…
At the end of a typical Backroads day, I find myself well fed, happily tired and awe-inspired by what I just experienced. I drafted this blog from a hotel balcony in Dinard, just across an estuary from St. Malo, reflecting on yet another one of those wonderful days. What particularly struck me about the day was how much my kids learned without even knowing the trip was actually educational. I’m sneaky that way.
I just returned from a biking trip through Brittany and Normandy and hiking trip in the Alps with extended family and was once again reminded of the ways a vacation like this brings families together.
Backroads has been offering family trips since before I had kids (and my oldest is now 22). Why did we start them? Well, Backroads is just such a naturally positive, amazing environment for families to have a great time together that it didn’t take us being rocket scientists to see their potential. Once my wife, Liz, and I had our own kids, the beauty of designated family trips became even more obvious.
“We’re going up over that hill?” I said under my breath, looking ahead as the road went up, up, up and disappeared over a hill. It was a beautiful sunny day in Nova Scotia, Canada, ten years ago, and we had been riding on quiet, shady roads all morning. More talking than riding, I had slowly been getting tired during the ride, but I knew we were almost at our destination for the day, Lunenburg. I hadn’t been mentally preparing for this hill though.
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.
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.