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.
Glaciers, massive conglomerations of ice, snow and rock, are among the world’s greatest wonders. But they’re also slowly disappearing. These natural phenomena, which have come and gone throughout Earth’s long geological history, appear to be in the process of documenting another chapter in our planet’s story. But while most glaciers are receding at an alarming rate, certain destinations still provide an abundance waiting to be appreciated. What many don’t realize is that many of Earth’s most beautiful places, while devoid of glaciers today, were actually sculpted and created by these fascinating features and are home to unforgettable scenery.
Sitting on the vibrant red rocking chair on the porch of my hotel room at Kennicott Glacier Lodge, I listened. The early morning calls of birds waking the world and the creaks and groans of the shrinking Root Glacier just a stone’s throw from me dominated the otherwise quiet scene. It seemed to me as if this morning show of song and silence was for me and me alone. Any other sound that was occurring in the surrounding expanse of the park’s 13.2 million acres was muffled by the ripening raspberry bushes, trembling aspen groves and deep blue glacial ice.
You’ve probably heard of Banff, Canada. But do you know about the other park that flanks its northwestern border? Jasper National Park is known as much for its beauty as it is for how you get there: by way of the Icefields Parkway, a world-class journey that you’ll never forget. And the hikes along the way are simply unparalleled. You’ll experience some of them if you come along for the ride with Backroads, or you can tap into the park’s majesty on your own with a few of our favorite Jasper hikes—we’re sharing our top five!
Hearing the gasps escape the mouth of a Backroads guest as they lay eyes on the iconic summit of Half Dome or the impossibly beautiful Yosemite Falls for the first time never gets old. Although I’ve been visiting and leading trips in Yosemite for many years now, I recently had a “first time” experience that allowed me to see this majestic place with fresh eyes. Just by chance, I had the opportunity to bike the Tioga Pass road to the high country with no traffic. Surrounded by conifers and glowing granite mountains and without a single worry, I realized how fortunate I am to be a part of the Yosemite experience with so many Backroads guests.
Iceland is a land of stunningly diverse scenery, where you can pass from lush glacial meadows into barren volcanic deserts in the blink of an eye, and where cliffs tower hundreds of meters high only a few steps away from the sea. Backroads’ wide variety of trips here matches the diversity of the island’s landscapes. Every itinerary is different, and each offers a unique perspective on the majestic beauty of this lonely volcanic island. Which one is right for you?
Our friends, Mike and Kathi, broached the subject once again. “You guys really should think about coming with us on this Tuscany biking trip.” As I lowered my head and peered at them over my sunglasses, I remember musing: “Are you insane?” “We’ll think about it,” is what came out of my lips.
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.
Over the course of history humans have embarked on adventures and expeditions to discover new territories, gain wisdom and question the known. In the 1200s Marco Polo was the first explorer to set out on a ground-breaking journey to Asia and China. The Portuguese Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India. Sir Francis Drake was the first to circumnavigate the world in 1580. But it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that adventurers began to push the limits of mountain climbing and river rafting, ascending famous peaks and mountain passes, inspiring people to attempt their own expeditions and experience the unknown.
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.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” You may have heard this question before; it’s borrowed from the poem A Summer Day by the American poet Mary Oliver. It’s a simple enough question, but it does speak to the core of those of us who are soul searchers and explorers in our own way. But, thirty-one years on this planet and I still don’t know the answer. I do know, however, that two weeks in remote Wanaka, New Zealand brought me closer to finding out.
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.
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.
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.