Active travel is immersive. It's tangible. It awakens every one of your senses. You're not on a tour bus with a window between you and what's around you. As Backroads founder Tom Hale puts it, "On foot or on a bike, you can really get a visceral sense of place. Without any filters, you're free to truly be where you are." In my experience, it doesn't matter if where you are is sitting at a roadside café sipping a perfect Italian espresso or hopping in the Backroads shuttle so you can freshen up before taking a tour of an Oregon brewery. The beauty of the Backroads approach to active travel is that you'll always have the freedom and flexibility to create your perfect adventure, with all the details and logistics planned to perfection by Backroads so that you can stay focused on what matters--the memories you're creating.
From the mountains to the vineyards to the Mediterranean, Italy has everything a traveler could want. Home to one of history's greatest empires, birthplace of philosopher's musings and Renaissance art, and with a cuisine so intoxicating it's been adopted across the globe, there's just no place like Italy. To set foot here is to transport oneself to a world apart. While every Backroads hotel in Italy is easily worth a visit, these are six of our very favorites that exemplify the Italian experience - the charm, majesty, history and beauty of a country you'll be longing to return to even before you've left it behind.
Writing about the "why" of picnics at Backroads in a recent blog post got me thinking about the "how..." I certainly wasn't born knowing how to create a bountiful spread for 20+ people in the middle of nowhere, and our guests are always curious where this seemingly magical skill comes from when they roll up to an overflowing lunch table. So here are a few tips and tricks I use when creating some of my favorite dishes. Try them the next time you're tasked with pleasing a throng of long-lost relatives or picky eaters and bring some Backroads organization, aesthetics and deliciousness to the table!
The Florida Keys are a string of coral islands that stretch southwest from the end of the state. They were historically oriented toward the Caribbean, and a center for boat trade and commerce. Key West was the largest town in Florida and the richest per capita in the US. In the early 1900's, Henry Flagler connected them to the rest of Florida by railroad. Today, 42 bridges connect the archipelago, and many of Flagler's original bridges have been designated as part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail for biking, fishing and walking. The Seven Mile Bridge, south of Marathon, was an engineering marvel and the longest in the world when built.
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.
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.
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.
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.