Wanderlust World Guide Awards: Kelsey Tonner

Here at Backroads, the caliber of our Trip Leaders is undoubtedly one of our greatest assets. Knowledgeable, professional and enthusiastic, these remarkable individuals are committed to ensuring our guests enjoy an exceptional travel experience.

Preview Backroads Trip Leader Kelsey Tonner for Wanderlust World Guide Awards

We're proud to announce that our very own leader Kelsey Tonner has made the short list for the Wanderlust World Guide Awards, the only global awards for tour leaders and guides. Wanderlust is a British travel magazine that focuses on intelligent and inspirational travel, and Kelsey helps provide just that. A native of Nova Scotia, he's been a wilderness leader, dogsledding guide and volunteer coordinator in an Inuit community. Now he leads Backroads trips all over the world and is so passionate about being the best leader possible that he founded the Be a Better Guide Project. The winners of the Wanderlust World Guide Awards will be announced at a prestigious ceremony on October 13, 2015, at London's Royal Geographical Society. A £5,000 (about $7,800) bursary will go to the charity of the gold prize winner's choice.

We caught up with Kelsey to learn more about him and the award: How did you get nominated for the Wanderlust World Guide Awards? My wonderful girlfriend Sarah--also a talented Backroads leader--asked friends and coworkers to nominate me by writing to Wanderlust. This was very sweet of her, as she and many other fantastic Backroads leaders are equally deserving of the award. What does leading Backroads trips mean to you? Leading Backroads trips has really been a dream job for me. I've been working all over the world for almost five years now, learning about places as I go and then sharing this knowledge with Backroads guests. The most incredible part has been working with local Backroads leaders in various countries, whether they're Italians leading bike rides in Tuscany, Costa Rican leaders sharing their knowledge of native flora or Vietnamese leaders welcoming guests into their homeland as though they were family. We have such an extraordinary and diverse team of guides, and it's a privilege to work alongside them.

Preview Backroads Trip Leader Kelsey Tonner on biking trip in Europe

Why did you launch the Be a Better Guide Project? I wanted to create a website where tour guides, leaders and managers from around the world could come together and learn from one another. It's a place where they can exchange ideas and best practices, and network in ways that were never before possible, at least not on this scale. The website is only a couple of months old, but there are already tour guides from Oman sharing tips with guides from Quebec and tour operators in Egypt connecting with guides in Asia--it's really exciting! Do you have a favorite memory as a Backroads Trip Leader? I have two! 1) When I was leading trips in my home province of Nova Scotia, fellow guide Tal McGowan and I invited some local musicians to share their music with our guests. Everyone had such a great time that during every trip that summer we broke out the guitars, fiddles, banjos and bass to play traditional songs for guests! Tal and I both love to play guitar and it was always a night of genuine smiles and laughter for all.

Preview Backroads Trip Leader Kelsey Tonner on a walking tour

2) After a few seasons of working as the Backroads Trip Expert in Burgundy, France, I became good friends with the local restaurant managers and châteaux owners. One night, in a 16th-century luxury château, the owner Pascal brought the other guides and me down into his private wine cellar and pulled out a 400-euro bottle of Burgundy's finest. We shared it together out on the patio under the stars--it was an unforgettable experience filled with generosity and camaraderie. What would it mean to you to win this award? It would be an incredible honor, that's for sure. As trip leaders, we work almost every minute of every day to give guests the experience of a lifetime. To have that effort recognized and appreciated would not only be a nod to me personally, but to all of the remarkable leaders here at Backroads.

Have you ever traveled or worked with Kelsey? If you have a tale to tell or praise for this extraordinarily leader, please let Wanderlust know. The quality of your testimonial is key, so please be specific in explaining why you think Kelsey represents the best of the best. Email: topguide@wanderlust.co.uk (include "Kelsey Tonner" in the subject line) The deadline for testimonials is May 29, 2015. Connect online with Kelsey at www.beabetterguide.com.

Preview Backroads Trip Leader Kelsey Tonner on biking trip in France
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