Backroads Trip Leaders: Meet a Few of Our Trip Leaders
U.S. Trip Leaders
Leader since 2012
I rolled past a charming red farmhouse, yellowing oak trees, old grain silos and took a deep breath of the cool fall air from the saddle of my bicycle. That's when I asked myself "should people be this happy in their job?"
I've come to decide that the answer is yes, because happy people beget happy people. What makes me happy about working with Backroads is watching how active travel and the outdoors strengthens people's connections with others and (most interestingly) with themselves. And speaking personally, it's a job that forces me to use many of my skills, and we all love putting our skills to use—it's very fulfilling.
Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't born with a compass in one hand and a Lonely Planet in the other. I owe my love for travel to my family who've always placed a high value on travel and adventure. When I was two weeks old, we relocated to England for six years. I still think this is what started me down a long road of experiences that would lead to Backroads.
An impactful time in my life was at University. I studied Creative Writing and Geography with a focus in Sustainable Development. I was selected as an Udall Scholar for research on the environment and leadership in service. The scholarship enabled me to circumnavigate the globe on the ship-based study abroad program, Semester at Sea. Afterwards I spent a summer on rainforest preservation work and teaching English in Guatemala before finishing my undergraduate degree. In 2010, I was humbled to be named a finalist for the Department of State's Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. After graduation, I took an internship with Semester at Sea developing service-learning programs. When not working for Backroads I'm writing, recording, and touring as a singer - songwriter based out of the Bay Area. As you can see, my background is "all over the globe," but these experiences have shaped my interests that have happily found a home with Backroads.
Leader since 2010
I'm not what one would consider a "typical" Backroads leader. For one thing I'm older, (I got a Father's Day card from the other new leaders during training), I'm married, have a full-time job as a hotel manager and a son in college. But it works! I end up working a number of trips in the summer in an area I love and a region where I live.
While in college, I had the opportunity to work a summer in Yellowstone National Park. That one summer has turned into a lifetime. It was love at first sight with the Yellowstone/Teton area which has worked well with my career choice in hotel management. I met my wife while working here and we were fortunate enough to raise our son in the shadow of the Tetons.
Backroads started out as one of my best hotel customers. Their guests would stay or meet at our hotel before heading off on their adventure. One week later, they would return jubilant and I would watch the guests hugging, crying and laughing as they said their goodbyes: "this was the best vacation ever," "come visit us in New York," "we have to get the same leaders next year." I decided I wanted to be a part of that.
One of the greatest things about my job at Backroads is working with my fellow leaders. I'm convinced there isn't a better, more dedicated, hardworking, talented group of fun-loving people anywhere. Working at Backroads, not only have I have found a unique job fit for my lifestyle but I've found my own little fountain of youth. I am much younger now than when I started with Backroads.
Leader since 2015
In 1995 I had my first opportunity to travel abroad. Little did I know that this trip to Germany would forever change my outlook on life. Never had I been to such a different place, with a different language and culture. Never had I walked down streets with names I couldn't pronounce. With this first step away from my security blanket, everything changed for me. I wanted to know the world and touch the lives of others in it. From that moment on, I was set on becoming a globetrotter.
My parents sent me on my next adventure: a cross-country road trip, from my hometown, Oakland, California to Washington, DC where I met former United States President, Bill Clinton at the White House. After that it was a high school Spanish language program in Guatemala, followed by college studies in Mexico and Spain. In 2008 I wanted more of a connection with the people in my travels so I applied to the Ministry of Education in Chile to teach English. There I fell in love with the outdoors: big cities, small coastal towns, trips on tiny planes into the remote parts of Patagonia, and ferry rides through the fjords. I felt at home even though I was thousands of miles away.
My parents wanted me to have a plethora of opportunities so they made sure doors were open and helped me put that first travelling foot forward. Twelve years after my parents sent me to study in Barcelona I found my way to Backroads. Backroads is a composite of all the people I've come across from all the different walks of earthly life. Here at Backroads we're able to take diverse people into different places we love, and share with them more than just the scenery. We form relationships with the local guides, the snack-cart families and various other folks we meet. We get to share their stories as well as our own. It's incredible and makes each trip all the more memorable.
I grew up less than a mile from the Backroads home office and upon my first step inside their walls I felt at home. It felt like family. That feeling continues to grow. It certainly helped on my very first day of leader training, walking into the house and seeing the smiling face of a stranger who looked somewhat familiar. We made eye contact and he said, "Abdul?" I said, "Jason?" It turns out we studied abroad on that very same life-changing trip to Barcelona, and now here we meet again at Backroads. I was home.
Leader since 2003
I've always worked but somehow never really had a "regular job" as my friends call them. I got my degree in marine biology and imagined myself working alongside someone like Jacques Cousteau. But marriage and kids changed my priorities and flexibility suddenly became more important than adventure for a while. I spent the next decade and a half coaching swimming and teaching lessons in backyard pools, working for caterers, making wedding cakes, sewing active wear, guiding sea kayaking trips in San Francisco Bay, taking people on hikes and teaching kids cooking classes through the local park and rec. department and, of course, raising kids! You name it, I did it and I loved every minute of that time of my life.
For my 40th birthday I wanted to do a bike trip in Vermont in the fall. My husband wasn't a cyclist and my friends that biked couldn't go. So I set about to find a company to go with as a solo traveler. I had an amazing time and I remember thinking "What a cool job the leaders have!" Unknowingly that trip planted a seed in my mind. Sadly, several years later, cancer got the best of my husband. With both of my kids away at college and working away from home during the summers, I recalled that "cool job" that my trip leaders had in Vermont. I wanted to travel and have a fun job, too.
I looked into several companies but Backroads seemed to be the obvious first choice. I could see from the catalog that many of the leaders were younger than me, but...lots of the guests were my age. Hmmm... Well, here I still am; loving the opportunity to travel to amazing places and meet amazing people all along the way. I loved the opportunity to learn a new language so that I could work in another country; to be able to work outside being active and doing what I love; and to share the wonders of nature and travel alongside other people who share that interest. I feel so fortunate to be able to make lemonade out of lemons!
Leader since 2014
It's hard not to smile when people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them about my job as a trip leader for Backroads. To so many people it sounds like a dream, and for me, that's exactly what it is. I feel very fortunate not only to be working in such a great job for such a wonderful company, but also for a background that prepared me for life as a Backroads Trip Leader.
I grew up in Utah and Alaska, always off exploring the mountains and the deserts with my brother and friends, but it was a sailboat trip in Hawaii that started me on the path to Backroads. I was 14 years old on holiday with my family. The crew members that worked on the boat were from all over the country, working in a job that seemed like a dream to me—seeing beautiful places, spending days in the sunshine with people from all over the world. Many years later I found myself graduating from college and moving to Hawaii to work on those same boats I remembered from my childhood.
After a couple years in Hawaii, I moved back to the mainland to lead active travel tours across North America. In the course of that job I repeatedly heard about Backroads, a company known for leading the best active trips in the travel industry. I met several former Backroads leaders who told me it was the experience of a lifetime. And now here I am.
My first season took me to Italy and Switzerland, leading biking, hiking, and multi-adventure tours from the Mediterranean to the Alps and it was even more incredible than I could have hoped. I also learned that being a leader is a big responsibility because you are the face of the company. While the days are long and the work is not always easy, I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of the Backroads family and look forward to many more years as a Backroads Trip Leader.
Leader since 2013
As a child of a Vietnamese father and a French mother, I grew up in a small remote village in the south of France. At the age of 21, I decided to take a break from my studies in English literature and opera singing for a year and head to the US to explore a new culture. Though many years have passed, I still have not moved away from San Francisco, and I proudly became an American citizen, which makes me now a dual citizen!
I find that this job combines every element of the many different jobs I had in the past, from working as a cheese specialist to teaching French to adults in a private school to working with children with disabilities in a high school... even being Pluto at Disneyland!
I am a dreamer and I’ve always had the desire to learn about the world and its beauty. Being a trip leader not only has fulfilled this goal of mine, but it also has allowed me to share this knowledge with people in a thoroughly enjoyable way: on a bike! Though I tackle going uphill on my motorcycle better than on my bike, I truly get inspired by the motivation of our guests who always seem up for taking on new challenges, no matter their skill level. At first, I thought to myself: "If they can do it, I can do it.” Now I think, “If I can do it, anyone can do it!” and I’m excited to encourage our guests every step of the way!
One of the nicest surprises I’ve experienced while working at Backroads is being part of an incredible team of leaders from all around the world who quickly became my close friends. Working at Backroads, the world is my playground and the road is my office... no need for wings, I have two wheels!
Leader since 2014
Growing up in Los Angeles presented my parents with the challenge of getting me and my siblings out of the city as much as possible. Boy scouts, camping and road trips became some of my favorite memories and it carried over when I moved up to San Francisco to play basketball and finish my bachelor’s degree. The Bay Area provides every opportunity to get outside and engage in whatever your passion is within a few miles or a few hours so I tried my hand at a little of everything - tumbling down snow, face first flight down trails, and enjoying the history of San Francisco itself. Although the city was good to me, I just didn't think accounting and finance were the right fit for me then, so I took my first trip out of the country to Peru. Since then, I have made my way to Alaska, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, Europe and Central America all the while intertwining living, working and playing.
This life choice led me to come across a young woman steadily making sandwiches at 6 a.m. in a hotel lobby in Seward, AK. Little did I know, I was catching a glimpse of my trip leading future. I asked her a couple questions and she politely answered and suggested I check out the Backroads website. Another hint came when one of my best friends met a “really good hugger” (and seasoned Backroads leader) at a wedding and he suggested we chat. I was intrigued.
Like almost everyone who gets hired, I exclaimed “Why me?!” How did I get so lucky to not only travel as a job, but to explore the varying places, cultures and people of this world while sharing them with groups of new friends? I still don't know, but I am truly enjoying it! This “job” has made me want to be a better athlete, historian, chef and most importantly, a better person. It is still a large, curious world out there and with a phenomenal collection of co-leaders from every corner of this world, we are doing our best to bring it as close to home as possible.
Canadian Trip Leaders
Leader since 1997, Trip Expert Canadian Rockies & South Africa, Hiring & Training Coordinator Canada
Once I began working for Backroads, I have never looked back! I think my parents noticed early on that my life path was going to be a little different from most. From about the age of 12, I started reading National Geographic magazines and spent most of my time outdoors poking around and looking for "critters." While I managed to earn degrees in Biology and Education and teach in the public school system for a while, it was on a soul-searching backpacking trip to Central America that I finally decided I wanted to explore a career path that would incorporate my love for adventure travel with education. I stumbled across a hiring ad for Backroads in Outside magazine and the rest is history. Working for Backroads has exceeded every expectation I had in terms of experiences, co-workers and opportunities.
In addition to leading, I have helped manage trips in the field as a Trip Expert in the Canadian Rockies and I am also very active in the hiring and training of new leaders in Canada and the U.S. I have been able to tailor my leading life to focus on regions rich in natural history, including South Africa, Costa Rica, Peru and, of course, my own backyard, the Canadian Rockies. I am a leader who loves to return to the same regions year after year. It is amazing how many new things you can learn about a region to pass along and our guests are truly appreciative of the authentic experience that we facilitate for them. I have been around long enough to have had repeat guests two and three times! Some might think that we just take people on vacation, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I have had more than one tearful goodbye from a guest that had achieved personal bests on the trip or simply had one of the best experiences of their life.
These days I am enthusiastic about the increased commitment to Responsible Travel at Backroads. As Trip Leaders and Trip Experts, we are encouraged to design our trips so they contribute meaningfully to the communities that we visit.
I thought this job would be a few summers of work, back in 1997, yet here I am many years later more fired up than ever about my job and the amazing people I work with!
Leader since 1999, Regional Manager: Central America, Hawaii
I grew up in a small town in Ontario and spent my summers playing on the shores of Georgian Bay. I've always had a love for the outdoors, adventure and being active. After five years at Queen's University in Kingston, I completed my B.PHE as well as my B.Sc in Biology and my B.Ed. After graduating, I decided it was time to go for my B.Happy! Teaching jobs were readily available at the time, but deep down I was looking for something more. A friend was applying for Backroads—and when she told me about it I thought, "that is EXACTLY what I want to do." We both got hired and started as Trip Leaders in the Canadian Rockies.
That summer in the mountains was extraordinary and it forever blurred the lines between work and play for me. After my experience in the Rockies, I decided that I wanted to make Backroads more than just a summer job. Speaking Spanish increased the chances of getting work throughout the winter, so I booked a flight to Ecuador to study Spanish. I traveled in Peru for two months and then went to the Galapagos Islands to study and volunteer with the National Parks Services and the Charles Darwin Station. The next winter I led trips in Costa Rica and fell in love with the "pura vida" lifestyle and Latin culture. I spent the next 15 years based in Costa Rica, but also working around the world as a trip leader, Regional Expert and Hiring & Training Specialist. I have had the opportunity to design and lead trips in Canada, Switzerland, Chile, Argentina, Iceland, Greenland, Turkey, Spain, Peru, Bhutan, South Africa, Botswana, Vietnam, Tibet and China.
After many years of living, working, traveling and playing in Latin America and beyond, I knew that when I eventually settled down, it had to be somewhere that I could be active just outside my doorstep, with a great community around me. Backroads and the Bay area offer exactly that and so much more. I'm now based in California as the Regional Manager for Central America and Hawaii and I love contributing to Backroads at a higher level. Looking back at my first summer leading trips in the Canadian Rockies – I never thought I'd still be in the travel industry 16 years later. But Backroads offers more than the opportunity to discover the world on two wheels. It's the chance to intimately learn about new cultures, meet incredible people and grow as an individual, both personally and professionally. The world is a classroom, and every day is a new lesson.
European Trip Leaders
French, Leader since 2004, Argentina & Patagonia Trip Specialist
After receiving a B.A in Economic Sciences, I studied international commerce in Montpellier, France, and graduated in 1988. My first job was to sell software all over Europe for a company based in London. But I was dreaming of discovering the world...
So, I took a job abroad working for Club Med, and then for other companies throughout Europe. These summer jobs gave me the opportunity to save some money during the season and finally discover the world during the time off. I've traveled from Pakistan to Cambodia, through Tibet, China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and trekked in Nepal, Ladakh and Zanskar. Then, I went on to discover Latin America and finally lived the last years of the 90's in Argentina where I was a teacher at the French Alliance of Cordoba, teaching managers working in multinational firms.
Upon returning to Europe, I've lived in Spain since 2000. Looking for a change from the mass tourism industry, I started working as a biking and mountain guide. I was looking to lead for an active company with a reduced number of guests on trips in order to get more individual connections. I was hired by Backroads and have enjoyed the chance to be part of an unbelievably organized team, where each and every individual is a source of help, knowledge, happiness and kindliness.
Italian, Leader since 2010
Though I am one hundred percent Italian, I spent many years bouncing all over the world, having new experiences, facing new challenges and meeting new people that enriched my life with joy and passion. I always felt incredibly lucky to be able to travel and enjoy the wonders of this world. However, when I realized that being able to share these beauties with someone is what makes them truly memorable and significant, I decided to become a Trip Leader.
Working with Backroads enables me to share the local knowledge, enthusiasm and the passion that I have for my country with others. Every time I lead a trip, even in the same area, there is always something new to discover, something new to show, and new questions to answer. Indeed, guests and nature are the elements that make this job so exciting and dynamic because both motivate me to look at life from a different perspective.
I love being a Backroads Trip Leader because it is incredibly enriching. My passion for the job is apparent. In fact, my friends have nicknamed me "Fire Ball." The nickname comes from the excitement I get when I share local knowledge, points of view and the amazing environment with our guests to create unforgettable experiences. It energizes my heart like a fire making me live up to my nickname.
Italian, Leader since 2012
I grew up in Tuscany, near Siena, in a tiny village of only 400 people! I have a Masters Degree in Nature Science and I've always loved nature and outdoor life as well as travelling and meeting people. That's why I have always wanted to be a tour guide. I started my career working and living in Kenya leading safaris and treks into the tropical forest. After that, I worked in a diving center as a scuba diving guide. Then I applied for the Backroads Trip Leader position and was thrilled to get the job!
Why Backroads? For years, I've seen the Backroads van driving all over my home region of Tuscany and I wanted to learn more about what Backroads was about. The more I learned about the company, the more I realized the job was the perfect fit for me. I applied, got the job and since then, I haven't looked back. The job is very challenging. It's also interesting because it's constantly changing and I feel like I'm always growing professionally. I have learned so much about quality, service and professionalism since being a trip leader. It's been the best experience of my career.
What I like about leading trips is meeting new people and showing them the beauty of the area. But most of all, I love the sense of adventure I renew every time I work and the pleasure of sharing it with fellow leaders and guests alike.
Czech, Leader since 2007, Trip Specialist & Regional Support Specialist Czech Republic
Where to start? Growing up in communist country meant my family did not have many opportunities to travel in my early childhood. We were unable to visit the western world until years after the Velvet Revolution, and the furthest I had ever traveled by the age of 12 was neighboring Yugoslavia. I guess the memory of this limitation is still deep inside of every Czech. This might be one reason why you can find Czech natives in literally every country of the world. We're all compensating for the freedom we once did not have.
I finally set foot outside of my native country when I joined the Czech National Cycling Team in 1998. This allowed me to travel extensively around Europe and got me excited about learning languages. I quit pro riding in 2003 and went to live, work, and study in Australia. I learned English, went around half of Australia on a motorcycle and realized that this was what I wanted from my life: traveling, learning languages, staying active, and challenging myself. I became a ski instructor in Austria. I then traveled to New Zealand and taught skiing there. While in New Zealand, I was hired to teach in The Canyons, Park City, Utah.
By the end of my first season in Park City, I realized that I missed riding my bike and sharing my passion for cycling with others. Right then and there I knew what I was looking for: a job as a bike tour guide. I talked to many companies during that long winter in Utah and searched the web for days, but I didn't find what I was looking for until I came across an issue of Men's Health magazine. The cover advertised the "50 most adventurous jobs in the world"—and that's where I first saw Backroads. I was hired in Salt Lake City two weeks after reading the article, and I still have that magazine.
After getting hired in 2007, I started working as a subcontractor because I could not be legally employed as a full-time employee by Backroads. Editors note: Trip Leaders without legal work authorization in our hubs of employment can work as subcontractors. See our "Locals Page" for more information. This actually proved to be an interesting opportunity to learn about accounting, taxes and international employment law. Nowadays, EU law allows me to work freely in most countries within Europe as a Backroads leader and I am a regular employee.
Now let me tell you, I did not expect a biking guide job to be anywhere close to as challenging as my job with Backroads has been! But the challenges are worth it when you consider the opportunities available with Backroads. You can work anywhere in the world! You have the opportunity to study languages (I continue to improve my English, Spanish, German, and Russian). You meet the funniest, friendliest people in your co-leaders, and they inspire you to do stuff you have only dreamt about. You learn about cultures you have always wanted to know more about, and ride your bike in the most amazing places in the world! Knowing that these opportunities are all there for me is what keeps me rolling through rainy prep days, broken printers, and any number of challenging situations with my smile on my face! It's all up to you in this job. I am sure I am not the first to say this; but this job is a treasure.
Slovenian, Leader since 2013
I have always had a passion for travelling and I realized at a young age that nothing else would make me experience life more intensely. I grew up in Slovenia, when the country was still part of old Yugoslavia when traveling abroad was not easy. But growing up in a small and diverse country, surrounded by nature, mountains, sea and active parents, gave me the opportunity to stay outdoors all the time. My earliest memories from childhood are camping holidays through the Dalmatian Coast with my family where we have spent endless summers swimming, fishing and smelling the pine trees.
I studied Marketing Communication and worked as a tour guide during my studies so I could afford to travel in my time off. I organized, promoted and led trips all over Europe and spent most of my summers in sunny Greece and then traveled in winters. My desire to travel while learning led me to study abroad in the Netherlands and the UK to finish my Master's degree in Public Relations. Later, I worked in marketing and PR and missed traveling so much that I would sometimes take days off and lead trips around Europe. Soon I realized that sitting in an office was not for me and that traveling and working in tourism could become my way of life.
For me, working as a Trip Leader with Backroads means sharing knowledge, passion for travel and creating unforgettable moments with the amazing people that come our way: both guests and co-workers. I will say that it's hard work but that's part of what makes it such a rewarding job. It gives me the opportunity to grow as a person and the freedom to do the things I truly enjoy.
Spanish, Leader since 2014
I'm originally from Spain but have lived many places in the world including France, Czech Republic and the USA. I'm also an avid traveler and I continually seek out extreme adventure. I love nature but what I really love is pushing the limits outdoors, whether its rock climbing, sky diving, surfing or mountaineering. I feel at my happiest when I'm outside doing something active. My professional background is in structural engineering and I'm also an entrepreneur. While working as an engineer, I realized how passionate I felt about being active in the outdoors and I decided to take the plunge, quit my job and join the active travel industry.
While this took a leap of faith and the road isn't always easy, I feel that I can share my knowledge and experiences with others and bring our trip destinations to life. I'm passionate about sharing the wonder and beauty of my home, Andalucia, to our guests. However, not only do I truly enjoy leading trips around home but I've been fortunate to lead in other countries as well. While quitting my old profession wasn't the easiest decision I've made, I can honestly say I made the best choice and I love what I now do for a living!
Irish, Leader since 2006
I came to San Francisco in 1999 for a software engineering job. It was a great career move, but the biggest payoff came in how my horizons expanded outside of work. I took up hobbies such as trail running, mountain biking, snowboarding and backcountry camping. I sampled cuisine from all over the world, and made friends from a multitude of backgrounds...
A few years ago, as I contemplated a career change, someone asked me what my ideal job would be. The answer was something that involved traveling, working outdoors and satisfying my inner cub scout, doing good deeds every day. I was also interested in spending a couple of months at home every year.
Six months later, I found myself leading my first Backroads trip - hiking through Ireland's fabulous Kerry mountains with 15 guests. Many things surprised me. As expected, the job was physically demanding, but it challenged me mentally as well. Both Backroads and their guests expect a lot of their leaders, and thanks to the intensive training and a great support system, you have the tools with which to excel. The guests respond in kind to your creativity and passion, making for new adventures every day. And, of course, all of the co-leaders are great "crack" (Gaelic for "fun").
I've now led in nine different regions worldwide, and have enjoyed every minute of it. I've brought guests to see glaciers in New Zealand, gypsy bands in Slovakia, cheesemaking farms in the Swiss Alps, and redwood forests in California Wine Country. I've had opportunities to take on more responsibility, and have grown with the job. I'm always excited to see what the next season brings.
French, Leader since 2014
I grew up in France and my "travel bug" began when I was 17 and an exchange student in South Africa. After that experience, I took off with my backpack and traveled all around South America, then throughout Europe and finally off to the beautiful sights of North America.
As time went by, I began to wonder, "Should I get a 'real' job and settle down?" "Is there a way to combine what I'm doing with a job that will challenge me and keep me interested?" One day, I was back from a fishing season in Alaska, staying at some friends in California. I still had my backpack on my shoulder when my friend told me I needed to check out the travel company down the street, Backroads. I had to wait a long year before being able to apply because of previous obligations. In this time, I questioned if the Trip leader position could really be the dream job I thought it would be.
A year later, after the fun yet nerve-wracking leader hiring event and the 2-week long intensive training course, I was a Trip Leader! Was it everything I dreamed it to be? Yes! Was I also surprised by the responsibilities and the expectations of a Trip Leader? Yes! But I'm up for the challenge. I find joy in this job that allows me to combine my passion for travel and continual growth into a REAL job.