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    Meet Our Trip Leaders

Backroads Trip Leaders: Meet a Few of Our Trip Leaders

View Leader Profiles:   Based in the U.S.  |  Based in Canada  |  Based in Europe  |  Others

U.S. Trip Leaders

Lizelle Jackson

Lizelle Jackson

Leader since 2012

As a child growing up in Southern California, I was hard-pressed to find a summer that was not occupied by outdoor adventures and travel. My family was extremely active and always on the go, using the Southwest as our stomping ground. Whether we were hiking the Zion Narrows, kayaking down the Colorado River or mountain biking in Mexico, these were the vacations that made me want to explore more of what the world had to offer.
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Joey Coe

Joey Coe

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.
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Backroads Trip Leader Molly Aiken

Molly Aiken

Leader since 2013

After my sophomore year in high school, I decided to move to New Zealand and homeschool myself for my junior year. The next six months were life changing. I mean, who doesn't just pack their bags and make their way to "Middle Earth"? Following my adventures in New Zealand, I participated in a horse-packing course in the Wind River Range of Wyoming with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). After graduating from high school, I decided to "hang up the saddle" for a few years and traded my spurs for campus life at Ole Miss (can I get a "Hotty Toddy," anyone?) and learned about the importance of community. I majored in Hospitality Management and enjoyed gaining insight into numerous aspects of business, from economics to sociology. My junior year was spent in Italy where I fell in love with the Italian culture and spent the weekends seeing as much of Europe as possible. In each place, my eyes went wide, and my heart was filled. I had to see more.
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Ed Krajsky

Ed Krajsky

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.
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Backroads Trip Leader Chelsey Funis

Chelsey Funis

Leader since 2013

A few years ago while running my first half marathon, I stumbled across a quote written on the back of a woman's shirt that read, "One day I won't be able to do this. Today is not that day." That quote really stuck with me and has proven to encourage and inspire me long after I finished those 13.1 miles.
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Backroads Trip Leader Abdul Faqir

Abdul Faqir

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.
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Jayne McDonagh

Jayne McDonagh

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.
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Backroads Trip Leader Russell Grange

Russell Grange

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.
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Katie Roda

Katie Roda

Leader since 2012

I was born and raised in Southern California and spent most of my youth playing soccer or joining the family in outdoor adventures—skiing, hiking, camping, river rafting and the like. I have always found that I am happiest when I'm spending time exploring new places and cultures or getting wrapped up in a wonderful conversation. Prior to coming to Backroads, I earned my undergraduate degree in neuroscience and my graduate degree in business. I worked in various corporate environments including five years as a marketing manager at Microsoft. It wasn't until I joined Backroads that I realized you really can make a career out of doing something you love—being outdoors, staying active and engaging with people.
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Backroads Trip Leader Jonathan Danh

Jonathan Danh

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!
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Backroads Trip Leader Derrel Young

Derrel Young

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.
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Canadian Trip Leaders

Jasmine Verrall

Jasmine Verrall

Leader since 2011

Having grown up in a mountaineering hostel in Canmore, Alberta, I was immediately immersed in the outdoor adventure culture. I was so fortunate to have an endless forest as my backyard and to be in the presence of so many travelers from around the world. A passion for adventure and travel was instilled in me when I was only five weeks old and my parents packed me up into their van and headed north to the Yukon for two months. Ever since, I have not been able to sit still and I spend as little time as possible with walls around me.
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Ken Brushett

Ken Brushett

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.
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Pam Fritz

Pam Fritz

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.
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Mitch Sime

Mitchell Sime

Leader since 2012

My first year with Backroads offered a unique opportunity for me to share my love for the mountains and region as we travelled through my hometown in the Canadian Rockies. Some of my earliest memories are on these very trails, hiking and biking through the timeless landscapes. I take great pride in welcoming people into the mountains, the same way my parents and my grandparents introduced me to the land. The companionship that comes with travelling in the wilderness is unparalleled and the bonds made between friends and family last a lifetime.
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Travis Steffens

Travis Steffens

Leader since 2005

Born and raised in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, I developed a passion for nature and wildlife early in life. When I was eight I wanted to be a monkey when I grew up. Realizing the impossibility of this, I decided to study monkeys instead. I am now working on my PhD studying lemurs in Madagascar.
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European Trip Leaders

Backroads Trip Leader Ingo Albrecht

Ingo Albrecht

German, Leader since 2010

It was a sunny spring day that would change my life forever. I was staring into my computer screen as usual when I heard the sound of laughter outside of my window. I looked outside to see three kids riding their bikes and clearly having the time of their lives. I looked around my grey and dreary office and decided I needed a change. I wanted to be outside and work with people. I ended up working as a history bike guide in Berlin. It was there that I first heard about Backroads and decided to apply.
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Backroads Trip Leader Tommaso Spinelli

Tommaso Spinelli

Italian, Leader since 2014

I was born in Italy in the small coastal town of Livorno. In contrast with the stereotype of Italians, I broke my mother's heart and moved to Rome right after high-school to attend the National Film School. Since then, my life has been on the move. I have lived and performed all over Italy and Europe. Traveling quickly became one of the few constants in my life, the best way to challenge myself, meet new people and grow. At the same time, I became a University of Cambridge-certified teacher and started teaching English and public speaking, while translating plays and art exhibition catalogues.
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Vincent Soyer

Vincent Soyer

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...
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Backroads Trip Leader Karlijn Laman

Karlijn Laman

Dutch, Leader since 2014

I started biking at the age of four because in the Netherlands, that's what we do! My parents took me on my first bike tour through the Netherlands and Germany when I was nine years old. I was proud to announce to the rest of my class that I biked 700 kilometers by myself! It set the tone for future trips. Me and a bike? Yes please.
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Federica Vergano

Federica Vergano

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.
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Backroads Trip LeaderFabio Marzi

Fabio Marzi

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!
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Jakub Stanek

Jakub Stanek

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.
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Backroads Trip Leader Petra Skerlj

Petra Skerlj

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.
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Zuzana Salajova

Zuzana Salajova

Slovakian, Leader since 2006

Growing up in a post-communist country, the rest of the world seemed very inaccessible and mysterious. During my primary school geography classes when we had to memorize boring facts about the agriculture and industry production of different countries, I was always curious how people actually lived in the countries I was learning about. I dreamt about traveling to these distant destinations one day.
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Backroads Trip Leader Christian Gonzalez-Iriarte

Christian Gonzalez-Iriarte

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.
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Eoin Canny

Eoin Canny

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...
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Backroads Trip Leader Thibault Astruc

Thibault Astruc

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.
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Alexandre Visage

Alexandre Visage

French, Leader since 2007, French Regional Coordinator

I was a student in Paris, and I love busy cities. However, during my summers, I need some fresh air, new places to visit and new people to meet.
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Other Trip Leaders

Wally Bruce

Wally Bruce

New Zealander, Leader since 1995, Work authorization for Canada

My Backroads journey has been a life-changing experience. I started as a subcontractor for Backroads in New Zealand for a number of years—leading the white water rafting portion of trips. Before long, I was also biking and connecting with guests before we began the white water rafting action. I applied three times to be a full-time leader and eventually I became the first 'foreign' employee (not Canadian or American). Backroads became my priority and I sold my company and became the New Zealand expert—bringing my knowledge and love of the country to our guests. When not helping develop walking trips in New Zealand and Australia, I work in countries around the world—US, Scotland, Norway and Canada to name a few.
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Backroads Trip Leader Kate Batten

Kate Batten

New Zealander, Hired in 1996 and led six years, Returning Leader since 2015, Work Authorization for the US

My first cognitive memory is holding my Dad's hand as I went for my first hike. He says I was probably about two years old. And I've been active outdoors ever since!

Growing up on a sheep and meat goat farm in the South Island of New Zealand, I spent a lot of time working and playing outside. I joined our local tramping club as a teenager, going on regular weekend expeditions into the bush and mountains of New Zealand. And living rurally meant I spent a lot of time on a bike, traveling to visit friends or going to school.
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