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.
“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.
The mother of two children clinging to her long, woven skirt encourages her two-year-old son to wave to you by grabbing his wrist and saying “sabaidee,” which means “hello” in Lao. When you pass by on your bike, waving back, the woman’s daughter calls out, “Bye-bye!,” a phrase she probably learned at an early age to use to address passing bike tourists. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, try biking in Laos. Laotians in remote villages don’t see many Westerners rolling through their homeland.
When you go on an epic trip, such as my recent Backroads adventure, there’s often a special experience that defines the trip. It’s usually not the obvious one you gravitated to in the catalog or on the website. It may even seem inconsequential at the time, but then expands in meaning until it becomes the primary signifier of the trip. If you’re very lucky, you return with something you can hold in your hand to remember the magic of the moment.
If you’ve spent any time traveling internationally you’ve undoubtedly encountered some form of curry on menus and local tables in just about any region of the world, and especially in South Asia. So what exactly is curry, and why does it seem to be everywhere? With a little bit of knowledge about this delicious culinary tradition, your traveling adventures (and your palate!) will be enriched as you learn to appreciate all that curry has to offer. I’m here to help you out!
Our guests often ask Backroads Trip Leaders, “What’s your favorite trip?” While I jokingly say we don’t offer tours in ugly places, I do have an answer: hands-down my favorite trip to lead is our New Zealand Walking & Hiking Tour.
India is everything you’ve heard plus a million more sensations. The contrasts knock you to your knees, humble you and build you back up within a matter of moments. It takes “exotic” to the next level and stamps the reality that we’re from vastly different cultures but we’re similar in so many ways.
If I could describe India in one word, it would be just that… Incredible. I was recently gifted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience our India Multisport Tour. Journeying through the northern state of Rajasthan in Backroads fashion is more than just an active vacation–it’s an experience. India truly is a place to live and to learn.
Backroads has been in New Zealand for nearly three decades, crafting innovative routes, forging local connections and setting new standards for exceptional service – all with the goal of creating an active travel experience that lives up to the amazing diversity of this beautiful country. Thanks to a resident Trip Expert who’s been discovering hidden roads and trails for more than 25 years, our unique biking itinerary explores far beyond the usual tourist haunts.
There’s a place in Turkey where I descended into the bowels of the earth, terrified I’d never resurface, then flew to the highest reaches of the heavens, afraid I’d plummet to my doom. I laughed and made jokes, yet I was also silent, pondering the sacred. I felt corporeal and ethereal, often at the same time. Where was I? Cappadocia, of course…
In Vietnam, our Trip Leaders combine deep local expertise with a firm grasp of North American expectations around quality of service. By the same token, we pair experienced Backroads leaders with local guides who know how to cater to your needs while cracking open the culture or natural history in ways that are meaningful, memorable and often magical. On this trip, enjoy exclusive access to an ancient Hanoi temple rarely visited by foreign travelers. And leave the tourists behind, pedaling past bucolic settlements and vibrant green rice paddies on wonderfully quiet roads.
In Vietnam, coffee culture is as deep and rich as just about anything else. On old brick sidewalks and in old colonial shops adorned with art deco tiles, old men sit on small stools in the morning and afternoon. They sip little cups of iced-coffee rocket fuel, or as they would say, cafe sua da (or ca phe sua da), while playing checkers and cards.
For nearly 25 years we’ve created biking routes that take you deeper into Thailand, winding through forests, farmland and small hamlets that are well off the beaten tourist path. A great day of riding in gorgeous surroundings becomes all the more special when you’re greeted by farmers, shopkeepers and monks who know Backroads well and invite you to stop in for a visit. We’re confident you won’t find that kind of welcome with any other company.