Italy never ceases to amaze. Just when you think there’s little more to discover, this place offers ancora di più (more and better). As the regional manager for Backroads’ trips in Italy, I’m no stranger to the country’s diverse regions. Nevertheless, as we sought to craft new itineraries in the heart of “the Boot,” I was amazed when Italy revealed an endless array of quaint villages and stunning landscapes waiting to be explored. As you’ll hopefully soon see for yourself, the addition of Monti Sibillini National Park and the neighboring village of Norcia to our Walking & Hiking Trip in Tuscany and Umbria is a true bonus.
Our friends, Mike and Kathi, broached the subject once again. “You guys really should think about coming with us on this Tuscany biking trip.” As I lowered my head and peered at them over my sunglasses, I remember musing: “Are you insane?” “We’ll think about it,” is what came out of my lips.
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.
Lauran and I met on a school bus. She was wearing a propeller hat and fake glasses with tape on the bridge and rainbow suspenders to hold the outfit together. It was love at first sight. Ok, not really, but we did meet on the school bus during the Backroads California Staff Ride in 2010 and the theme was “Back to School.”
Since very early in the Backroads days, we have run annual staff rides that gather our employees in one place for a multi-day adventure. These trips get everyone in the same space after being spread out across the globe for much of the year to revel in our strong community and just plain have fun together. Last month, it took place in Vietnam–right in the middle of one of the biggest typhoons in decades.
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.
If you’ve done much traveling, you’ve likely encountered a UNESCO World Heritage site. The term may spark immediate interest but what exactly does it mean? While UNESCO is best known for identifying its famous World Heritage sites, it’s an incredibly nuanced intercontinental coalition with enormous goals.
Iceland is home to the world’s oldest parliament, Europe’s largest glacier (by volume), Björk and now you for at least 24 hours! Whether you’re spending the day in Reykjavík before or after your Backroads Iceland trip, this guide offers an easy plan for a great day in the city, maximizing your time and showcasing all this capital has to offer.
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.
As Backroads leaders, we wear many hats in a given day: concierge, mechanic, translator, chauffeur, navigator, motivator… the list is infinite. One of my favorites to don, however, has to be that of “chef,” because that’s when we get to perform the magic that results in the famous Backroads picnic lunch!
Everyone’s heard of the Galápagos Islands, with their blue-footed boobies and natural phenomena. But many are surprised to find that they’re a part of Ecuador, a country the size of Colorado replete with its own incredible natural and cultural diversity. Ecuador is a place where you can begin your day with breakfast by the ocean, drive a few hours for lunch in the Andes and finish with dinner in the rain forest.
There’s something about San Francisco. Something that sets it apart from other major world cities. Is it the natural setting surrounded by indigo Pacific waters? Or the way the hills display the shining city like diamond on their hand? The parade of Victorian pastel houses paired with a riot of street art? The homegrown food scene with its year-round access to fresh local produce and pioneering chefs.