Trek Travel recently wrapped up their New Guide Training in Solvang, CA. There is a whole new group of guides about to set off on what will be an adventure of a lifetime, excited about what’s to come, but with no real idea of what they’re about to walk into. A group of the best guides Trek Travel has to offer took those new guides through the paces, sharing their cumulative years of knowledge and experience. The experienced guides taught the new guides about picnic preparation, bike mechanics, route support, and everything else they need to know to take you on your cycling vacation of a lifetime.
With that as a preface, I have some words of advice for the new guides.
Dear New Trek Travel Guides,
With as much information as Jake and Tony and Rebecca and Greg and Brie and Sean and company threw at you, you might think they thought of everything. The truth is, there are a few things they don’t teach you at New Guide Training. Everything at training is so guest focused, they don’t teach you how to make the most of this incredible adventure you’re headed into. Here are 5 things I wish I had known before I guided my first trip.
- Take a moment for yourself every day. – This job is all about the guests, but don’t let that focus mean you lose yourself. Take 30 seconds while you’re sipping coffee in the morning, spend five minutes spinning solo while you’re pedaling ahead to the next group of guests, pause a moment when you’re walking back to your room after dinner. Take that time to just be you, enjoying where you are. Trek Travel will take you to some of the most beautiful places on earth, but it’s easy to get caught up in the work and lose sight of where you are.
- Take advantage of time between trips. Most of your guests have had to take a bunch of time off work and lay down a bunch of money for their French/Italian/Spanish/etc vacation. You don’t have to ask for that time off and you’re already in a place that many people dream of being able to take a vacation to. Go see the stuff that isn’t on your trip! You’d never pretend that someone could experience all of a place in six days. You’re doing your best to show your guests the best the area has to offer, but go see some of the other stuff. You never know what you’ll find that you can use that to improve the trip or suggest things for your guests to see if they extend their vacation a few days. You will spend a lot of time creating memories for other people, don’t forget to go create some for yourself.
- Find something cool to take back every time you go home. I discovered a love for wine through Trek Travel, and after a couple seasons I made a point of bringing home at least one bottle every time I flew home, stuff I knew I couldn’t find at home and stuff I knew was worth cellaring for a couple years (I wouldn’t see it anyway). Now I have an incredible wine collection from all over the world. If wine isn’t your thing, find something. It doesn’t have to be big, but someday you’ll be thankful for the reminders of your great adventures all over the world.
- Travel with something that represents “home.” One of the toughest parts of my first couple years of guiding for me was the loss of a sense of home. I gave up my apartment and put my stuff into storage. I didn’t have a home to go home to. It was liberating at first, but before long it became disorienting and uncomfortable. I finally went back to my storage unit, dug into the boxes marked “kitchen,” and pulled out my favorite ceramic coffee mug. That coffee mug became the routine part of my day that made wherever I was home. I used to joke that “Home is where my toothbrush is,” but really, home was where that coffee mug was.
- New friends are everywhere. When it comes down to it, the most valuable things you will create in this job are relationships. Your co-guides will become like a second family. You’ll count on them, you’ll laugh with them, you’ll fight with them, and you’ll be stuck with them for life. Get to know the people who work in the hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops. Having friends you get to see week after week and year after year when you’re traveling makes a new place feel like home. Stay in touch with your favorite guests. Your job is to connect a group quickly, but those connections don’t have to end when your guests get on the bus on Day 6. You’ll have favorite guests, stay in touch with the good ones. I still regularly see many of my guests, including a couple from my first Trek Travel trip in 2005. You’ll meet thousands of new people on the road, slow down enough to get to know them.
I was riding the best I’d ever ridden that particular piece of trail. I was railing it. It was an amazing day on a bike. Until my front wheel dropped off a lip a little too fast. It was a section of trail I’d ridden dozens of times without issue. This time my front wheel landed just before a rock instead of on it. I went over the bars fast and woke up with another rider standing over me and a helmet smashed to pieces. #1
Teeter-totter. No problem. Roll to the top, pause, let it slowly lower, roll off the other end. No problem. I’ve done this before. This time: roll to the top, pause, roll a little too far to the right and fall from the highest point of the teeter-totter. #2
Noon Ball. Rob and I were playing a little one on one as everyone was shooting around and waiting for enough people to show up to call “game on.” I’m on defense, Rob does a little jab step and a bump. Pretty standard for noon ball. Except this time he jab stepped onto my front foot. When he bumped me, I couldn’t pivot back to catch myself and I fell backwards, catching myself with the back of my head on the concrete. #4
Fixed gear. Pouring rain. Railroad tracks. When I woke up the ambulance was there. #6
As best I can count, I’m at six concussions. Concussions have mixed me up a little bit, but big picture, I’ve been pretty lucky so far. I know people who haven’t been so lucky. I know I have to be extremely careful. The next one will come easier with harsher consequences. And it doesn’t get better from there.
I’m pretty sensitive to the stories about concussions. I’ve been personally affected by concussions and people who are very close to me have been affected even worse.
The recent recognition of the seriousness of concussions in sport, especially the higher impact sports like football and hockey, is a step in the right direction. There’s finally been enough research to force these leagues to take concussions seriously, and that’s encouraging to me. Even fans are beginning to realize that players who miss several games, even entire seasons, due to concussions, aren’t being “wusses.” That fan recognition is forcing action on the part of the governing bodies of sports, from the high school level to the professional level, to take action.
That progress is why two separate articles that I read today are particularly troubling.
The first was “Do Concussions Lead to Suicide?” on FiveThirtyEight. I’m generally a pretty big fan of the content on FiveThirtyEight, but the conclusions suggested in this article are troubling to me, primarily because they aren’t really conclusions. Granted, it’s hard to draw conclusions from a bunch of random, disconnected anecdotes that research different things and try to answer different questions. By the end of the article, the author doesn’t seem to remember what she was getting at in the first place. The absolute most disconcerting sentence in the article, though, was this:
“In recent years, the NFL has struggled with a significant public relations problem around the issue of concussions.”
A PUBLIC RELATIONS PROBLEM?!?! Concussions are not a PR problem! Concussions are a legitimate, long-term health problem. True, football does not cause suicide. To try to make that connection would be irresponsible, but to ignore the health risks, and spin concussions as a PR problem rather than a legitimate health concern is even more irresponsible.
The second article came from SBNation. In “Chris Conte said some dangerous things about playing with concussions,” author Rodger Sherman understands that risk. Conte says:
“I’d rather have the experience of playing in the NFL and die 10 to 15 years earlier than not play in the NFL and have a long life.”
Sherman addresses the underlying problems with that idea and the danger in that misconception. This article sums up the current conception of concussions and sport exceptionally well (articles on SBNation are generally good like that). I commend Sherman on offering a simple and concise explanation of the importance of making sure everyone is educated on the long term risk of repeated concussions, and the responsibility of the leagues to the safety and long term well being of their players.
Concussions are not a PR problem. Concussions are a very real health problem. Research has proven the long term damage that can come from repeated concussions. I’m happy to see a better understanding of the issue, and I’m happier to see mainstream news outlets call people out when they say stupid, dangerous things about concussions. For now, if your favorite player is sitting out because of a concussion, be happy they’re sitting, and not risking bigger problems down the road. If your kids are playing sports, make sure they’re wearing the best protective gear you can buy, and if you suspect they’ve had a concussion, get them checked out.
Be smart. Care for others. And watch your head.
… or call it a comeback. I don’t really care either way.
This post is to serve as a warning. I’m going to take another run at this site.
I have ideas, and I’m arrogant enough to think they’re worth sharing.
Unfortunately I have a lot of ideas not worth sharing, too, and if you’re going to stick through this with me to find the ideas worth sharing, you’re probably going to have to sit through a lot of trash.
I’m a little out of practice writing, so I’ll start out like a landlubber on his first day at sea.
Refining my writing is one of my goals in getting back into this, but it might be a little rough to start.
I have a couple years worth of ideas that haven’t been properly expressed, so this thing is about to go all over the place.
All fair game.
I might even get around to posting the end result of the project that was the subject of my last post.
If you’re with me, hang on tight, this is about to get fun.
Do you have a Trek? Do you love your Trek? Yeah, me too, more than once over in fact. I’m working on a little project, and I’d love your help. If you have a Trek you love, tell me about it! Tell me why you love it, what it inspires you to do, whatever. Send me a photo, leave me a voicemail, Tweet at me, make me a YouTube video, post about it on my Facebook wall, post it on my Google Plus page, post about it on LinkedIn and tag me. Even a few words, I just want to hear about it!
“Wait, so you travel from April to November, and then come back to Minneapolis for the winter? Summer in Minnesota is the reason people tolerate winter here!” I get that response a lot when I describe my job, especially when I actually spent long stretches of winter at home. I travel a ton, obviously, but through all of that travel, I’ve been proud to call Minneapolis home. I spend a lot of time extolling the virtues of this great city, but here are some numbers to back it up.
Our airport is #1 in the nation. I seldom connect through it, but I give myself a little more time before my flight here than I do in most cities, because it is an awfully nice place to hang out. When I land here, I make a beeline for the door, because I can’t wait to get out and enjoy the rest of what Minneapolis has to offer.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul is the healthiest, fittest metro area in the US.
And it’s pretty good for running, too.
Which adds up to Minnesota being the 5th Healthiest State
The Twin Cities have some of the most intelligent and most attractive people in the US.
Minneapolis is the least stressful city in the US.
Possibly related, Minnesota is the least miserable state.
We have two of the top 50 breweries in the world, a number that is threatening to grow as our beer scene explodes.
Travel and Leisure loves us, giving us the number one spot in America for Best Summer, #1 on Cleanliness, Most Intelligent, Best Public Parks and Outdoor Areas.
And while we have that great summer, we make the best of winter, too, with National Geographic’s #4 best winter carnival in the world.
People are starting to notice how nice it is here. Lonely Planet named the Twin Cities one of the Top 10 US Travel Destinations for 2013.
If you’re still not convinced, how about 50 reasons that Minnesota is the best state.
And our future looks awfully bright, too.
And that, my friends, is why I love it here, and why I keep coming back here, no matter how dang cold it gets in the winter.
A couple weeks ago Trek Travel held its year end meetings in Santa Barbara. At the close of our tenth year in business, nearly thirty guides and office staff gathered to recap the year, examine our processes, celebrate our successes, and brainstorm ways to further improve our product and our company as we move forward.
I have participated in our year-end meetings in each of the eight years I’ve guided with Trek Travel, and I will admit that some years are more productive than others. While I still believe that the 2011 meetings were the best we’ve ever had, this year’s meetings were great for a couple big reasons.
This is the first year that we have taken a really big picture approach to the meetings. Everything that was discussed was looked at from an overarching department level and how that affected the company on the whole. Gone was the bickering over the wording the reports we have to fill out at the end of the trip, replaced with discussions of changes we have made or have to make and how they relate to the culture and vision of the company for the future. For those of us who have been around for a while, it was a great reminder of what we’re trying to provide, and for those hired in the last year or two, it was an opportunity to understand the culture and goals of the company and how the decisions made by the office and the president of the company fit into that vision.
In stark contrast to 2011, when we had barely a dozen people at the meetings, this year we had better than half of the company in attendance at the meetings. It’s a pretty rare occasion that we all have the opportunity to get together in one place. Usually when we do it’s at a really busy time with a really packed schedule, either at return guide training in the spring or at the Tour de France. Even in those places, we don’t often all get together. Our fall meetings were an opportunity to get together, talk a little business, talk a little personal life, go for a ride, cook together, go to the beach, go out to dinner together, have a dance party, drink some beer (margaritas, wine, whiskey), and generally enjoy each other’s company. We had new guides in attendance, and we celebrated the guides who have been along for the ride for every one of our ten years. It was a great reminder that we work with an amazing and fun group of people. We all work for the same company, and we interact all year long, but our paths seldom intersect en masse.
This year’s meetings were an awesome reminder of the great group of people we have working together toward a goal of providing cycling vacations of a lifetime. Our smaller size over the years has allowed us to be much more selective about who we hire to work for Trek Travel, and this gathering was an amazing demonstration of the top notch group of people we’ve managed to hire – and more importantly retain. With this group we can continue to put forth a great product that we can all be excited about and proud of, but never truly satisfied with, as we’re all driven to make our product better than the day it was before.
It’s been fun to be a part of this company for the last eight years, and as we celebrate our first ten years in business, I look forward to what we can do in the next ten.
I recently stumbled across an article entitled “Ten Travel Tips on How to Travel Local.” The article focused on various ways a traveler (not tourist) can have a more authentic experience when visiting a new location. Some things could be accomplished in a relatively short trip – shop in the supermarkets, spend time in public places, rent an apartment instead of a hotel. Others required more of a time commitment – including number one on the list, “Take the time and commit to it.”
One item on the list resonated with me more than the others, however, because it is a rather unique approach to understanding a culture. “Read a book about the destination.” When planning a vacation, the books most people reach for are local guidebooks. While a guidebook can be great for planning the day to day stops of a tourist, it does little to guide a traveler to a greater understanding of a location. A guidebook is a great checklist of things you should see, but doesn’t begin to tell you how you should see them.
There are a handful of books I’ve read that have guided the way I’ve experienced an area. Before I left for Australia in the winter of 2009, my aunt and uncle gave me a copy of Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines. I also brought a copy of Bill Bryson’s Walk About, along on the trip. While I didn’t spend any time in the outback, or anywhere either of these books took place, they gave me a greater understanding of Australia, its people, and how the areas I did visit fit into the context of the entire country, both culturally and historically.
Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises was also an interesting book to have read while traveling in Spain. While I wasn’t drinking from wineskins or watching bullfights, I sat down in cafes and bars with a slightly different mindset. I went from going into a cafe with a goal of getting a drink or something to eat, to walking in and sitting down with a goal of experiencing a meal, of interacting with the place, and of appreciating my surroundings.
I’m currently working on Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley in Search of America. It’s a fantastic book, and I’m thoroughly enjoying comparing my perspectives on places with Steinbeck’s reflections. It’s reminding me of some of the great road trips I’ve taken and stirring my desires to take another. It makes me want to buy an old truck and drive across the country. I have visions of sitting on the tailgate of the truck, looking out over the ocean, drinking coffee.
If you have an upcoming trip, I encourage you to set aside the guidebook and pick up a book that is set in that place. Gain a greater understanding of how life is lived there, so you can experience that as well. If you don’t have a trip planned, grab a book anyway, one that is set in a specific place that is not where you are, and find some inspiration to travel. If you can’t settle on a single place, then maybe you’re destined for a road trip like mine. If that’s the case, Brendan Leonard put together a pretty great list of road trip books you’ll want to read first: The List: The 9 Best Road Trip Books.
Note: All Amazon links are affiliate links.
16D. Decent seat. Nothing special. Just another seat on another plane. It’s been my routine for many years. Drive a bit. Ride a bike for a while. Drive some more. Get on a plane. Repeat.
Since my first trip at the Tour de France in 2005, Trek Travel has been my primary source of income. Even when I was out with injury, working for other companies, or just taking a hiatus, when people asked what I did, I told them I worked for Trek Travel.
Seat 16D changes that. I’m on a plane bound for Minneapolis. Trek Travel paid for this flight. Tomorrow morning I will wake up and go through my normal morning routine. Everything will seem normal, but everything will not be normal. For the first time in nearly seven years, when you ask me what I do, I’ll have to correct myself when I say that I work for Trek Travel (it’s been seven years, it’s going to be a hard habit to break). Tomorrow the correct answer to that question is, “I’m the Marketing and Communications Manager for Adventure Fit.”
Seat 16D, this one’s on you. Don’t blow this for me.
My good friends over at Groucho Sports have been hard at work, growing their business, and generally working toward the overall good of mankind. Sometimes I think they’re more focused on the good of mankind than they are on their bottom dollar, and that’s a big part of why I love them so much.
They have presented me with the exciting opportunity to become one of their staff bloggers. My first post went live yesterday, and it was about finding motivation. I’ll need to take some of my own advice, because I’ll be blogging for them weekly, with a new post every Saturday.
I’ll try to post links from here from time to time, but head on over and subscribe to their very awesome blog. The rest of their writers are awesome, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on any of their work. I’m super excited to be a part of this team.
I’ve struggled for a long time with the fact that I haven’t been able to find the thing that will allow me to share the affinity that so many of my friends seem to have for Spain. So many of my friends love it here, speak fondly of their time here, reminisce about places that I’ve felt no connection with. I’ve made some good memories in Spain, but they’ve been fully about the people I was with, and seemed to be in spite of Spain, rather than because of it.
I’ve spent most of my time in Spain in the Girona and Costa Brava area, and a little time in Barcelona. I was thinking I’d have to explore other parts of Spain, because I just didn’t see it. I couldn’t find anything here that I connected with, the roads, buildings, and people were nothing but objects, with nothing behind the facade to connect with. After two weeks here, I was resigned to just get through my time, hammer out my hours in the warehouse, and go home. Late last week I finally got to a point where after hours and hours in the warehouse, surrounded by bikes, on days that could be described as no less than perfect riding days, I just had to get out on a bike.
I finally found that thing that allows me to connect with Spain. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, I found it from the seat of a bicycle. I had a perfect ride that day. I felt at home. It’s still the only connection I feel with this place. When I’m not on the bike, I still just go through the motions. I’m still not enamored with Spain, but I have something to build on. Maybe someday this place can feel like home, too.