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Meet VBT Featured Traveler: Marjorie D.

peru hiking
Marjorie D. embodies all that we love about our travelers. Her passion for meeting new people, exploring new destinations and sharing her travel experiences with those closest to her make us feel so fortunate that she is one of our most prolific travelers. She has been all over the world with VBT to amazing destinations like Italy, South Africa, Poland, Slovakia, Vietnam, France, Czech Republic, Peru and more. While Marjorie keeps vacationing with VBT because she loves the way we facilitate her travel experience, she has also recruited friends and family to join her over the years. “I had traveled with other companies by bike to places like Costa Rica, Ireland and New Zealand before VBT had similar trips but now I am sold on VBT,” she told us. “The pre- and post-trip options, and the focus on the history and the culture of destinations can’t be beat!” We asked Marjorie to tell us about some of her VBT experiences and she wrote us back a novella! As you can tell, this multi-time traveler has made a lifetime of memories while traveling the world with VBT.

My long history with VBT began in the early 1990s when my sister and I took your Swiss Lakes trip. I fell in love with that way of traveling: athletic activity (cycling and hiking), first-rate hotels, wonderful food, excellent bi-lingual leaders, planned cultural and historical events for our group, and (very importantly) mixing with the locals to learn about how they really lived. We weren’t just staring out the window of a van for hours upon end in extremely large groups; i.e. “If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium”.

grandkids amsterdamMy late husband Alan and I then began traveling more extensively with your company ; at first a domestic trip to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, followed by a few more—still in the ’90s—in France and Italy. It was especially terrific to have the option of inclusive airfare, something I appreciate to this day. Sadly, my husband passed away in 2000 but I knew he would want me to continue active travel with family and/or friends…and so I did. Although I had an active practice of psychotherapy and the youngest of our 4 children was still in college, I carved out the time for VBT trips, some of them with my kids, and many of them with a wonderful group of friends and colleagues that we call, “Team Virginia”.

“Team Virginia” was the name our leaders on the Tuscan Coast biking tour we took in 2001 gave our group of 6 women and the name stuck. Team Virginia is now about 24 strong and consists of both men and Marjorie and JOhnwomen. Over the years we have traveled in all sizes of groups together with VBT, from as little as 2, to as many as eight.  In 2005 I met John B.—who is also widowed—in an aerobics class and we found that we had many common interests however biking was not one of them, at first. But he was motivated to take it up and I convinced him join me on VBT’s tour in Sicily. It was pretty hilly, but he persevered and we have since gone on many more biking and walking trips together, including the Machu Picchu walking vacation last year.  We also took my older two grandchildren on the Holland and Belgium Bike and Barge in 2012; and I was so happy to see that everyone in our group graciously welcomed and included them. Not only are they great kids but superb cyclists! What we loved about the bike and barge experience was not only the quality of the food, staff and leaders (as always) but NOT having to pack and unpack frequently. I’m sure we’ll do another barge tour one day.

I’d have to say that of all the vacations I have taken with VBT both South Africa and Vietnam were especially meaningful, with a great deal of spiritual depth involved. I especially value the opportunity to have spent time at a township near Capetown (post-Apartheid) where we witnessed those lovely people re-furbishing bicycles as a business and building homes and schools for their children; and as a contrast, being guests of a Capetown chef at her upscale home where we helped prepare a lovely meal. That’s where I learned of Bobote, a great dish with ground lamb that I often make here at home.

Hiking peruIn Vietnam all the included historical and cultural visits (Cu Chi tunnels etc) were amazing, and I don’t know where else you have to share the road with elephants, motor scooters, goats, cows, and people riding vintage bicycles with boxes of chickens strapped to the back! And since I am an animal lover, I loved trekking with llamas on some of the Peruvian walks; fortunately not on the Inca Trail itself. Doing the Inca Trail, incidentally, had been on my bucket list; and although challenging, it was also exhilarating and an absolute highlight of my travels.

I also really enjoyed my trip to Poland in the fall of 2012, which was a President’s Tour. I have Eastern European grandparents, so being in Warsaw and Krakow was particularly meaningful. We were also fortunate to have Gregg and Caroline Marston with us and I was so impressed with their generosity and charm.

Finally, I’m excited for my upcoming walking tour to Basque country, which will be my 20th trip—and certainly not my last! The Spain walking trip sounds wonderful: a terrific mix of culture and art and outdoor activity. I’m particularly excited about walking part of the Way of St James pilgrimage which will add just enough of a spiritual twist to the adventure.

We just wanted to thank Marjorie for telling us all about her travels. We wish her the best of luck on her upcoming tour to Spain and can’t wait to see where she is off to after that!

Meet Jane: VBT’s Traveler of the Month for February 2014

After seeing how much fun they seem to have from the pictures they’ve kindly shared with us, we’ve wanted to hear Celebrating Jane's 70thmore about a group of women known as “WE GO NOW” that have taken many VBT Group tours together over the years. When we asked Laura, VBT’s Group Tour Manager, who to contact from the group she immediately suggested Jane D (2nd in from the right in this picture), who is preparing for her 10th VBT vacation and is also one of the group’s organizers. We had a chance to sit down with Jane and ask her some questions about why she loves active travel and how she came to choose VBT as the perfect vehicle in which to see the world with WE GO NOW.

How long have you been a fan of active travel and when did you hear about VBT?
Before discovering VBT, I went on biking trips to Provence, Lake Constance, Italy, the Danube and the Elbe River (Berlin to Prague) with two other companies. In 2005, with my husband and another couple, I went on the VBT Banff biking trip that was offered back then and fell in love with EVERYTHING VBT!
We Go Now field

You organize a group of women who travel together called “WE GO NOW” and have taken many group vacations with VBT in the past. Could you describe the inception of this group? Do the same members travel every time?
The aforementioned Banff tour left me wanting more so when our Trip Leaders recommended the VBT New Zealand vacation, we thought it would be the perfect place to travel with a private group of women…and thus, WE GO NOW was born! Since then, WE GO NOW has done one VBT trip a year and to date, we’ve been to New Zealand, Vietnam, Croatia, Heart of Europe Bike and Barge, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Italy Po Valley and Poland. This September, WE GO NOW is getting ready for our second Bike and Barge trip: Heart of France.

My dear friend Linda and I work together to plan our WE GO NOW trips and events. We have many return travelers on our private group trips and for our upcoming September trip; we have only one “Newbie.” A month before our trips, Linda and I do a dinner party with appropriate national cuisine. The group shares tips, albums, memories from previous trips and we give each of them trip favors which have included visors, backpacks and purses emblazoned with the WE GO NOW logo.

What is it about VBT’s Group Travel Program that keeps you coming back year after year?
For me, biking is only a small part of a VBT trip. The incredible native VBT Trip Leaders, wonderful customer service, hotels that are offered, meals, special events, bikes and routes all join together to produce memorable experiences. The women who choose to do our trips are pretty darn awesome…we say, wining is allowed; but whining is not allowed. We call it the WE GO NOW spirit and believe it shows in how helpful and encouraging the women are with each other. Being good Americans is important to WE GO NOW. Our trips are never competitions and for us it’s not about mileage or speed…it’s about Vacation, Education and with just a little Libation.
We Go Now group pic

For our group, we often pre-book independent adventures for our pre- or post-trips with suggestions from Laura Thompson Breen, VBT’s Group Manager, who is like “family” to me! In Krakow, we enjoyed a private group dinner and Chopin concert and visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. In Croatia, we did private day tours of Bosnia and Montenegro. I recently booked a private group day trip to Normandy’s WWII Landing Beaches for our upcoming pre-trip. VBT’s office staff is always so helpful and cheerful. I also enjoy the amazing VBT Trip Leaders who really are the spark and the glue of our trips. We often wonder how and where VBT finds these incredible Leaders! They all have been encouraging, upbeat, safety conscious, patient, knowledgeable and always have a superb sense of humor!

You’ve been to Poland, Croatia, Italy, The Czech Republic and more with VBT over the years, what is your favorite destination that you’ve been to with us so far?
Favorite? It’s a dilemma to choose one. Aspects of all of my VBT vacations stand out: the Vietnamese children calling “I love you” out to us, biking around Slovenia’s gorgeous Lake Bled and around Italy’s Lake Garda, home visits and meals, the views seen from Croatia’s islands and biking along the Danube which is the best biking trail I’ve ever Brage cropexperienced. The pre- and post-trip cities have been lovely: Bellagio, Cinque Terre, Ljubljana, Vienna, Prague, Saigon, and Krakow. I must admit that New Zealand was total paradise and is my favorite VBT trip but, who knows, maybe the Heart of France will be my new favorite!

Speaking of your upcoming Heart of France Bike and Barge vacation, what are you looking forward to most about traveling again by barge?
Traveling by barge is a complete joy – unpacking once and tucking the suitcase under the bed brings a smile to my face. Having our private barge, private staff, private dining room—what’s not to love? Our Heart of France itinerary will have us barging on the Seine into Paris, what’s not to love about this? As our invitation stated:  BIKE * BARGE * BLISS.

What is it about active travel that appeals to you most?
VBT trips lift my spirits and fill my soul. Much of travel is “drive by” travel from behind a bus or car windshield. VBT bike trips are what I like to call “immersion” travel. I enjoy all the senses you pick up on from the seat of one’s bike like inhaling the lavender, hearing sheep, seeing for miles from the top of a hill, visiting with locals, learning history and culture from the VBT Trip Leaders—what a privilege it all is!  Women sometimes cry at the end of our trips when we say goodbye to our bikes and Trip Leaders, but they are tears of joy, amazement and the wonderful sense of accomplishment!

To learn more about VBT’s Group Travel Program please click here. If you’d like to see some more pictures from WE GO NOW tours over the years check out their Czech tour Gallery and Po River Valley Gallery.

We go now group heart of europe2

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