5 Ways VBT Gets You Closer to Local Culture

The old adage goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Though it may be a cliché, it’s also good advice. The best way to get a sense for the culture you’re exploring is by living alongside the natives. But don’t stop at simply doing as the locals do, be sure to eat what they eat, drink what they drink and give it your best to speak as they speak. On your own, it can be difficult to get an authentic sense for local lore, but with a little support, you’ll find yourself immersed in the culture around you. Here’s how you’ll get closer to local culture when you travel with VBT.

Active Vacations

Active Exploration

Be involved in your vacation. It’s unlikely that your senses will simply attune to your surroundings on their own. It’s up to you to activate them. By exercising your body, you’ll alert your mind to the wonders of your environment. So hit the road or the trail and get your body moving at an enlightening pace. No need to worry, you can push yourself as much or  little as you’d like, and when you need a break, our support van will be there with snacks, drinks and a few friendly faces.

Local Trip Leaders

As fascinating and amazing as new lands can be, unfamiliar destinations can also be a bit daunting. Perhaps you know what you’d like to see, but don’t know how to get there. Or maybe you simply don’t know where to start. That’s where your local Trip Leaders come in. They’ve ridden these roads, walked these paths, and skied these trails many times before. They’ll fill you in on all the good stuff, the sights you can’t miss and the food you must taste. Trust us, your experience will be all the richer for having explored with a genuine local.

Italian Food

Authentic Cuisine

When we say engage your senses, we mean all of them. One of the greatest ways to explore is by way of your taste buds. Wherever you are, make sure you sample the local specialty. After all, it’s better here than anywhere else in the world! You don’t have to worry about a few extra calories either, you’re sure to burn them off on the trail. So there’s no need to skip dessert.

Unique Encounters

Here at VBT, we have plenty of friends, in plenty of places. We’ll introduce you to our companions, and they can help introduce you to a little known custom, a family tradition or even a few phrases to take with you as you continue to explore. Plus, by stopping in on a local family, resident historian or indigenous artist, you’ll get a sense of real life, away from the crowds.

Bike Tours

Take Your Time

Perhaps you’ve traveled on your own before. The excitement of a spontaneous adventure, stepping into a café out of the way or simply stopping, and taking it all in can do wonders for your journey. These are the moments that will stay with you, and we recognize the importance of time on your own. The great thing about VBT vacations are that we’re always there when you need us, but we provide ample opportunity for you to get away from the group, and wander on your own. So go ahead, take a little detour, have a little adventure. You’re sure to have a story or two for the group when you rejoin them later for dinner or a drink.

Cultural Connections by Bike

With time winding down before Stacey A’s fourth VBT vacation (she’s heading to Spain this week), she was kind enough to take a little time away from packing to share a few of the experiences she’s had while traveling with us.

Stacey and her husband, Steven, first heard about VBT through friends they’ve made at charity cycling events around the United States. Stacey notes that upon hearing VBT and thinking “Vermont Bike Tours,” she was a little surprised to learn that not only does VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations operate two great tours in our home state, but we also have 44 other (46 in total if you’re keeping score) active vacations around the world.

Costa Rica vacation, Costa Rica Tour, Bird Costa Rica, Ticos

Throughout their travels with VBT, Stacey and Steven have noted the importance of having great Trip Leaders. This asset was particularly prized on their most recent adventure through a country where knowledge of local wildlife is almost as important as remembering your passport. The destination in question is, of course, Costa Rica and as for local interaction, well it was a bit of a new experience for the couple. In general, Stacey and Steven have really enjoyed chatting and mingling with the local people in the country they are exploring. This time around, they found themselves learning as much about the flora and fauna as the native Ticos. Through rainforest excursions and a visit to a bird rescue center, the pair got a great sense for Costa Rica’s abounding natural diversity. And the biking was great, too! Even on days when a little rain fell, Stacey contends that it didn’t, “dampen the experience at all.”

A Tradition Continues

It’s been their great encounters with our Trip Leaders that led Stacey and Steven to join us for the second time in 2007. The two selected this destination not out of a particular connection to the area, but because they were confident that VBT would help them make a connection as they explored. They were right; once again, their guides’ tremendous knowledge and insights proved to be an invaluable part of their journey through Sicily. Edo helped bring the various cultures of Sicily alive as the group explored the Mediterranean island.

Establishing this theme of great biking vacations with great local Trip Leaders, Stacey and Steven first traveled with VBT to The Tuscan Coast, back in 2006. It was their first time in Italy, and the two had a wonderful vacation, enjoying the scenery and the food. But for Stacey, it’s the people even more than the places that make travel experiences stand out. “Of course it’s always great to get away, but immersion in other cultures, to meet and learn about other people—” That’s what Stacey was looking for on her first VBT vacation. And she and Steven seemed to find plenty of it!

Costa Rica vacation, Costa Rica Tour, Ticos

Meeting the Locals

Stacey recalls a scavenger hunt of sorts where travelers made their way around a small Tuscan town, asking residents and shopkeepers for help in translating an iconic Italian poem into English. Stacey and Steven didn’t know much Italian and the locals spoke little English, but everyone, visitors and residents alike, had a good laugh in their efforts to communicate without the luxury of a common language.

It wasn’t just the town residents that made this Italian excursion a hit. Trip Leaders, Elena and Melissa, truly made an impact on the trip. Stacey looks back on casually mentioning that Steven’s birthday was coming up. Not much was made of it at the time and the vacation continued as usual with great food, lovely wine and invigorating rides. Then, on a scheduled stop at a local Olive Oil Mill, the group was treated to surprise birthday cake and champagne in honor of Steven’s big day! And of course, there was enough for everyone to enjoy.

Biking Takes Balance

At this point, you might have picked up on another theme in Stacey and Steven’s travels— they’ve all been by bike. As avid cyclists, the couple values “vacations with cycling elements.” However, they certainly want their share of cultural experiences as well. Fortunately, Stacey and Steven have found VBT vacations to have “just the right balance, no matter how avid a cyclist you may be.” And these are just a few of the reasons that VBT is their preferred vacation operator.

In the interest of full disclosure, we should mention that VBT is the only active vacation company Stacey and Steven have traveled with, but only because they’ve had no reason to travel with anyone else. As Stacey puts it, “When we book with VBT we’re confident that we’ll have a great experience. And it always has been great!” That’s the attitude that they’re taking with them on their next adventure in Spain: Under the Andalusian Sky. We certainly hope that it’s another addition in a long line of exciting and rewarding VBT vacations.