One of the most rewarding aspects of providing active vacations is that we have a growing contingency of multi-time travelers who enjoy a different VBT experience every year. Bill and Noelle B. are the perfect examples as they took their 19th VBT tour this year to Slovenia, Austria, and Italy. We had a chance to catch up with them to learn a little more about why they love to travel with VBT.
What about active travel appeals to you and how did you find out about VBT?
We learned about VBT from biking friends many years ago and since then the active vacations we have taken have allowed us to experience the local environment in each of the countries we have visited with VBT much more effectively than any other form of tourism. As an example, you can read extensively about the death and destruction that occurred in Europe during World War I. However, until you ride through a small French village and pass the inevitable memorial to the Great War and see the number of names on that memorial, it is difficult to appreciate just how devastating that war was.
What is it about a vacation with VBT that keeps you coming back year after year?
VBT provides outstanding service throughout the entire vacation experience. We have taken many trips with you over the years, and there has never been an occasion when we were not met at the airport upon arrival as promised. Similarly, the trip leaders we have had without exception have been outstanding technicians and representatives of their countries. The value for the dollar is impossible to beat for the services provided, in our opinion.
You mentioned how VBT tours allow you to experience the local environment of your destination more effectively than any other form of tourism. Since you recently returned from Slovenia, Austria, and Italy, could you tell us a little about some of the cultural highlights of that tour?
Since we have traveled in Italy and Austria on previous VBT tours, we want to focus our comments on Slovenia. A country of only slightly more that 2 million people, it became apparent to us that Slovenes are very proud of their country since it only gained its independence after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991. Slovenia has developed a stable government, an expanding economy, and membership in the European Union, Euro Zone, and NATO. We were very impressed by the beauty of Slovenia, particularly since much of the biking routes featured the Julian Alps as a delightful backdrop. Slovenes are intensely concerned about their environment and the purity of the air/water, and the cleanliness of the countryside is very apparent.
Culturally, as an example, our trip leaders pointed out the innumerable hay drying racks that are indigenous to Slovenia, a very ingenious method of drying hay in a rather wet climate. On our tour, we had the opportunity to visit a Slovenian home and experience a cooking class and also the singing and dancing that are so important to the local culture. Although many of those on our trip had never before been to Slovenia, we came away with a great appreciation of the history and culture of this country.
You’ve traveled with VBT for many years to places like Italy, Vietnam, France, Hungary, Costa Rica, and more- what have been your favorite vacations with us so far and why?
Noelle—my favorite trip was to Croatia in part because of the challenging biking, the beautiful scenery, the home cooking class and dinner, and the excellent trip leaders. Also, the pre-trip in Dubrovnik and the post-trip in Split were outstanding.
Bill—My favorite trip was to Vietnam. As a Vietnam veteran, this trip was my first return to Vietnam in over 40 years. Because of in-country air transportation, it was possible to visit a more extensive part of the country th
an in any other trip we have taken. The battle damage still visible at the Citadel in Hue remains a testament to the ferocity of the fighting there during the 1968 Tet offensive. The hotels we stayed at in Vietnam were the best of any facilities on any other of our VBT vacations. The pre-trip to Halong Bay was another highlight as was the post-trip to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, one of the true wonders of the world.
You have taken bike trips to Vietnam and Thailand with VBT. What is your favorite aspect of traveling in Asia that you haven’t experienced during your European vacations?
The biking in both Vietnam and Thailand presented some challenges because of traffic and road conditions, but the opportunities to see agricultural production distinct to Southeast Asia was a real highlight for us. The rural people in both countries were a joy to interact with if only briefly.
When did you start organizing groups of friends to take VBT trips together? And how does our Group Travel Program enhance your VBT experience?
I began organizing groups to take VBT biking vacations at least 12 years ago. Over the years, our group has grown to approximately 40 bikers. We all know each other and are dedicated cyclists too, which means these group trips are not only for the biking but also serve as a social functions. We enjoy each other’s company. Since we almost always fill each of our trips, the rebate is shared among us [VBT offers a free trip once you gather a group of 10 or more] which is another nice incentive to participate in the VBT Group Travel Program.
You are both avid cyclists in Colorado and recently reserved a 2018 departure on our new Scandinavia biking vacation for your group. What are you looking forward to most about biking through both Denmark and Sweden?
We have taken VBT European biking trips in Italy, Germany, France, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Spain, and most recently Slovenia. However, many of us have never been to the Scandinavian countries. This trip offers the opportunity to expand our horizons to include Denmark and Sweden. We have seen many photos of both countries and the beautiful countryside in each is very appealing. Finally, both Denmark and Sweden are known as being very biker friendly, so we are looking forward not only to the scenic beauty of these countries but also to safe biking environments. The post-trip in Helsinki and the night ferry ride across the Baltic Sea are also very attractive.
If you would like to organize a group vacation with us, please call John Zelig, VBT Group Tour Manager at 800-245-3868, x3307.