by Deborah Smith

The most amazing trip I ever took was my first Backroads ( trip to Bali. I had been making plans with a girlfriend to get away for a week or so. She found the Backroads web site, where they advertised multi-sport tours ranging from easy to challenging. The Bali trip included biking, hiking and rafting.

We decided to go, but at the last minute, my friend cancelled, so I went by myself. I used my airline miles and bought a business-class ticket to Tokyo, where I spent two days and stayed at the Four Seasons—absolutely spectacular! At the time, I was working in international human resources, and I had a contact in Tokyo with whom I often spoke, so she and I finally had the chance to meet and go out on the town.

I then continued from Tokyo to Jakarta, and finally to Denpasar on the island of Bali. The hotel sent a van for me, and the driver and I made the two-hour drive from the airport to the town of Ubud and the Anamandari hotel—one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

I had traveled by myself throughout Europe, but that was somewhat familiar territory for me. Getting on a plane alone headed to Asia, a place I had never been full of languages I did not speak, was a pretty big step. But as soon as I arrived and started meeting the other members of the biking tour, I became really comfortable with my decision. Everyone there was traveling alone and everyone was there for the same reason: to see a glorious country by becoming a part of the scenery. We were on bicycles (so we definitely stood out) and on foot. The people embraced us and made us all feel so welcome.

The biking was hard physically, because it is very hot and humid in Bali. It is also a very mountainous island, so there were days where we had to ride uphill—a lot! But the great part about this kind of physical activity is that everyone is so encouraging and supportive. And when you really just can’t do any more, there is a really nice person in a van who appears out of nowhere to take your bike, give you cookies and Gatorade, and drive you as far as you want to go (in my case, to the top of the hill, then I would ride down the hill, and he would meet me at the bottom to repeat the exercise!).

Bali is an amazing place. The people are beautiful and gracious. They are excited to meet you and while they can’t speak English, there is no misunderstanding their communication.

I made some really good friends on that trip and have continued to travel with them on other Backroads trips. It was a great way for me to learn a lot about myself and what I was capable of. I am not much of an athlete but I was amazed at the riding I was able to do! I was actually really proud of myself for all of my accomplishments on that trip—particularly the part about going on my own when my friend cancelled at the last minute. You only live once—may as well take a few risks and see what happens!