Staff bucket list: BTC President Jim Johnson picks adventure and comforts
We at BikeTours.com have the incredible job of talking about bike tours all day, every day. And we think you might be interested to know what we’d pick, if we’re picking (and we do often get to!). Read the staff bucket list and profile below, and see if you have any of the same interests or bucket list tours! Read all the staff bike tour bucket lists.
The idea for BikeTours.com emerged from several of president and founder Jim Johnson’s passions: travel, writing, tour planning, and bicycling. Even as an eight-year-old, Jim planned his family’s vacations—brochures strewn across the living room floor. At age 15, Jim got bored in a summer exchange program in northern Europe and made his way across six countries before flying home. He’s been back to Europe nearly 40 times. Wanderlust is part of his soul.
While he’s watched BikeTours.com grow from a one-person operation based in a spare bedroom to now a staff of nine in offices in two cities, he’s also become increasingly involved in community activities. He was president of the local bike club for two years and is now spearheading several bike advocacy initiatives in Tennessee and Georgia. He is also involved in trails and greenways, heading a local friends organization.
Jim started running competitively when he turned 50 in 2004 and expanded into triathlon several years later. He insists, though, that on bike tours he’s a purely recreational cyclist. In competition, the focus is on getting across the finish line as soon as possible, he says. Touring is all about the journey, not the destination.
Response A) Two extremes, really: tours firmly in my comfort zone, culturally, geographically and athletically (much of Western Europe, for example), as well as tours that take me outside of my comfort zone (see my bucket list).
Response B) Tours that take me slightly outside my comfort zone but provide a safety net if I need it.
“Cocoon” tours—tours made up of Americans led by Americans, staying in modern hotels and having minimal interaction with local people.
Meeting people, discovering the unexpected, building up a caloric deficit during the day so I can enjoy more local cuisine in the evening.
Slow and easy (a leisurely 25-35 miles per day). I like to smell the flowers–and the bakery shops.
I recently spent three weeks in the Balkans exploring Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania (where we plan to add tours shortly). Again and again I heard about the beauty of the countryside and people in neighboring Bulgaria. In many ways, time has stood still there and feels like Western Europe must have felt in the early 1900s.
Other than a tour to the Amazon in Peru 15 years ago, I’ve spent no time in South America. So the thought of clear-water lakes, live volcanoes, hot springs, the Andes, and waterfalls—in two countries, no less—is hugely appealing to me. Cycling through pristine nature settings and wilderness areas already gives me goose bumps. I’m also excited about visiting local villages and learning more about the cultures—and experiencing local cuisine!
I can summarize this tour’s appeal in one word: Wow! As much as I love cycling, I’m a big fan of sea kayaking, hiking, and swimming (especially off ocean beaches). I’ve only zip-lined once—in winter across a chasm in the Alps—and I imagine zip-lining across the jungle canopy is equally exhilarating (and much warmer). I like that the tour visits communities with indigenous people and that the tour organizers are passionate about sharing the culture, food, history and language.
Frankly, it’s tough deciding which India tour should top my list—or which Asia tour overall. But I’m pretty sure we have a winner with this one! According to its organizers, the Rajasthan tour defines the “quintessential” India experience and is a “prolific cultural biking trip” that balances luxury (including a palace overnight) with insights into the “real” India. Villages rich with folklore, artisans and culture blend with huge forts, massive palaces and revered temples.
In 2013 I spent a week exploring the Namibian desert by bike and fell in love with the country’s wild landscapes and kind people. After the tour, I had the chance to visit the Desert Express, a private train, and immediately pictured myself as some kind of Agatha Christie character in this exotic yet entirely welcoming setting. During my stay, I heard conservation officials describe how Namibia dealt with the poaching issue and became “The Greatest Wildlife Recovery Story Ever Told.” Some of these same officials will be aboard the train, making the experience all the more meaningful—and giving us special satisfaction as we see majestic animals that art part of the world’s largest cheetah population, as well as growing numbers of zebras, black rhinos, and lions.
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