Meet Brie Willey, Guide Manager at Trek Travel. An Indiana Hoosier living in Madison, Wisconsin, Brie has a degree in fashion, wanderlust stronger than earth’s gravitational pull, and a passion for people.
Tell us your story:
I enjoyed climbing trees, traipsing through creeks and woods, and jumping man-made ramps on my bike as a kid with neighborhood friends in rural Indiana. A tomboy if you will. I was the good kid with a constant sense of adventure. I showed horses and played sports through grade school with a more sports-focused high school experience. In addition, and still, I loved babysitting for friends and family. There is something about children and their innocent and naturally happy outlook on life that is eternally energizing. Perhaps I am just a big kid myself. My passion for people, though, extends beyond children. I enjoy stories and interactions from all ages, all walks of life, all over the world.
With professionally creative parents, I followed my creative genes by studying Costume and Fashion Design at Indiana University. From long nights in sewing labs (that often turned into early mornings), intramural sports, community volunteer work with my sorority, nannying, and of course many memories with friends over cold brews, I would say my college experience was anything but lackluster. Post-college I segued into working for my uncle’s business, selling flat screen TVs to hotels. No joke. Nothing to do with my degree, everything to do with working with amazing people. I appreciated the experience and learned a lot. Moving on from sales, I stayed with the family theme and worked beside my talented mother in her jewelry design business. Yes! I am headed toward a career in fashion, I thought. From branding to creation, jewelry design proved to be a lovely experience that I cherish and am still involved in. However, the moment I was introduced to the opportunity to be a bike tour guide, my eyes lit up with excitement as this peaked my interests more than ever before. Travel. People. Bikes. I thought, “Yeehaw, now we are talkin’! Is this job for REAL though?” Just kidding on the ‘yeehaw’. I don’t use that word really, except when I’m in Indiana.
How did you end up at Trek Travel?
My father visited a local bike shop to learn more about a Trek Travel trip to Tuscany. He was enthralled with the vacation of a lifetime, but seemingly more interested in this unbelievable career the Trek Travel representative had. A bike guide who travelled the world. He thought, “How does my daughter get this job?” He couldn’t wait to contact me, so of course I get a call from Mr. Willey as he sat in his car from the bike shop parking lot. “Where are you?” I was driving. He instructed me to pull over, write down a website and apply immediately. I have always trusted my dad, and this was no exception. As I learned about the opportunity of a lifetime to be a guide for Trek Travel, I could not wait to apply.
Following my application four years ago, I had no idea what was in store for me. It was the most challenging, thorough and exciting hiring and training process I could have ever dreamt up. At times seemingly like it was scripted right out of a reality TV show, the challenge was something I would never forget. The day I got the phone call to join the team, I remember exactly where I was: in my car. I could hardly believe it so I made sure to double check with my soon-to-be manager. “Are you SURE you have the right person,” I asked. It was true, the opportunity of a lifetime had just begun. My next call, as you guessed, was to my dad. He couldn’t have been prouder. I think to this day, he dreams of being a bike guide, too. Until then, he will live through his only daughter. I have since moved into the Guide Manager role. A role that still allows me to guide, thankfully, as I cannot get that love for guiding out of my blood! It is extremely important I am enjoying my job and enjoying life, and I have been fortunate enough to find that early with the Trek Travel family. I couldn’t ask for a better company to work for or a better team on the field.
What is your favorite part about working for Trek Travel?
I am asked this question often during new guide interviews. The answer is simple: people. I love our team. Diverse, unique and genuine in every sense of the word. We all have the same lofty goals, crazy-awesome passions and adventurous mindsets! Take “people” a step further. The people I am able to interact with outside of our team. New guide candidates, subcontractors, guests, locals, etc. They are energizing in every sense of the word. Learning their stories and backgrounds always puts a smile on my face.
Favorite place you’ve ever traveled and why?
Italy always feels like a home away from home. Northern, central or southern Italy, it doesn’t matter, I love it. The kind and genuine people, delicious fair and breathtaking scenery is nothing short of exceptional. I can’t wait to explore the country even more!
Which Trek Travel trip is top on your bucket list?
Stateside I would have to go with Bryce and Zion. I’ve never been to Utah and there is something about it’s landscape and colors that has been luring me in for years. I love the southwest. Outside of the U.S.? Bali. It is at the top of my list in general, so why not explore it Trek Travel style!?
Tell us about the craziest adventure you’ve ever had.
There have been multiple but one highlight was wedding crashing in Austria. It wasn’t a “crashing” by definition, as my friend (and colleague) and I had a verbal invite from the bride’s father. That’s a story to be shared over beers and laughter, but every good adventure always circles around to my love of people. People always contribute to the creation of amazing experiences, stories, adventures, laughing fits, cycling excursions etc.
Tell us about your best day on a bicycle.
There are many. Most recently, I was in France working logistics support for our Tour de France trips last summer. Tania and I were to make our way from Lourdes to the top of Tourmalet for a Trek Travel viewing the following morning. By car, it made sense to leave late afternoon, however by bike would prove to be a better adventure. I’m always up for anything, and this was no exception, despite knowing how much I would suffer climbing the mighty Tourmalet. It was unforgettable climbing into the clouds, laughing at myself every turn. Tania’s patience and picture taking of my suffer-fest was appreciated. We reached the Col, all smiles (I was dying) and descended 5km to the viewing location. Thankfully we made it before night. Sort of. But just in time for a cold beer! The viewing was a hit the next day. How were we getting home you ask? Simple, via bike. “Return the way you came” would be what a TT Route Guide would say. The first 5km Tania pulled me back up to the Col du Tourmalet. Then she drafted off me the rest of the way back to Lourdes. Just kidding. She kicked my butt, as always.
Favorite sport other than cycling?
Volleyball has always been a favorite. Although I stand six-feet tall, I attended a small high school and learned to play all around, front and back row. Can you dig it? I can dig it! Another sport that has been a lifelong passion is horseback riding. I showed huntseat and saddleseat up until high school when my parents forced me to decide between horses and sports. I chose sports, but never quit riding. My showing transformed into more casual trail riding with friends. Furthermore, I have carried forward my passion while in the field as a guide. During off-time my goal has been to ride in every region where I have guided. So far, it has been such a blast. Experiencing breathtaking countryside from the saddle, bike or horse, has proven equally rewarding for me personally.
What does a perfect day look like to you?
To me, a perfect day starts with a smile, continues with adventure beyond imagination and ends with the exhausted satisfaction knowing you could not have possibly fit any thing else into such an action-packed, amazing day.