At Trek Travel, we promise to deliver the experience of a lifetime for our guests. We promise to surprise, wow and exceed expectations. But we never know how you truly enjoyed your vacation until you tell us. And we won’t know how to make it better without your opinion. Below is a note from Aisling, a recent guest on our Costa Brava vacation, that reminded us just how impactful your feedback can be.
Dear Ambre, Eric and the rest of the Guest Services Team:
I honestly booked this trip with zero expectations, mostly because it fit in between dates when I was seeing a friend in Barcelona and attending a wedding in the UK and I wanted to do something outdoors. I bike around NYC a few miles here or there to commute, but very rarely go more than 5 or 10 miles in a day. In fact, before I left for the trip the extent of my preparation was biking out to the beach and back in my bathing suit and flip flops (roughly 20 miles) just to see if I could theoretically bike the distance required on the trip. I had no real idea about bike fit, technique, or equipment. Nor was I sure how committed I would actually be with friends a short train ride away in Barcelona who texted me every day to see if I had had enough and was coming back to hang out with them.
Much to my surprise, despite the fact that I was woefully out of shape, completely ignorant of preventive care, ailed with chronic injuries and partied much too hard in the previous week, I was totally hooked from Day 1 and I have to credit Matt and Gabe for that. I am sure you frequently hear praise about the guides in terms of their organization and magical ability to have everything you could possibly need or want. That is certainly true. However, some of their other attributes impressed me even more.
I want to compliment them both for being extremely solicitous without being intrusive or overbearing. Want a van day? No problem, bike goes in the van. Need to be dropped off at a store? No problem, no questions asked. It’s rare to actually be treated with consideration without being infantalized, especially for a woman traveling alone and completely new to a sport. I always felt like I was treated with honesty and never pandered to, which massively increased my ease with the idea of group travel and having a guide. I was also pleasantly surprised at their versatility in conversation. I think I expected that as we were on a trip for enthusiasts, all conversation would be regarding cycling. While they were certainly able to have those technical conversations with other guests, I did not feel excluded for being less knowledgeable. I did not even have to use the ace up my sleeve–my experience with the Tour of Britain, which I encountered the week before while trapped in a London taxi for 2 and half hours behind the Team Sky bus with a massive hangover and a screaming baby. It’s a credit to Matt and Gabe that afterwards, I reflected back on the experience with much more curiosity and wished I had been more knowledgeable of the cycling world at the time.
I wrote in my evaluation that this was a life-changing experience, which seems like hyperbole, but in fact is not. I had a bad accident in Spain six years ago that has left me with limited flexion in my left ankle and compensating injuries in my right knee. I actually have pain whenever I walk, and in the past three years I have not been able to find an activity that I can do without pain–including swimming and cycling. This was part of the reason I had no real expectation of being able to complete the week, as every time I try and do something active (no matter how low impact), I end up off my feet with an ice pack and Ibuprofen. I was shocked that three days into the trip the pain in my knee was gone and it was beginning to feel stronger. Normally I cannot step out of a car unassisted, or walk up and down stairs easily. By the end of the trip I was hopping in and out of the van on my own with only the slightest hesitation. And never during cycling, or in the evenings after, did I feel knee pain. This was unheard of for me.
I entirely credit this alleviation of pain to the time Gabe and Matt put in to making sure that the fit of the bike was correct and discussing with me the importance of correct fit. At home, I just use whatever bikes have come into my life through various people. Now that I know what a well-fitting bike can do, there’s no going back. My ignorance of bike fit was such that they could have easily been less precise with the fit and I would have not known the difference. I really owe them a debt of gratitude for being so professional and raising the bar to a level which I would not have known to ask for myself.
And finally, I did not mention to either Matt or Gabe during the trip, but I am actually terrified of falling ever since I had my accident. This basically manifests itself by excessive breaking on my part and talking myself out of my fear during steeper descents. As someone who never had fear before and is aware of this as a behavior change since my accident, I find it really frustrating and limiting. Not to say caution should not be valued, but I can tell I am slowing myself in excess of the necessary level of control when rounding curves. Without alerting them to my fear, I actually had casual discussions with each Matt and Gabe separately to discuss technique when going round curves on the descent and was reassured when I got consistent advice from them independently. I found that although I am familiar with staying off the front break and slowing before entering the curve, I really had not been stabilizing myself with my outer leg.
The road was quite winding on the second-to-last day and uncomfortably reminiscent of the coastline where I had my accident. The way I felt while cycling on this road in the morning, before asking advice, and in the afternoon, after receiving instruction, were completely different experiences. On the the ride back, I let the group go ahead and went at a slower pace, partly so I could practice and develop more confidence and partly because the recognition that I was doing this without holding my breath in fear was a very personal and emotional experience that I preferred to have privately (just me and Taylor Swift). I really appreciated that I was given space and not pressured into going the speed of the group. Again, I should have thanked Matt and Gabe at the time, but the day was already pretty perfect and I had plenty of other shared experiences to discuss and be grateful for.
So thank you, Matt and Gabe. I know this was pretty verbose, but I have spent a lot of time the past week thinking about why this trip had a much greater-than-expected impact on me. It was not just the sunshine and perfect sleep that comes with physical activity. You both contributed greatly to it. I have never been interested in group travel or following anyone else’s lead, but you turned it into something I enjoy. The past few years I have been living my life frustrated by the limitations of my body. Thank you for giving me back the feeling of free and easy.
With gratitude in mind, body and spirit,
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