Meet Trip designer Ilona. Originally from the Czech Republic, but now a citizen of the world and the brains behind many of our Pro Race trips. What’s her inspiration you may ask? Our guests.
Tell us a little about your previous life before Trek Travel?
I come from the Czech Republic. I studied in Prague but kept on moving to different places and traveling. I lived a couple of years in the U.S., then I moved to the south of Spain and ended up in Barcelona, which I loved. I worked at all kinds of jobs—waiting tables in Wisconsin, bartending in Spain, guiding in Prague and working in a social service specialty with the homeless.
What inspired you to become a Guide and Trip Designer?
Honestly I had no idea that such a job existed. I was working in the office in Barcelona and my colleague and friend, Ingrid, was telling me about the best job she ever had. I checked the Trek Travel website and applied for a job right away. Five years later I still love it. It’s much more than just riding a bike; it’s a lifestyle, which connects traveling, working with people, outdoors and new cultures. Trip design was just another step. I enjoy having the possibility to plan a trip based on my guiding experience and knowledge of the region. And I like working together with the guides to make improvements. What inspires me is showing our guests the best of the places they always wanted to go, to meet with their favorite pro racer or be part of the race they always watched on TV. For a few days allow them to not worry about anything and just fully enjoy their time.
Can we get a quick run-down–what it means to be a Trip Designer? What’s your design process?
I mainly design race trips, except Tour de France. Long before the official route is announced, I keep my eyes and ears open for all rumors to get information ahead of time and start planning routes and booking hotels. After the official announcement it’s two weeks of speedy work—confirming hotels, arranging all the viewings, VIP passes etc. We try to get the trip online as soon as we can because people often ask right after the race is announced. The key is to have a good hotel in a strategic place, close to famous climbs where you can watch the race. Once the guides are on the ground before the trip, they make sure all details are dialed and it’s them who take the itinerary and make it the experience of the lifetime.
Tell us about your favorite trip you’ve ever designed and why.
That’s a hard question. Every newly designed trip becomes my favorite! Vuelta 2017 was an unforgettable experience. We work closely with the Trek-Segafredo Team, which makes our trips even more special and unique. Last year we met and talked to Alberto Contador the evening before the last mountain stage. The next day we climbed l’Angliru ourselves and then we watched him winning on this brutal climb in the last stage of his career. After such a hard race, he was willing to meet with Trek Travel guests and take a group selfie right below the podium. Thanks to our relationship with Trek-Segafredo we get to be a part of the race and see behind the scenes.
What’s your dream travel destination?
That’s a long list. Rwanda and Uganda would be at the top. I’m also planning a bike trip through my family roots, which will take me from Czech through Slovakia to Ukraine–Zakarpattia. Then it’s only a step from Romania and Moldova. I just want to see the whole world!
Best travel adventure of all time?
I will never forget 16 days of hiking in Himalayas. It was only my friend and I, sometimes we did not see people for days, sometimes we hung out with locals and slept in their homes. The landscape was breathtaking. It was a challenging hike and I can still remember the feeling on the top of the climb, looking at all that natural beauty around and being simply happy.
What are you looking forward to most in 2018?
So many things! Besides doing my personal travels, tandem skydiving above Czech lands (Xmas present from my brother), I can’t wait for Giro–we will climb Mt. Zoncolan and watch the race there, and ride other beautiful parts of Dolomites.
I’ve already mentioned Vuelta. North of Spain—Asturias, Cantabria and Basque country—has some of the best riding, varied landscape, delicious cuisine and cider! Vuelta is at the end of the season so it’s more relaxed and riders are super friendly and want to meet with fans.
We also have some new trips coming up so this year I will be working on new destinations and designing other trips beside race trips, which I’m very excited about!
Join Ilona at the Vuelta.