Between guiding for nearly five years with Trek Travel and adventuring to faraway lands in the off-season, Trek Travel guide Sonja Schmidt has seen some of the best corners of the world by foot, by bike and everything in between.
Where do you call home currently?
How many countries have you traveled to?
What inspired you to become an avid traveler?
When I was 16 my parents asked me if I wanted to do the summer study abroad in Salamanca, Spain. It was my first overseas trip and couldn’t have been more fun and eye-opening. I had an amazing host family and the city of Salamanca is spectacular (as are the all-night discos…). Since then, I’ve been insatiably inspired to see more and more of this beautiful world.
Favorite adventure you’ve had so far and why?
Tough decision! I’m going to go with the bike-packing trip Jason and I did through South Africa and Lesotho last winter. It was probably some of the most fun days we’ve had on a bike, and spending the winter months in great weather, while riding super fun bikes in remote locations was incredible.
Best road to ride?
Passo Gavia is one of the most spectacular and remote big climbs. The scenery is beyond words and the road is drenched in history, from Giro d’Italia stages, to being used as a trade route during the Middle Ages, and fought over during the WWII. It’s an incredibly special experience that I never grow tired of.
Any big trips planned for this year?
We just built a bed in our 4runner so we are going to take a little road trip down South to ride bikes, see some live music, and hang out with friends in the desert. The next big adventure is still undecided…
What has been the most unexpected experience you’ve had in your travels?
From heading to Nepal to hike the Annapurna Circuit on a whim, to Jason proposing to me at the end of a 2-month bike tour and 10–day trek at the base of the Torres del Paine in the Andes, there have been a lot of great surprises. One of my favorites was in the middle of a winter long bike tour through Patagonia. We had brought our fly rods and were chasing the legendary South American trout through Argentina and Chile when one day we are cruising down the road and hear, “Hey! Are you guys from Montana?” “What?! Yeah!” So we pulled over and met Brent, a fly fishing guide that’s also from Montana and heard there were a couple of Montanans headed south down the Carrtera Austral in Chile.
He drew us a map to his cabin located on the Rio Simpson; a fairy tale section of river that is almost impossible to wade fish because of the big bluffs on the side. The next day we somehow made it to his cabin and quickly headed down to wet a line. As we were headed to the river, Brent says, “You know that fly you have on there? That’s Taylor’s Fat Albert, I’m Brent Taylor, I designed that fly specifically for this stretch of water.” What?!?!? Needless to say, it was one of the best days of fishing both Jason and I have ever had.
What destinations are at the top of your list and why?
India, Mongolia, Romania, Turkey, Estonia, Greece, Jordan… Some for bike-touring, some for fishing, some for hiking.
What would you say has been the most fulfilling part about traveling the globe?
Every place I’ve traveled to has left a profound impact on me. The people and the scenery tend to stick with my thoughts the longest. The kindness from locals is always something that I try to remember to perpetuate in my daily life. World travel has shown me that there are so many different cultures, traditions, foods, customs, and in the end the people are helpful, kind, and so quick to share a smile.
Tips for women travelers?
Don’t over pack or over plan, a lot of fun is in the serendipitous experiences and connections you make when you least expect it. And for packing, well, one of the best experiences is dressing like a local, weather in Nepal or Italy, it’s nice to fit-in with the area you’re visiting. Also, eat whatever is presented to you.