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Visiting new places and seeing new things can be a refreshing way to change your outlook, meet people and see yourself in a new light. But if you’re looking for an alternative to the all-inclusive resort with its scheduled fun and summer camp vibe, you may be ready to add a little adventure to your travel.
Though it may conjure up images of hard-core mountain treks, extreme sports and dodgy hostels, the reality of adventure travel is much more manageable.
“The term can be deceiving,” laughs adventure travel expert Karen Moore, “because adventure to one person can be climbing Mount Everest, but for someone else it can be snorkeling in Costa Rica.”
Moore, who works for the The Adventure Travel Company, says that adventure travel can mean anything that’s a little bit off the beaten track. “It’s about delving more into the country itself,” she explains. “It’s about getting more of a cultural education, by going into smaller communities… it can just mean doing something different.”
Accomplish Something Real
For Simon Coward, the director of Adventure Trippin’ Tours, a company based in Calgary, adventure travel needs to have an element of exploration. “I think you need to be pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and expanding your cultural and social experiences,” he says.
Coward, whose company focuses on challenging adventures with a journey element, says that adventure travel should have some kind of goal, whether it’s a summit you want to scale or a skill you want to develop. “Basically, at the end of a true adventure travel trip, you need to feel as though you have accomplished something, which I think differentiates it from an all-inclusive resort vacation,” says Coward.
Soft or Hard
But whether you take a ‘hard’ approach to adventure travelling-think physically challenging activities (i.e. bungee jumping, mountain biking or rock climbing), less comfortable accommodations and more rugged, unconventional travel-or a ‘softer’ route (minimal risk and comfortable beds), you’re ultimately looking for an experience that will challenge you to try something new.
Someone seeking a ‘hard’ adventure, might hike Peru’s Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu. A ‘soft’ adventurer might take the train instead. Ultimately, both travellers would be taking in a new experience, but choose to go about it in different ways.
Planning is the First Adventure
When it comes to planning your perfect adventure, both Moore and Coward recommend doing lots of research, including trolling the Internet and asking friends for advice.
Talking to a travel agent who specializes in adventure travel is another good bet, because as Coward points out, “a lot of the best things to do in the world can’t be found in guidebooks!”
Moore suggests first determining how much time you have to spend and what you want to see, because that will help determine what kind of trip you should take. Then figure out whether you want to blaze a solo trail or whether you’d rather travel with a group.
Group Travel or Flying Solo
Customized group travel is a great option if you like the security of being with people you know. By the same token, it may mean fewer opportunities for meeting new people.
Having a knowledgeable guide can also ensure you make excellent use of your time-you won’t have to read maps, thumb through dictionaries or navigate unfamiliar public transit systems alone.
If you have more time, however, solo travel is a great way to explore and discover new places on your own, meet people and have all sorts of unexpected adventures.
Two Important Items to Pack
Moore, who has travelled to 41 countries, says the only thing you really need for off-the-beaten-track travel is a good sense of humour and a great sense of adventure.
“You have to be flexible and open to experiencing really cool things,” she laughs. No matter where she goes, Moore says travelling always leaves her with a sense of awe. “You get this feeling, that the world is just so much bigger than you. And when you come back, you appreciate what you have that much more.”