“I don’t think adventure travel is for me. I like reading about other people’s adventures, but at my age/weight/level of health/number of kids it’s just never going to happen. I doubt I’d even like it, and besides, I couldn’t go that long without blow-drying my hair.”
Are you slowly nodding your head in agreement right now?
You might think adventure travel is not for you; you might even be a little frightened of the whole concept. If you’ve never travelled outside your comfort zone before, or never really travelled before at all, adventure travel can seem like a pretty overwhelming idea.
But I know there’s a little part of you that’s interested in trying it.
How do I know? You’re still reading this, aren’t you?
What is Adventure Travel?
First, let’s get something out of the way. Adventure travel doesn’t have to mean trekking for 25 days into the jungle, eating only foraged food and sleeping under the stars (although that sounds like it might be fun!).
To me, adventure is anything that takes you outside of your comfort zone. So, if you grew up in New York City, a day hike into the mountains might be an adventure. If you grew up in Banff, a ride on the New York Subway is an adventure (I know it would be for me!).
Likewise, if you’ve only ever travelled to easy destinations, where everybody speaks the same language as you and the concierge takes care of your needs, then a cultural adventure could be as easy as going to your city’s local Chinatown.
How to Ease Into Adventure Travel
You don’t need to jump into adventure travel with both feet, your eyes squeezed shut out of sheer terror. There are lots of ways to test it out to see if adventure is right for you.
Also, if you have a reluctant travel partner, these methods can suck them in, too. Once they try it, they’ll never want to go back.
Adventure at Home
This is my favourite technique since almost anyone can do it, it costs almost nothing, and could happen as soon as this weekend (or this evening). You could take your tent and drive to the nearest campground, take a weekend cycle tour right from your front door, hop on the bus to a local tourist attraction, or just explore a part of town you’ve never been to before.
While I plan for bigger trips, this is my current mode of adventuring. I have been biking the Trans Canada Trail, hiking our local provincial and city parks, and getting out and meeting the locals. I also want to try SUP yoga this summer and learn to SCUBA dive.
Related: Sunshine Coast Bike Tour
See, you don’t have to go far to find adventures.
Combine Adventure with Your Next Trip
Instead of planning a complete immersion adventure, try it out first by adding a mini-adventure into a less adventurous trip. If you normally stay in chain hotels, ride in taxis, and eat at the restaurant the concierge recommends, take one day to hire a bike and ride around a city aimlessly, barter for a boat at the docks to take you sightseeing, or ride the subway in New York City!
Stay in One Place
Many adventures can be had right outside your front door, especially if your front door happens to be attached to a cottage in Cinque Terra or an apartment overlooking the Ganges. Get on Air B’n’B, Flipkey, or TrustedHousesitters.com and look for your next home away from home. Then you can spend your days adventuring and your nights in the comfort of your own place.
Take a Small Group Tour
Adventure travel doesn’t have to be independent travel (and independent travel isn’t always adventure travel). With group tours, you get to do the cycling adventure, the cultural exploration, or a trek in the Himalayas, but someone else plans the whole thing and takes care of you along the way.
Small group tours can be a great solution for those of us with more money than time. (OK, that’s not me right now, but I have been there.)
To prevent getting that herded cattle feeling, make sure to seek out a company that offers groups of 12 or fewer people. Even better, if you travel off-season or to an off-beat destination, you might find yourself travelling with far fewer than the maximum group size.
(Note: I’m not being paid, bribed, or blackmailed to write the following. These are my own opinions, and I have no affiliation with any of these companies.)
To whet your whistle for group travel, check out these two companies.
Stephen and I did a trip with Intrepid Travel in 2006. As you know, we are SO NOT group travel people, but this trip was utterly fantastic. Intrepid took us overland through Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
We slept under the stars in Wadi Rum, took a moonlit hike on Mount Sinai (I’ve never seen so many stars), cycled around Cappadocia, and visited a women’s weaving project in Amman. Our guide did all the boring stuff, like haggling for bus tickets, while we just enjoyed the local flavour.
Our group was only six people, and our ages ranged from mid-20s to mid-60s. Everywhere we went, people mistook us for a family, and it kind of ended up being a family. We didn’t always agree with everyone, but there was no shortage of interesting opinions and conversation, and we still keep in touch, years later.
I’ve been hearing a lot about this Canadian company lately, so I decided to go to a local travel fair to see what they had to say.
I went into their presentation with a healthy dose of scepticism. After all, why would anyone like me, with all my independent travel experience, ever want to take a tour? I came out dreaming about taking a G Adventure of my own.
(Yeah, the presentation was really good!)
There are lots of places that aren’t accessible (at least safely) without a guide, lots of experiences that are richer if you have someone to introduce you to local customs and translate for you, and lots of adventures I want to take without planning them all on my own.
For example, I wouldn’t want to do a winter hike on Mount Toubqal without a guide, but I still want to do it. I’d love to sail the Dalmation coast, but I don’t want to spend years becoming a qualified sailor.
Of course, you do pay for convenience. Depending on the style of travel you choose, a group tour will end up costing you at least twice as much as independent travel.
I know this is starting to sound like an advertorial (which I assure you it is not), but here just a couple more reasons I love these companies:
- They both offer tours in a range of travel styles, from roughing it to very comfortable, so you can pick the one that suits you.
- They both invest in community projects in the countries they visit.
- They use local guides where possible and visit locally owned businesses, meaning that more of your travel dollars go straight to locals.
- They can help if you have mobility issues, dietary restrictions, or other health concerns that make independent travel difficult.
Only you know where your comfort zone lies. I encourage you to test out the boundaries a little, in whatever way feels right to you.
How do you stretch your comfort zone? ♥