Adventure Love Fest
San Mateo, California
“Some dream of travel, others live it.”
This quote is perhaps indicative of the caliber of companies, adventurers, backpackers and travelers that attended the Adventures in Travel Expo in San Mateo, California on October 8-9, 2004. This was a gathering of adventurous minds, a chance for industry professionals – from all corners of the globe – to showcase their worldwide work while also discussing the new directions in cutting-edge travel.
What then makes this different from just another travel show? With travel authors and adventurers like Robert Young Pelton (World’s Most Dangerous Places) and Doug Lanksy (Rough Guides: First Time: Around the World), adventure photographer Jimmy Chin and a huge host of adventure travel companies – Intrepid Travel, World Expeditions, Mountain Travel Sobek – the Adventure in Travel Expo wasn’t how to find a vacation in Hawaii, but how to find a vacation in Mongolia.
Adventure vacations, active holidays, or just good, old-fashioned, raw, in-your-face fun is emerging as the sweetest new type of travel. Instead of heading off to Mexico or Hawaii to sit on a beach with millions of other tourists, more and more people want to come home with an amazing story instead of an amazing tan.
Off-the-beaten-path fabled destinations – Patagonia, Kilimanjaro, Tibet, the Galapagos Islands – are becoming the best new places to not only find an affordable vacation deal but also to find an amazing campfire story for your family and friends.
BootsnAll had a chance to investigate, do a little reconnaissance work, and talk with travel companies about their passion, their part of the world, and find out what makes them unique. Sure, some of it was marketing PR fluff, but there was some good information to be collected. Here is what we discovered – take it or leave it.
Where do you want to go – the Amazon, Tibet, or Borneo?
The biggest thing we learned was that adventure travel companies can take you to almost everywhere in the world. More and more companies are not only specializing in one or two destinations, but also a huge host of countries throughout the world. Instead of selling you on a rafting trip on the Zambezi in Zimbabwe, now they can also tell you about rafting on the Colorado river in the United States, the Pacuare River in Costa Rica, or the Futaleufu River in Chile. It’s kind of like adventure companies have become a one-stop shopping center for adventure around the world, selling a little bit of just about everything.
While it’s hard to believe that all of these companies have actual knowledge of say, 15 countries, the more we spoke with them, we realized that they were experts in the industry, or at least somebody in their office had real knowledge of all the destinations. All of these adventure companies had thick colorful brochures, with beautiful pictures of all the destinations.
An average price for a trip is anywhere from $1800 to $2500 US per person. Although it’s a large amount of money, the price you pay for experience, comfort and security goes a long way toward the amazing stories you can bring home. When you compare prices to destinations like Hawaii and Mexico, you can see that adventure trips really aren’t that much more expensive.
Would you like to bike, climb, walk, trek or swim?
A growing number of these adventure companies are diversifying into unique “active holidays,” as many of them like to brand it. An active holiday is much less intimidating than the word “adventure travel,” which scares some people into thinking it’s going to be an Indiana Jones-like ordeal.
Active holidays usually incorporate bicycling, mountain biking, hiking/trekking or even rock climbing during a great portion of your trip. The great thing is, many of these companies specialize in all skill levels, from senior citizens to children. For the strong adventurous types, you can either ride your bike 120 miles through the French Alps, following Lance Armstrong’s route or, if you are a beginner, you can do a simple short village bike ride through Tuscany. The important thing is that active holidays cater to people of all ages and sizes.
Pick me, pick me, pick me.
As mentioned above, while there were a bunch of global “I-can-give-you-an-adventure-trip-to-anywhere- in-the-world,” types, there were also a large handful of companies that specialize in just one destination. Wandering down the long aisles at the Expo, I was looking from one side to the other, realizing that I had about 20 zillion choices on places to visit in the world. If I visited one country per year, I would be 80 before I saw half of them.
Pick me, pick me, pick me would be the look in each of their eyes as I meandered along the aisle. If I would approach them, they each would give me about a two minute pitch on their destination. A few them asked me if I like to snorkel, I said, “No.” Then they asked me if liked to lie on a beach, I said, “No,” again. This would continue on until they found something that suited my interests.
From my perspective, these were the small guys, working hard against the larger, global, well-financed companies to make their businesses succeed. Their prices were definitely more affordable than the global companies but that also means you have to trust their judgement on your needs.
Some of the companies BootsnAll met with were:
Whether it’s fact or fiction, we were told that family travel is one of the hottest trends right now. Isn’t everything in travel one of the “hottest” new trends right now? Well, if they were right, then spending time with Mom and Dad at Christmas and Thanksgiving isn’t enough anymore. It’s time to take the whole gang – Grandma & Grandpa, Uncle Joe, Aunt Sally – and putter off to some corner of the globe. While frowned upon in the past, this is kind of a packaged trip, combining not only your family but also a host of other families. According to some of the speakers for Family Travel, many families like to travel together and often forge strong bonds in only a few days and end up traveling with each other in the years to come.
I could easily see the fun with this, having not only one stressed out mother, but five other stressed out mothers and fathers. Actually, when I spoke with one of the companies, it sounds like they know how to take good care of everyone and it all turns out fine in the end.
As we venture into new corners of the globe, some of which are developing countries and perhaps are poverty stricken, it’s important to realize how our presence affects the locals or the environment around us. For example, as we learned from one of the non-profit organizations, most first-time travelers always want to hand out pens or candy to children, but have failed to realize how this creates a dependency. After a few months of receiving candy, pens and money from travelers, many children give up school and beg on a full time basis. Another word of advice was to be aware of where the money is going. Try to spend your money with locally owned hotels and shops to benefit locals directly. This was just a hint of the plethora of socially responsible advice that we learned from some great non-profit companies that are trying to promote responsible travel.
For some good information before you head out on your next trip, visit, join or support one of the following organizations.
Gay Travel Magazine
We didn’t see any companies that were specializing in gay travel, but we were able to meet the editor of Out Traveler, claimed to be standard of the gay traveler. Out Traveler magazine is for gay travelers – plain and simple. They seem to have attracted a wide audience base and claim to have a circulation of over 200,000 already.
Want to find out more information about adventure travel? Considering starting a company and want more sound advice?
Every type of industry seems to have a core group of businesses promoting the advancement of their cause, the adventure travel group is the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). This is the new voice for the industry, helping to promote, brand, and offer research on everything from alliance building to consumer research. We met the President of ATTA, Shannon Stowell. Shannon seemed like a cool guy, dedicated to the cause of restoring the image of ATTA. Currently the ATTA is about ready to launch several initiatives and has developed an impressive group of board appointees. This is another good company to follow.
When National Geographic SOLD OUT a few years ago and started producing National Geographic Adventure, little did we know that adventure travel would tremendously benefit from their global branding presence. Not only are more and more people realizing that adventure travel can just about suit anyone, there are also a wide variety of publications, online ‘zines, and other forms of e-media companies popping up.
BootsnAll was able to meet with a few new as well as established companies. Check out their work: