Fancy hiking up a mountain in Central Africa to see some of last remaining mountain gorillas? What about taking your family on a bicycling tour through the quiet villages of Ireland? Better yet, how about taking part in one of the first private tourist trips to space? These are just a few of the innovative tour companies that descended upon the Adventure Travel Expo and Luxury Travel Showcase in New York last weekend.
According to countless tourism boards, magazines and even travelers, adventure travel is said to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry. While many people associate "adventure" with adrenaline junkies – those who want to bungee jump off bridges, or trek to high mountain peaks – more and more average people are trading their standard, boring beach vacations for something with a little spice and flavor. These adventures could be anything from a safari through Africa, a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, to even a volunteer vacation in Central America.
We thought we would give you the inside scoop on BootsnAll's thoughts, perspective and knowledge on adventure travel.
"Why not go?" should really be the question. While packaged vacations to warm beaches or mainstream places like Disneyland are always fun and predictable, it's great to push the limits with yourself and see what else exists in this world. You would be surprised at the variety that exists and how affordable these adventure trips are compared to a standard vacation to, say, Mazatlan, Mexico. Be curious, test yourself, and remember what writer Sam Keen said, "To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions."
The Real Truth?
It's really important to not let the word "adventure" scare you. You don't have to be Indiana Jones or in amazing physical shape to enjoy 99% of these trips. Most of the adventures offered at the conference are considered more "soft adventure," meaning almost any person can do it. It's usually small group trips with a guide, and at the end of the day, you are sleeping in nice accommodations eating good food and drinking wine.
United States vs. Foreign Countries
Adventure is everywhere and you don't necessarily need to travel long distances pay for it. Sure, if you want to see a lion, tiger or a thriving indigenous culture, you may have to go to the other side of the world. However, you don't have to travel around the world to find a little bit of fun. Just look around your state, country or even urban jungle. Call your tourism board. Some of the better states represented at the conference were Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Virginia, Vermont and New Mexico. These places are full of great outdoor activities, amazing tours, and very affordable prices.
How Much Will You Spend?
While the adventure tours run anywhere from $500 to $10,000, most of these tours (and this is a very, very broad blanket statement) run between $1500 to $3000 per person for about a two week trip. However, your food and accommodations are usually covered. Compare this price with your other vacations and you would be surprised.
Traveler vs. Tourist?
Much of independent and adventure travel comes down to whether you consider yourself a traveler or a tourist. Which one are you? Tourists like to stay in a controlled environment with Western amenities while travelers tend to interact with locals and step away from their comfort zones. Doug Lansky, author of First Time Around the World, gave a candid, humorous speech on helping people discover if they consider themselves traveler or tourists. Having traveled in more than 120 countries, Lansky helped people understand the benefits, tips and realities of going around the world.
Best New Companies
There were hundreds of tour companies and tourism boards at the Adventure Expo, all claiming to have something a little bit unique. Below are a few of our new favorites:
I to I
Instead of participating in an adventure, what about volunteering for a few weeks on a community project in a developing country. This for-profit company has the connections to help organize community projects around the world. It's for a good cause, helps the struggling communities, and will most likely be one of your most memorable experiences.
I to I Volunteer
We think this company has caught onto something. By keeping the experience local, using local transportation, staying in local guesthouses (that have been hand picked by Intrepid), this company can offer great trips at extremely low prices. We kind of consider this a company for backpackers who have grown up and now want to have the local experience, but with a little bit more structure.
No longer are late night episodes of Star Trek your only chance to boldly go where "no one has gone before." Commercial flights into space are probably the next hot thing. Sure, they may cost a fortune now, but this will hopefully lead tourism into various parts of the galaxy and be another step for mankind.
With 100 million sharks killed just last year alone, the non-profit Shark Research Institute researches and promotes the conservation of sharks. The Shark Research Institute has expeditions in places like Thailand, Honduras and Mexico, where participants can dive and help with the current research which involves visual and satellite tracking, behavioral and DNA studies of sharks, environmental advocacy, publications and public education.
Shark Research Institute
It was kind of a shock to see a booth for Rwanda at the show. For years, this country has been steeped in wars with both itself and its neighbors while coming to terms with the genocide that occurred barely 10 years ago. If you didn't know this, go see the new movie Hotel Rwanda. While this country has a sketchy past, it also has major potential in the East Africa travel scene. With Kenya going downhill, Uganda, Tanzania, and now Rwanda, make a great trio for travelers wanting to feast their eyes on animals and see some of Central Africa hidden forests.
Rwanda Tourism Board
With South Africa becoming one of the hottest new destinations in Africa, it's great to find a down-to-earth backpacker company that will take you to all the secret destinations and deliver you safely to your hostels through the whole east coast of South Africa. Baz Bus is similar to Oz or Kiwi Experience where backpackers, usually young, use the bus to see all of South Africa's highlights. It's fun, definitely a little party, and a great place to meet other travelers.
Here is a selection of some other good companies we met at the expo.
Travel Video Store – Countless travel videos
Oneder Wear – Disposable travel underwear
Earth Watch – Eco conservation tours
Conservation Corporation Africa – Safaris and lodges throughout Africa
Euro Bike & Walking Tours – Great Bicycling Tours in Western Europe
Myths & Mountains Small group journey's to various countries