This post was written by my wife:
Dictionary.com defines adventure travel as a “vacation or trip to a natural environment or remote location with the specific purpose of active physical participation and exploration of a new experience” (the bolding is mine for emphasis).
I’m going to be honest here – adventure travel is not for everyone. Adventure travel is not a cruise or a 5 star vacation where you eat gobs of decadent food, sleep in comfortable beds, and are pampered every waking minute. Adventure travel often involves some discomfort and certainly unfamiliar situations.
- We’ve sat on the side of a mountain in a snow storm, huddled under a space blanket for warmth, waiting for our less-than-cooperative pack camel to climb the mountain with our camping gear and warm clothes.
- We’ve taken down camp in a 60 mph wind storm with poor visibility and volcanic sand blowing into every part of our exposed faces.
- I’ve camped and hiked for two weeks in the wilds of eastern Russia without my baggage or any of my gear because the airline misplaced it.
- We’ve crossed a raging, milky glacial river on horseback just minutes after our guide told us that they never take customers across the river on horseback because it is too dangerous. But when your van drives for hours up the wrong side of the river, what else can you do?
On the other hand, I’ve experienced things that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world:
- I made fast friends with more than a dozen little Nepali girls after I gave them all some hand lotion to try – they loved the smell and the way it felt on their hands. They didn’t leave my side the entire time I was in their village.
- We’ve been the honored guests at the Mongolian Naadam Festival. We watched their wrestling matches and horse races and then shared boiled mutton and homemade vodka with the local dignitaries.
- In Tanzania, I sat around a fire and talked with a Masai chief and then was invited into his home to see how they ingeniously build their huts to keep the flies out.
- An old woman lovingly poured cool water on my head when I nearly passed out from heat-stroke while hiking on the Great Wall of China.
- While photographing the scenery, a young Mongolian man proudly rode his white horse across the field to me and asked that I take his picture on his horse. He then offered me a ride on his horse.
- I’ve stood at 19,340 feet above sea level when I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, my highest elevation ever, and I’ve seen Mt. Everest.
- We’ve walked into the crater of an active volcano.
- We’ve looked into the eyes of giant, endangered sea turtles and swam alongside whale sharks.
- We’ve been ice climbing on an iceberg in Antarctica.
Good or bad, all of these experiences have made me who I am. I believe they have made me more open-minded, understanding, patient, thankful, and compassionate, as well as made me more confident in my ability to accomplish great things by pushing myself physically. And they all make for great stories.
Before you sign up for an adventure trip, you need to be honest with yourself and assess your ability to cope gracefully with whatever comes your way. Please thoughtfully consider the following:
Food: The rest of the world does not eat what you eat and they often have different customs about when they eat. For example, in Russia, they generally do not eat lunch until 2:00 pm.
If you are a strict vegetarian, carefully research where you will be traveling because being a vegetarian in some parts of the world is not practicable (especially in places like Mongolia and Russia). In these cases, consider bringing some of your own food if this will be a problem.
Transportation: The vehicles you may spend long hours in probably won’t have air conditioning, the heater may not work, and they will certainly break down multiple times. And you may be traveling extended distances on rough, unpaved roads. Dress accordingly and bring your patience.
Sleeping Arrangements: If you will be sleeping in tents, it may be hot or cold so dress accordingly and bring appropriate sleeping gear. I highly recommend that you bring your own sleeping bag and sleeping pad as the ones that you can rent from outfitters may not be high quality, warm, or in the case of pads, very thick (i.e. the one I slept on in Russia was nicknamed the “pad of pain”). You get the point.
Hotel accommodations in these places probably won’t be what you are used to either. You may have to use communal facilities; to avoid drenching the bathroom, you may have to sit in the bathtub while using the hand sprayer for your shower; and rooms almost never have double (or queen or king) beds. Even in Europe, rooms for couples generally have two single beds.
Weather: The weather is the weather and you have no control whatsoever over what you encounter. Bring lots of layers and just deal with it.
Sanitary Conditions: Many places of the world still use holes in the ground for toilets and have no running water. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer and once again, just deal with it.
Itinerary: It’s pretty much guaranteed that some part of your itinerary will change or be rearranged at the last-minute due to a myriad of reasons: weather, availability of supplies, or transportation issues. You need to trust your local guide and here is another circumstance where you’re just going to have to remain flexible and deal with it.
If you are the kind of person who cannot keep your mouth shut when encountering difficult situations, you should not go on an adventure trip – your complaining will ruin your travel companions’ vacations. No one wants to be around a whiner and complainer.
And finally, as someone who loves adventure travel and meeting new people the world over, please remember that you are visiting someone else’s country. You are a guest there and you should respect the people and their customs. Additionally, you are an ambassador for our country. How you act when abroad reflects on our country and all of us – please don’t give the rest of the world another reason to believe that all Americans are spoiled, rich brats. A smile and thank you in the country’s native tongue go a long way.