Not to sound too much like the chubby boyscout in Up, but the wilderness must be explored! What better way to add a serious helping of adventure to your life than by taking your travels abroad? Not only is adventure travel great for collecting the best campfire stories in your friend group, but it’s also a seriously cool way to get to know the planet and it’s people. From cultural tourism to backpacking and hiking and everything in between, say goodbye to regular showers and HELLO to passport stamps a-plenty. Here’s everything you need to know to have the adventure of a lifetime abroad.
What is Adventure Travel?
Adventure travel is a type of tourism that revolves around exploration with perceived risk (you daredevil, you!). But not all adventure travel is created equal; in fact, there are numerous options for couch potatoes (er, adrenaline responsible...) folks too.
Typically speaking, adventure travel programs include a physically challenging element, cultural exchange, and the opportunity to get up close and personal with Mother Nature herself.
Why Choose Adventure Travel?
Preparing to travel to foreign countries takes a LOT of work. A LOT. Especially for individuals keen to explore off-the-beaten path destinations or get more in touch with a country’s wild side, a good deal of preparation is necessary.
How much we talking? From researching national emergency procedures, prepping for wilderness first response, scouting safe locations, familiarizing yourself with poisonous wildlife, and choosing trails to actually booking your flights, squaring away your visas, finding a (reasonable) hostel, and brainstorming ways to have authentic interactions with the locals…planning a trip abroad ain’t easy.
Signing up for adventure travel programs instead of going the independent-route allows you to take your boots off and get a nice little metaphorical foot rub. Rather than worrying and stressing over travel logistics and hoo-hah, you can focus your energy instead on having a kick-butt time, making incredible friends, and seeing extraordinary places.
Step 1: Select a Location
The destination you choose for your adventure travel will ultimately reflect you as a person, so don’t mess it up by choosing somewhere lame. JUST KIDDING. A destination can be as hardcore or mild as you decide to make it. What’s more? How BA the destination itself is will oftentimes become secondary to the type of program operator you choose. Some program providers are extremely involved in participants’ experiences and practically hold their hand through everything, while others will allow for more independent exploring and discovering.
Even still, there are some destinations that are just cool by default – they turn eyes and demand respect. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, traveling from one end of Vietnam to the other, backpacking the Inca Trail and Amazon Rainforest, zipping through the rainforests of Costa Rica, shark diving in the cold waters off of South Africa’s coast – all of these are so totally awesome.
At the end of the day, you should choose a location that excites and interests you, as well as offers the type of adventure you are looking for #sweetspot.
Step 2: Choose an Adventure
Here’s a quick run down of potential heart-pounding experiences that await to be checked off your adventure bucket list:
ECO-TOURISM is more than a buzzword: it’s a new attitude toward travel that should perfuse the decisions we make as travelers. It is often directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments or at-risk populations, and aims to support conservation efforts or the empowerment of others.
Supporting grassroots organizations through eco-tourism initiatives may mean staying at fewer international chain hotels, but it also gives you a unique, organic opportunity to support economic development from the ground up. Two very popular eco-tourism opportunities include assisting with environmental education programs or participating in heritage tours.
EXTREME WATER SPORTS. Do friends call you water baby? Do you have recurring dreams that may lead you to believe you are half dolphin? Then a water-themed adventure travel program will be sure to excite and delight you. Just be sure to pack your swim socks!
Popular options for water sports abroad include:
LANDLUBBER ADVENTURES. If you’re a creature more comfortable on land than at sea, there are still a number of ways to rev your engines through adventure travel. From mountains to valleys to tree canopies to underground caves, physical capabilities of all levels are invited to enjoy a dramamine-free adventure. Consider one of the following options:
- Hiking / Trekking
- Horseback Riding
- Mountain Biking
- Skiing / Snowboarding
And that’s just barely scratching the surface! We know making a final decision about which type of adventure travel to sign up for can be overwhelming. Find solace knowing that adventure can be a mainstay of your life forever…if you can’t get to them all now, there’s always next time!
Step 3: Understand Inclusions & Costs
Generally speaking, the overall cost of an adventure travel program will cover all of your admissions, bookings, transport in-country, food, and accommodations for the duration of your program. Additional costs include flights to/from country, your visas and passport, as well as spending money for drinks, souvenirs, or optional adventures that aren’t included in the program cost.
That being said, it is vital that you confirm with each and every company what is included/excluded in their tour package. There is no magical formula that companies follow when creating price points for their services, so it is up to you to be as informed as possible, and to make a decision that best benefits your budget.
You might consider adding on certain experiences to your overall program cost, such as a homestay or travel insurance. If you’d rather pick and choose your adventures as you go, be up front with your tour operator and ensure in advance that this is an option.
Step 4: Prepare & Enjoy
Shared experiences are the best experiences. Rather than bite the bullet and do the whole thing solo, joining an adventure travel program gives you an instant community. It’s highly unlikely you will be the only solo-traveler in the group, which is fertile ground for making friends.
Oftentimes, these adventures have an element of pushing you out of your comfort zone and facing your fears. There is something very satisfying and rewarding in helping others overcome these fears, and to let others support you in overcoming yours, too. Accountability, baby!
While it is nice to pay someone else to do all the planning for you, it does give you an easy excuse to opt out of being intellectually and emotionally invested in your trip. Rather than just showing up on day one ready to party, take the time in advance to actively read and research your destinations, including their cultures, latest history, contemporary issues, and helpful words in their native language.
If you are worried about relinquishing too much control of your itinerary, consider booking a program that allows a combination of self-directed travel and group travel. This will be the perfect mix, offering a support staff and 24/7 help while also allowing you to get in a little bit of trouble on your own.
So pack your adventure shoes and head on out! Don’t doubt your courage. Just remember Ellie, Carl, thousands of colorful balloons, and that adventure is out there.