Bonus Episode this week!  I'm been getting a lot of questions about adventure travel and whether or not it is right for you.  Some of you are intrigued but are worried that you may not be able to do the adventure when you get there.  That's why I RATE each adventure both in difficulty and comfort level (i.e., accommodations).

More about that later, but in the meantime, here's the promised photo of me looking particularly fetching.  I may not LOOK happy, but I am!  I'm just uber tired and hadn't been able to properly bathe in three days, plus the wind whipped my hair so much that I could no longer get a comb through it.  It makes the joy of the next day's shower all the more SWEET!  With adventure travel, you learn to re-appreciate all the finer things in life, like SOAP instead of just baby wipes:)  You're not always going to get this dirty on adventure travel, but I seem to always resemble Charlie Brown's Pigpen for some reason…

Tired adventure traveler

In today's bonus episode we cover:

  • What my difficulty rankings mean from 1-5
    • Most adventures are a ‘3' meaning that an average reasonably fit person can do it, particularly with some pre-trip planning. ‘2' means relatively easy, and ‘4' means you'd better train.
    • We review how to figure out how to determine your pace for the day's itinerary.
  • I go over my personal fitness routine which is pretty lame, but I am consistent.  I'm a believer in the turtle versus the hare approach.  I am able to do these adventures without killing myself in daily exertion, and you can, too!  I go over what I do when I DO feel the need to step it up.
Since I'm not qualified to show you the exercises I do at home, I found you someone who looks pretty darn qualified to help you learn how to do my anti-batwing exercises...
  • We review the four ways TO adventure travel:
    • Planning all on your own and my free travel planning resource
    • Doing a self-guided tour through a tour company – you and yours but without a guide
    • Going on a guided trip: the pros and cons
    • Custom adventure trips
  • I outline how I planned (or not) the trips I personally did over the last year, which is a combo of:
    • France:  planned everything myself (what little planning I did)
    • Nicaragua:  Guided trip
    • Scotland:  Self-guided tour
    • Glacier:  I went with an individual who did all the planning
  • We review the reasons WHY folks go on these adventure trips
  • I go over the things you'll find in the FREE downloadable Travel Planning Cheat Sheet for each episode (these are quite helpful for the ENTIRE country, even if you aren't doing the specific adventure we are talking about).  The information and links include:
    • Weather averages and best times of year to go
    • State Dept safety and visa information
    • Local Currency plus a currency converter and notes on money & tipping in this destination
    • Who is this trip best for: families, couples, solo, friends and/or custom?
    • Can you easily plan and execute this trip yourself or should you hire a guide or tour company…who do I recommend?
    • Budget range : I give it a single dollar sign for budget travel to four dollar signs for more expensive. Often you can choose the expense level you prefer
    • Physical difficulty rating 1 – 5, with 5 being difficult (most are 3, but range 2-4)
    • Comfort rating: what kinds of sleeping arrangements can you expect?
    • What languages are spoken, and how hard is it to get around without speaking the native tongue, plus a link to Google translate for the local language
    • Food and water safety tips
    • Gateway airports and airlines who service the main airport so you can get the best flights
    • A link to a site that lets you compare travel insurance options so you get the best deal
    • Packing list and equipment recommendations links
    • Any other pertinent links that can help you plan your trip
  • I go over the FOUR WAYS Active Travel Adventures puts the information together for you:
    • Podcast give you a brief summary so you can get a feel of whether or not your want to go on this adventure
    • Website has photos and videos, link for the Travel Planning Cheat Sheet, the newsletter sign up, tabs so you can reach out on social media or email me, and also to show you how to listen to and subscribe to the podcast.
    • Newsletter comes out monthly with the FREE Travel Planning Cheat Sheets covered the previous month, plus any corrections or amplifications of those trips, travel tips and deals.
    • The Active Travel Adventures Facebook Group : a private (FREE) group so that we can all connect and share stories, photos, ask for help or tips.  It is NOT for advertisers, which is WHY I am keeping it private so we can chat without being bugged.  Violators will be blocked!
  • I asked EACH OF YOU to PLEASE tell at least one friend about the podcast and SHOW him or her how to subscribe as so many people still don't know what a podcast is.  THANK YOU!!!!
  • Next week, I interview a hiker who has walked some of the most impressive trails in the world and she introduces us to a hike I'd never even heard of, and says it ranks among her favorite IN THE world!  AND:  she says it's EASY and FAMILY FRIENDLY!!!  See you next Thursday .. Adventure on!

Adventure Travel FAQ’s  : Bonus Episode  : Here's the podcast transcript  :

 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about these adventure trips I’m talking about on the Active Travel Adventures podcast.  I’m so happy to hear you are intrigued and how many of you are considering this kind of travel experience perhaps for the first time.  Try it once, and I’m betting you’re going to get hooked like the rest of us!

 

This is Kit Parks, and I’m the host of the Active Travel Adventures podcast.  Today I am answering the FAQ’s I’ve been hearing.

 

I know I’m not supposed to be releasing an episode until next Thursday, but I thought it important to answer these questions as soon as possible because they keep coming up so I thought I’d do this Bonus Episode.

 

The Question I hear the most:  I’ve never gone on an adventure vacation before.  How do I know if I can do it? 

Each adventure on the podcast has a difficulty rating from 1 – 5.  Most adventures we discuss will be a three, with the occasional 2 and 4.

1 – Sit on the bus tours.  You ar basically a slug.  ATA doesn’t cover these trips

2 – Very gentle pace with little elevation gain on a hike or trail.  No overly arduous days.  If you exercise at all regularly, you can do this trip with no problem.  These trips will usually also be labeled Family-friendly on the Travel Planning Cheat Sheets I provide for each episode.  All ages can do them.  Often the day’s activity does not take more than a few hours to get to the next destination allowing you plenty of side trip time.

3 – Usually more difficult because of the time spent doing the activity.  Hikes may have 10-15 miles 16-24km (with the occasional longer day), cycle trips may be over 50 miles/80km, and there may be times of somewhat difficult ascents or descents.  If you have good cardio and do some pre-trip training, you’ll be fine.  You will be pooped at the end of the day, and your feet or other body parts will be sore and tired, but you’ll be raring to go again the next day.

4 – Now we are getting harder.  The days may be long and the trails challenging.  There will be difficult ascents and descents.  You need to train for these trips or you won’t have a good time.

5- Uber hard.  ATA doesn’t explore these kinds of trips.

 

If you’re uncertain, start with a level two.  Every vacation we cover are all epic adventures, you just won’t be as tired at the end of the day.  Look at the daily itinerary and remember, you have ALL day to get to the next destination.

 

Think about it this way:  At home on my flat streets, I walk about 3.5-4 mph depending on how hard I feel like walking.  On a trail, I may slow down to 1.5 – 3 miles depending on the terrain.

 

So if I have a ten mile day, without stops and diversions, I can hike it in 3.5 – 6.5 hours.  If I have a leisurely breakfast and get on the trail by 9, I have more than enough time for a nice lunch and can stroll in long before cocktail hour.  On average, a level two day, you’ll probably be AT your destination midday, a level three you get there before five or six, if not earlier.

 

Check out my tour company recommendation and go to their website to LOOK at their itinerary. It will give you a really good idea of what to expect so you can figure out if the trip is a good fit for you.

 

If you haven’t seen a picture of me, I’m certainly no gym rat.  In fact, I don’t even go to a gym.  I’ve had the same nagging ten pounds I’d love to get rid of, but obviously don’t hate it so much that I actually DO anything about it.

 

Here’s what I do do:  I try really hard to walk 40 minutes a day.  Every morning I am home, I do a speedy version of Rodney Yee’s AM Yoga program, which is supposed to be 15-20 minutes that I do in about 7.  On Mon –Wed-Fri, I do the following exercises which take me another 15 minutes:

  • Crunches: 30 each of five varieties
  • Girly push ups from my knees : 30
  • Bat wind preventer chair dips : 30 … feet on the ground, I rpop myself up on a chair seat with my palms and then dip my hips towards the floor and then using the batwing muscle, the tricep, I draw my body back up to chair seat level.
  • Bat wing preventer bench press: 30 … I have a YouTube link on today’s show notes to show you how.
  • If I put on a few pounds, I’ll try to add some running for 30 minutes, but I say I’ll do it FAR more than I actually do it. I have only run a handful of times this year, but starting next week, well you know how THAT goes…
  • To prepare for an adventure trip, I beef it up and instead of walking a couple of times a week, I join the local rec center so I can use the treadmill on an incline with some increasing weight on my back for a backpacking trip, and will take longer walks when possible on the non-treadmill days. I SHOULD do all of my walks all the time with my pack so my feet and shoulders STAY used to carrying weight, plus this alone helps would help me with those ten pounds.
  • If I have a difficult trip planned, I will be more thoughtful and consistent with my training so that I don’t have injury worries and can concentrate more on the landscape and people than my body.
  • When I did my first long distance backpacking trip – a two week section on the Appalachian Trail – I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for, so I really trained hard. On the hike, I was going to be carrying about 28 pounds, so over the four months I prepared, I built my backpack training weight up to 36 pounds. When I actually was on the hike, it was relatively easy for me because I had gotten myself so fit and was really, happily over-trained.
  • Contrast that to my Scotland long distance day pack hike, I did not train at all. The trail is mild so it would not have been a problem except I brought all this heavy electronic equipment, and had NOT trained with any weight in a pack, so even though I was day hiking and not backpacking, I was actually carrying close to backpacking weight, and I injured my right knee.  This is NOT how you do this.
  • I have learned my lesson and will not get cocky again about pre-trip training. And time is not an excuse anymore with today’s smart phone.  You can work and train at the same time.  You can listen to podcasts or audio books while you train to not only have the time whizz by, but improve your mind at the same time.  Make it a family event if you’re short on family time.  Somehow we ALWAYS find the time to so the things we really want to do, and we’re always just too busy to do the things we DON’T want to do.  You just need to decide which is which and schedule your day accordingly.

Question:  What are the difference ways to plan an adventure tour?

There are four main ways:

  1. You plan and book everything yourself. My planner is super helpful here.
  2. A self-guided tour through a tour company. You follow a pre-planned tour where the chosen company makes all the arrangements for you, provides maps, often luggage transfer services so you don’t have to carry so much weight during the day, and are an emergency contact in case something goes wrong.  They are very economical and can save you a ton of time and often money as they often use lodging you may never find on the internet.  They know of issues on the ground and can circumvent them for you. For example,  a main stop on the West highland Way had only one inn, and it was closed for renovations.  My tour company arranged for a shuttle pick up and took me to a lovely town ten miles away and then shuttled me back to my previous end point to continue my hike.  How long do you think it would have taken me to figure how to do all of that?  They give you the itinerary, maps, instructions and packing info, etc., but you do the trip all yourself without a guide coming along on the trip.  You can often customize a bit since your itinerary is not dependent on others.  You can add rest days or side trip days.
  3. This is the same or similar trip, but now you have a private guide that comes with you. You are in a small group with people from around the world unless you book the whole group.  The beauty of this is that it is not only reduces risks of any complications, and when there are problems, it’s the guides problem to fix it, and they have the local knowledge to do so.  HOWEVER, I have found that it is in solving the problems that some of the most fun stories and memories come from – albeit its often later.  Its also easier to get to know fellow travelers from around the world.  This is a great option if you want a bit more hand holding until you get comfortable adventure traveling, or if  traveling in foreign countries makes you a bit uncomfortable.  A major benefit is that you get to ask the guide all sorts of questions about the country that a foreigner wouldn’t know, so you also get a cultural exchange out of it.  This is obviously a more pricey option.  I did it this way in China and the guide was such an important part of my experience.  I do not believe I would have gotten near as much out of that trip without his knowledge and interpretation of what I was seeing.  On a guided tour you cannot customize anything because the whole group has to have the same itinerary.
  4. If you have a sizable group or plenty of money, the final option is to do a completely custom trip. Your friends or family will be the only ones on the guided trip.  Depending on the country, you can get affordable custom guided trips for  even just a few people for a reasonable price.  In first world or difficult to travel countries, it can get very pricey.  However, if you have 8-15 people, there shouldn’t be much price difference than a regular guided trip.

 

In the last year, I planned my16 -venture trips as follows:

 

France:  I was testing out unplanned independent long term travel.  I booked a 6-1/2 week to and from flight from Paris.  Outside of seeing a friend in Antibes and an American couple I was friends with who also happened to be in France, the rest of the trip I planned as I went along.  If I liked a town, I stayed, and moved on when I was ready to go to the next place of interest.  Usually it would be someone I met who recommended a place they had just come from or a nearby natural area I could hike or bike that determined where I would go next.  This was great fun but comfortably uncomfortable as my normal heavy planning personality had to be tossed out the window.  I found I liked the spontenaety, but I did come up with some rules I’ll go over at another time.  This kind of adventure trip gives you the most flexibility but also the most problems and a few twitches, plus you spend a lot of time figuring things out.  I did have a blast and do recommend it if it suits your personality, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

 

Nicaragua:  A guided tour where I was acquainted with one person.  I met John several years ago at the Appalachian Trail Institute course, and we kept up annually at Christmas time thereafter.  Every winter he would go on these epic hiking trips, so in our annual email I asked where he was going this year.  He said, Nicaragua, why don’t I come?  Why don’t I come, indeed?  Everyone needs to learn that I take such invites seriously and try always to say yes.  I paid the money but barely looked at the itinerary, and just showed up.  This was a guided hike in a group of a little over a dozen.  I didn’t have to do anything but hike as Roger planned everything and we had multiple local guides to assist us.  Very nice!  It was on this trip that I met Jamie, a Scot, who invited the group to his 40th birthday hike in June.  I was the only one to say yes, so off I went. Listen to Episode 1 for details on this Nicaraguan adventure.

 

Scotland:  I did a self-guided tour but I hired a company to plan the itinerary, make the arrangements and transfer my luggage daily so all I had to do was hike the 100 miles to the birthday party from Glasgow.  I did almost zero research before heading on this trip, so like Nicaragua, it was great to be surprised everyday by what I encountered.  When you have someone else plan your trip you can get away with this because they have smoothed out all the rough edges in planning things for you. You can hear about this adventure in Episode 3.

 

Glacier National Park:  This was a hybrid trip.  Independent by most standards, however I did none of the planning.  I met a charming woman when I was on the France trip.  We bonded over dinner and became Facebook friends.  Six months later, she mentioned she was going to camp and hike in Glacier for three weeks the next summer did I want to go?  Remember what I said about inviting me somewhere?!  Of course I want to go!!!  She did all the planning for this one, so all I had to do was hike.  She lives in Wyoming so I flew there to start the adventure.  On the way to Glacier in Montana, we spent three nights staying with a woman she had met on a rafting trip and had obviously become good friends with – remember what I keep saying about quick bonds on the trail???–  We also stayed with her another two days on the way back.  That Montana woman and I became friends and now WE are going on a hiking trip to Bhutan next spring with some people I met in Nicaragua.  These trips may these cool interwoven circles like a slinky that gets tangled and interconnected.  You can check out the Glacier adventure on episode 2.

 

I guess my point is, that depending on what you want to do and how much you want to spend time planning what you want to do, and obviously your budget, determines whether you want to plan a trip yourself, or use a company.  I like them all and depending on what I want to accomplish determines which I’ll do.  The more I travel, the more confident I get in stretching the bar of my comfort level a little bit more – always always always with grand results!!!

 

Like most of you, I get so busy, so now I am preferring to have someone else plan for me, but if I just want to get away, I’ll do the French trip way, but will know that I’ll waste a lot of precious time planning things once I get there.

 

On the Travel Planner for each episode, you’ll see my recommendations for whether you can readily plan the particular adventure yourself or if you should use a guide.  I will recommend tour companies I know and trust if you want to go that route.

 

One other thing about these Travel Planners I want you to know: I spend HOURS putting them together to save each of you those same hours.  It has all the important links you need to plan your trip all on a two page document that has working internet links to:

 

  • Weather averages and best times of year to go
  • State Dept safety and visa information
  • Local Currency plus a currency converter and notes on money & tipping in this destination
  • Who is this trip best for: families, couples, solo, friends and/or custom?
  • Can you easily plan and execute this trip yourself or should you hire a guide or tour company…who do I recommend?
  • Budget range : I give it a single dollar sign for budget to four dollar signs for more expensive. Often you can choose the expense level
  • Physical difficulty rating 1 – 5, with 5 being difficult (most are 3, but range 2-4)
  • Comfort rating: what kinds of sleeping arrangements can you expect?
  • What languages are spoken plus a link to Google translate
  • Food and water safety
  • Gateway airports and airlines who service the main airport so you can get the best flights
  • A link to a site that lets you compare travel insurance options so you get the best deal
  • Packing list and equipment recommendations links
  • Any other pertinent links that can help you plan your trip

 

Even though these sheets are specific for the adventure we talked about on the corresponding episode, actually they are great to use for entire country trip planning.  So if you’re going to Scotland, but not doing the West Highland Way, you’ll still want these free planners to help you plan whatever your Scottish vacation is, even if it’s not adventure travel.

 

If I were you, I’d make up a folder called ATA A-T-A for Active Travel Adventures in my email account and file the newsletters in there.  You get the travel planners automatically with each newsletter which I’ll be sending you each month.  That way you can use the search feature in your email to find them by destination, activity difficulty level, etc.  Super easy!  If you know you want to go, I’ve made them printer friendly so they don’t eat up all your ink.  And speaking of emails,  I hate spam and I hate when folks abuse me when I give them my email.  I promise NOT to do that to you or to ever sell your email address!  In the newsletter I’ll include the travel planners, any update or corrections, and some travel tips and deals not on the podcast or on the website.  I hope to make it super helpful for you!

 

 

 

 

Another question I get:  Why do people do these kinds of trips?  I don’t get it!

I’ve been recording some roundup interviews I’ll be releasing soon where I ask that very question.  On your limited time off, why would you go do something for multiple days, where at the end of the day you are physically beat, your feet are sore and you are seriously sweaty and dirty when you could be sitting on a chaise lounge at the beach enjoying an umbrella drink?

 

For me, it’s the personal challenge.  I’ve never been in a situation where I felt like I was so stretched to my limits that I wasn’t sure I could endure.  I have been really tired, even beyond tired, where my feet were screaming after hiking all day.  In Scotland, my right knee was hollering every time I went downhill –and it’s now better halleluah-  On my hardest day, I thought my endpoint at Drymens Inn would never appear.  The next day, while not fine, my new hiking partner didn’t even realize I had a knee issue.  In Nicaragua, I hadn’t had a decent bath in days and the wind was blowing my hair in such a tangle that I could no longer comb it.  BONUS!  That photo is this week’s glamour shot on the website.  I may not look happy in it, but looks are deceiving.  It’s one of my favorite photos and I look positively awful!  When this photo was taken, I was simply tired, and dirty  — but happy.  There were times in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I thought I’d never want to see another rock again, but here I am planning to go back next year.  Sometimes in the moment, under the physical stress, you grumble, but surviving, – no that’s too strong of a word – enduring and overcoming those obstacles, gives your self esteem a lift like few other things can.  You’re able to give yourself the proverbial pat on the back.  Well done!

 

And the stories!  You get to relive your adventure for the rest of your life.  Unlike the pretty outfit or fancy new car, after a while, you no longer care or appreciate it.  But with travel and particularly with adventure travel, you get to remember and appreciate them forever – perhaps even more so as your body slows down and you wistfully remember when…

 

When you meet fellow travelers, part of the fun is in exchanging stories, the universal language and bonding agent – oh, that, and laughter!

 

Another thing I hear from adventure travelers about why they like it, is the not knowing what will happen,  That uncertainty is something that most of us have very little of in our daily lives.

 

Again, none of the trips on ATA are crazy or dangerous.  They can get you out of your comfort zone which is a good thing, a positive and growth enhancing thing.

 

One thing I want to do is to explain the four ways I’m trying to deliver information to you:

  1. The podcast is to whet your appetite in a small time commitment chunk to see if an adventure is something you want to consider.  I hope you find them informative, inspirational and entertaining.  This is something you can digest while driving, walking, or doing a mundane task, etc.
  2. The website has photos and videos of the adventure, plus the podcast transcript if you want to refer back to something, or just prefer to digest information visually. This is where you can also download the Travel Planning Cheat Sheet.  On the website there is a search bar to help you find things and also a Podcast Episode directory of all the back episodes.  There’s a page where you can also see how to listen to and subscribe to podcasts –YOU HAVE SUBSCRIBED TO ATA HAVEN’T YOU???  You can also find links to subscribe to the newsletter, find my social media handles or pop me an email – and I do love to hear from you with comments and suggestions!  While I’m thinking about it, if ever you tag Active Travel Adventures, sometimes that name is a little long.  May I suggest we also start using the hashtag #A-T-A, ATA?
  3. The newsletter I just went over. It has the nitty gritty details of how to plan an individual adventure we discussed, or you can download each sheet separately.
  4. A Facebook Group. I started it, but frankly have been super busy getting everything up and running, but will begin moving forward on that this week.  It IS a private group – but don’t worry it’s free – I just want to make sure it stays just people interested in adventure travel and I want the prerogative to eject anyone who gets all salesy on us.  I want it to be a forum where folks can ask questions of each other, and post photos of their adventures to inspire others.  The group is open, so just go to Facebook groups and search for Active Travel Adventures and ask to join.  Compared to the typical tourist, there aren’t a lot of us out there, and I want ATA to provide a place where we can hang out together to exchange notes.

 

I have gotten all off track.  Didn’t I start with why people do adventure travel?  Yes the thrill, and the challenge, but also the stories and memories which are unlike traditional travel.  There’s also a bit of bragging rights.  You get to meet people from around the world, and I also must say they are invariably cool people!  You get to explore new cultures and see places that you can’t get to unless you get a little dirty, and that most people will never see.  One often overlooked benefit, is it can be a much cheaper way to travel if you are camping or going self-guided.   So many places I go, sometimes it’s cheaper for me to travel than to stay home!  And, it’s one of the few vacations that you usually LOSE weight instead of coming home with an extra five pounds attached to your hips.  And, instead of coming home exhausted, you come home exhilarated.

 

I want to encourage you to email me with any of your questions.  I’ll do my best to answer them either on a future Q&A episode or directly.  I want to thank all of you who have written.  It’s great to open my email box and see something from one of you guys instead of spam!

 

This week, I’d like to ask each of you to tell at least one active friend about the Active Travel Adventures podcast to help spread the word.  You may have to show them how to download a podcast app and then how to subscribe.  Most people still don’t know how, so you’ll have to teach them.  It’s just you and me baby swimming against the tide and I could use your help.  Thanks!

 

Next week on our regularly scheduled episode, I’m interviewing a gal who has done some of the world’s most popular hikes and she’s talking to us about a trail I had never even heard about it.  Plus, she says it’s an easy but stunningly beautiful hike that the whole family can enjoy.  You don’t want to miss it!  See you next Thursday.  Until then, Adventure On!