Reasons to Consider Adventure Travel for Your Next Vacation
Adventure travel offers multiple advantages over traditional package tours and beach vacations. Here are fifteen key benefits you get from adventure travel and why you should include active travel to your vacations. I've also included a Bonus Anecdoctal 16th Reason that will give you even more inspiration to make 2018 your most adventurous yet!
Adventure travel pushes you outside of your comfort zone. It puts you in unfamiliar situations and challenges you to test your mettle. In the last millenia, the typical adventure traveler was a young gap year kid bungee jumping off cliff. In those days, adventure travel often meant risky. Not anymore. Today’s adventure traveller is often over fifty, super busy with a high stress job, has more disposable income, and when vacationing, instead of seeking risk, instead seeks meaningful and life changing experiences, and finds that adventure travel delivers.
So instead of bungee jumping, today adventure travel means climbing Macchu Picchu, hiking between medieval villages along the West Highland Way in Scotland or rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Perhaps its biking the gentle path alongside the Danube river from Vienna to Budapest.
Today, adventure travel combines physical exertion with mixing with the locals and fellow global adventure travelers. You savor unique foods and customs so very different from home. You come home changed and recharged and ready to start planning your next epic adventure – adventure travel is addicting. Finally, something it’s ok to get addicted to!
Adventure travel vacations allow you to see your small part in a much larger world and often alters your perspective. You see that other cultures do things differently and their way may be good, too, just different. Adventure travel attracts people from all walks of life so you meet people you might not ordinarily encounter at home, with opinions and experiences vastly different from your own, and may see that their ways are valid as well. You return home from an adventure travel trip slightly altered from the start: a new and improved YOU!
Even on guided tours, you will be pushed physically and mentally. You find out what you are made of. And you learn that you can do more than you ever thought you could. Late afternoon, you may be tired and your feet hurt, but you still have a couple of miles to go. You manage to pull resources from within and you make it. You strengthen your resilience. That evening, you relax with a cold one and relive the day’s experience with your fellow adventurers.
And then the next day, you wake raring to get that euphoric feeling again. Your best stories come from overcoming obstacles and getting yourself out of a mess or otherwise problem solving. With adventure travel, you get to test your mettle to see what you are made of.
When you look back on your trips, your fondest memories are usually when you battled and won under the most trying of circumstances. Once you’ve beat the obstacle, you are more alive and more confident. It’s exhilirating!
(The Wall Street Journal had an excellent article on Resilience worth reading)
Adventure travel is not for wimps. Days can be physically challenging. You often deal with rain, cold or wind, which can mean mud and chills. You HAVE to get from one place to the next, so even when you are tired and dirty, you have to forge ahead to the day’s destination. If travelling solo, you develop the mental strength to get there on your own. In a group, you get the support of the others to cheer you to the day’s finish line. At the end of the day, you look back in wonder at what you achieved and you feel bigger inside. Adventure travel is a great confidence builder. You learn that you are capable of far more than you ever dreamt and develop tremendous coping skills as you meet new obstacles and challenges.
Active travel adventures often equals SLOW travel. You have time to really SEE and study your surroundings. You mind finally has a chance to quiet down. Adventure travel can be a form of active meditation throughout much of the day. Your heart can burst with the joy of simply being alive. As active travel often can mean roughing it, you learn to appreciate all the little things you take for granted at home (hot water, toilets, hot meals on demand, etc). Plus, you feel pride in your body being able to perform!
You often get to see landscapes you couldn’t see unless your body can motor you there: many of the planet’s awe-inspiring landscapes don’t have a road to them, so it’s up to you and your body to get there. And because most people are unable or unwilling to challenge themselves, once you’ve arrived, you rarely fight any crowds.
We get distracted and multi-task all day. Which gives us all a bit of attention deficit disorder. When on an adventure trip, you naturally stay in the moment. This allows your brain to rest, and I believe, heal. So consider adventure travel ‘Attention Restoration Therapy’. One study found being in nature helps restore the higher cognitive functions we require in today’s device-driven days. This study found a 50% increase in creativity and problem solving skills after only three days of hiking. Researchers aren’t sure if it was being in nature or being disconnected or a combo, but you get both with adventure travel! There is no doubt in my mind that the slow steady pace of adventure travel helps your brain sort through things so you see things more clearly and helps you to find the solutions to your current dilemmas. In addition, another study found that aerobic activity actually increases your brain’s hippocampus so aids in memory retention. Some doctors are now handing out ‘Park Prescriptions' to get their patients outside to get these benefits. Studies have also shown that getting out in nature makes us all nicer, too!
Not only does our brain improve, being out in nature improves our mental health and reduces depression and anxiety, [according to Mardie Townsend, PhD, as reported in Psychiatry Advisor.] I can actually FEEL it lower my blood pressure and calming my mind when I am out in the woods. I have also noticed since I started doing adventure travel that I handle stress back at home much better. Today, I let new problems roll off me much better now. And I’m thrilled to find that I’m actually sometimes starting to react with a fabulous, almost disembodied observation of whatever the crisis is rather than getting panicky or upset. This allows me to calmly deal with whatever the problem in a detached manner. I’ve even stopped losing sleep over my problems. Instead, I can spend my time solving the problem instead of stressing over it and worrying about it. What a time saver!
Whether learning new skills to actually DO the adventure, like backpacking, or learning about new cultures or history, adventure travel broadens your mind. Unlike boring history textbooks, when you get to actually SEE where history took place and meet people directly affected by it, history now becomes personal to you so now you’re interested in learning more about the people, culture and history where your adventure travel takes you. For example, Linda’s story about her BNB host’s grandmother who helped the Jews during WWII in our Mont Blanc Adventure, (Episode 7). Not to mention that adventure travel makes learning FUN! Adventure travel both satisfies and encourages your curiousity. List continues below.
Compared to sit on the beach with a fruity drink or even the large group packaged bus tours where you zoom from one stop to the next to snap a photo, with adventure travel you mix with the locals and engage with the culture of the place you are visiting. Plus, you disburse your spending across villages with the local merchants which better helps the local economy. Because of your interactions with the locals, you return home with a better understanding of the culture which expands your world view.
Like all travel, adventure travel lets you enjoy your trip before, during and afterwards. Unlike the stuff we buy that is meaningless a short time later, you get to relish your travels forever. Initially you get the thrill when you first discover and/or dream about an adventure. Then you get the fun of figuring out how and when you’re going to do it. Next you have the anticipation and excitement leading up to your adventure. And then –YAY!- you get the joy and sense of accomplishment from actually doing the adventure. And finally, for years to come whether telling your stories or looking at your photos, you get to relive your adventure over and over again. Try that with a fancy pair of shoes.
When you meet people on the trail or in your group, you are self-selected as kindred spirits on the same adventure, so bonding is super quick. Conversations are deeper, quicker. Lifetime friendships are often formed. As popular as adventure travel is, most people still don’t or can’t do it, so you end up formng a bit of a ‘club'.
You won’t run out of exciting and interesting stories to tell, both at home and with your fellow travelers. We humans have always made connections and formed friendships via storytelling, and your stories are going to be super cool. You’re friends and colleagues will be amazed.
Have you ever returned home from a vacation exhausted? Unlike traditional vacations, adventure travel makes your stronger physically and mentally. You are unlikely to have put on five pounds – unless it’s muscle! Also, by exercising much of the day on your trip, your metabolism and energy levels explode! When you do adventure travel, you won’t need a vacation from your vacation.
Most people still do the traditional packaged type tours, so you stand out from the pack when you become an adventure traveler. At the water cooler, which colleague’s vacation will you remember, the one who sipped rum drinks on the beach in the Bahamas, or the one who hiked the epic Tour du Mont Blanc through France, Switzerland and Italy for twelve days? Which colleague will you ask the most questions and care about the answers?
You get to feel like a kid again whether you are scrambling up a boulder in Patagonia or bouncing through Australia's Tully River rapids on a raft. They’re back: those carefree days of youth are back! Go ahead, stomp in the puddles! Just like the old days, all you have to do is be home by dinner – except this time ‘home’ could be a mountain hut in Sweden as you hike the Kungsleden trail.
I've interviewed some amazing people who are doing adventure travel well into their 70's and 80's. One is 86 year old Sandra Long, who discovered ballroom dancing in her 60’s, and still does amazing hiking adventures. She hiked Patagonia for Pete’s sake at age 82! We’ll hear her Patagonia interview in the spring of 2018. Check out the video of her dancing below (this is at age 86, mind you (and she's still doing splits and lifts!).
And then there’s my own mother, Lib Johnson, age 92. A stay at home mom that I don’t remember ever exercising when I was growing up. However, in her 50’s once we’d grown and she finally had time for herself, she discovered tennis.
Like ballroom dancing for Sandy, tennis was the catalyst that springboarded Mom into fitness which then led to adventure travel. In their retirement years my Mom and Dad hiked, biked and paddled all over America. And to the shock of the clerk, they bought their first mountain bikes in when they were well into their 70’s!
Like Mom, I myself didn’t get active until I hit my 50’s. I was well traveled, but only did traditional travel. I didn’t even KNOW that people like me could even do these incredible kinds of trips. But like my guests so far, once you try adventure travel, you get hooked. You can hear my own story about learning about adventure travel in Episode 000, my Welcome to ATA podcast.
So while I can’t prove it, I’m convinced that being adventurous adds to the quality and no doubt the quantity of life as we age. Sure being fit helps, of course, but I believe that the stimulation of nature and the sense of accomplishment you get with adventure travel exponentially enhance our retirement years far more than any gym or golf course could. Adventure travel defies you from becoming old: your body and mind don’t match up with your age. All I know is that the retired folks I know that do adventure travel have a greater joy of life, exhuberace and vitality than the folks I know who don’t.
My parents lived a active exciting and vibrant retirement years. My mom is now 92 years old still driving. She's still sharp as a tack. You may say, ‘She's got great genes'. Yes, and I'm sure I got great genes from she and Dad, but Mom outlived her mom by a couple of decades and she’s still going pretty strong.
And my father outlived his dad by three decades and his mother by a decade, so it’s not just genes. And I don’t believe going to the gym or playing golf provide the same benefits as adventure travel. Like outlined earlier, adventure travel helps to keep your brain and your memory sharp, being in nature helps reduce stress, a major cause of illness and the activity and constant challenge of using your muscles, balance and stamina in different terrain and situations keep your body and brain in its best possible shape.
I have a couple of hiking girlfriends in their 70’s who look from behind look like they’re in their 20’s and when they turn around, you go ‘Aaah!’ because you’re shocked. I want people to go ‘Aaah!' at me for a long time to come. I’ve found the younger people are really accepting of me and I’ve made many new friends in their late 20’s and 30’s, and sometimes they initiate the invite to adventure!
On my Nicaragua hike last winter, I found further inspiration: There were three men in their 70’s and eight folks were older than 55. I had thought my parents were just flukes, but these folks gave me inspiration. And I started thinking about all the people of a certain age that I would meet on the trail, I was was like, ‘Shoot! I CAN do this for hopefully decades to come!
And the beauty is, is that you can start now, even if you’ve never done anything like this before. I used to be a slug, but as my 50th birthday was closing in, that milestone made me pause to ask myself what kind of life I wanted for my back half. The slowed down life I see most folks do, or the incredible retirement of my parents.
To commemorate by 50th birthday, I signed up for a Sprint triathalon, even though I didn’t run, bike or swim at the time. Online, I found a “12 weeks from Couch Potato to Triathalete” training schedule and followed it to a tee.
In the beginning, I had to walk the distance of two light posts on the streets in my neighborhood for every one post I ran. But eventually my body was able to run continuously. I had similar struggles with the biking and definitely with the swimming, which I still stink at, but I was able to do my competition without embarrassing myself, and that was my goal.
Two years later I decided I wanted to learn how to backpack and again took baby steps to get my back and feet used to carrying weight.
This is why I tell you if I can do it, so can you. Just take that first baby step and believe in yourself! It will change your life in all of the most positive ways if you get this ball rolling. I promise! I swear, the people I know who do adventure travel exude far more zest and vitality than those who stay in shape in tradition ways. It challenges you in so many more ways than just challenging your body.
As we enter the new year, let’s all build up our adventure mojo so we, too, can have Sandy and my mom’s vitality and quality of life! Together, let’s also build a true adventure community.
Now that I’ve mostly got my feet wet with the technicality of putting together the podcast and website, it’s time to build our community so it’s not just a one way conversation.
I’ve started a Facebook group called Active Travel Adventures. It’s a free private facebook group for ATA (Active Travel Adventures) podcast listeners and visitors to this website. Use the group to ask questions, post photos of your adventure trips and help fellow ATA members.
Ask to join the group and then to get the conversation started, how about posting your favorite travel photo from 2017 and why you picked it. If you can’t narrow it down to just one, that’s fine. Regardless, your post will let people know a little bit about yourself. Feel free to include what’s on your adventure list for 2018.
If you haven’t yet dipped your toes into adventure travel, take the first step and pick a place to go. I’d suggest starting with a guided tour that matches your physical level and interests so you’ll have a guide and supportive group with you to encourage you along the way.
I want to challenge each of you, no matter what your adventure travel level is, to do a +1 outside of your comfort level. For some, this will mean their first long weekend of adventure, others their first adventure trip outside the country or with a different language, others it may mean experimenting with solo travel, and still others leaping to self-guided travel. Whatever your comfort level is, just take things up one notch…not a big leap, just a notch. This is how you build your confidence and get that sense of accomplishment and euphoria when you rise to the occasion. YOU CAN DO THIS!
So TODAY, GO to the Facebook Active travel adventures group page and post what your 2018 challenge will be. Then start planning. The ATA directory page can help. Feel free to email me if you missed some of the earlier travel planners. There’s a huge world out there full of adventure! Some of my favorite travel tour groups are Active Adventures, MACS Adventures, G Adventures and Backroads. Go poke around their websites to get some inspiration. And be sure to keep us posted on Facebook on your progress. We are all there to encourage you!
I wish all of you a happy, healthy and adventurous new year! I’m looking forward to getting to know you in our ATA Facebook group. Or, you can always email me. I really do love hearing from you!
I’ll be back in two weeks with an exciting cycling adventure. We’ll be biking alongside the gorgeous Danube river on a dedicated level path on our way to Vienna, Austria. You won’t want to miss it! Until next time, Adventure On!
- A is a Life Changing Experience
- Offers Personal Growth and Challenges
- Gives you a Sense of Accomplishment and Achievement:
- Helps you to Feel Gratitude and improve Mindfulness:
- Enables you to see incredible often inaccessible landscapes:
- Improves your brain:
- Improves your mental health and reduces stress:
- You learn new things
- Is more meaningful than ‘Package Tour’ travel:
- You get to relive your travels forever
- You meet really cool people and bond quickly
- Gives you great stories to tell:
- You return home healthier and energized, not exhausted
- Is still a pretty unique experience
- Is simply FUN!
- BONUS (anecdotal): Improves your Quality AND Quantity of Life (Look below for a printer friendly link)
Here is Sandra Long, age 86, dancing in competition!
15 Benefits of Adventure Travel by Active Travel Adventures is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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