Episode 021 : Hiking the Dolomites in Italy


Join us as we hike the stunningly beautiful and DOABLE magical limestone mountains called the Dolomites located in NE Italy in the Alps. Annie is our guest today. She has adventure travelled in all seven continents and rates her hike of the Dolomites adventure trip as PERFECT: perfect amount of activity, perfect scenery, perfect food and people. Let's find out why!  


Mystery solved! These magical limestone mountains are actually formed from old coral reefs that over the millenium pushed up from the ocean floor – amazing! More details about this in this pocast episode (hit the player button above).

No wonder its a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Area!

Not to hard… not too easy: Annie says this adventure is PERFECT!!! Plus great company, food and culture with very comfortable accommodations in rifugis (huts run by locals). What's not to like?

In addition, the adventure starts in Venice, Italy for an added dose of culture!  Be sure to tack on a day or two at the beginning or end of your adventure.

Annie conquers her fear of heights by actually tackling that which she is most afraid! Here she is climbing up the side of a mountain in the Dolomites, on what is called the Via Ferrata while safely harnessed. She couldn't sleep for days, wondering if she SHOULD do it, or even COULD do it!  See her dancing i after she DID IT!!!

Click here for the Dolomites Travel Planner

The Dolomites were the front line of the Italian and Autro-Hungarian forces during World War I. You can explore their old tunnels and visit many open air museums while trekking the stunningly beautiful Dolomite mountains.

Annie chose Active Adventures as her tour company for trekking the Dolomites. This was her NINTH tour with Active Adventures – I'm guessing that she's pleased with them! Annie also really appreciate that they use their own guides versus sub-contracting it out like many tour companies. She says that everyone is like family at Active.

I also love Active Adventures! So much so that I reacehd out to partner with them. If you want to support Active Travel Adventures, one way you can do so – at no additional cost to you – is to use my links on the website and travel planners. On some of them, I might earn a small commission which helps defray the costs of this website and the podcast – thanks!

Annie makes it to the top!

Short video highlights the gorgeous scenery (and the tasty food!) of a Dolomite trek.

Annie is a great photographer (you can follow her on Instagram at TravelAnnie).

Annie discovered Active Adventures when she entered this photo in a contest that Active Adventures was running, and SHE WON a free adventure trip!


Active Adventures told her to get a pair of hiking boots and break them in before the trek. That adventure trip changed her life and now she has adventure travelled all over the world, to all seven continents, including eight MORE TIMES with Active!


This is Active Adventures tour company's itinerary (not to be confused with this ActiveTravelAdventures.com site):
Day 1 Arrive Venice. Take a cable car above Cortina valley for lunch and hike back down to Cortina
Hike 3m(5km) Ascend -0 Descend 1937′(560m)
Day 2 Hike circumference of Tre Cime de Lavaredo – Dolomites most iconic landmark
Hike 8m(13km) Ascend 2000′(610m) Descend 2000′(610m)
Day 3 Bike from Cortina to Dobbiaco or take a free day in Cortina
Bike 17m(27km) each way Ascend 780′(240m) Descend 780′(240m)
Day 4 Hike from Cortina to Rifugio and see Fennes Sennes Braies National Park
Hike 8.5m(14km) Ascend 540′(164m) Descend 2100′(640m)
Day 5 Hike to Rifugio
Hike 9m(14.5km) Ascend 2300′(701m) Descend 1000′(305m)
Day 6 Hike to Alta Badia
Hike 7m(11.5km) Ascend 2556′(779m) Descend 3645′(1111m)
Day 7 Hike Setsass Dolomiti Range
Hike 9.5m(15km) Ascend 2395′(730m) Descend 2575′(785m)
Day 8 Via Ferrata Cinque Turri and Hike WWII tunnels of Lagazuoi
Hike 8.5m(13.5km) Ascend 2135′(650m) Descend 2135′(650m)
Day 9 Return to Venice and depart

Click here for the Dolomites Travel Planner


00:00 Show intro
01:50 Who is Annie?
02:24 Why adventure travel
03:30 Kayaking Antarctica
04:16 What Annie expected from hiking the Dolomites
05:32 Overview of her Dolomite hike
06:19 What are the mountains made of [coral]
09:19 Vie Ferrata and Annie's fear of heights
12:59 Why adventure travellers bond
13:52 How we choose our future trips
14:32 Dolomite hiking difficulty rating
16:22 Biking through old train tunnels
16:57 Exploring WWI war tunnels
18:05 Comparing the Dolomite trip to other adventure travels
18:54 When Annie went [September]
19:23 Prep for cold?
20:19 Training for a Dolomite hike
21:13 About Annie's hiking mates
22:35 Annie's future adventure travels
23:25 Nepal
27:14 Deprivation with adventure travel and why it's good
28:44 Advice to those considering adventure travel
32:29 Empowerment from adventure travel
33:29 How to reach out to Annie [Instagram at TravelAnnie]
33:59 The dilemma of gardens, plants and travel
34:47 Hiking the Dolomites is a perfect trip
36:43 Annie is an inspiration
38:47 Take the ATA survey PLEASE!!!


[Use the Google Translate button at the bottom of the page if you want to read it in a language other than English]

Annie: 00:00 Once I found out what that actually was, I spent four nights not sleeping and googling death rates on Via Ferratas.
Kit: 00:09 I know. I know. I know. I told you I've never gone to anything that you're going to die from. However, just because you're not going to necessarily die from something doesn't mean it's still doesn't scare you to death. And today we interview Annie who conquered one of her greatest fears on something called the via ferrata. What is it via ferrata and why didn't our guests Annie get any sleep about it? And also we want to find out why Annie, who has traveled all seven continents and has adventure traveled her way around the world, why does she consider today's destination the perfect trip?
Kit: 00:44 This is the Active Travel Adventures podcast and I'm your host Kit Parks. Today we're going to go to northeast Italy to the Dolomites. It's up in the Italian Alps. I'd never even heard of the Dolomites until a girlfriend of mine, Sherry, went several years ago and loved it. I would love to have also gotten Sherry on the program, but that woman is traveling all the time, whether for work or play, and she's hard to pin down, so I was lucky to find Annie who shared with us her experiences in the Dolomites. Annie went with Active Adventures on the Ultimate Dolomite Adventure, so that's the adventure that we're covering today where she mostly hiked but also did a little biking and did the optional Via Ferrata. And that Via Ferrata is the cause of her multiday insomnia. Today Annie's going to tell us about her trip and why she chose to overcome her fear of heights by tackling that which he was most afraid. It's a great interview and I'll see you on the other side. I do want to apologize. I had some software recording issues, but when it goes quiet I think you can still get what Annie is saying and remember there's a complete transcript at ActiveTravelAdventures.com if you want to get the exact wording. Here's my interview with Annie.
Kit: 01:50 Could you start by just introducing yourself and tell us maybe your age and just a little bit about yourself?
Annie: 01:58 My name is Annie Allen. I'm 55 years old. I have two grown daughters and I started doing adventure traveling only about eight years ago. Once my girls graduated from high school, and went off to college. And my first trip with Active Adventures, I went to New Zealand for three weeks. It said you needed a pair of well worn hiking and I bought a pair and walked around the block and I haven't stopped since.
Kit: 02:24 And what made you decide that you wanted to experiment with adventure travel versus what I would call regular travel?
Annie: 02:31 Well, I've always liked nature and things, but with my kids were smaller, one of them didn't want to go. The other one didn't want to do this. It was hard to get them to participate. So and I've always liked pushing myself physically, but it just wasn't possible raising my two kids. So it was like something that was delayed for a long time and it was just waiting to come out.
Kit: 02:55 And then how did you choose New Zealand? What was the thought process? Say, okay, now I've some freedom. I got some time. I got a little money. I had was. What was in your head? How did you come about? Say Okay, New Zealand, that's the one!
Annie: 03:07 Well it's far away and I hadn't been there and a beautiful and I just started ticking off places that I wanted to go and that was the first place that I decided to go to, as far as adventure travel.
Kit: 03:21 And then, so it sounds like you've done a lot since then and we're going to be talking about the Dolomites today. So you've done multiple trips since?
Annie: 03:30 I'll be going on my ninth trip with Active Adventures in August, back to Nepal for the third time. I was just in Antarctica in November… kayaking and exploring and looking at visiting with penguins and jumping in the Antarctic Ocean.
Kit: 03:48 You can kayak down there? You're able to do that?
Annie: 03:52 Yeah, it's amazing. You launched straight from the expedition boat and you're paddling pretty much through blue slushy. I would recommend it to anybody. It was actually the most beautiful place I've ever been!
Kit: 04:04 Oh my gosh. I did not know you could do that because I was thinking I wasn't going to cover Antarctica. Might have to get you back on!
Annie: 04:10 Oh, absolutely. It was stunning!
Kit: 04:16 Very cool. So let's get back around to the Dolomites, which is our topic today. Can you tell us a little bit about what you were anticipating before you actually got to the Dolomites and then what it looked like once you finally got there?
Annie: 04:28 Well, I've been to Italy a few times and then when Active Adventures decided to venture into the Dolomites. I had just been to Mont Blanc the year before circling that, and spoke with a few people that said that perhaps they would try the Dolomites next year. And I had honestly never heard of the Dolomites before. That's usually how I choose my next destination just by talking with people. So I had no expectations. I had no idea that there was going to be such another beautiful place as this. And so it really exceeded any expectations I had because I had none.
Kit: 05:04 Actually, I found that in a fun way to travel myself and I've been doing more of that recently, particularly if I'm hiring a company such as Active to do all the arrangements for me when I don't have to worry about the logistics. It's kind of fun just to wake up each day and be surprised at what the day's gonna bring.
Annie: 05:19 Well, I've gone on trips like that where I didn't read the itinerary at all, but I've also gone on trips where I plan to every single detail but still you're surprised because it's different from reading about it and then to be there in person.
Kit: 05:32 So give us a brief overview of the trip… of what you did.
Annie: 05:35 Well, we started in Venice in Italy and the history, the crowds, the whole ambiance of Venice and then we got on the bus and started leaving civilization and sort of going up into the mountains and just turning into this spectacular, incredible, beautiful place where you feel like you're on “The Sound of Music” or something. And within maybe two hours, I believe it was, in a completely different location. So it was really spectacular. It was good to get away from Venice. I'm not really into crowds. I mean I like history and everything, but I prefer to be in nature. So within a few hours we're on top of a mountain.
Kit: 06:19 Very cool. From the photos- because I've not been to the dolomites myself- they look different than what I consider normal looking mountains. Could you describe them for us?
Annie: 06:29 I believe that they're made out of coral. So the thing is, coral has these properties that are healing and just makes you feel good. So just by what the mountains are made out of makes you even feel better being there. Supposedly it worked for me. I don't know.
Kit: 06:51 When we finish our interview I decided I better do some research into what exactly this funny limestone in the Dolomites is and it turns out that Annie is correct. It is from the coral reefs and how they came about discovering what on earth this was and what made these mountains so unusual came about in the late 1800's, a geologist or naturalist, published an article saying about this peculiar limestone he found in the Alps. And unlike typical limestone, the rock in the Dolomites does not react with acids and this was a big geological mystery for a good hundred years. And even though the fossils gave clues that there were rocks that had come from rocks and sediments from the sea at that time, the scientists really knew nothing about the bottom of the sea. So they were kind of perplexed. Then in 1770, the famous explorer, James Cook, who coincidentally is an ancestor of my late husband, ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef and discovered these massive mountains of limestone underneath the water.
Kit: 07:51 But he was unclear as to how they were formed. And then if you remember, our good friend Charles Darwin from the Galapagos episode… he was working on trying to figure out what the heck these are, how these atolls are forming off of the Galapagos islands and all that. And he'd read about James Cook's discovery and was fascinated by it. And then he started putting together some of their research and his theories that he was forming with these islands that he was seeing off the coast of Ecuador and Chile and thought that maybe some violent weather reactions like he was there for an earthquake and he saw how the land has shifted several meters. He said perhaps with these massive weather or catastrophic events that the land was able to shift up or down over time. And so he put forth this theory. And it stayed out there for awhile until an Austrian geologist, Baron Richstalfein, and I'm sure I mispronounced that again. He suggested that the mountain peaks themselves are actually the remains of those coral reefs based on the theories that he had first obtained from Charles Darwin.
Kit: 08:56 And that theory was considered so revolutionary that the regular publishers wouldn't publish it. So he had to go and privately publish it. And eventually it was proven to be true that the mountains, that Annie hiked, were actually the remnants of the corals from the sea. Fascinating. So let's get back to your trip. I saw that you had to take some cable cars or cable car. Tell us about that.
Annie: 09:19 Oh, well, we were on several cable cars. The one thing that I did on the trip was the via ferrata that is offered on the trip, but it's just in passing and I had never heard of the via ferrata before and once I found out that we would be in harnesses and climbing pretty much straight up the face of a mountain, the fixed cable. I have a fear of, well I've overcome it, but I had a real fear of heights and it took me a lot of self negotiating to do it. It's not easy by any stretch of the word. It was one of the hardest things I've done, but I did it. It is an option on the trip. You don't have to do it, but you really should think about what it means before you do it.
Kit: 10:09 Yes. That's what I was talking about. So that's what via ferrata means?
Annie: 10:13 it means like via Ferrata, I think it means like iron or something. The cable,
Kit: 10:24 Yeah. Gotcha. All right, I had no idea what that meant. So it said Cinque Torri, or something like that.
Annie: 10:28 Right. So you're going up side of a mountain and you get.. it's spectacular! And once you get down it's quite a sense of accomplishment. Well for me anyway, since I had such a fear of heights, but it's not easy and you're climbing straight up the side of a mountain. You are locked in with a harness, but you have to have a good deal of agility and… well agility and good cardio I would think. And you know, not be afraid.
Kit: 11:00 Well with your fear of heights, them what possessed you to say, “Okay, I'm going to do that.”
Annie: 11:06 Oh, once I found out what that actually was, I spent four nights not sleeping and googling death rates on Via Ferratas, and what exactly it meant and texting back to the states with my family and friends saying, “Should I do this or not?” I don't have to do it. But my motto is to face my fears and do anything that really scares me because otherwise, every time I give into her, anybody gives into their fears. It lessens your range, you know? And you'd just get smaller and smaller. So the more I'm afraid of something- within reason- the more I'm going to do it.
Kit: 11:46 So if you determine something is just a fear in your head rather than a fear that you should be afraid of you go and push to do it. Right?
Annie: 11:55 Right. Yes. Because I found that there were a very few, if any deaths on via ferrata does and so and I met some really great people on the trip and they were very encouraging and our guides were very encouraging. So it was a great experience and there weren't that many people of our group that actually chose to do it. So I'm very proud of myself for actually doing it and I was reduced to absolute tears before putting my first step onto the face of the mountain and starting climbing. But once you start climbing, you can't think of being afraid. You just have to make up where your feet or your hands are going anyway. I was proud of myself.
Kit: 12:36 And then how would you feel once you'd done it?
Annie: 12:41 There's a photo of me skipping with my poles to that end. It's just is so exhilarating. It's like a high to do something that you've been afraid of and actually survived and, and yeah, it's quite exhilarating. And it's bonding too with the people that you do it with.
Kit: 12:59 I find with adventure travel in general you tend to bond with the people really quickly and rather deeply. What is your experience with that?
Annie: 13:08 Well, there is a certain type of person that you will meet that does adventure travel that goes off the grid, that takes chances and and like that doesn't want to just sit around on the beach with a drink or, or go shopping in a city. So there's a certain type of person and I feel that we are just more adventurous and more open to new experiences may be so quicker to meet people because we bond over stories, experiences, just the sense of adventure. Like I said, just doing something that might be a little scary or out of your comfort zone with somebody that you've never met before. You instantly bond with them.
Kit: 13:52 I like to what you said earlier about how you learn about future trips by the people that you meet in and tell you about things. That's generally speaking how I get my next trip. I meet somebody on one trip and they said, “Oh, we're going so and so. You want to come? Sure!” You know, and that's how I'm going to Bhutan next week.
Annie: 14:08 That's, that's how I've been traveling since I was a teenager actually. But I, I will admit there was a lot of places that I've never heard of and then it's just mentioned in passing. And I'd be like, yeah, I'm there next, you know, sign me up.
Kit: 14:24 My motto, always try to say ‘yes' no matter what. And it generally speaking, it hasn't let me down
Kit: 14:32 On a physical rating. How hard was this trip?
Annie: 14:40 So I've done things like summited Kilimanjaro, reached Everest Base Camp, summited Mount Whitney. Those were extremely physically demanding. And even Mont Blanc on some days was really pretty hard. But the nice thing this Dolomite trip was it was the perfect amount of physical exertion. It was like I was never to the point- and I'm a crier… Some days I've been on certain trips and it's just pushing me beyond my limits. I'll cry and it's okay, but this one, the Dolomites it never reached that point. It was always like, “Oh, I'm getting tired” and we would be done. I think the most that we would do is maybe nine miles and for me that was just perfect and it was never like super lot of altitude change and the views and the location were just stunning. So I never reached a point of being exhausted. It was perfect and at the end of the day we had the most comfortable beds to sleep in and the most amazing food to eat.
Annie: 15:46 So all in all there was nothing, there was no negative part of this trip. Really.
Kit: 15:51 Very cool. And does this also include a homestay? Active usually tends to mix things up a little bit. So you're not always hiking. What other activities did you do?
Annie: 16:01 Well, not home stay, but we would stay like when, when we were in the nature park, we would stay in Refugios, which are like little, I would say hostels or something where you provided with a room. Sometimes they're like group rooms and food and things like that. So we would stay at those types of places.
Annie: 16:22 And what else we did was one day we did a bike ride on an old train track while the pathway where the train had been. And it was so much fun because we rode our bikes through the old train tunnels and going downhill into a tunnel that was pitch black and not being able to see your feet or the ground and just trusting that you know, everything was going to be okay was so much fun. It was just like you're flying through the tunnel. So that was one thing we did was the bike ride.
Annie: 16:57 Another thing we did was we got to, and this is another bit of history I'd never heard of, was exploring these tunnels that were created in the mountains where the two sides had dug this whole maze of tunnels high up in the mountains and they were fighting each other across these valleys and we got to go down into these tunnels. It was really kind of mind boggling that people lived in there and fought in for such a long period of time and even actually that they even made these. So the tunnels were, I mean, I'm tall, so I had to scrunch down the whole time and you wear a helmet and it's dripping water inside, but you see where these people lived for long periods of time and they were fighting and how they even thought to dig these tunnels and how long it took. It was just incredible. And the views when you can peek out from a hole are just stunning. It's, it's quite a bit of interesting history that I'd never ever heard of before.
Kit: 18:05 And you're so well traveled. How high up the list with the landscape of the Dolomites be compared to the other places you've been?
Annie: 18:13 It's very, very high because there was just no downside, you know, no downside. It was just idyllic. The one place, what's it called? Tre Cime [di Lavaredo] with the three tall peaks is just mind boggling, you know, you're just staring is looking and looking and, and I'd be hiking and I'm like turning around not wanting to miss a moment of the views and in every place we went was 360 degrees. Just clean and crisp and just beautiful. Really, really beautiful. No downsides.
Kit: 18:54 What month of the year did you go?
Annie: 18:56 I went in September.
Kit: 18:58 In September. Would that be a good time of year to go?
Annie: 19:01 Well, it worked great for me. I don't believe we had any bad weather at all. No, I don't think we did and honestly a little rain on a hike, I actually like that. Maybe one day was a little overcast, but it was a beautiful time to go. I'm sure there's other times. You never know about the weather, but it was a perfect time.
Kit: 19:23 Is it something you need to be prepared for cold? I'm not sure how high up you are.
Annie: 19:31 You know, pack in layers. But I was never particularly cold and the lodging was just so cozy with down comforters and warm. It was just warm and welcoming. There was no down sides. I was never cold at night. I've slept, where freezing in a tent on the side of a mountain or something. It was all about comfort, just the right amount of physical activity and fantastic food at least three times, sometimes four times a day if we stopped for coffee. So it was fantastic.
Kit: 20:04 Nice. Nice. So the comfort rating is pretty high, but on a scale of one to five, how would you put the difficulty rating if number five is, would be say the Mont Blanc, and number one being a couch potato.
Annie: 20:17 Maybe three and a half.
Kit: 20:19 What kind of preparation would you recommend people do or did you do as far as any training?
Annie: 20:26 I'm training constantly, I'm always looking ahead to my next adventure, and I'm fortunate to live next to a small mountain, 3800 feet elevation, so I'm going up and down that thing all the time. So you know, and the normal amount of training there is where you get out the more you hike and train, the better, you know, the easier it is. Everybody has their own training levels, training abilities of where they can go. But I'm always training.
Kit: 20:57 That's great. And that also allows you to be spontaneous if say, an opportunity arises. I also find that the more I train that the better time I have.
Annie: 21:05 Right. So that's never been an issue. I mean for me this was easy compared to other things that I've done.
Kit: 21:13 Right. And let your body do its job during the day. So at the end of the day you're not dead. I tell us about a little bit about the composition of your group, and maybe their ages, are they from around the world, or just a little bit so people get an idea?
Annie: 21:30 Let's see. They were mostly American and they were all people that had gone on at least one or more trips with Active Adventures before.
Kit: 21:38 That's right. You were on the inaugural trip.
Annie: 21:41 Yeah, we were the inaugural group. Yeah. They weren't young. There might've been one, a couple of people that were younger, but there were an age I would say, 30 to probably 70.
Annie: 21:58 Yes. So all ages in that aspect. And sometimes you can be surprised. One of the guys in the trip, he looked out of shape. He's got a belly and everything and looked like a couch potato, but turns out he was an expert mountain climber. And he was one of the very encouraging people on the via ferrata. I don't know that I would have been able to do so well if he hadn't have been behind me telling me where to put my foot and things like that. But so you could never judge a book by its cover as far as physical abilities for people.
Kit: 22:35 Too funny. So what's on the plate for future adventure travels?
Annie: 22:39 Well, I'm going on a hike in the John Muir natural area. I don't know what it's called. It's below Yosemite and above [?] lakes in June. Somebody else put it together. This group, it's called “Hell for Sure”. I'm just trying to keep pushing myself as far as I can and it's going to be four days, 45 miles and will be somebody to 12,000 foot peaks and it's a lot of like hand over foot scrambling, hearing my own pack, sleeping in this tent and that sort of thing. And if we have anything left to do the end of that, we get to go two more days
Kit: 23:19 Now, are you going to be on the John Muir trail itself where you have to get the permit or something nearby?
Annie: 23:25 Nearby. So this guy who runs this company is called TSX Challenge. He did a design to challenge through the Sierras up to Mount Whitney and I did that. And then a challenge in Grand Canyon. And he just designed this off trail “Hell For Sure” challenge. And well honestly, I'm getting a t shirt out it. So for the other adventures and then in August I'm going back to Nepal with Active Adventures for the third time. And this is going to be an expedition through the Mustang region and it's a very remote area near Tibet where we'll actually have a caravan, of I think it's donkeys, carrying our things. It's 115 miles I think of hiking,and very remote. A lot of time to think. There's caves that the monks carved into the side of the mountains like maybe a thousand years ago. Lots of them. And anyways, I keep saying, “Oh, I'm never going back to Nepal” and then I keep going.
Kit: 24:36 But it's funny you should say that because I just finished an episode on Nepal that I think it gets released maybe this week. It's coming up soon and it's from a woman who's been there once and it's going back and I interviewed another woman who also, and both of these women are really well traveled like yourself and they keep going back to Nepal. I was like, “What is it about Nepal?” So what is it about Nepal?
Annie: 25:03 Right. You can't say anything because it's not clean. It's. It's hard. It's not comfortable. The food is not good, but I don't know. It's like the first time I went to Everest Base Camp and people were like, are you going to go back? I'm like, “No, no way am I going back. No!” And then six months later there I was. You know it's the energy. I can't explain it. So I was going to do the Active Adventures, The Lake Districts. Very calm. I knew it'd be comfortable. It would be just walk in the park, but at the last minute I'm like, no I have to go back.
Kit: 25:45 And when, when you say the vibe: the vibe of the people there or the vibe of the culture or just the mystique of Nepal?
Annie: 25:55 It's hard to explain. Certainly the people, the children. I don't know. Maybe it's some, maybe I'll find… I'll figure it out. I'll just keep going back until I figure it out. You know?
Kit: 26:08 I'd be curious because we all have limited time and money. It ends up being expensive to get there and all that to keep going back there. It's got to be something's drawing people.
Annie: 26:18 It's a spiritual thing I guess because, gosh, I mean going back to that crying thing after I finished the Everest Base Camp and that was 14 days of nonstop hiking. I mean, I cried for six hours. It was just a relief to know that I didn't have to put my boots on the next day and keep going. But it's cleansing. Also to me, I like pushing myself as far as I can- physically and mentally. I helps you grow, I guess. And it's good to know that what you think are your limits are not necessarily your limits. I mean, I never thought that I would be able to do… eight years ago I never thought that I would be doing what I do now. So you never know what's around the corner and I have my health and I am able to afford it. So might as well do it now because you never know what's coming, right?
Kit: 27:14 And there's an empowerment and I think also too on the ones where you rough it, the appreciation you feel for all the little things in life we take for granted here. Be it a shower or a bed or a pillow. It wears off after a few weeks.
Annie: 27:32 Just being able to get out of your bed and go to the bathroom, you know, you have your bathroom close by and not have to freeze.
Kit: 27:32 Or squat, right?
Annie: 27:42 And clean clothes.
Kit: 27:46 And to drink the water out of the faucet or all those little things that just, they all combined to make adventure travel. Just really special for me. I don't know that I'll do much or the regular travel until I can't do it anymore.
Kit: 28:01 When I'm backpacking I carry along some dried out baby wipes that I'll rehydrate to clean myself because obviously you can't shower. What's the longest you've had to go without taking a shower?
Annie: 28:12 So I think the longest I went was nine days on Kilimanjaro without any bath, a bath or shower. And I just use baby wipes every night and so it does help you to appreciate greatly what we have and then also then give back to those that you meet along the way and to help other people and see that something that doesn't mean a lot to us, it would mean to make a big difference in somebody else's life.
Kit: 28:44 What advice would you give somebody? Because a lot of… I do a survey and so a lot of the listeners have said they want to do it, but they're a little bit scared. What advice would you give somebody that has kept themselves in decent shape, but they're, they're afraid to pull the trigger and do something?
Annie: 29:02 Well, first of all, you have to figure out what you're afraid of, right? Because really what is there to be afraid of? And especially if you're on a tour, everything is covered. They pretty much will meet you at the airport and holds your hand the whole way. So there's literally nothing to be afraid of as far as like, “What if you're going to get lost?” No, no worries. Because somebody got your back the whole time. If something happened to you, while you have to have health insurance or travel insurance the whole time, so that's fine. There's really literally nothing that could go that could go wrong that there's not an answer to, so there's no reason to be afraid… to be afraid to be alone. That has opened up a whole new… I used to be – that used to be my biggest fear was to be alone in life and now it's what I seek. I seek to be alone.
Kit: 29:53 I'm not sure I seek it, but I've found that after I lost my husband -he died four years ago- and so I, if I want to travel, I've got to do it by myself because none of my friends seem to. They don't want to do what I do anyway and they don't have the time. So I was like, well, if I'm going to go, I'm just going to go and I'm going to dip my toes into it. I like to backpack. I said I'm going to go to Hungary, I believe. And they've got a long distance trail there, so I'll be backpacking in a country where I cannot speak the language and that most people don't speak English. That should be interesting.
Annie: 30:22 Well, sometimes you just have to jump off the deep end and go. So like I said, I started eight and a half years ago with Active Adventures and I just went on all the… I mean I've been all over the place but I was afraid to go by myself. I was just get pointers and think, well okay, I can do this and this is what, you know, let's plan and plan. So last summer I planned and went by myself to Glacier National Park and Waterton National Park in Canada for nine days and I went completely alone. I hiked 84 miles and did something really scary. Did another sort of via farreta cable. But I was all by myself. There was no actually hook there, just a cable. It was to me it was like the culmination of all of this. I'm going by myself and pushing myself to overcome my fears of being alone and heights and you know, of the unknown. And I finally did it!
Kit: 31:32 And even in Glacier, grizzlies, on top of it,
Annie: 31:36 Yeah, you know, I would be out there hiking at eight, quarter to nine at night and the signs were like, don't be by yourself, don't be by yourself, especially at dawn or dusk. And I was like, oh, well, if you resign yourself to the worst thing that can happen, which is being eaten by a grizzly bear, then there's nothing to worry about. And it was so stunningly beautiful, but after two days I did get myself some bear spray and five black bears did cross my path during that period of time hiking. But I wasn't afraid. And it was so incredibly beautiful and I was so proud of myself for doing it all by myself. And it was really, it was, I don't know, I felt really good about myself.
Kit: 32:29 And that's another good part of this whole adventure travel thing because you feel empowered. You get your confidence up. Interviewing my sister, she's like,”I felt like when I got back to work I felt like I could deal with everything, you know, what bring it on!”
Annie: 32:43 Oh, I mean, I have ‘Wonder Woman' painted on my garage door and you know, people that follow me on instagram or a see me at at the gym, they're like, you're an inspiration. And actually people have started saying to me, “Oh, I'm going to do an “Annie” or I know, I know how old you are. I have this amount of years to turn into you. You know, “You're amazing. You're inspiring”. And so I know several people that have actually taken the leap, done something out of their comfort zone because they've seen what I've done. And so that's cool, right?
Kit: 32:43 Well I'm sure you've inspired a lot of people today. So tell us about your instagram and a little bit about that side of you.
Annie: 33:29 My instagram is TravelAnnie and I post everything about my life, which is traveling, gardening, and hiking on my mountain and my two daughters. So that's about it.
Kit: 33:43 Very cool. You and I have a lot in common and am I'm a gardener too. I used to have a a plant nursery, so I finally I bought the farm and built a nursery. I don't do it anymore, but I did it for 14 years. That was my favorite job I ever had.
Annie: 33:59 Oh well that's one hard thing about traveling so much because I'm out of the country probably three months of the year and it's keeping my garden, you know, so I pay somebody to come and just take pictures of flowers that I know that are going to bloom while I'm gone, for example. And so I don't want to miss them…water, just care for my garden and my fish and things like that. So I have two sides of me. I like to be gone, but then I like to come home, too.
Kit: 34:28 I know exactly what you mean by this house I'm living in right now. I've made myself not plant flowers…potted plants I've carried around for 10 or 15 years, I put them on automatic watering and hope that they make it, and so far so good. They don't look as good as when I'm here, but at least they're alive.
Kit: 34:47 Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you want to let the audience know about your Dolomites trip?
Annie: 34:57 The only thing that is that of all the places I've been and I've, like I said, I've explored, this was the most… it was the most perfect trip that I've been on because it was just a balance of physical beauty and and exercise and comfort and, maybe it was because the mountains are made a coral, I don't know, that it just, you just feel so good being there that I recommend it one hundred percent. Active Adventures, they train their own guides. It's different. Like other companies they might, well they don't necessarily, I'm sorry, I can't think of the word when like Rei does it a lot where they, it's not their guys. They'll contract. They contract out. Yeah. But Active [Adventure] trains all [their people], it's all like a big family and wwithin hours you're just like you're with friends. So it's… there's nothing to be afraid of. I would, I would recommend it in a heartbeat. I would go. I want to take my daughters there. It's just a beautiful place.
Kit: 36:04 Oh, you always want to take the perfect trip and it sounds like you've found the perfect trip in the Dolomites. So I really appreciate Annie's time and telling us about her experience in the Dolomites. If you want to follow Annie, she's at TravelAnnie on instagram. She's an amazing photographer and a true artist, so I encourage you to follow her on instagram. Again, that's TravelAnnie and she is so good. In fact, she actually won a free trip from Active Adventures and that's how she found them in the first place was by entering a contest in which she won. And obviously she must be happy with Active because she has now gone on nine trips with them and when I reached out to Active and I said, “Who do you know that's been to the Dolomites I could talk to?” And he's like, “Oh man, you've got to talk to Annie!”
Kit: 36:43 She's incredible and I think you'll agree after listening to her conversation today and how inspirational she is and encouraging us all by the way she encourages herself to get out there and step outside of her comfort zone… to push yourself that one little bit further so that she can be the best Annie or the best Kit or whatever: the best you that you can be. I've also posted some of Annie's photos on ActiveTravelAdventures.com/Dolomites, which is D-O-L-O-M-I-T-E-S or /21 for “Episode 21” including her contest winning photo. I've got some videos there, I've got her itinerary and more detailed information then we put forth in this podcast, so be sure to go to ActiveTravelAdventures.com/21 or /Dolomites. You can also download the free travel planner if you're not already getting that with our monthly newsletter.
Kit: 37:39 And one of my key takeaways from this interview is I love how Annie raised her kids and once they've fledged the nest, she actually fledged the nest herself and started traveling the world. She's been to all seven continents and after her first adventure trip, she never looked back. They told her to get a pair of hiking boots and break them in before that trip and she has just hiked the world since then. She's conquered her fear of heights on the via ferrata that we talked about today and now her motto is to face your fears. So she's a real inspiration to all of us. I like too, that she's always training. I think that that's a great idea. In fact I've picked up on that and started doing that myself so that when an opportunity comes up, I can go right away and not worry about hurting myself like I did last year when I went to Scotland without training and carried too much weight on my back. I like to how she says that doing this adventure travel and the slow pace of hiking or whatnot gives you time to think, and I found Annie very insightful about how she pushes herself to find her own limits and how gratifying it is once she achieves her goals and remember, if I can do it and Annie can do it, you can do it
Kit: 38:42 All in all a great interview and I'm very grateful to Annie and I look forward to seeing you all in two weeks.
Kit: 38:47 Oh, before I forget, if you haven't done so already, can I ask you to please go to the website activetraveladventures.com, and on the home page or on the directory page, there is a link to take a survey. It takes two to three minutes at the most. It's 10 multiple choice questions that will help me to better prepare shows for you. So if you give me a couple of minutes, I can provide much better content for you once I get to know a little bit more about you. It's completely anonymous, but it helps me to gauge future content. I would really appreciate it. Thank you so much!
Kit: 39:21 On the webpage, in addition to the survey, photos and videos, you'll also find not only the complete itinerary, but also show notes that are time stamped and the full transcript should you need it. Hope you've enjoyed this tour of the Dolomites and I look forward to seeing you in two weeks when I'll be back with another great adventure. And until then, this has Kit Parks and “Adventure On!”

The map of the Dolomites above is By Lencer – own work, using:Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) with SRTM3 V2 Relief-FilesUnited States National Imagery and Mapping Agency data, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Creative Commons License
Hike the Dolomites in the Northeast Italian Alps by Kit Parks Adventure Travel Specialist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://activetraveladventures.com/hike-dolomites-italy/ .
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://activetraveladventures.com/contact-us/.