PHOTO: Active travelers have a smorgasbord of choices when it comes to the latest in adventure travel. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
Some like to sit on the beach when they travel. Others? Well, they move around a lot more than that.
Adventure travelers prefer to hike, bike, kayak, zipline and do pretty much anything that keeps them busy. So, what’s trending for those who can’t sit still?
A recent Virtuoso survey on destinations and activities showed that the top five adventure travel destinations are Iceland, Galapagos/Ecuador, Costa Rica and Chile/Patagonia, New Zealand and Peru. Highlighted activities included hiking/trekking, biking, kayaking, small-ship expedition cruising, and food and wine.
The study showed that several factors are driving adventure travel’s popularity: communing with nature, checking experiences off a bucket list, spending quality family time together on family, multigenerational trips and the ability of today’s older travelers to be more active due to improved longevity and health.
Lucinda Belden is a Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist in Carrollton, Texas. She says she specializes in adventure travel now because of how it is trending:
“Adventure travel used to be for those who kayaked 3+ class white waters or rappelled down 25-foot cliff sides,” said Belden.
“I like the direction adventure travel is taking now. One of the top components emerging that I see is connecting. It is taking it even deeper than the soft adventure definition that emerged only a few years ago. I perceive the new trend is moving even from mild activity in soft adventure to what I call 'Sensory Adventure Travel'.”
Belden said that adventure travel today transmits impulses from all your senses, not just your muscle movements on a physical activity.
“It's about connecting with the locals, the environment and the culture,” she says.
“So you might take that kayak trip, but you might also opt for a cooking class in a local's home while you share a meal, their culture and history. You might take a tour of a symphony house while at the same time get to hold a violin and attempt to play. Anything that involves a new culture and stimulating all your senses can now be called adventure travel as long as you are connecting.”
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Theresa Jackson specializes in experiential and adventure travel. She believes that adventure is personal to each traveler:
“That can be an extremely active pursuit or a journey of both some active level and along with a cultural deep dive,” she said. “I match their travel to their personal profiles, which include dreams, bucket lists, passions and interests. I try also to introduce them to new places if they are well-traveled.”
Jackson said that she started in adventure travel because, when she lived in Europe and was exploring, she was saddened to see large tour groups and those using guidebooks pass right by the hidden doors that she knew could create exquisite travel experiences.
“More than 'off-the-beaten-path', I came to realize that great travel—in the short amount of time Americans allocate to it—had to be well-curated to provide the most bang for the investment of both time and money.”
She also wanted to make sure the world’s treasures—its environment, its culture and the local economy that supports it—were protected through responsible tourism.
“Adventure travel is at the forefront of this,” she said.
Alyssa Schulke, an affiliate of Travel Experts, specializes in everything from safaris, river rafting, hiking, cycling, expedition cruising—basically anything that involves a deep appreciation of the outdoors, whether wildlife or scenery.
She specializes in a variety of destinations, including Canada, South America, Galapagos, Africa, South East Asia, Iceland, Scandinavia and more, but said that adventure isn’t limited to specific destinations.
“It is possible to customize itineraries in destinations that might not be known for adventure, but still incorporate fun activities that might be unexpected,” Schulke said. “Adventure travel has always been my favorite type of travel, and it is so easy to sell what I’m passionate about."
Even before she was in the industry, Schulke made a conscious effort of incorporating adventure into most of her trips, as well as taking at least one 100% adventure trip per year.
“I now love helping clients discover not only remote parts of the world but also adventure where they may not have expected it.”
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Schulke sees expedition cruising, small ship cruising, national park travel and safaris trending as well as active travel like hiking, rafting and camping:
“I’m also seeing more and more requests for fully customized itineraries that travel through a number of different destinations and are focused specifically on adventure,” she said. “It used to be that clients would sprinkle in adventure, but now they want fully customized trips with a focus entirely on different adventure experiences, which is really fun for me to work on. I just had clients dog sledding in Finland around the Arctic Circle.”
Schulke sees many adventure travelers moving away from big population centers and from crowds; They are getting back to nature and the appreciation of the planet.
“People seem to be more introspective and are planning travel that allows time for reflection and relaxation in addition to adventure,” she said.