Here is the Wild Pair’s guide to choosing the right adventure travel company.
Stretch and Tone
When we join an adventure travel tour, we want more than just calorie-burning and adrenaline pumping. We want to stretch the boundaries of our awareness. We want to come back home having learning something new. Maybe it’s a few sentences in a formerly-impenetrable language. Or, new cooking skills that we can utilize in our own kitchens. Perhaps we learn about the geology of the landscape we are navigating. Or the history of a country that didn’t even exist before the First World War.
We look for companies that are married to the concept that education is a fundamental part of travel. We yearn to learn.
Green is Our Fave Color
Aware that our very presence can erode the fragile environments and ancient cultures we have come to visit, we look for companies that tread as softly as possible in the regions they visit.
Never be afraid to ask an outfitter about personal philosophy and impact awareness. Inquire how a company’s practices benefit local communities and what they do to help protect the cultural and natural heritage of the places they visit. If they can commit to the betterment of the planet, you can commit to traveling the planet with them.
Putting a Smile on the Customer’s Face
Of course you want to seek out companies with a strong commitment to guest services and a rock-solid rep for looking out for the health and safety of their clients. But, you can go further. Check on an outfitter’s accreditation and its membership in respected organizations like Trusted Adventures, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Sustainable Travel International, The Rainforest Alliance and The International Ecotourism Society. These are top-notch vetters that demand a high level of accountability and service.
Keep It Real
We like our travel to be authentic rather than canned. We love local flava. Whether you decide to you explore the African savanna with native Maasai warriors or ride the rapids of the Colorado River through the maw of the Grand Canyon, it should be a first-hand experience that is unique to your group and seizes on spontaneous events that occur during the trip. When you visit another environment or culture, it should be a catalyst to internal discovery that lasts long after your suitcase is unpacked and your passport is tucked away. That’s why we look for companies that not only offer innovative and compelling activities, but also demonstrate a passion for creating the conditions in which genuine experience can take place.
It is Counting on Them That Counts
Let’s face it, we’re all weighed down by responsibilities at home and on the job. We’ve got family, friends, pets, deadlines, emergencies, tragedies, complications we have to deal with. There is something truly liberating in planning nothing and enjoying everything, secure in the knowledge that every aspect of your trip has been carefully researched and developed for you. New can be exciting, but when it comes to trip commitment we look for outfitters with decades of experience behind them. We know they have remained on top by gathering the best local guides, pioneering exploratory expeditions to new destinations and devising innovative ways of experiencing familiar haunts.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
Surf the net, or, better yet, use your online and real life networks. Ask others who are into adventure travel which companies they swear by. As you undoubtedly know, people love to share their expertise and experiences. They will pump up their favorite providers and dump on the duds. Their honesty is invaluable.
Ask the Experts
We asked the always-available experts at Trusted Adventures what it takes to keep travelers returning year after year. With a minimum of 20 years experience under their belt – they have seen it all; from the infancy of adventure travel to its sophisticated and polished present…
If the Shoe Fits
Choose an adventure travel company like you’d choose a pair of shoes. You want the perfect fit and a relationship that is supportive, and not likely to create irritation and blisters! Ask questions about what their focus is. Hopefully they’ll ask you what you’re looking for. Is there a match? Ask them for examples of the kind of trip and experience you’re seeking. It is one thing for a company to say “sure we do that” and another for them to come up with credible and concrete examples. – Peter Grubb, ROW Adventures
It’s All in the Family
It really comes down to being a part of our extended family. We are a relatively small company and know our alumni well. It is all about building a rapport and knowing each individual for what they like or perhaps are not so crazy about. When someone calls you up for a recommendation for where to spend their precious vacation time, the worst thing you could do is just try and get them on a trip, any trip. It has to be the right trip. This only comes from years of personal service and getting to really know your guests. We have folks that come back year after year. They call up during the winter months and simply ask “where should I go this year?” Now that is trust.
We clearly understand that it is our alumni that drive the train. We have always had a solid alumni program, but this year we are taking a step further with the launch of our new “Adventurers Club”. This alumni-only club awards our special guests with a host of services; like personal concierges, 24/7 access to ALA experts, invitation to special trips and events, etc. We are also launching an industry first and in the fall of 2008 we will be rolling out our own “social networking site”. Each alum will be given access and templates to create their very own Adventures Club website. Here they can post pictures, track their trips, correspond and or invite others to join them, etc. This new site will further enhance that sense of community we strive so hard to accomplish. – Dan Austin, Austin Lehman Adventures
It seems every company promises the best guides, the best food, the best service. What should really matter is the unique experience that one takes home with them long after the flight home. The flashback to the delicious smell you followed around the corner and into the bakery in an Italian village you can’t pronounce. The mushroom farmer you met on the trail wearing that little hat and the apron where he delicately gathered the mushrooms. A place you could never find on your own and something about that moment that touched you forever! It’s the experience that makes the difference! - Judy Allpress, The Wayfarers
BON VOYAGE from the Wild Pair!
They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.
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