What is "Adventure Travel?"

People often hear the phrase “Adventure Travel” and think, oh, I don’t climb, or ski, or raft. I’m not an adventure traveler. But does adventure travel have to be about activities on a trip? Couldn’t it just mean going off-the-beaten-path, where your trip is much more likely to have interesting and unplanned events occur? Really, which is more adventurous: hiking in the Alps, or traveling by dugout canoe with an indigenous group in the Amazon Basin?

It has been said that a true adventure doesn’t begin until someone loses their luggage. While I don’t think you have to go that far to define “adventure,” I would argue that adventure travel is not so much about the activities or sports pursued, but about a spirit of discovery, a mindset of willingness to experience new and different things. For most people, a trip to South or Central America is an adventure trip, especially when leaving the capital city and getting out into the countryside.

We encourage everyone traveling to be open to the culture and to appreciate the different ways that people live. When I lived in Zambia, Africa, and led trips for American clients, I always stressed that things would go wrong, that time had a different meaning there, and that many things would seem disorganized and out of control. Rather than get upset, I suggested people embrace these differences—breathe them in deeply and enjoy stepping into a different world, even when it causes inconvenience or discomfort.

If you aren’t open to the adventure of travel in the non-European world, you might be better off limiting your trips to the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand: all offer world-class hiking, skiing, rafting, etc. Go to the developing world to experience a different way of life, as well as different scenery and sights. Sure there is great hiking, rafting, etc, in these places. But pursuit of these activities isn’t enough to justify the trip—you should also be open to the culture and history of these areas. Hiking Peru’s Inca Trail is as much about ruins, history, and traditional culture, as it is about scenery and hiking.

If you want it to be just like home, you probably ought to just stay home! Adventure travel is a state of mind.