Archive for March, 2010

Preparing for Active Travel

Active travel comes in many forms- biking through Italy?s wine country, white water rafting in Costa Rica, hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro and everything in between. Despite the variation in intensity, these trips they share a common bond. Whether your a novice adventurer taking a several day walking tour or a virtual pro who lives for your next adventure, you must adequately prepare for your trip or its likely to take its toll on both your body and your adventurous spirit.

Gathering Information

The first step in preparing is to gather as much detailed information about your trip as you can. If you are creating a customized trip, this is slightly easier as you can tailor it to your needs and preferences. For instance, you can start off with easier routes and work your way up to the longest walk or the most difficult rapid. If participating in a group tour for which the itinerary is predetermined, you (or better yet your travel planner) can contact the tour company regarding these details. A few important questions to ask include:

What is the breakdown of distance and intensity each day? For tours that include walking, biking, hiking and the like, this includes both the mileage and the terrain (pavement vs. ?off road? as well as inclines vs. flat or downhill). For water activities such as rafting and kayaking, check on the the level of rapids as well as the distance.

A-frame accommodations at Pura Vida Spa in Costa Rica

What type of accommodations will you have each night? The quality of sleep and relaxation you get on your down time might be quite different if you?re camping out as compared with a quality hotel or a nice B&B. Knowing this ahead of time can help you prepare mentally and practically in knowing what to bring.

What will the temperatures be like at this time of year and what type of clothing and footwear (if applicable) do they suggest?

Do you need any special equipment? If so, do they favor specific brands or types? Where can you purchase these, and what critical information do you need to know when choosing the one that best suits you?

Climbing gear

Preparing Your Body

As important if not more so than having the right clothing and equipment is being physically prepared. Knowing how rigorous each day is going to be provides have benchmarks for a starting point and ultimate training goal. Below are a few tips to help maximize your training:

Start slow – With excitement about your trip, it’s tempting jump into training with gusto. This might make for an exhilarating first training session, but will probably result in blisters, painful muscles, exhaustion and possibly injury afterwards and may slow down your training in the long run. This is particularly true if the activity is not something you often do (or do as a form of exercise, in the case of a walking trip).

Map out a plan and track your progress – create a tracking sheet that includes each week leading up to your trip with activity goals throughout the week. These goals should gradually increase in intensity. Track your progress. It may be helpful to enlist the services of a personal trainer in setting up your program.

Muddy terrain

Practice with a variety of terrain and weather conditions – You may well encounter rain, wind, fog and undesirable temperatures on your trip and you need to be prepared. If you?re walking, biking or hiking, you may be traversing through grass, gravel, dirt or mud and should create training routes that include these.

Cross-train – Make at least one workout per week something that does not focus on your core activity. This allows you to keep building your cardiovascular activity while giving key muscles a bit of a break. Perhaps this means a trip to an aerobics or dance class or the local pool. (Swimming is a great counter balance to walking, biking and hiking as it is a non-impact activity and can actually help your joints and leg muscles recover from the stress they?ve been undergoing).

Stretch, stretch, stretch– This can?t be stressed enough. Tight muscles often lead to injury. Start your workout with a light five minute warm up and then stretch gently to prevent injury during the rest of your session. Stretch after your workout for flexibility. Yoga is a great way to keep limber and cross-train for those who are likely to slack on their stretching.

Train with the equipment and clothing you?ll be using on your trip – Though its tempting, do not buy brand new footwear or clothing right before your trip. If not broken in, footwear an cause painful blisters and clothing could be uncomfortable or inhibitive.

Give yourself at least one to two days without training each week and lower your intensity the week before your trip. Doing your most intense workout right before your trip could result in muscle burnout and physical exhaustion for the start of your journey.

Adventure Travel Redefined

Remember when you had to camp out in the jungle searching for your own food to be considered an adventurer? Not anymore! Tour operators have realized that virtually everyone likes a little activity and adventure, and yet not everyone prefers to completely ?rough it?. The result – adventure travel redefined and separated into two categories – hard adventure and soft adventure.

Hard adventure consists of the more intense activities which require some special skill and/or equipment. These activities are not for everyone, though generally have devoted enthusiasts who pursue them at every opportunity. Soft adventure, on the other hand, consists of less intense activities that don?t necessarily require special skills or equipment. In the travel industry, this is often referred to as active travel. These kinds of trips certainly keep you moving, but may also include some sightseeing, relaxation and cultural pursuits. Soft adventure is becoming more popular with families and groups, as it can generally be enjoyed by anyone in decent health without too much difficulty.


Not sure which is for you? This quiz might help you decide:

1. My favorite activities include:
a. walking, biking (light to moderate intensity), light hiking, snorkeling
b. canoeing, kayaking, rafting, moderate intensity biking or hiking, ecotourism, SCUBA
c. rock climbing, extreme sports (sky diving, hangliding, base jumping, etc), intense hiking/trekking or biking.

2. I generally prefer my adventures/activities to last:
a. one to two hours at a time
b. about a half day (3-5 hours) at a time
c. a full day or multiple days at a time

3. When I travel, it usually consists of:
a. Guided large group tours or cruises
b. Independent travel with a few half or full day guided excursions
c. Completely independent travel or small group when required for activities

4. I generally travel with (or prefer to travel with):
a. A large family or group of friends of varying health/athletic abilities
b. A family or group with similar activity preferences, health and athletic abilities
c. Myself, or perhaps one other person, both with good health/athletic ability

If you answered mostly (a), soft adventure will probably suit you best. You can always work with your tour guide/host to add in a more intense activity if you want to kick up your adventure a bit.

If you answered mostly (b), you could probably go either way. If with a group, you may choose to do a soft adventure, and plan some more intense day excursions for those who want a little more activity. If you choose hard adventure, work with your travel planner and tour operator to determine the level of activity that is right for you.

If you chose mostly (c), you may be ready for a full-blown hard-adventure vacation!

Bike share program

*Each person is different, and before going on any type of active or adventure vacation, it?s best to consult your doctor to make sure you are in good health enough for your trip. It?s also necessary in the case of most hard adventure and some soft adventure to work with your local adventure outfitter to ensure that you have all of the appropriate equipment.

Don’t Let it Rain on Your Vacation!

You know what you want to do. You know where you want to go. Without these, you?d be on a rough start to planning your adventure vacation. Just as importantly, however, is when to go. Perhaps with adventure travel more than any other type, it?s essential to choose the right time of year, rather than simply choosing the week or two when it seems to best fit in your schedule.

Because of it?s active nature, taking an adventure vacation at the wrong time can not only make for undesirable weather conditions, it can actually be dangerous. Though each destination has their ideal time of year, here are some of the most important details to take into account.

Rainy Paris

Costa Rica, Belize and other countries in the Caribbean and Central America are among the top adventure travel destinations. With their rainforest, clear water and warm temperatures, travelers head here for everything from zipline tours to snorkeling, diving, hiking and a host of other activities. Many of these countries have a rainy season that runs through much of our summer here in the U.S. – a time when a large number of people take their vacations. Costa Rica and Belize?s rainy seasons run from June through November or sometimes into December and truly are quite rainy on a daily basis. This pattern is similar for much of Central America. The Caribbean?s hurricane season runs from July through November, though these patterns have been thrown off slightly in recent years, with hurricanes coming unexpectedly early. As it?s name suggests, this is not the ideal time to visit the Caribbean.

Threatening rain in Costa Rica

If you?re planning an African safari, a major determining factor of where and when to go is the availability of wildlife viewing. This is generally based on temperature and rainfall, and the seasons vary greatly from country to country. Namibia and Botswana, for example, are most visited during their summer months of July to October when they are dryer. Kenya?s high season, on the other hand, runs from January through March. Tanzania and other countries in East Africa have two rainy seasons – April through June and November through December. Planning your safari during the wrong season can not only make for miserable weather, but also hinder your viewing experience, so work carefully with your travel planner to map our your trip during the best time of year. This can be especially tricky if visiting several countries.

Much of Europe is popular for hiking, bike tours, walking expeditions and wine tours (among other activities). It?s tempting to go in the summer when you?ll have warm temperatures and it?s easier for most of us to take vacation time. You may want to think twice about this, though, for several reasons. First, July and August are prime tourist season, which makes the main cities quite crowded and often tougher to enjoy an authentic immersion – at least half the people you encounter are probably tourists. Secondly, these months are also when many Europeans take their vacations, and it is common for smaller businesses and restaurants to just shut down for several weeks when the owners are on holiday. You may especially experience this if your adventures take you through smaller towns and villages, limiting your options for dining, shopping and any unplanned accommodations. On a winter note, the city of Venice floods in the winter, this year to the point where outdoor tables and chairs floated away. Venice is famous for its New Year’s Eve celebration, but make sure to bring your rain boots!
Flooded Venice in the winter

Australia and New Zealand rank very high in the adventure spectrum. Though they often are portrayed with an image of sun and surf, these countries do have a rainy season and it could wreck havoc on your down under adventure. New Zealand particularly can get quite cold in the winter months of June to August and wet in the rainy season which runs November through February. This makes its sought after hiking trails, milford sound expeditions and extreme outdoor activities – skydiving and bungee jumping, for instance – less desirable. Australia?s rainy season (also during their summer) particularly affects coastal regions, known for their surfing and beach/water activities. In addition, there?s a ?jellyfish season? in north Australia that generally occurs for as long as October through April, in which the waters become un-swimmable because of the jellyfish.

Storm over Brisbane, Australia

Of course, each country, often times each city or town, has its own climate patterns and even these may change from year to year. Working closely with your travel planner to ensure that you choose the best time of year for your ideal experience and destination can help to make your vacation as free from weather hassle – and therefore as safe from weather troubles – as possible.

Adventures Not to Miss

As the world of adventure travel has expanded, the options for an active vacation are virtually endless. While probably every country around the globe has something to offer in the way of adventure travel, here are some of our favorites that we have compiled along with a friend and fellow adventure sport enthusiast. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so feel free to share your own through the comments section!

Skydive over….
– Titusville, Florida – You can see the launch sites and the main shuttle assembly building. You?ll be so close you can touch the shuttle as it returns from the ISS.

– Franz Josef/Fox Glacier in New Zealand – there are not too many places you can skydive over a glacier! (Almost anywhere in NZ is good for skydiving this is just one of the most unique spots.)

– The Himalayas – noted as some of the most breathtaking views in the world

– Into a volcano in Russia?s Kamchatka Peninsula – for the ultimate thrill seeker


Zipline through the Costa Rican rain forest. There are multiple levels of height, speed and distance, so if you have a mix of hard and soft adventurers, everyone can enjoy.

Bungee jump….
– Out of a hot air balloon in Queenstown, New Zealand
– Verzasca Dam, Val Verzasca, Switzerland – jump from the dam seen in the movie Goldeneye. Tell me it doesn’t at least peak your interest to make the same jump as 007! It?s also the tallest bungee from a structure in the world (750 ft).

SCUBA dive in…
– Egypt – unique sea life and coral reef mountains which scientists consider an ?underwater wonder?
– Maui – dive in Molokini volcano crater. Enough said.
– Great Barrier Reef – it deserves every ounce of popularity its achieved.
– Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Belize and Cozumel in the Caribbean region are a favorite of divers.

Kayak or canoe in the Norwegian Fjords

Raft through the Grand Canyon, Zambezi River, Karnali River in Nepal, Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, the Great Bend of the Yangtze River or any number of whitewaters in Costa Rica, to name a few.


Heli-hike on the glaciers in Alaska

Take a cycle tour, or create your own. Western Europe is particularly popular for bike tours, as it offers possibilities for a wide variety of fitness levels, as well as opportunities for mountain biking.

Hike in Mt. Zion in Utah, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, West Coast Trail in British Columbia, ythe Inca Trail, Mt. Everest Base Camp (this is not as scary as it sounds), Na-Pali Coast/Waimea Canyon in Kauai and Volcanos National Park in Hawaii.

Get up close and personal (or at least close enough!) with the wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, the arctic north, Botswana or Kenya.

View the landscape from atop an elephant in Thailand or Zimbabwe.

Elephant back safari, Zimbabwe

Snowboard/Ski in…
-Whistler, British Columbia, Canada – As the host city of this years winter Olympics it?s a draw, and it?s also supposed to be one of the best place in North America ? There are a large number of open trails and diverse terrain accommodating people of all skill and experience levels. It also boasts one of the, largest vertical drop in North America.

-Chamonix, France – This is continually mentioned as one of the best ski/snowboard spots in Europe. The terrain could entice anybody from carvers to freeriders. As an added bonus, it offers the opportunity to go heliboarding. That?s right! Jump out of a helicopter and snowboard/ski.

Go cliff jumping…
If you?re adrenaline junkie enough to do this, Athens (Greece), Hamburg (Germany) Polignano a Mare (Italy) and La Rochelle (France) have been featured on cliff jumping tournaments as top choices for throwing yourself off the end of the earth!

cliff jumping

If you want to learn more about any of these destinations or opportunities, please email me or post a comment below! To explore more adventure opportunities, check out the following links:

Gordon?s Guide (Adventure Agents) – worldwide guides to adventure tour operators
Just Kite It – a content publisher and social community focused the kiteboarding lifestyle; this is a niche that many adventure companies ignore, and for that, we love Just Kite It!

A big thank you to my friend and fellow adventurer Brian Crumley for helping put together this list!