Adventure Travel: Tips on Getting Started

White water rafting

[Ammit] / [iStock/] / Thinkstock

Adventure travel is the genius combination that satisfies the wanderlust’s desire for new places and the outdoorsman’s thirst for adrenaline and adventure. As gratifying as it can be to run to the top of North Africa’s highest peak or to kayak around the island of Corsica, planning and executing such an expedition on your own can be a little overwhelming. In addition to the normal travel planning, you’ve now got to figure out how to transport your bike or kayak, where to camp out, if the area you’re traveling to will have the fuel you need for your backpacking stove and will the airline even let you fly with the stove, and what sort of emergency equipment do you need to bring? What happens if something goes wrong? Are you required to hire a guide? The list goes on and on. If you want the thrill of adventure travel without the hassle of planning an expedition, check out these options.

If you don’t want to worry about a damn thing but enjoying your adventure, you should sign up with an adventure travel outfitter and leave the planning, organizing, and hassle to them. This is also the option to go for if you’re looking to combine adventure with luxury hotels and meals. Whether you want to go on a sailing and biking tour of Greece or explore Mongolia on horseback, an adventure travel outfitter will have you covered. All you have to do is show up. For a comprehensive list of some of the best adventure travel companies, check out National Geographic’s Adventure Travel Ratings.

Hire a Guide
If you’re not a fan of group travel or want to customize your trip, consider hiring a guide. This gets a little tricky because there are a lot of people out there who call themselves guides, but may not have the qualifications or experience necessary to do the job. To avoid this, do your research. Wherever possible, hire guides that have been professionally certified. The International Federation of Mountain Guides Association, for example, will help put you in contact with professionally certified mountain guides around the world. If this isn’t possible then the next best option is word of mouth. If you’re looking to go kayaking, track down a local kayak shop and ask them if they have any recommendations for guides. If you have a friend in the area, ask if they might know of anyone. And then, of course, there’s always the travel forums like TripAdvisor or the CouchSurfing activity page.

Local Clubs
If you don’t mind schlepping your gear (or renting gear while you’re there), do a little research to find a local club and see if they have any outings planned. Not all clubs will let you tag along, but a lot of them don’t have a problem with it as long as you pay your fees and can prove that you have the skill level necessary to go on the designated trip. Wanting to head out a climbing trip? Check out this list of mountaineering clubs around the world. You can also head to travel forums that put you contact with locals to see if they might be able to put you in contact with any local outdoor activity groups.

Signing up for races abroad is a great way to embark on an adventure overseas. Leave the organizing and logistics to the race organizers while you focus on enjoying the scenery as well as the food and water stations. They usually have cookies and–as we all know–adventures are always better with cookies. Plus, not only will you have a safety net in case something goes wrong, you’ll get a t-shirt to help you remember (and advertise) your adventure abroad.

By Nikki Hodgson