As far as adventure travel goes, I’ve been luckier than most. I’ve slept in desert tends, rainforest treehouses and mountain huts. I’ve trekked through the remotest areas of Myanmar and seen the Aurora borealis. Each and every adventure that I went on changed me in one or more fundamental ways.
At the same time, it is not always possible – or even desirable – to travel to exotic places. Sometimes, you just don’t have the money. Other times, you simply feel like staying closer to home. This is exactly how I felt when my eldest son was expecting his first child. I knew that, logically, there was no reason for me to be physically close… I just wanted to be close!
The good news is that adventure travel is not only about going to exotic locations. It is about the way that you choose to interact with every place that you visit. In fact, some of my biggest “adventures” have come within 100 miles of my home city. In other words.
Adventure travel is a way of mind!
So, today, I would love to share a few things that I have discovered about the true nature of adventure travel during my 7 decades on this planet. I hope that you find these tips for making even the most boring trip a little wilder useful!
I always used to joke that I was “at the U.S. Embassy” whenever I would send my kids an email from Starbucks in a foreign country. There is something so comforting about finding familiar places when you travel and, for me, Starbucks was my guilty little pleasure.
That said, while there is nothing wrong with looking for a little comfort on your travels, if you want to feel adventurous, don’t limit yourself to burgers and fries. Seek out the truly unusual – and often wonderful – cuisine that exists in every country. The same goes for each state, if you are traveling in the U.S.
Let’s take Europe, for example – tame, reliable, historical old Europe. On the surface, Europe is not an adventure travel destination. But, when you try some of the local foods, it certainly feels adventurous, even crazy!
On my last few trips to Europe, I’ve eaten black pudding (animal blood and oatmeal) in England, Haggis (sheep’s liver, heart, lungs, animal fat, onions, and oatmeal) in Scotland, Escargot (snails) in France, Lutefisk (dry fish soaked in lye) in Norway and many other culinary delights!
Now, I’m not saying that I actually enjoyed each of these foods, but, they certainly made my trips more exotic.
There are two times in your life that you really get to travel for extended periods of time; the first is in your early 20s, before the daily grind of family and career kicks in and the second is on your 60s, when you reach retirement age.
If you have the opportunity to stay in a place for longer than a few weeks, I encourage you to do so. When you rent an apartment, make local friends and learn a bit of the language, adventures start to happen to you naturally.
As your friends to take you to the events that are popular with the locals. Dive into the local bar scene. Go to local church services. Try new sports.
Break out of your comfort zone and you will see that even the most “normal” travel destinations have an adventurous side. You just need to find it… and this often takes longer than a few weeks.
One of the biggest regrets that I have is the way that we traveled as a family when my kids were small. I recently talked with my adult son, who casually mentioned that he didn’t remember many of the family vacations that we took together.
I was shocked and, after much soul searching, I came to the conclusion that the reason our trips weren’t very memorable is that we usually stuck to the tourist traps.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with castles and commercial centers, restaurants and riverboats. It’s just that, most of the time, these locations don’t create enough of an impression to be memorable. Perhaps this is why we have to rely on postcards to remind us what our trips were like!
Do you research to make sure that you don’t put yourself in any danger, but, once you have done so, get out of the tourist areas and explore. Go to little villages and eat pizza from little cafes with plastic seats. Find bars built into the side of cliffs. Find the beaches where only the locals go – people will tell you where they are if you ask!
Every travel destination has secrets to find. You just won’t find them in manicured parks filled with little souvenir stands.
Sometimes, especially as a solo female traveler, it can be intimidating to step out of your comfort zone and to look for adventure. As a 68-year-old female traveler, I still feel this way from time to time.
I know that I want to break out of my comfort zone and have a truly memorable experience, but, I also want to stay safe.
One trick that I have found is to hire a local guide or language teacher to show me the ropes. Depending on the location, you can usually find a private guide for $10-20 per hour. I know that this seems like a lot, but, it is totally worth it.
Hire a guide on your first day and spend the rest of your trip feeling safer and more adventurous. It’s a small price to pay! By the way, one of my favorite sites for finding local guides is Tours by Locals.
No matter where you go, you can always find opportunities to get your heart rate up. Let’s look at a few examples.
In Germany, just outside of Berlin, you can take part in “The Room,” a live adventure game in which you need to solve puzzles to escape from captivity.
In Italy, in the area of Rocca Massima, you can ride the Volo dell’ Angelo Zip Line. This terrifying experience has you traveling at around 70 miles per hour!
In the south of Spain, a location typically associated with sunbathing and drinking too much wine, you can learn to kiteboard.
Of course, some of these activities may seem a little extreme. That’s ok. There are plenty of less terrifying activities that feel more “adrenaline rush” than “near death experience.”
The point is that no matter where you go in the world, there are opportunities to find adventures. After all, adventure travel, at 16 or at 60, really is a state of mind!
What was your biggest travel adventure? Do you agree that adventure travel is a way of mind? Please join the conversation and share your travel tips in the comments section.
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