Traveling as a group can be fun – also tricky, awkward and unpredictable. And if you’re looking for adventure, things seem to change a bit. Join us in discussion with travel specialist Shila Desai who has some tips to share about group adventure travel. Enjoy the show!
My guest today is Shila Desai, a world traveler and a writer. She is the founder of a company called Eat Your Heart Out Tours through which she takes people all around the world on adventures. I am very happy to have you here today, Shila.
I’m excited to be here, Margaret. Thank you for having me on the show.
You are very welcome. As we get older, our bucket list is growing, filling up with places where we want to go and things we want to do. Some of them are more adventurous than we’re used to and take us a little bit outside of our comfort zone. Some women are super active and want to be adventurous.
I know you have been travelling for years. So, tell us, what are the qualities that a person needs when in an adventure group environment.
When in adventure group environment, you should consider all the things that will take you out of your normal day-to-day living. It might be a different country, different climate, different language, cuisine and culture.
Basically, everything is completely out of the comfortable and familiar, and people who love adventure are going for that exact experience.
But, in that sort of situation people sometimes tend to get short-tempered or judgmental. So, I think it’s very important before you go out on a trip like that to manage your expectations and say, “I am going to feel out of my comfort zone. I am not always going to understand someone else’s actions or motivations.”
In my opinion, when you go to such a tour, you should be prepared to be tolerant, patient and compassionate. People come from all walks of life, and they have all kinds of reasons for why they suddenly act in a certain way. Try to be respectful of those differences.
Another thing that may ruin the group experience is judging others. I feel judging starts this downward spiral of building cliques and status, where some people of the group may start feeling excluded. When I take people on group tours, these are the things I like to prep them for.
I would get them together and say, “Think about this a little bit.” Normally, people are wonderful; they’ve traveled a lot and know some of the things they should expect.
But when you’re in a different environment, a different comfort zone, you may sometimes slip, and you may not even be aware of it. Sometimes you have to put the group’s needs first, and that is something to keep in mind as well.
Right, you are part of a team. So far we covered the qualities that are important in a group setting. What about an adventure tour in general?
You may be going to a place with minimal hygiene circumstances, and instead of a nice, sparkling western toilet you might end up with a little shed somewhere. Or, you might be on a cruise where you don’t have all the accommodations you’re used to back home.
In my case, that’s internet connection. Believe it or not, there are places where there is poor or no Internet. When you’re on an adventure tour, like you said, every experience and emotion is kind of heightened.
That also applies to the people groups – tribes, cultures – that you are meeting. I know that in some of your tours, like the one in Burma, Mianmar, for example, you are actually meeting with tribal groups. It must be exciting to see they are not living in houses like we do.
No, they are not. Everything you mentioned, Margaret, is very relevant. The main thing you need to remember is, bring your sense of humor. Pack it first thing and you would be surprised how many times you would need it.
In many of my group tours there would be situations when I’d think, “How did that happen?” Humor can really save a situation like that. We’d all start laughing, and we still do, when we meet many years later. We end up creating incredible memories on the road through humor.
That is such a great reminder. I think you shouldn’t be afraid of adventure travel – you should go for it. Moreover, group adventure travel is wonderful, because you have the opportunity to try something completely new in a supportive environment.
I remember group tours I’ve been on, where a group of women and men can solve among themselves any issue that arises. You can deal with any eventuality. So, you are on an adventure, but you are safe.
Yes, absolutely. That is a good way of putting it. Your adventure travel can take you to the highest mountains, to the depths of the ocean and everything in between. One of the things that I love doing is leading people off into the deserts of India that are very remote, and it’s usually for a fabric tour.
There are no big box chain hotels, but the facilities are always clean. You get to enjoy your own bathroom, which can be very ambient. Sometimes the places you stay at are made with local materials and are run by the local community, and so it’s never uncomfortable or unclean or unsafe. Still, it’s not your Hilton or your Best Western kind of thing.
Before I take people on an adventure tour, I make sure to tell them: “Your comfort zone is going to get pushed. Safely and within your limits, but I will push you a little bit, so that you are stepping out of your comfort zone.”
We do hiking in Sri Lanka, also hiking in Naga Land in India. We are going to be taking a camel safari in Morocco later next year. Next is coming up a trip to Bhutan, and we’ll be going south driving. That’s followed by hiking and tracking the dunes in Libya. We are going to Wahaca in Mexico, on the Day of the Dead.
There’s lots of wonderful adventure travels coming up. None of it will get to the point of extreme adventure like paragliding, but it is going to push your comfort zone a little bit.
This sounds great. It seems to be somewhere between a package tour, where you have got everything planned for you morning to evening, and extreme adventure, like going to the Galapagos or on an ice breaker. Your tours are adventurous. They provide plenty to push you outside of your comfort zone.
What is your very favorite adventure tour?
I have roots in East Africa, in Kenya, and I know the national parks and the savannah like I know the back of my hand. My physical muse on this planet is to be out on the Serengeti, to wake up in the morning and feel connected to the primal source of life. For me, that is the most powerful experience.
However, my passion is textiles, so I will go far and wide in search of the best textiles. I want to know how they are made and why they are made in a certain way. I’d dig into why certain mortars are used and what was the connection historically, because the world used to revolve around textiles and spices.
That’s what we’ve got in our history lore now.
That is fantastic. The places you go sound wonderful. I hope that you have a fabulous year with lots of adventures. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us, Shila.
Thank you, Margaret.
Thank you, too. Bye.
What is the most adventurous tour you’ve been on? Do you enjoy being part of a traveling group? What is one place you simply must visit? Please join the conversation!
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