Adventurous Holidays Essay

10 Reasons Why Adventure Travel Is Good for You

Candice Gaukel AndrewsJuly 7, 2015

One of my favorite scientific findings: Take a hike, get a bigger brain. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

For the past several years, I have been writing about adventure topics for the Good Nature Travel blog, on everything from the merits of bumpy roads to tracking devices on narwhals. From my own thoughts on adventure to the latest scientific research, we’ve covered a lot of ground together.

Looking over all of these articles since my first appeared here on February 9, 2010, I realize that one theme keeps showing up: adventure travel is simply good for you. So I’ve compiled a Top 10 list of the reasons why.

While there are several physical health benefits to adventure travel (see nos. 1, 2 and 3, below), the advantages for your mental wellness are just as impressive (nos. 4, 5 and 6). Too, adventure travel can enlighten your soul (nos. 7 and 8 ) and even help save the world (nos. 9 and 10).

Can you think of anything else that can do all that?

Ten Reasons Why Adventure Travel Is Good for You

One wilderness just doesn’t seem to be enough; your soul quickly calls for more. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

1) When you get dirty, you improve your physical health. Scientists have recently reported that our modern obsession with cleanliness might be leading to a rise in allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Getting dirty could just be the best path to developing a strong immune system. Going on adventures means getting dirty—and healthier.

2) Outdoor activities can prevent (or treat) a wide range of health problems. Doctors around the country are now handing out “park prescriptions” for conditions ranging from heart disease to obesity to attention deficit disorder. Adventure travel takes park prescriptions to the next level.

3) There are no age limits on adventure. Anyone can make nature a playground. Adventure travel is an activity you can stick with for life.

4) Take a hike, get a bigger brain. Research indicates that hiking or walking grows brains. Typically, your hippocampus gets smaller once you hit your mid 50s, leading to memory loss. But a group of middle-aged adults that took three, 40-minute walks a week for a year grew their hippocampi, on average, by 2 percent, which could improve their retention for years. Hiking adventures will keep you mentally sharp.

5) Going on adventures raises your tolerance for uncertainty. Placing yourself in situations where things don’t always go as planned—such as on an adventure trip—helps you learn to cope with the uncertainties in life. And there is no shortage of those.

6) Adventure travel lets you safely “try on” alternate lives. One of the best things about embarking on an adventure is that you can shed your familiar skin for a while and pretend to be anything you want to be—before you take a drastic and permanent step. Who would you be if you lived there?

7) Going on adventures fosters reflectiveness, a mental skill often in short supply today. Adventures give us pleasant memories, which we often bring back to the forefront of our minds for reminiscing. This means that our journeys “marinate” awhile, an especially valuable exercise these days when we’re all so perpetually busy that most of what we do passes by in a flash and is gone forever—without having any real meaning attached to it. But reliving our adventures again and again allows us the time—and capability—to learn something from them.

Adventure travelers need to become environmental activists. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

8 ) Adventure travel feeds your dreams and builds your confidence. The editor of National Geographic Traveler Magazine once suggested that the “Cycle of Travel” went like this: 1) dream, 2) plan, 3) go, 4) share. But no matter how many steps it takes to get there, the one thing that’s certain about traveling to spectacular nature spots is that it soon becomes addictive. Experiencing one wilderness just doesn’t seem to be enough; your soul quickly calls for more. And each time you go, you find yourself changing. Adventures build your confidence; and with each successive one, you challenge yourself just a little bit more. I would add a fifth step to the Travel Cycle: dream bigger.

9) Adventure experiences remedy a societal ill: loss of adventurous children and the extinguishing of wanderlust. Today, the United States is facing what some have described as an epidemic: the loss of the adventurous childhood. The Outdoor Foundation reports that youth participation in outside activities has declined for three straight years. And when parents overschedule kids and insist on being involved in every one of their activities—when they become “helicopter parents”—they kill a child’s desire to explore. The spark for wanderlust goes out, permanently.

10) Adventure travelers may be more important than ever for saving the world. Some scientists warn that in nine years’ time (or less), global warming will become impossible to reverse, triggering accelerated climate change. If they’re right, a group of individuals within the general public is going to have to come forward and upgrade their environmental efforts, if the world is to survive. That select group of people just may turn out to be adventure travelers: those who typically venture beyond the envelope in the outdoors.

As Mark Twain once wrote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Here’s to your adventures, in whatever corner of the world you find them,

Candy

TAGS»Adventure Travel, Candice Gaukel Andrews, Climate Change, Conservation, eco-travel, Health, hiking, Narwhals, National Geographic, Travel, trekking, walking, wanderlust, Wildlife

POSTED IN»Travel Tips

About the author:Candice Gaukel AndrewsView all posts by Candice Gaukel Andrews

A multiple award-winning author and writer specializing in nature-travel topics and environmental issues, Candice has traveled around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, and from New Zealand to Scotland's far northern, remote regions. Her assignments have been equally diverse, from covering Alaska’s Yukon Quest dogsled race to writing a history of the Galapagos Islands to describing and photographing the national snow-sculpting competition in her home state of Wisconsin.In addition to being a five-time book author, Candice's work has also appeared in several national and international publications, such as "The Huffington Post" and "Outside Magazine Online." To read her web columns and see samples of her nature photography, visit her website at www.candiceandrews.com and like her Nature Traveler Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naturetraveler.

Travelling the world in search of an adventure is more popular now than ever – and for good reason. Gone are the days when adventure travel was purely the domain of backpackers or adrenalin junkies looking to tick off activities like bungee jumping and cage diving with sharks. 

Over recent years, the term “adventure” has broadened considerably and can now be considered as anything “experiential”. Today, these kinds of trips are more about active exploration, educational experiences and trying something new, whether that's trekking to Everest Base Camp or taking a salsa class in Cuba. 

Adventure travel is now one of global tourism's fastest-growing sectors. A 2014 report by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation revealed that the industry is worth $263bn (£183bn) per year globally and that 42 per cent of holidaymakers had been on trips classified as adventure holidays.

Since the recession, travellers are increasingly keen to get more for their money – and make the most of their time off work. Rather than sitting on a beach or by a pool for a week, we're packing in as much as possible, and tour operators are reacting to this increased interest by offering “adventure travel excursions” within standard, off-the-peg holiday packages.

Phoebe Smith, editor of Wanderlust magazine and author of Wild Nights: Camping Britain's Extremes believes our travel habits have also been influenced by selfie culture. “It's now all about the experience and the photo,” she says. “People want to be seen to be doing something that gives them bragging rights – such as climbing a mountain or meeting a tribal elder.”

With a number of new destinations recently opening up to the UK market, adventure travel has become even more far-reaching. Latin America is becoming more accessible thanks to new airline routes such as British Airways' direct flights from Gatwick to both San José (Costa Rica) and Lima (Peru), launching in April and May respectively. 

In response, tour operators have introduced holidays in these destinations, including Into Latin America (0117 214 0247; intolatinamerica.com), which will offer a 10-day guided rafting trip along the Tambopata River in Peru this summer. Based on two adults sharing, the two-week package costs from £3,995pp and includes flights from Gatwick to Lima on July 20, domestic flights and transport, two days' B&B in Puno, a trip to Lake Titicaca and the 10-day rafting adventure with all meals, guiding, camping and wildlife walks. 

G Adventures (0344 272 2060; gadventures.co.uk) has a new two-week Explore Costa Rica trip with special access to the Monteverde Institute, a research centre supported by National Geographic, from £1,429pp with transport, board and activities, but not flights. 

Changes in red tape have also affected the popularity of certain destinations. For example, British passport-holders can visit Vietnam for up to 15 days visa-free until the summer, while a new e-visa is simplifying journeys to India. Moonstone Expeditions (07931 554 883; moonstone-expeditions.com) is launching new Kerala trekking trips in February, including the week-long Kerala Explorer through the Western Ghats for £680pp, with full board, transfers, a guide and entrance fees, but not flights.

Iran is back on the tourist radar since the FCO eased its travel advice in July 2015, and travel companies are adding more trips. World Expeditions (0800 074 4135; worldexpeditions.co.uk) is launching Damavand Expedition Iran, an eight-day trek to the summit of Mount Damavand, from £1,220pp. The price includes seven nights' accommodation and most meals. Flights extra; departures May to September.

Feet first

For those who prefer two feet to two wheels, a walking holiday offers plenty of scope for adventure. Set off on foot along Spain's Camino de Santiago, staying in converted monasteries and manor houses along the way. The trip with Vidados (020 3750 2455; vidados.com) costs from £2,772pp and includes most meals, 17 nights' accommodation, transfers, the guided tour and a certificate for completing the pilgrimage. Flights not included.

Or why not combine walking with other activities? New Zealand's first and only pack-rafting provider, Expedition X (00 64 3445 3080; packraftingnz.com) has a one-day Raft & Ramble tour on which travellers trek into Fiordland National Park wearing a backpack containing an inflatable raft, which is then used to paddle over rapids. The trip costs from NZ$319pp (£145), including lunch and transfers from Queenstown. For the truly hardcore, the new overnight Explore The Wild trip includes a night's camping and costs from NZ$799 (£363), including equipment and meals.

Call of the wild

Add a wildlife encounter to your adventure. Steppes Travel (01285 601 751; steppestravel.co.uk) has a 10-day trip to Mozambique that encompasses yoga and freediving with dolphins.

Begin each day with yoga and breath-control sessions before heading out in search of dolphins. The £2,395pp cost covers seven nights' full board, four days of diving and the option of becoming certified in Level 1 (beginners) or Level 2 (advanced) freediving. The price excludes flights. Departs 28 February.

Or how about spending the night with a pack of wolves in Norway? The world's northernmost wildlife park, Polar Park in Bardu, now offers guests the chance to stay in a cabin inside a wolf enclosure (00 47 77 18 66 30; polarpark.no). Spend the evening in front of the fire as the pack howls outside. The next morning, meet a handful of socialised wolves in the enclosure. The WolfLodge package costs from £450pp, including one night's accommodation, dinner, a guide and the wolf encounter.

Nepal is once again welcoming visitors

Immerse yourself

Tour operators are increasingly offering visitors the chance to meet local people and give something back during their trip. Nepal is once again welcoming visitors following the devastating earthquake of April 2015, and Dragoman's new Nepal Heritage Tour (01728 861133 ; dragoman.com) takes its customers to well-known destinations such as Kathmandu, as well as getting off the tourist trail. The majority of the 13-day trip is spent in remote or little-visited hillside communities and you'll spend a day in Annapurna district helping to rebuild shelters and restore damaged irrigation systems. The price, from £914pp, includes 12 nights' B&B, some meals, an English-speaking guide and driver but it excludes flights. 

Saddle Skedaddle is known for cycling holidays but new for 2016 is a bike-free, 13-day tour of Malawi visiting fairtrade producers. The Malawi Meet the People tour (0191 265 1110; meetthepeople.skedaddle.co.uk) runs from 4-16 June and gives you the chance to meet fairtrade coffee farmers and rice producers in their homes and see the real impacts of fairtrade, as well as visiting national parks. The price of £2,445pp includes 12 nights' half-board accommodation in locally owned guesthouses, guiding, transfers and donations to the producers visited. Flights not included.

Exodus is offering a new Cycle Kilimanjaro trip in Tanzania

On your bike

While active holidays are on the rise, cycling is enjoying a particular boom, thanks in part to more urban commuters choosing pedal power over public transport. For those looking to take their biking experience to the next level, Exodus (0845 314 3516; exodus.co.uk) is offering a new Cycle Kilimanjaro trip in Tanzania that will circumnavigate the world's largest free-standing mountain and pedal through forests inhabited by leopards, buffalo and elephants and experience Maasai villages. The eight-day trip costs from £1,999pp and includes flights, accommodation, most meals, bike hire and a guide. The first departure is 10 June.

America's historic highway, Route 66, is a classic road trip, but it's also possible to tackle it by bike. Discover Adventure (01722 718 444; discoveradventure.com) has a new eight-day challenge that pedals 335 miles between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, including a section of the old Route 66. You'll pass Wild West landscapes and Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US. It costs from £2,299pp with accommodation, most meals, flights from London to Phoenix, transfers, mountain bike hire and a support team. Departs on 12 March and 15 October. 

Learn a lesson

Discover your inner scientist with a new type of cruise this year. Hurtigruten's Antarctica programme (020 3603 7112; hurtigruten.co.uk) includes an interactive science laboratory where you can examine a three-million-year-old piece of ice through a microscope, or study meteor fragments. Other activities include kayaking, snorkelling, snowshoeing and the chance to sleep on deck under the polar skies. The 15-day Adventure the Chilean Fjords and Antarctica voyage costs from £4,402pp on a full-board basis. Departs from Punta Arenas on 24 November. Flight and transfer packages start from £1,370pp.

If you've ever wanted to learn how to do freestyle tricks on the snow, a new course from Ticket To Ride (020 8788 8668; tickettoridegroup.com) could help. The week-long trip to Val d'Isère offers 16 hours of freeski or snowboard tuition to help you develop slides and spins. It costs from £595pp, including self-catered accommodation, lift pass and video analysis, but not flights. Departs 20 March.

Family fun

Thrill your youngsters with Explore's Iceland Family Winter Adventure Tour (01252 883 878; explore.co.uk), featuring activities such as glacier walking, whale watching and snow-mobiling. It costs from £1,659 per adult and £1,392 per child, with flights from London to Reykjavik and seven nights' B&B. Each family booking also includes a free GoPro camera and selfie stick. Departures are on 13 February, 26 March and 26 December.

Closer to home, Wilderness Scotland (01479 420020; wildernessscotland.com) has a week-long Treasure Highlands trip. Taking in the west coast and Cairngorms National Park, it combines activities including kayaking (above), mountain biking, geo-caching, wildlife watching and canoeing, as well as a ride on the Harry Potter steam train along Glenfinnan Viaduct. The price is from £995 per adult and £785 per child, including six nights' B&B, activities and guiding.

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