Here in 2020, the idea of “adventure travel” is a loaded concept.
Sometimes it’s associated with active, athletic activities, like hiking, biking, snorkeling and scuba diving. Other times it is used to express the idea of getting off the beaten path, like taking a safari, visiting a remote village, camping or staying with a host family. Then there are tour-operator created experiences that market directly to the adrenaline junkie—things like sky diving, zip-lining and cage-diving, to name a few.
But adventure travel doesn’t have to mean athletic travel, nor does it mean you have to sleep on the ground, nor does it have to fit into a box. There are many ways to be adventurous, and all you have to do is find the mix that’s right for you. Here are five tips to help you add more adventure to your next trip.
Define your own idea of adventure.
Sure, jumping out of planes will get your blood flowing, and a five-day trek through the Andes will certainly do the trick, but adventure is not limited to things that scare you to death or make you break a sweat.
The only thing required of adventure travel is that you get a little bit out of your comfort zone. Otherwise, the platform is up for you to decide. For some, a remote safari is the perfect idea of adventure; for others, it’s taking a street food tour in Mexico or a day sail off the coast somewhere.
Don’t be swayed by marketing that tries to define adventure as one thing or another—you be the judge of what it means to be adventurous.
Adventure travel is a mindset, not a sum of activities.
Being an adventurous traveler is not just about setting up excursions or showing up in a remote place. So much of it is being open to the idea of the unknown. After all, anyone can sign up for a bunch of tours. And how adventurous are you show up and then keep to yourself?
While physical exertion and limit-pushing experiences are often associated with adventure travel—and no doubt a big part of it at times—don’t forget about the mental side, the part where you interact with the destination.
Adventurers are naturally curious of their surroundings. When I’m on the road, I want to know more about where I am, and who I’m with, and I want to learn something and feel a part of it. I want to have conversations with locals and fellow travelers. I want to bridge gaps.
Follow recommendations for better or worse.
The way I see it, one of the biggest contributors to an adventurous spirit is being open to out-of-the-blue recommendations, for better or worse. That last part is what’s important, because the fear of failure—or rather, fear of doing something that’s “not worth it”—often holds us back on the road. We’re told by someone about that little place way off in the other part of town, but we don’t go, because maybe it won’t be that great, and there are safer bets.
Being an adventurous traveler is all about going down these unknown roads. Will each one work out to be the best thing you’ve never done? No, definitely not. But, more often than not, following spontaneous recommendations puts your trip on a path you didn’t plan, which opens you up to new experiences. So while the restaurant might not ultimately be that great, perhaps you will discover a new part of town, or a bar just next to it, that ends up being a major success.
Don’t be afraid to fail on the road. For with an adventurous mindset, failure is not possible.
Pack like a traveler instead of a vacationer.
When it comes to packing and luggage, less is sometimes more. There are obvious benefits: You’re traveling lighter, you’re more flexible and you’re less burdened with big bags.
But there’s something bigger. It might sound counterintuitive, but not having everything you need on hand can lead to unforeseen opportunities on the road. Need to do laundry? Well, who knows who you’ll meet or what you’ll encounter down at the local laundromat. Need an extra shirt or pair of pants? Find out where the locals shop and go be a part of it. Need a haircut? Why wait until you get home—saddle up with the local barber.
Remember, adventure travel is a mindset. A big part of that is being comfortable with the unknown. You don’t have to prepare for every single circumstance because you feel confident enough to solve problems on the road, and you know that solving those problems can lead to unplanned adventures, learning experiences and local encounters.
Choose a destination that will bring out the adventurer in you.
Here’s a big secret no one talks about: Adventure can be found anywhere on earth, in any destination. Truly, there’s not a country I can think of that doesn’t provide an abundance of opportunities for adventure in some way or some form.
So don’t look for some magical place—just be realistic and pick a destination that aligns with your vision of adventure. And even then, you’ll probably have trouble narrowing it down. After all, you can hike in Colorado, Chile, Nepal and Australia. You can eat street food in Japan, New York, London and India. Zip-lines are everywhere—so are dive shops.
The point being, adventure can be found anywhere, because true adventure lives within you, in your mind and in your approach to travel. Destinations bring out the adventure within, they do not supply it. Once this idea is understood, you realize that adventure is not about where you travel. It’s about how you travel.