people riding bikes through the mountains
Adventure travel is hot, and it's only going to get hotter from here.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / gibsonpictures

Thrill-Seekers and Globe-Trotters Unite!: A Complete Guide to Adventure Travel

Get Dirty, Have Fun and See the World

Adventure travel is hot, and it’s only going to get hotter from here. One study found that the adventure travel industry grew an astounding 65% between 2009 and 2013.

“We expected growth — we expected big growth — but not at that level,” remarked Adventure Travel Trade Association president, Shannon Stowell.

If you’re an adventure traveler, that’s probably no surprise to you. If you haven’t embarked on a true adventure vacation, however, you might be wondering what all the commotion is about.

Let’s just say the industry has exploded for a reason. Namely because adventure travel has carved out a niche in the travel industry that was specially made for outdoor lovers, thrill-seekers and those who love to try new things.

If the phrase “adventure travel” has ever piqued your interest, this beginner’s guide will provide you with everything you need to know to get started in the world of outdoor life.

What Exactly Is Adventure Travel?

Adventure travel can be done either domestically or internationally — it’s not necessarily the destination that makes it so. There are plenty of adventure destinations in the United Kingdom as well as in the United States, depending where you hail from. While overseas adventure travel can be a little more exciting, it’s really all about spending time in nature and taking part in heart-pounding activities.

These activities include anything from backcountry skiing, hiking and whitewater rafting to diving with sharks.

Is Adventure Travel for You?

If you’re the type of traveler who thinks lazing around a pool with a drink in hand every day makes for a boring vacation, these more adventurous escapes might be right up your alley.

Physical activity and travel bring out new and exhilarating qualities in each other when coupled together. Suddenly mountain biking not only allows you to challenge your endurance and technical skills, but enables you to explore completely new terrains and vistas.

Likewise, you’ll not only feel inspired as you discover new cultures, but you’ll be able to do so while linking yourself directly to the land around you. Plus there’s no better way to truly leave all your worries behind than to put your outdoors skills to the test and take on new obstacles.

With a growing market, there’s an adventure travel package out there for everyone. Whether you’re looking for family adventure travel that’s more toned down, senior adventure travel that can offer specific accommodations, or an excursion that will push you to your limits, there’s an adventure waiting for you.

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Safety Precautions and Being Prepared

Although even sports that are referred to as “high adrenaline,” such as climbing and whitewater kayaking, are relatively safe, there are of course risks that come along with adventure travel.

That’s why it’s important that participants are experienced, sufficiently skilled, well-conditioned and equipped for the activity they’re about to undertake — with the exception of adventure travel tours that are specifically geared toward beginners.

The majority of accidents and/or injuries in these sports occur due to errors in judgement, whether by attempting something beyond the capabilities of the group or individual, the use of poor equipment, or a lack of preparation for the environment or conditions.

What you need to bring and what you need to be prepared for can vary significantly depending on the company, tour and activity. If you’ll be making travel arrangements through a trip provider, be sure to find out exactly what type of equipment you’ll need to bring, or if it will all be provided for you.

If your trip has strict physical requirements, you may even want to work with a personal trainer for several months before you embark on your travel adventure.

Another important consideration is the company itself. Do your research to be sure the company is reputable and follows standard procedures for the activity.

Check review sites such as and to find out about others’ experiences with the company. Ask the organization about the qualifications of each guide, confirming they are knowledgeable about the area and activity, and are currently certified in emergency first aid and rescue procedures.

For example, if you’re joining a whitewater rafting trip, find out how many years the guides have been guiding rafts, and on which rivers. Don’t be afraid to ask serious questions.

Another good rule to remember is if sounds too cheap or good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut.

The Benefits of Adventure Travel

An adventure travel vacation can do wonders for your body and soul. Being out in nature has even been shown to have healing effects, helping to restore mental and physical health.

Some health benefits include:

  • Strengthening your immune system: Being an adventure traveler often allows you to get a little, or sometimes a lot, dirty. Whether you’re mountain biking in Moab, horseback riding through Romania’s Carpathian Mountains or rock climbing in Thailand, you’re bound to get dirty, which can help improve your health. Studies have found that the obsession our modern society has with being clean may actually be contributing to the increase in certain illnesses and allergies. Getting out and playing in the dirt can help strengthen your immune system to improve overall health.
  • Keeping your mind sharp: While any type of new experience can help your mind stay sharp, one study shows that doing activities such as walking, biking or hiking actually grows a part of the brain known as the hippocampus. Typically, it begins to shrink as one gets older, which can lead to poor memory or even dementia.
  • Increasing self-confidence: Adventure travel, particularly overseas adventures travel, naturally brings about higher self-confidence. Each time you challenge yourself by taking a risk, whether it’s as small as venturing off your usual itinerary or as big as embarking on an independent expedition, it presents a chance to boost self-confidence.
  • It sparks the childhood desire to explore: Our modern society seems to be extinguishing the childhood desire to explore. Participation in outdoor activities has been on the decline in our youth, and with “helicopter parents” on the increase, it can often kill the spark for wanderlust. Adventure travel can reignite that spark and bring a childlike joy to your spirit.
  • The ability to better cope with life: Putting yourself in a new situation where things don’t necessarily go as planned can help you cope better with the inevitable ups and downs of life.

So what do you say? Are you ready to jet across the globe to a new location and explore unknown terrains all while putting your physical fitness to the test? There’s no better time than now!

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