I used to think adventure travel was the right kind of travel for anyone who was basically healthy and mobile. Of course in my 20s, I also assumed that everyone, given a choice, would prefer to spend their weekends hiking and camping. I have since been disabused of both notions. But with adventure travel, I've also seen that some people think they should like it because it sounds so - well, so adventurous! And a little Indiana Jones lives within many of us.
But is it really for you? Having lead adventure trips for over 20 years, I've met a wide range of people and seen the characteristics that allow different individuals to get the most out of adventure. So ask yourself and be honest- do these characteristics sound like you? Because if they don't, other kinds of travel will make you much happier and feel more worthwhile.
1. Flexibility. Every kind of trip has an itinerary and some kind of schedule. But on adventure trips, there is a greater likelihood that the itinerary goes awry, sometimes in major ways. Is that OK, or does it make you feel anxious? How about food? What if dinner is at 8pm and nothing on your plate looks familiar? Does that sound exciting or is it your worst nightmare? Do you need 8 solid hours of sleep every night or can you occasionally make do with whatever you get without going into a meltdown?
2. Goal orientation. You know that saying "It's the journey, not the destination". Well is it? What if you trained for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for 5 months and paid lots of money and that week the worst weather in 20 years descends on the mountain, making a summit attempt impossible. Of course you'll be disappointed! But will you think the trip was a failure and wish you had never gone?
3. Patience. I can guarantee that your patience will be tried during group adventure travel. Whether it's by the other people in your group, the leaders, the food or the accomodations, the weather, the logistics snafus - whatever, you will at times feel impatient. And the more often you feel impatient, the less you will enjoy the experience.
4. Taking things as they are. On an adventure, whether its backpacking in the Sierras or trekking in Nepal, everything will be different- food, companions, activities, scenery etc. Are you going to compare everything to some standard - usually how it is at home - or enjoy things for what they are. This is particularly true in less developed countries and that constant critique of things not living up to some external standard is the genesis of the Ugly American.
5. Reaction to challenge. At the end of any vacation, you want to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. You may feel physically tired, but it should be the "good" kind of tired that comes from putting out energy and being satisfied with what you accomplished. You don't want to feel physically tired and emotionally drained because you've been on edge the whole time- what kind of vacation is that?!
Of course different trips have different challenges. More people will feel comfortable hiking in Utah than traveling in Bhutan. And if you're not sure where you fit on the "adventure scale", starting with something that you feel more comfortable with can build your confidence. If you have never traveled with a group of people you didn't know before, just coming by yourself on your first trip is a huge adventure. If you like the experience, then next time you might choose something that feels less familiar. Or you might decide that next time you need something that leaves you feeling more rested and relaxed.
In the end, the only thing that is important is to be honest with ourselves and to see and accept ourselves as we truly are. A dachsund doesn't beat up on herself because she's not as fast as a whippet. There are so many travel options out there - choose the one that's right for you.