March 3, 2003
Story by Paul Tolme
Scuba divers have flocked to Belize—the English-speaking paradise between Guatemala and Mexico—ever since Jacques Cousteau explored the massive barrier reef and legendary Blue Hole. But landlubbers will also find plenty of earthly delights.
Outward bound: The $2,095 Belize Adventure Week adventure travel package from slickrock.com includes a room at a jungle lodge outside San Ignacio, kayaking limestone Belize caves and river kayaking on the Mopan River.
Doing It All on Vacation
A new wave of global travelers are testing their limits on a multisport vacation
September 4, 2000
Story by Debra Klein
Photo by Bill Hatcher
(Photo accompanying article “No time to rest: Paddling through caves in Belize with Slickrock Adventures”)
Ann Worthington, a Work-at-home lawyer and mother in Capistrano Beach, Calif., rarely breaks away from her telecommute and Teletubby routine. So what was she doing last spring, sans husband and child, bungee-jumping off New Zealand’s Kawarau Bridge? No, she wasn’t caving in to domestic pressures. She was just embarking on a multisport vacation, the latest adventure-travel trend. Leaving her husband at home with their toddler, Worthington spent the rest of her week hiking, biking and sea-kayaking across New Zealand’s South Island. Why such a frenetic vacation? “I want to be moving at all times,” she says.
Join the club, Worthington is just one of a growing number of people using vacations to test their limits-and new muscle groups-while traversing rain forests and mountains, rivers and the open sea. According to Adventure Travel Society statistics, active vacations have been increasing for decades and now multisports account for up to 14 percent of specialized adventure trips. Why would anybody want to cram so many sports into a single vacation? Many travelers are simply put off by the thought of spending a full week riding a bike, hiking a mountain or-God forbid-lying on a beach. “They want a little bit of everything, rather than just one week one sport,” says Debbie Shroeder, a travel agent specializing in adventure trips. “People don’t want to feel they’ll get bored.”
Adventure outfitters are making sure there’s no time for boredom. Active New Zealand, which arranged Worthington’s trip, runs a two-week marathon that starts with three days of kayaking Queen Charlotte Sound or hiking mountainous terrain in Nelson Lakes National Park. The rest of the trip almost seems like Olympic training: canoeing, long distance bike-riding and glacial hiking (they provide the crampons). But it’s all optional, insists company founder Andrew Fairfax. “This is a vacation,” he says. “We’re not pushing people [into] anything.”
In fact, multisporters tend to push themselves. Kellie Markovcy, an electrical engineer from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, considered taking a weeklong kayaking trip. But she opted instead for an adrenaline-pumping itinerary offered by Outer Edge Expeditions’ Borneo Sports Spectacular. “I like to be challenged,“ she says. Markovcy’s two-week trip included spelunking, white-water rafting, sea-kayaking and a two-day ascent of Southeast Asia’s highest peak, 13,454-foot Mount Kinabalu. Bill Barrios, a Pittsburgh graphic designer who also survived the Borneo adventure, hinted at the toll of the trip’s pace. “It was horrible at the time,” says Barrios, laughing, “but afterwards you wanted to do it again.”
Not every trip is designed to be daunting. Dan Austin founded Adventure Plus three years ago to offer multisport trips for vacationers “who may not have been on a bike in 20 years.” His tours to Alaska, Montana, the Grand Tetons and the Canadian Rockies combine instruction, short distances and plenty of pampering, including snack breaks of sliced melon served on silver trays. “We can introduce people to activities and they don’t have to commit a full week.” Austin says. They also don’t have to participate in every activity.
Theses trips aren’t cheap. But for Lynn Wall, a Minnesota letter carrier who went on a eight-day Adventure Plus trip to Montanac, it was well worth the $1,700 fee (for meals, lodging and equipment, but not airfare). “I never could have planned it myself,” she says. “I wouldn’t know where to go or how to get around.” That’s the selling point of increasingly complex itineraries such as Untamed Path’s two-week backpack, mountain-bike and white-water-rafting trip that begins in the Andes and ends in the Amazon, with stops in remote villages and lectures on local customs scheduled to break up the breakneck pace. “People in the working world may be fairly active but the don’t have the time to put together a two-week trip,” notes Jen Hamar. “We know what to do if the van breaks down.”
But the vacationers often don’t know what to do when it’s time to pack up and go home. Ron Locklear, a regular runner, hiker and biker, left Tampa, FL., in July for a KB Mountain Adventures trip in Colorado to “prove something” to himself on his 40th birthday. After a week of Outward Bound-style action, the Harley-riding construction manager proved he was a softie, bonding with his “bunk” of fellow vacationers. “We met in a lobby Monday morning as strangers and by the end of the week we’re in tears because we have to leave one another,” he recalls. Somehow, the adventure guides never talk about this final hurdle: the emotional hangover.
Adventure on Demand