On a recent trip to Mexico, I caught myself doing something I once swore I’d never do: rolling my eyes at fellow tourists. While touring Maya ruins, I scoffed (sometimes silently, other times out loud) at others’ overstuffed fanny packs and glacial pace up the steep steps of a towering stone structure. I then scolded myself for criticizing people who were essentially doing the same thing I was doing — just in a different way.
No doubt, adventure travel — a category of the industry that generally encompasses experiential, cultural and outdoors-focused travel — has exploded in recent years (according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, it’s an $89 billion market). Unfortunately, with that increase in popularity has come an increase in attitude as well, from criticism of mainstream, group-centric tours to that ever-annoying “tourist or traveler?” debate to, ahem, not-so-discreet eye-rolling at others. So, here’s a tongue-in-cheek quiz to see where you fall on the spectrum. Wherever it is, let’s all vow to do our best to bring the Golden Rule on the road: That is, to travel and let travel.
1. Bhutan, Antarctica and Cuba are:
a) Your last passport stamps
b) Destinations that you’d consider visiting with the proper planning, guides and travel documents
c) Difficult to find on a map
2. You’re in charge of planning your next once-every-three-years trip with like-minded friends. The itinerary you have in mind centers on:
a) Mountain biking and hiking by day, brewery-hopping by night in Park City, Utah
b) Wine tasting, gallery browsing and multiple spa treatments in Napa Valley
c) Summiting K2
3. If you could travel like any celebrity, you would choose:
a) Bear Grylls
b) Jennifer Lopez
c) Anthony Bourdain
4. Your ultimate bucket-list adventure trip is:
a) A journey into outer space aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
b) Hiking Machu Picchu
c) A luxury yacht cruise through the Greek Isles with a personal butler for each guest
5. Your usual means of local transport in a foreign country is:
a) a mid-sized passenger van, along with all the other guests in your tour group
c) rickshaw, guagua, subway, bus, tuk tuk, motoconcho — whatever the locals take
6. On a flight to your next leisure destination, your carry-on luggage contains:
a) A digital camera, a small bottle of sunscreen, your cell phone (programmed for international calls and texts) and a lightweight hoodie
b) A dozen or so carabiners, a portable water purifier, your bivy sack and Outside magazine
c) I don’t own luggage small enough to fit into an overhead bin
7. A movie that stirs your sense of wanderlust and adventure is:
b) Out of Africa
c) Into the Wild
8. Crampons are:
a) A bit fearsome looking but not so bad once you get used to walking in them
b) Something you’re looking forward to mastering on your upcoming climbing class on Mount Rainier
c) Er, tampons that have been crammed into a tiny pocket in a purse?
9. When you travel, you prefer to eat and drink:
a) While mingling with locals at street vendors or food stalls and neighborhood watering holes
b) At five-star, Zagat-rated restaurants or while lounging poolside at the hotel
c) Wherever there’s tasty, typical local cuisine and culture, from upscale restaurants to down-home joints — no Starbucks or McDonalds, if you can help it
10. You’ve flown on prop planes:
a) Never. Why would anyone willingly set foot on one of those deathtrap metal tubes?
b) A little reluctantly, but sometimes they’re the only way you can reach your final destination
c) Too many times to count
Scoring: 1: a= 3 b= 2 c= 1; 2: a= 2 b= 1 c= 3; 3: a= 3 b= 1 c=2; 4: a= 3 b= 2 c=1; 5: a= 1 b= 2 c=3; 6: a= 2 b= 1 c=3; 7: a= 1 b= 2 c=3; 8: a= 3 b= 2 c=1; 9: a= 3 b= 1 c=2; 10: a= 1 b= 2 c=3
If you scored:
Between 25 and 30: You’ve certainly earned your stripes — and passport stamps and probably scars — as an Elite Adventure Traveler. Bravo! Just make sure you don’t have the elite attitude that sometimes goes along with it. Plenty of admirers (including yours truly) live vicariously through your journeys, but with the increase of travelers who also are pushing boundaries, there’s an inevitable uptick in the bragging and bravado as well. Keep up the good work and the great travels by focusing on your ever-expanding horizons, while staying humble.
Between 15 and 24: You don’t fear a train or bus station in a foreign country, can pack for at least a week into carry-on luggage and need plenty more adrenaline on a vacation than just sand, sun and shopping. You’re a B+ Adventurer. Good for you! On your next trip, perhaps consider pushing the limits a bit. And don’t forget about solo traveling. It’s one of the best ways to get to know a place — and yourself.
Between 10 and 14: Why are you reading this blog? Kidding, kidding. Glad you’re here, even if you are Adventure-Averse, but I’m betting if you up the ante on your next trip, you’ll see why this kind of travel is becoming so mainstream. Get out of the hotel and mingle with locals. Try some of the regional dishes at a street vendor — if it’s prepared hot, right in front of you, it’s almost always safe. Get outside, whether that means a day hike through the surrounding countryside or venturing out of the tour bus. And if things don’t go quite as planned, well, that’s part of the adventure. After all, the worse the experience, the better the story tends to be.
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