The Evolution of Adventure Vacations

How one outfitter is perfecting the art of creating truly intrepid itineraries

Austin Adventures

The concept of “adventure travel” has been around for ages. If our ancestors were alive their Facebook albums would be filled with photos that would put any skydiving selfie to shame. But unlike past generations who trekked across frozen landscapes and sailed to new territories for the sake of survival, we’re able to indulge and experience adventure travel via adventure vacations. For us, it’s not a life or death situation, it’s a luxury.  

A travel industry insider could easily argue that the formula for adventure vacations is constantly being perfected at a farmhouse ten miles outside of Billings, MT. The adventure travel consultants at Austin Adventures may sit at desks, but their minds are often on the highest peaks in the Tetons and the best cays in Belize. Lately, the water cooler talk in the office has been about the company’s revolutionary new partnership with one of the world’s leading athletic companies. After a successful pilot trip in July, Austin Adventures and Reebok are forging ahead with their new Reebok Fitness Vacations which give groups and individuals a unique chance to physically challenge themselves while on vacation in some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

via Austin Adventures

As with all Austin Adventures trips, the adventure component is present, but on the Reebok Fitness Vacations, it’s amplified by the fusion of workout routines that come courtesy of Reebok—widely considered to be an industry frontrunner when it comes to functional fitness. The vacations, which visit Montana, Utah and Costa Rica, are guided by a two-person guide team consisting of an Austin Adventures guide—savvy in all things nature-related— and a certified personal trainer experienced in trading the gym for the great outdoors.

The Montana trip has a six-day itinerary that includes backcountry yoga, trail running, western workouts (think flipping hay bales and hurdling over hitching posts) and even a workshop on athletic massage. Many of the adventures take place in Yellowstone National Park—for example, travelers are taught about geothermal activity while on a six-mile trail running tour of the third largest hot spring in the world. To allow guests to acclimate to the area’s high elevation, the workout routines gradually get harder as the week goes on. Photos of wildlife are pretty, but all things considered, there’s no better souvenir than returning from a vacation in better physical shape.

Montana may be in Austin Adventures’ backyard, but the company certainly doesn’t limit its adventure vacations to within the borders of Big Sky Country. For decades, it has been adept at taking traditional bucket list destinations and adding elements of adventure that complement, not compete with, the main attractions. One of its most challenging bucket list trips is a week-long lodge-to-lodge trek that visits Machu Picchu. When day one involves a six-hour hike that ends at an elevation of 12,690 ft., you know you’re in for an itinerary that will give you no trouble sleeping at night. The demanding days are worth it when they reward you with dramatic views of one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites.

via Austin Adventures

While hiking, or trekking, is popular across the adventure travel board, when it comes to Europe, nothing is more traditional than cycling tours. But in an effort to redefine the European adventure vacation and keep up with a growing demand for the diversification of activities, Austin Adventures is making multisport trips out of the majority of its cycling trips. In Croatia, travelers can divide their days into cycling along the Dalmatian Coast and sea kayaking around the Adriatic islands. A trip to the Austrian Alps gets hikers wet with a day spent whitewater rafting—that’s if they don’t opt to spend the day cycling along the Salzach River instead. The best adventure vacations don’t limit travelers when it comes to means—and extremes— of exploration.

For example, take Austin Adventures’ new adventure vacation to Death Valley –the site of the highest temperature ever recorded on earth. The five-day itinerary offers everything from a rock climbing class to biking the salt flats at Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere), off-roading in Titus Canyon and  hiking up to Dante’s View before descending (by bike) the 25 miles down Coffin Mountain. At the opposite end of the climate spectrum, the company sends guests on a small ship cruise—the Antarctic Peninsula Expedition—where they’re given the chance to kayak among penguins, hike one of the continent’s many glaciers, sail while whale watching and even spend the night out under the stars. Yes, in adventure travel it’s commonplace to brag about how you went “open-air” camping and slept in a waterproof bivouac bag on the world’s coldest continent.

Adventure vacations aren’t for everyone. But for those who are game for taking their activity levels up a notch while they’re traveling, there are companies like Austin Adventures specializing in the art of designing itineraries that border on intrepid. Of course our ancestors who hunted and gathered their way through life would probably find it funny that we consider adventure travel to be somewhat of a novelty. But who cares what they think? They’d just be jealous that we have the chance to bust out a few burpees on a Reebok Fitness Vacation and trek across the Andes without worrying where our next meal will come from.  

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