Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey. Americans are looking for adventure this summer in places … [+]
If adventure has a middle name — with apologies to Indiana Jones — it’s the summer of 2022. Neither Covid-19, nor inflation, nor war in Europe will keep Americans from taking that bucket-list adventure trip.
I know because I’ve met the adventure travelers. While I was in Dubai a few months ago, I had breakfast with two American couples from Washington State. They told me the threat of a Covid infection would not keep them home. No, this was their time to travel. In Cape Town, I ran into Americans who defied their government’s warnings to experience a spectacular South African summer and go on safari.
And in Turkey, I encountered many Americans who simply didn’t care about the State Department advisories or which way the political winds were blowing. They just had to go ballooning in Cappadocia or shop at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
Are you getting that Indiana Jones vibe yet? Well, the surveys — and there are so many of them — say you’re right.
Nearly half of Americans (45%) say they’ll travel more this year than last, according to a ValuePenguin survey. Dig deeper into the data, my fellow archaeologists, and you’ll note that many travelers have once-in-a-lifetime trips planned. Nearly a quarter of Gen Zers and millennials with travel plans are taking a “bucket list” vacation, and a third of travelers with incomes above $100,000 are planning an international trip.
But if you’re looking for an adventure trip, how do you choose the right one? Where do you go, and how do you execute your plan without getting yourself into trouble? Glad you asked.
A visitor takes a picture of Bodrum Castle in Bodrum, Turkey.
Choose your adventure trip
If you’re one of the millions of Americans looking for adventure travel this summer, you have a lot to choose from. Here are a few ways to narrow it down.
Domestic or international?
Most people assume you can only have an adventure by leaving the United States. It’s not true. But you can get off the grid in a big way in the States, too. Try hiking the North Rim of the Grand Canyon or heading up Angels Landing at Zion National Park, widely considered the scariest hike in America. But if you need to get out of the country, there are plenty of places to consider. You might consider a travel advisor or travel coach to help you narrow down the list.
What’s your budget?
If you haven’t gone anywhere for the last two years, then you have a generous vacation budget, and you can probably afford to go almost anywhere. But if you took a quick vacation here and there during the pandemic, maybe a luxury African safari is out of your price range. There are ways of bringing your costs down. For example, you can book a few nights at Aquila Private Game Reserve, which is only a two-hour drive north of Cape Town, and far more reasonably priced.
How much risk are you willing to take for your adventure trip?
With adventure comes risk, of course. How much can you handle? Kulveer Tagga, CEO of the rental company Zeus Living, has kept a watchful eye on risk. “With each new Covid variant, it seems people become less reactive,” he says. “They weigh personal risk and make the decision that’s best for themselves and their families.” So if you’re looking for advice on how much risk you should take on your adventure vacation, you’re out of luck. It is, as Tagga says, a personal decision. If you need peace of mind, you should consider a reliable travel insurance policy.
Visitors watch wildlife from an observation truck at Aquila Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
Pick your destination
You know that routine where the adventurer spins the globe and then puts his finger on a random location? You can do that online if you’re feeling very adventurous. I like this Random Location Picker, but I often end up in the middle of the ocean. For a more curated experience, you could also try Earth Roulette. You won’t end up in the middle of nowhere, but they’ll also try to sell you a vacation.
Destinations that specialize in adventure travel are preparing for a crush of summer travelers from the States.
“July and August will be busy,” predicts Funda Eratici, the regional director of sales for Turkey at Hilton. “We’re expecting a lot of North Americans and British travelers.”
Eratici says the Bodrum region of Turkey is a draw for adventure-seekers. They come for boating, to see the ancient places such as Bodrum Castle, and to buy Turkish carpets in the nearby village of Etrim. Hilton recently opened a new LXR Hotels & Resorts-branded property, the Susona Bodrum, which has become a favorite of well-heeled guests from Europe and North America.
A short flight away, you’ll find perhaps one of Turkey’s most prominent adventure travel destinations, Cappadocia. Here, among the volcanic ignimbrite rock formations, you’ll find ancient churches, underground cities, and some of the best hot air ballooning anywhere. There, too, hotels and tour operators are looking for a busy summer.
“People want to fly with the balloons and see the churches,” says Deniz Karkin, the general manager for Argos in Cappadocia, a luxury hotel carved into a mountainside. He says for the last two years, American visitors have made compromises by vacationing closer to home and playing it safe. But not this summer. Bookings for this year are solid.
Turkish tourism insiders mentioned one tip that might make the adventure a little lighter on the wallet: Wait until early September to visit. Turks call it the “yellow summer” because the trees turn yellow, but the weather remains warm. All the tourists leave — except the smart ones. They enjoy nice weather and don’t have to worry about the crowds.
A Turkish carpetmaker in Etrim, Turkey.
Now go have an adventure
Experts say that wherever you decide to go, make sure there’s something to discover. Europe ranks highly on that list because many of its artifacts are still being discovered.
“You dig somewhere for the metro, and you discover the remains of an ancient civilization,” says Y. Murat Ozguc, managing partner of the Turkish tour operator Travel Atelier. “My advice would be to go to a place like that.”
There are places like that everywhere on the planet. You can find ancient obelisks in Cromlech of the Almendres in Alentejo, Portugal, or Gobekli Tepe, believed to be the world’s oldest temple, in Urfa, Turkey.
But how do you pull it all together? Here are a few tips:
1. Hire an expert. Talk to a travel advisor or coach or contact a knowledgeable tour operator who can help you navigate your adventure from booking your plane tickets to planning your itinerary. Planning an adventure trip probably isn’t the kind of thing you’ll want to try on your own.
2. Protect yourself. Make sure you have enough travel insurance, but also consider a medical evacuation program like Medjet, which will ensure you can get home if you hurt yourself while rock climbing.This is particularly important if your adventure trip takes you to a third-world country, where medical services are limited.
3. Be careful. Travel is inherently risky, but an adventure trip can be extra risky. For example, if you’re traveling to the Greek islands to go wreck diving, make sure you complete your PADI Wreck Diving course and are in good physical shape. Adventure activities can be fun, but with that fun comes some risk.
Taking a bucket-list adventure trip doesn’t have to be difficult or dangerous. It just takes a little planning and expert advice. No matter where you end up going this summer, you can be sure of one thing: It’s going to be an adventure.