I describe my web site and style of travel as luxury adventure, yet most people aren’t always familiar with this term. That’s ok, it’s purposefully vague as it encompasses a lot of variations. The way I’ve always traveled is that while I love active, experiential adventures, I also like staying in comfortable hotels and flying in business class whenever possible. I describe it as enjoying a $2 street market lunch in Bangkok, but staying in the Mandarin Oriental. It’s how I’ve always traveled and I suspect many around my age travel the same way. It also means adventures that are unique and different, that by their nature are luxurious. Safaris and cruises to Antarctica fall into this category, for example. Ok, now that you hopefully have a better idea of what I mean by luxury adventure, here are my favorite experiences of 2013 that were memorable for many reasons.
1. Antarctica – This may be the ultimate luxury adventure experience and I was privileged enough to fulfill a long held travel dream earlier this year when I flew down to Antarctica. This experience is a luxury adventure trip because of the difficulty in reaching Antarctica itself. The accommodations once there aren’t anything special, but anytime a once-in-a-lifetime experience is involved, I automatically call that a luxurious experience. I often get asked what the best part of traveling to Antarctica is, and for me it wasn’t just one thing but the totality of the experience. I can’t point to one moment or experience that was THE best, but rather it was everything together that made it a special adventure. From sharing a rocky beach with thousands of penguins to watching the perfect pink sunset behind the icebergs, it is the trip itself that is so very special.
2. Whale sharks – I love wildlife experiences and swimming with whale sharks in Mexico was one of my all-time favorites. This isn’t a luxury experience because of cost or even accessibility, but because just how remarkable it is. There I was in the water as hundreds of whale sharks swam by, feeding upon the flotsam and jetsam of the sea as they did so. Their size was incredible, that of a car and I felt instantly and incredibly small as these graceful giants lumbered past. Even though I knew they were harmless, I couldn’t help but feel anxious as the gaping maws barreled straight for me. It was an extraordinary moment that every adventure traveler should try at least once.
3. Safari – The original luxury adventure experience is just as amazing in the 21st century as it was in the 19th, although a lot more humane I’d imagine. There is absolutely nothing quite like getting up before sunrise, climbing into a safari truck and riding out into the African bush to see what you can find. From charging rhinos (yes, really) to graceful families of zebras and even a pride of lions, I was very fortunate in 2013 to have had a couple of amazing safari experiences. I’ve learned though that it’s a drug and because no two safari experiences are exactly the same, it’s an experience that just begs for repetition. Hear that 2014? I’m looking at you.
4. Taiwan biking – At first you may wonder why I would put a simple bike ride on an adventure travel list, but I think this speaks to how special the experience was and not necessarily how dangerous. I woke up one morning to discover myself in a beautiful mountain valley, incredibly green with rice paddies for as far as the eye could see. I obviously wasn’t the first visitor to find the landscape irresistible, which is probably why there are a series of bike paths running throughout the farming community in Chishang. Biking through the scenery, instead of just admiring it from afar was an amazing experience, a moment of pure travel joy that I will keep with me for as long as I live.
5. Water jet pack – While hopping around the Caribbean last month, I had the opportunity to try several cool activities, but the water jet pack experience in St. Thomas took the proverbial cake. The setup uses a 200-Horse Power marine engine, pumping water up a 33-foot hose at over 1,000 gallons-per-minute generating an incredible 420 pounds of thrust. As the water reaches the jetpack, the rider uses two nozzles to control the jets and steer the pack. It’s safe, it’s fun and for a few moments I felt like James Bond as I careened over the water. It doesn’t get much better than that.
6. World’s highest bungee swing – I have an occasional fear of heights; tall buildings are fine but ladders for example freak me out. That means I’ve always been terrified of even the idea of bungee jumping, but while in South Africa I was determined to face that fear and take the plunge. What better place than in Durban, home to the world’s tallest bungee swing? Different from a jump, the swinger jumps feet first for a terrifying drop before the swing kicks in and arcs you to safety. I was out of my mind scared but am so very happy I faced my fears and just did it. Do I have any desire to try it again? No, not for a while.
These were some of my favorite adventure experiences of 2013 – what were yours?