By Carol Sorgen
Marian Marbury loves to travel and loves the outdoors. Five years ago she combined these two interests and began her own business, Adventures in Good Company, offering other women the opportunity to have adventure travel experiences of their own.
Joan Ruuska, 60, a database maintainer at the Federal Reserve Board, recently took Marbury’s “Winter Medley” trip to Minnesota and is now looking forward to more adventure trips in the future.
“It was the most exhilarating vacation I have ever had,” says Ruuska, who lives in Bowie. “I’m originally from New England and have always enjoyed the winter season, but I had never gone snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or dogsledding…To dogsled in the wilderness over snow-covered trails and on frozen lakes was an experience I will never forget.”
“Winter Medley” is just one of the trips Marbury, 52, offers. You can also hike, canoe, sea kayak, rock climb, backpack, and horseback ride, in destinations all over the world.
Adventure travel, says Marbury, has three principal components: it’s active, it’s outdoors, and there is some element of unpredictability. On Adventure in Good Company trips, she adds, there is another feature that keeps bringing women back – the opportunity to relax and have “girlfriend time.”
Adventure travel is gaining in popularity among the over-50 set for a number of reasons. Jim Sano, president of Geographic Expeditions, luxury walking tour specialists based in San Francisco, says that most of his company’s travelers are in their 50s and are fairly affluent. “Along with their growing time and income, travelers in their 50s and even 60s are generally more fit than their parents were at the same age, so they’re not intimidated by such a trip, which can go from pretty easy to quite rigorous,” says Mr. Sano.
At GeoEx, walking tours are made up of groups of no more than 16 travelers and are led by experienced guides who live and work in the area being toured. Accommodations range from luxurious hotels to comfortable farmhouses. “As any walker will tell you” says Sano, “it’s not the end of the road that matters, but what you experience along the way.”
“The ultimate goal of adventure travel is an unforgettable experience, full of rewarding discoveries,” adds Bob Ellsasser, president of the Vermont-based Country Walkers, which offers both walking and multi-adventure trips that combine walking with active options such as horseback riding, kayaking, snorkeling, and yoga.
“Any reasonably fit person of any age, can join one of our vacations,” says Ellsasser. “We take special care to accommodate varying fitness levels and preferences. We know this is an adventure, a life-enriching experience, not a race.”
According to a report published in 1997 by the Travel Industry Association of America, Americans have taken their passion for outdoor excitement and made it part of their vacation experience. Based on a national survey of 1,200 U.S. adults, the report found that one-half of Americans had taken an adventure vacation in the past five years.
Ninety-two million adults took soft adventure vacations such as skiing, sailing, and horseback riding trips, while 31 million Americans took hard adventure vacations such as mountain climbing, sky diving and cave exploring. Twenty-five million Americans took both.
The most popular soft adventure activities were camping, hiking, and biking trips. The most popular hard adventure trips included whitewater rafting/kayaking, snorkeling/scuba diving, and off-road biking/mountain biking.
According to the report, “American travelers want their vacations to be more thrilling. They are looking for new ways to challenge themselves, to push their physical energies to the edge, and face nature at its boldest moments. That is what is driving America’s fervor for adventure travel. But this trend is also about camaraderie among friends and spending quality time with family.”
Adventure travel for the over-50 crowd is so popular that there is even a magazine devoted exclusively to the topic. In the latest issue of Marco Polo Magazine, “dedicated to adventure travelers over 50,” featured destinations included Australia, Tanzania, the Taklamakan Desert, and Amsterdam. The magazine’s readers are “active, adventurous travelers who are able to take the trips they never could have in their 20s.” According to the magazine’s subscriber profile, the median age of its subscribers is 59, and more than 70 percent have traveled overseas in the past year.
Jeffrey and Judith Kremen of Baltimore County have taken four trips sponsored by Country Walkers – two to Italy, one to Scotland, and one to Norway. Judith, an historian and former director of the Baltimore County Historical Trust, who “admits to having had her 50th birthday,” and Jeff, a vascular surgeon, who is 60, first heard of Country Walkers through their travel agent, Louise Kemper, at Commerce Travel in Pikesville. “She thought the combination of walking, choice of itineraries, length of the trips, as well as their appeal to active people who like the combination of beautiful scenery, interesting culture, and good food would appeal to us,” say the Kremens.
These trips differ a bit from trips the Kremens take on their own in that Country Walkers and the local guides do the planning and make the reservations. “We show up and have fun,” the couple say. “This is adventure camp for adults!”
At Bluewater Adventures, which offers Pacific Northwest wilderness adventures , approximately 90 percent of the company’s travelers are over the age of 50, says spokesperson Charlene Barringham. “The style of our trip appeals to this age group as it provides a learning opportunity while traveling in relative comfort.”
While many adventure travel companies offer trips for all ages of travelers, Toronto-based 50plus Expeditions offers active, off-the-beaten-path, small group tours solely for people over the age of 50, says owner Irena Shibaev. “Our travelers are people in their 50s, 60s, even 70s, who are active physically,” says Shibaev. “They want to participate…they don’t want to sit in a bus.”
Shibaev offers three levels of adventure trips: easy – from two to three hours of walking or hiking a day; moderate – from four to six hours of activity a day; and demanding – “You have to be very fit to take one of these trips, says Shibaev.”
Many travel companies that cater to the older travel are “too senior,” says Shibaev. “Their trips lack vitality. We’re active – but we’re not for youngsters.”
For more information on adventure travel, contact:
*Adventures in Good Company
*Marco Polo Magazine