This year's Adventures in Travel Expo debuted in New York City on Jan. 12-13, and it will also make appearances in Chicago on Jan. 26-27, Long Beach, Calif. on Feb. 9-10 and Washington, D.C. on March 29-30.
This show is its own adventure. In addition to gathering leading adventure travel tour operators and experts under one roof, it presents diversions such as folkloric music, dance troops, rock climbing or scuba diving.
But Expo's biggest appeal is the world of possibilities it presents for travelers seeking to expand their horizons meaningfully. Many itineraries are outdoors-oriented, but there are cultural and educational programs, as well.
This year's catalog of possibilities includes: snow tractor safaris in Churchill, Canada to see polar bears; camel safaris through Rajasthan, India; treetop lodging near the Amazon; and following Magbana drummers to Guinea, West Africa to study traditional music.
There are thousands of adventures to choose from. For example, here's a trifecta of this year's particularly appealing adventure travel opportunities:
1. Sardinia: Jill Simpson discovered the wonders of Sardinia during her college study abroad program, and she's designed her tour company, Island Spirit Adventures, to share her love for and expertise about the wonderfully rustic Italian island with her clients. Simpson's tours are scheduled from Saturday to Saturday. Each emphasizes getting to know the local customs, culture, food — including delicious Sardinian barbecues and exquisite four-course gourmet meals — and red wine.
You can spend five days hiking through challenging rocky mountain terrain and exploring fascinating archeological sites or, alternatively, taking a cruise on a 50-foot sailboat along the island's rugged coast, disembarking to visit remote coastal towns and trekking to the better known sites. Then, you camp overnight on pristine beaches or in traditional shepherds' camps, and spend three nights in a luxurious seaside hotel. Groups are small, so the guidance is great. The all-inclusive price is from $2,200, plus the cost of airfare. For more details, see www.islandspiritadventures.com.
2. East Greenland: Dog sled tourism is the tradition, so this year you can take a course to earn your musher's driving license. The course is an adventure that entails: living among Inuits, learning how to care for and handle the dogs, and practicing with and driving your own team. You'll camp out in traditional Inuit tents, as well as learn about Inuit history and culture. All dog-handling courses and other guided tours on sledges are lead by expert hunters who know the terrain and will take you places where you may see polar bears, seals and other wildlife, and exquisite scenery — snow-clad in winter, and covered with flowers in summer.
Note that Greenland has modern conveniences, but it's a country that gives you unparalleled opportunities to experience the true thrill of a completely industry-free, natural environment, among extraordinary glaciers and along rugged, rocky coasts. For example, Tasiilaq (pop. 1,700), the largest city in the Ammassalik district, is a cluster of colorfully painted wooden houses situated around a spectacularly scenic circular fjord surrounded by high mountains.
Town residents have satellite TV and the Internet, but most follow traditional lifestyles, relying on their hunting and fishing skills. In addition to the dog sledding trips, you can arrange to hike, kayak, fish and hunt — with or without a guide. Tourism is increasingly important as a source of revenue, and you will be warmly welcomed. For more information, visit www.eastgreenland.com or consult your travel agent.
3. Closer to home, Ultimate 5 Lifetime Adventures provides thrill seekers with the opportunity to experience the big five boy's toys fantasies in one convenient package that's based in Salt Lake City, Zion National Park and Las Vegas. What are the big five? In boy toys-speak, they're: a simulated combat sortie in a Russian Interceptor Fighter or Marchetti SF 260; free-fall skydiving, world-class rappelling and rock climbing with Sherpas; driving an Indy race car; and mastering the military's Ropes Challenge Course. On each of these activities, you're coached or guided by world-class experts, some (depending on availability) holding world records.
This thrill seeker-pleasing package spans seven days — providing you with a week of memories that will last a lifetime. Organized by The Shipley Group, a renowned leadership and team-building training consultancy, the big five thrills program is priced from $8,900 per person, covering activities, equipment, lodging, meals, transfers and an 'I-can't-believe-I-really-did-this' photograph album. Get more information at www.ultimate5adventures.com.
To find out more about Jennifer Merin and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.