Mary Ann’s Guide To Taking An Action-Packed Vacation

While Mary Ann’s closest friends are content to bask on the beach for their vacations, she’s always opted for holidays jam packed with adventure, from crossing the Costa Rican jungle on a zipline to biking hundreds of miles in the French countryside. What’s more, Mary Ann is perfectly happy to vacation alone, leaving her husband at home, if he’s not up to one of her “exhilarating experiences.”

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FOF: How do you decide what type of adventure vacations are best for you?
MARY ANN: Ask yourself these questions:

1. How much physical activity can I handle? (Trips range from easy to challenging, so it’s critical to understand what is expected in terms of standing, walking, hiking etc.)
2. Do I want to be based in one place or move from place to place?
3. What sort of transportation between locations is comfortable for me?
4. What level of accommodations do I expect?
5. Who is leading the trip, and what are their qualifications?
6. Are local experts, such as naturalists, historians and geologists, embedded in the trip?
7. What will my daily itinerary look like: Active time versus downtime?
8. Will we be traveling as a group, how big will it be, and what will my fellow travelers be like?

Which has been your fave adventure vacation and why?

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I’ve had quite a few favorites, including my most recent adventure in Costa Rica. That was an eight-day trip to three different and distinct places: a remote mountain lodge, a safari camp, and an oceanside inn. Highlights included whitewater rafting trip on the Savegre River, touring a coffee cooperative, ziplining in the rain forest, snorkeling a coral reef in the Pacific, and hiking in a private cloud forest.

Which other adventure vacations have you’ve taken, besides Costa Rica?

I’ve taken a number of adventure vacations in U.S. National Parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton; Bryce, Zion and the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley. I also have been on whitewater rafting expeditions, and planned the ultimate trip as a 60th birthday present to myself: an eight-day expedition on the Colorado River, from the beginning to the end of the Grand Canyon. It’s 277 miles and, I am told, a transformative journey that you should consider while you are physically able to enjoy it. I leave in June.

What kind of woman should and should not take an adventure vacation?

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Someone who is curious, adventurous and open to experiencing the world through travel and learning should consider such a vacation. Someone who prefers familiar, comfortable and relaxing environments should probably look at alternatives.

What’s the advantage of taking an adventure vacay alone?

The biggest advantage is that if you’re alone, you’re open to meeting people and sharing experiences with them. Adventure trips are self selecting. People who take them are pretty interesting sorts. They tend to be curious and passionate lifetime learners. Another advantage is that you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Most women have spent their lives planning vacations for others and worrying that everyone is having a good time. When you travel alone, you are responsible for only yourself. It is liberating.

What’s the advantage of going with a friend?

I would advise that you and your friend review the questions I talked about earlier, to make sure that you’re in alignment when choosing a trip. I also would discuss expectations. Will you share a room? Will you do everything together or spend some time independently? If you work through these issues, traveling with a friend and sharing new experiences can be a great way to strengthen or renew a friendship.

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How do you know which adventure vacations are best for you?

The Internet is a great tool for exploring which ones may be right for you. There are helpful travel sites, like TripAdvisor.com, and many, many travel blogs. Plus, once you get started with adventure traveling, you get personal recommendations from the people you meet. I ask everyone where they’ve traveled, what adventures they have most liked and why, who has organized their trips.

Just a few resources: Road Scholar is a non-profit specializing In learning adventures in the U.S. and around the world for travelers 55+. Check out its website for trip ratings and reviews. The National Park Service lists on its website a dozen or so commercial outfitters licensed to raft the Grand Canyon, and all of them are top-notch. Holbrook Travel is just one of the many companies specializing in adventure trips all over the world. The list could go on and on. Their are options for most every budget.

What’s the ideal length of time for an adventure vacation?

It depends how far you are going, how long it takes to get there, and what sort of adventure is planned. I think that nine days are about right, including two travel days. A full week on the ground gives you time to acclimate to the surroundings and to immerse yourself in the adventure.

Why do you like these kinds of vacations?

The world is getting smaller and smaller, so it is getting harder to find new experiences. Hotels, restaurants and shops are more the same than different in New York, London and Hong Kong, so it’s not so easy to get that sense of place you once did when traveling. But, if you look for the experiences – you might call them adventures – that define and differentiate a geography or a culture, and jump into them, you are more likely to appreciate a place and its people. I also find that my appreciation is greater if local experts are incorporated into the itinerary: a naturalist to take you on an early morning walk in the Costa Rican cloud forest to spot the elusive Quetzal, or a geologist to hike with you in Yellowstone and show you the hydrothermal pools, geysers and hot springs.

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Although Mary Ann adores her exhilarating holidays, she’s always happy to return to the comforts of home, and a happy husband. “It’s nice to relax for a few days and reflect on my adventures,” she said. Of course, there are multitudes of ways to decompress (even if you haven’t taken an active vacation). We loved the suggestions in this article on how to recover after an activity holiday.

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