The Face of Adventure Travel
Adventure travel is, by definition, “a vacation or trip to a natural environment or remote place with the specific purpose of active physical participation and exploration of a new experience.” The level of challenge in the activities vary, but if you are passionate about outdoor travel and find yourself spending most of your travel time as well as budget on these types of experiences, you fall within the group of adventure traveler.
When looking at what the media considers to be an adventure traveler he generally is male, white, and muscular/thin. They can be a woman too, but still she is white and thin. Marketers envision younger backpackers and trekkers of summits who enjoy physically challenging expeditions and like to sleep in mud huts, tents, hostels and side road motels.
It is true that an adventure traveler is one who is generally a risk-taker and curious by nature and who tends to want to push themselves physically and mentally as part of their travel experience. But adventure travel is as diverse as those who partake in it.
The idea that an adventure traveler is mostly represented by the financially strapped, backpacking white male is not representative of growing trends.
A 2014 study from the Adventure Tourism Market revealed that 57% of adventure travelers are female and though enjoying the outdoors doesn’t have to be expensive, most experiences these travelers enjoy are. For example in 2015 a permit to summit Mt. Everest was about $11,000 per person and that’s not including all the gear and transportation. On the other spectrum, a less aggressive sport, i.e. “soft adventure” experience can average about $2,000. I am currently planning a trip to a national park with my family (2 adults and 2 kids) to which we are driving and when I add on the nature tours (not hiking), hotel (we aren’t camping), and car rental, the cost is close to $1,000 per person. Though lodging choices are often limited to the options available for each activity, the growing number of adventure traveler has a disposable income for more lucrative lodging options (i.e., glamping, high-end lodges and cabins, etc.).
Some have said that our communities of color don’t have the financial resources to spend on what it costs to take on this travel style. I would agree that for populations of color, especially in urban areas, commuting to national parks or other rural sites is a logistical and costly challenge. There are also social issues and concerns that tend to intimidate and inhibit a person of color’s choice to venture out in to rural areas. But this is changing.
There is a growing demand for group travel among the communities of color, a trend which has been consistent among Latinos especially. A 2014 survey by ThinkNow revealed that out of the 79 percent Americans who are likely to take an annual vacation, 47 percent of those are Hispanics likely to fly somewhere domestically. We’re also big spenders. Overall Latinos spend $2,359 dollars on average on U.S. vacations, more than $350 above what the average non-Hispanic family spends. That difference is greater among families that earn more than $100,000 a year. Tops destinations of choice also happen to represent some of the top adventure travel destinations: Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Canada and Central America.
African-American travel has increased by 30 percent in the past three years, with 60 percent of the target group taking at least five overnight trips and two-thirds of those traveling spending no less than $2,000.
When you take into consideration the growing number of female travelers in the adventure travel space and the increasing rates as well as the spending power of minority travelers, one has to wonder, why aren’t marketers talking to us? Why aren’t bloggers and journalists of color present in the familiarization tours?
Women of color, the fastest growing segment in adventure travel market
If you look at what is promoted, I am not representative of what an adventure traveler is believed to be. Though I am lover of hiking, camping, swimming and am always seeking out experiences that are culturally raw and authentic, I am not male, nor white, and I am overweight. Not only does this segment of the travel media not cater nor market to me, I have encountered issues with tour guides who have preconceived notions on my interests and abilities, perceptions that have negatively influenced my experiences. Were it not for the fact that I really, truly, love the outdoors, adventure travel – though granted, primarily in the “soft” category – and exploring nature, I would have easily been dissuade from pursuing it further. I would have easily stated what so many others have stated before me, “This is not for people like me.” Lack of representation in marketing outreach and in press coverage, compounded with negative stereotypes and preconceived ideologies explain why it may often seem like we aren’t out there.
It’s easy to say they don’t see us. Actually, that has been the excuse for a long time. However, my social media streams, from Facebook to Instagram, are filled with women of color traveling the world, taking on adventure travel and exploring the outdoors. I was fortunate to meet several of them during the 2013 American Latino Expedition that I took part in. But just in case you might have missed us, here are a few ladies that prove that the face of adventure travel is far more diverse than many think.
Tausha Cowan, TheGlobeGetter.com
My story: Over the years, I’ve grown to love and embrace the outdoor/adventure lifestyle. I feel stronger and more attuned to my body, and the fresh air renews my soul. It’s an addictive feeling that keeps me going back for more. I love Blyde River Canyon in South Africa. The runner-up would be the Blue Mountains in Australia.
Ana Serafin, TravelingLatina.com
My story: I fell in love with outdoor travel when I went on my first trip to La Gran Sabana in Venezuela when I was 11 years old with my father. La Gran Sabana is in the southern region of Venezuela and borders with Brazil. La Gran Sabana is part of the second largest National Park in Venezuela. This National Park has some of the worlds most unusual landscapes, with rivers, waterfalls, miles and miles of valleys, and the one thing the park is the most famous for- its isolated table-top mesas locally known as tepuis. Some might have had a glimpse of these Tepuis by watching the Pixar movie “Up.”
It was tough to make a decision surrounding my favorite outdoor spot; so I am going to share my top two spots: Point Lobos, California and Olympic National Park. Both places are absolutely magical in its own ways – Point Lobos is designed by numerous cliffs crushing on top of the Pacific Ocean, which makes this state park very unique and stunning; Olympic National Park provides you the chance to experience a variety of climates all in one large park: Pacific Ocean beaches, breathtaking mountain ranges and beautiful moth forests (which can make you feel like you are in an enchanted Disney movie).
Michaela Hall, AweInclusive.com
My story: Five years ago, I couldn’t imagine myself skiing, camping, and hiking. I thought that those types of activities were for “other” people. Now, I can’t imagine missing out on the amazing opportunities I’ve enjoyed while outdoors. If you’re on the fence, just go for it. You might not see anyone who looks like you, but believe me, people are watching. You’re destroying barriers and encouraging others. Go You! My favorite outdoor spot is Glacier National Park.
Lola Akinmade Åkerström, LolaAkinmade.com
My story: The draw I feel to polar regions started as a pre-teen growing up in Nigeria. Geography was and still remains my favorite subject and I remember tracing fingers across northern latitudes and the North Pole etched across the map saying to myself, “one day…”. When an opportunity to possibly explore the North Pole came two decades later through a competition (www.lolagoesnorth.com), even close friends held back their votes asking me “Why?”. Why would a black African woman find the North Pole exciting?
They would later email me their apologies when I missed the opportunity by only three votes. Their votes.
Because for me, polar regions are a physical manifestation of strength and humility. Of quiet confidence. A constant reminder that the world in all its beauty is so much bigger than our bubbles. That there are continent-shaping forces and energies all around us that we need to acknowledge in humility. While I still haven’t reached the North or South Poles yet, I have spent a lot of time in Northern Sweden and Lapland, that part of the world, its vastness, and isolation forces me to stop, full absorb the moment, and respect nature.
It continues to keep me humble.
Chelle Roberts, BrownGirlsFly.com
My story: My love for the great outdoors came from my parents. During the warmer months, my dad would use any excuse to get outside — impromptu trips to a cabin in the woods, weekend lunch in the park, time by the ocean. And, our mom is a teacher who always filled our ears with stories about earth science and biology. By the time we hit our teens, my siblings and I had been camping a dozen times with the Scouts or the Pathfinders (our church youth group). As an adult, my lifestyle is what I’d call “urban with a dash of nature.” As much as I love the cosmopolitan life big cities offer, I don’t feel balanced unless I get a regular dose of hiking, whale watching or just sitting by the ocean with salty breezes kissing my face. That’s one of the things I love about living on the West Coast now. It’s so easy to move between the urban and the natural. Pictured here is the reward after hiking to the top of Diamond Head volcanic crater — a stunning view of downtown Honolulu.
Heather Greenwood Davis, GlobetrottingMama.com
My story: I always thought hiking was a big deal. It required special shoes and a love of nature and I had neither. Then, as part of a story, I took a walk through the woods in the Pacific Northwest with the family a few years ago. I loved it. As an introvert, the long periods of silence, the moments open for reflection and the fresh air, all appealed to me. The kids loved it too. We’d all get caught up in the sights and smells and suddenly there was more hand holding, log sitting and stone skipping in our lives. We could exhale. When I got back to the eco-lodge we were staying at, the manager asked how I’d enjoyed the “hike.” I corrected him (“It was just a walk”) and then he corrected me. (“That’s all a hike is.”) I’ve been a “hiker” ever since. Most recently through the National Parks of Hawaii (pictured). What’s not to love?”
Travel is changing, including the face of adventure travel. She is of color, strong, ambitious, with spending power, and pretty badass regardless of her age or size and it’s time people took notice.
Thank you to all the kick-ass adventurers who contributed to this piece. Keep scaling those mountains, ladies!
Yay! Love this list and also wanted to add someone I found on Instagram: http://www.motravels.com/ She’s an expat and I love following her global adventures as much as yours!
Yes! I love Monique! She\’s wonderful.
This post really hits home for me. For sure there are as many faces of adventure travel as there are adventures! When talking in a class about how she loves to backpack, my oldest daughter’s teacher announced that he “wasn’t able to connect her pretty face with her liking to go backpacking.” What the heck? I love seeing women of all colors and types outside. Tricia from http://www.roadtriptheworld.com
I can relate to that Tricia. As a Latina the expectation and pressure is to be pretty and fashionable. Look up \”Latina Bloggers\” and most of us are rocking it in the culinary space, fashion space, and even beauty space. My struggle has always been in that I have always been a tomboy, feel ridiculously out of character in a dress and though I wear make up, it\’s never been a lot, nor my obsession (same with food). I love the outdoors. I love getting dirty and sweating and keeping up with whatever the boys are doing. It\’s always been my thing. Tell your daughter there are tons of pretty faces out here being rock star adventurers and scaling mountains!
This write up has truly inspired me to travel…not just travel….travel wide and enjoy it all the way!!! I am inspired by all but most especially Lola’s story. As a Nigerian breed too, who also loved Geography (though I hated the calculation parts…lol!), traveling is like a ‘fairy-tale’ especially for women down here in Africa. But I love the way the “glass ceiling” is breaking for both women and women of color. It is exciting!!! Thanks for this piece of information, Carol.
Thank you for your comment Nnennaya! These women and so many others inspire me daily to pursue my dreams, as a traveler, as a woman, as a mother even when there is not other representation out there encouraging us or reaching out to us as consumers. Live out your passions, be someone\’s motivation to pursue what they love.