I recently had a chance to talk to Chris Ronneseth of Trek Holidays (see interview preview) who gave me a good overview of adventure travel, an area of travel I definitely would like to explore sooner than later…1. Tell us how you got into the adventure travel business.I grew up around travel. My father, Allan Ronneseth founded the company in 1972 and with a passion to see the world in a different way than the norm, we had the opportunity to travel to countries that were considered exotic at that time and to some extent still are today. Venturing out on my own traveling while attending University I became more and more passionate about the world beyond North America. With a degree in marketing, I ventured off first to New York and later to Toronto working in sales and marketing for technology companies during the tech boom. Having learned the skill of sales in an industry outside of travel but backed with an upbringing rooted in adventure travel, I made the progression to heading up sales in Eastern Canada for the family business where I now provide support to our network of travel agents across Eastern Canada as well as compiling our monthly newsletter on adventure travel trends.2. What countries have you traveled to?Africa: Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Egypt, MoroccoEurope: UK, Greenland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, AustriaAsia: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hong KongSouth Pacific: Australia, Cook Islands, Tonga, FijiAmericas: Canadian High Arctic, USA, Mexico, Jamaica, Cayman Islands,Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia3. Please share with us your top three travel memories of all times.A. Peru -The last descent into Machu Picchu on the famed Inca Trail from the Sun Gate after seeing sunrise over the site, being the first to enter the site at daybreak and having a feeling of peace, harmony and strong magic in the air.B. Vietnam – Travelling the countryside of Vietnam by motorbike and stumbling upon a hidden and seldom visited Buddhist Monastery resulting in a three-hour visit with a young Buddhist monk learning and understanding each other’s ways.C. Namibia – Skydiving at sunset at Swakopmund on the coast where the Atlantic Ocean meets the blood-red sand dunes for as far as the eye can see. One of the most tranquil moments of my life.4. What is adventure travel and how has it evolved over the last few decades?Adventure travel used to mean high adventure back when the company was founded in the seventies, it was time when the ‘hippie-trail’ was hot and buses used to travel across Asia from London to Kathmandu with itineraries that were largely invented along the way. Today it is about the small group experience and about experiencing a destination rather than simply seeing it. It is about participation and understanding of cultures, history and customs and being able to take that experience away as enrichment to your daily life.5. Who goes on your adventure travel tours and why? What is the age, gender, nationality and income level of the people that go on your tours?Adventure travel is largely about the passion to do it. For this reason it crosses boundaries of age, gender and income since the common goal of the travelers is the experience regardless of their life at home. However the largest demographic for us and the most important growth demographic is the baby-boomers who have experienced the traditional beach vacation several times over and now have the time and disposable income to travel to more exotic destinations. Nationality is generally made up of largely English-speaking nations with the makeup in order of numbers being Brits, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Americans, some mainland Europe, some Latin American countries and the odd Asian traveler.We offer more than 120 countries worldwide generally just about everywhere. However countries currently deemed to be unsafe for travel (eg. Iraq, Afghanistan) are not included but we expect they will be in the years to come as the situation stabilizes.7. What type of accommodation is offered?We offer generally speaking anything from 2 star budget accommodation to 6 star lodge experiences in Africa and everything in between. However what is common to all places we stay is that they must be clean, comfortable, centrally-located and most important have character that is reflective of the destination.8. How do these tours work for single travellers? Do you provide a travel-mate matching service? What happens if I prefer single accommodation?Our tours are designed with single travellers in mind. In fact 50% of all our travellers come by themselves. We match people up of the same gender and like age to share and avoid charging them a supplement. If clients prefer their own room, we can do this on approximately 60% of the tours, usually the more upmarket ones, but at a rate that is fair and affordable.9. What about meals?Depending on the trip we generally include breakfasts and some dinners but almost never lunch as many people like to be out at midday making their own discoveries. However when trekking or in the countryside or where alternatives do not exist we will always include meals.10. What are the unique benefits of adventure tours as compared to other types of travel?A sense of achievement, quality of experience, traveling with a small group of just ten people on average, generally better value than comparable bus tours, camaraderie with individuals that share a passion for this type of travel.11. What type of activities are offered in your tours?Sightseeing is a major part of every tour but beyond that we want to include as many cultural experiences as possible such as homestays with local families, village visits, etc. We also have many optional activities available such rafting, sailing, jeep safaris, day treks, etc.12. Is there such a thing as adventure tours for families?We now have tours built especially for families to travel with other families where children are age six and up. There is a large demographic of ‘late-starter’ families who never had children until in their 30s. Many of these people traveled with us in their 20s or backpacked independently and now want to give that experience to their children. They are not interested in introducing them to the ‘coca-cola’ culture pervasive in today’s society. These have been met with great success.13. Please share with us practical advice for someone who’s never tried adventure travel.Safety is a state of mind. Most people who elect not to travel to exotic destinations do so because of a fear for their safety while in the destination. If you heed the advice of your tour leader and be practical almost any destination in the world can provide a safe, secure and memorable experience. Where we have had problems with safety it has almost always been a disregard for common sense and advice. Don’t be afraid of experiencing other cultures, you will almost always find that your curiosity will be the best guide though it all and that same curiosity will be reciprocated by the people we meet along the way. It is about learning and understanding other people as much as they need to understand us. It really does shrink the world. Our second biggest problem would be dehydration, when traveling to hot, dry countries or where activity is involved such as trekking ensure you drink lots of water!14. How much time do you travel yourself these days?Generally 5 or 6 weeks a year. It is imperative to my sales knowledge and experience and I owe it to my customers to be the expert in what we do! All of our employees are given wonderful travel opportunities which goes straight to our company motto: Expert advice from those who have been there!15. Where are you going next?I plan this year on escorting a trip back to Egypt in April, to South Africa in May to experience some of our new properties we work with and to hopefully take a side trip to Mozambique. Later in the year I plan to make my way to Turkey and the Patagonian outdoors In Chile & Argentina.Thanks, Chris, for all your information, and have fun on your trips!
There is nothing like the thrill of exploring and discovering other peoples and cultures as we travel the world. However, there is a serious side to travel. Visiting a foreign country also means that we are exposed to bacterias and viruses that we may otherwise not come into contact with in our own country. This is why travel inoculation is so important. In many cases, it can save our lives.The subject of travel inoculation causes great amounts of confusion and anxiety in many travelers. The type of travel inoculation required will greatly depend on the time of the year that you will be traveling and the geography of the destination that you will be traveling to (e.g. rural, urban or forested areas). Nevertheless, it’s extremely important to be aware of what can be contracted in different parts of the world.Cholera can be caught from contaminated food, particularly shellfish and water. Symptoms include severe diahrrea and vomiting. Cholera immunisation is no longer necessary for international travelers. However immunisation against Cholera for aid workers staying for long periods in known high risk areas, or those who have an underlying gastro-intestinal condition, is highly recommended. Countries: African, Indian, Far East, Central and South American subcontinents, and parts of Eastern EuropeHepatitis A can be contracted through contaminated food, water and personal contact. It is associated with poor hygiene and sanitation. Symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea. Travel inoculation of combined Hepatitis A and B, or Hepatitis A and Typhoid, should be given 2 weeks prior to departure. Countries: African, Indian, Far East, Central and South American subcontinents, and parts of Eastern EuropeHepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver which can be fatal. This disease can be contracted through contact with infected blood (e.g. in drug transfusion), bodily fluids (e.g. in sexual intercourse), blood-to-blood contact (e.g. sharing of contaminated needles), or by a human bite from an infected person. Hepatitis B is easier to catch than HIV as it is more concentrated in the infected person’s bloodstream and can exist on surfaces outside the body. Travel inoculation is administered in 3 doses, the second dose administered one month after the first, and the third dose administered five months later. Once a blood test proves your immunity, you will be protected for life. A combined Hepatitis A and B inoculation is available. Countries: Sub-Saharan Africa, most of Asia and the Pacific Islands, the Amazon:Japanese Encephalitis is a disease that is passed on to humans through bites from infected mosquitos normally in tropical surroundings. The symptoms are mild, although in severe cases, the disease can cause brain inflammation. Travel inoculation should be administered one month prior to travel in 3 doses. Countries: Far East, South-East Asia, tropical North-East AustraliaMalaria is a tropical disease that is passed on to humans by mosquitos carrying this virus. Symptoms appear 10 days to 4 weeks after infection and include fever, chills, flu-like symptoms of muscular aches and headaches, diarrhea and nausea. A course of anti-malarial tablets must be started up to 3 weeks prior to departure, should continue to be taken abroad, and taken for a further 4 weeks after return. Extra precautions such as mosquito nets and insect repellants must be used as the tablets are not 100% effective. Countries: Africa, South and Central America, Asia and Middle EastTyphoid fever is the result of a bacteria contracted from contaminated food, water and person to person contact in areas where hygiene is poor. Causing fever, diarrhoea, and serious illness, Typhoid can be fatal. The inoculation should be administered one month prior to departure. However, care should still be taken with food (e.g. do not eat fruit unless you have pealed it yourself), water(e.g. drinking only bottled water with seal intact) and personal hygiene as the travel inoculation is not 100% effective. A combined Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccine is available. Countries: Africa, South and Central America, Asia and Middle EastYellow fever is a serious viral disease that is found only in tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa and is also spread by mosquito bites. Symptoms include headache, vomiting, jaundice and bleeding. This disease can be fatal, and some countries, particularly East Africa, require a certificate of vaccination prior to entry. The travel inoculation should be administered 10 days prior to departure date and lasts for 10 years. Countries: Africa, South and Central America, Asia and Middle EastMeningococcal Meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis that affects the brain membrane. This infection can be spread by direct close contact with nose and throat discharge (e.g. through sneezing) of an infected person. Symptoms include high fevers, severe headaches, discomfort when looking at bright lights, purple bruising, vomiting and sometimes chills or fever. There are 3 strains of the disease that are not covered in the common preventative immunisations commonly vaccinated for in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand. These uncommon strains, A, W, and Y, can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa, Northern India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia requires vaccination of pilgrims to Mecca during the Hajj. Travel Inoculation should be administered 3 weeks prior to trip. Countries: Sub-Saharan Africa, Northern India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Saudi ArabiaPoliomyelitis (Polio) is caused by a virus that can be contracted from contaminated food and water and person to person contact. Particularly common in Indian subcontinents and sub-Saharan Africa, those infected are often unaware of that they have the disease. In severe cases, it can cause paralysis and difficulty in breathing. Polio is immunised against in countries like the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand. However, as a preventative measure, check with your doctor prior to your trip for a booster dose. Countries: Indian subcontinents and sub-Saharan AfricaTick-borne encephalitis is a disease that is passed on to humans from bites of infected ticks (e.g. while hiking or camping in Spring or Summer). This disease causes brain inflammation, and can at times even be contracted through unpasteurised milk. The symptoms are flu-like. Short term travel incoculation against this disease is available from your doctor. Countries: Heavily forested areas of Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, parts of ChinaRabies is a virus that is spread by the bite of an infected animal, most commonly a dog, and it commonly fatal. A dog with rabies can be recognised by foaming or drooling from the mouth and highly aggressive behaviour. Symptoms include extreme thirst, spasms, fear of water and paralysis. Doctors recommend preventative travel inoculation against this disease when traveling to areas where medical attention may not be readily available. Countries: All regions of the world where medical attention not available.All travelers should assess their own risk by considering the nature of their travel, and while travel inoculations work, travelers must never assume that they are 100% effective all the time. That is why every health and hygiene precaution must still be taken in preventing the illness. A successful trip depends equally on the preparation we make ahead of the trip and the precautions that we take while we are on our journey.