A Dream of Adventure

We all have that big adventure we’ve really wanted to go on but have put off for one reason or another over the years. The opportunity will always be there, we tell ourselves. If there’s one thing we know after seeing life abruptly come to a halt, it’s that things can change in a hurry and nothing is truly guaranteed. Once it’s safe to travel again, it’s time to take that adventure. And the time to start dreaming about it and planning it is now.

As part of our “Travel Dreaming” series, Dr. Travel himself Paul Largay spoke with three people who know their way around an adventure: Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions, Don Martinson of Natural Habitat Adventures and Ashish Sanghrajka of Big Five Tours & Expeditions. They’ve always specialized in going off the beaten path to seek out what there is to discover in the remote areas of the world. With those places soon to be more sought out than ever, they’re the ones to turn to for an authentic and sustainable adventure. There’s no better time to get started with the planning and settle on the dates when more is certain. As Dr. Travel put it, “What coronavirus has not stopped is our curiosity, our need to know and, most importantly, our desire to dream.”

With that, our guests shared some of their favorite adventures, from polar bear viewing in Manitoba to gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda to getting up close and personal with Adelie penguins in Antarctica. Whatever your definition of adventure, these companies can accommodate it while making you feel comfortable at the same time.

Expeditions are not, “eating borscht and sleeping on a wooden pallet,” Bain said, Lindblad trips offer the opportunity to go on an exerting hike then have a great glass of wine when you get back. Martinson stressed the abundance of options on a Nat Hab trip. There are always activities for those who want them, but no one is left out if not feeling up to the challenge. For instance, on Nat Hab’s Yellowstone wolf quest photo adventure, participants have the option to snowshoe to Old Faithful or ride to the iconic geyser in a coach. Sanghrajka noted that on the same trip in Colombia, guests can paraglide then do a rum tasting with the mayor of Cartagena’s son. “It’s the stuff you can’t script that speaks to me,” he said.

While as Martinson said, if you walk across a football field unassisted, you can go on most of these trips, you might want to ease yourself into adventure, especially if you have young kids. The Galapagos is a great place to dip your toe in the water. “Each time you go, it’s a different experience,” Bain said. “It’s great for kids and a good precursor to Africa.” Martinson also recommends the Galapagos, along with national parks and Costa Rica for getting kids hooked on adventure and science. Sanghrajka relayed that he first took his kids to Guatemala, where the roasted marshmallows in steam from an active volcano before watching another spew lava from deep within the earth. “When your teacher asks what you did for summer vacation, you’re gonna win,” he told them.

As the kids get older and your family works it way up the adventure rung, you can discover places such as East Greenland, “a place that made me feel smaller than I’ve ever felt before” as he kayaked around huge icebergs and waterfalls in a transformative experience. While the guides are world-class and the accommodations comfortable, some places are hundreds of miles from the nearest five-star hotel. “It’s not about the thread count, it’s about the animal count,” Martinson said. If you’re an avid diver exploring the waters of the South Pacific, Bain noted, that’s where true luxury lies, in making a dream come true.

What remote adventures are on the horizon for when we can finally escape and get back out into the world? Bain recommends the Russian Far East and Northeast Passage from Norway to Nome. Martinson is keen on small-group and private excursions in America’s national parks. Sanghrajka is excited about northern Peru. “Kuelap is 1,000 years older than Machu Picchu and sees about 100 visitors on a busy day,” he said. “The third highest waterfall in the world is there. I can’t wait to get up there.”

We know we can’t wait to get out into the wide open spaces again and take the road less traveled. We’re thrilled to have partners who have blazing trails in these remote areas for years. “When you people say we’re going to want to get out of the box, I say we’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?”

The Best of Canada

Later this week, we’ll celebrate our own independence and the establishment of our country as the United States of America. There will be fireworks and cookouts and, for the fortunate among us, a four-day weekend. July 1 is when our neighbors to the north celebrate Canada Day, marking the unification of different British colonies into the Dominion of Canada. We thought we’d mark the occasion by praising some of our favorite spots in the Great White North.

Lake Louise

A spectacular emerald color thanks to glacial and rock runoff, Lake Louise in Alberta is a picture-perfect sight to behold. You could spend hours just gazing from the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. At almost 6,000 feet of elevation with mountains and trails all around, it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise year-round. In winter, there’s world-class skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog-sledding and sleigh rides. In summer, there’s canoeing, hiking and horseback riding, plus the ski gondolas remain in operation to whisk visitors over alpine meadows and babbling brooks.

Vancouver

The host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics serves as a launching point for cruises to Alaska and for the Rocky Mountaineer, one of the great train rides in the world. Nearby Whistler is a world-class ski destination. With all that going for it, Vancouver wouldn’t need much more to be considered a great city. But Vancouver has a lot more going on. The 1,000-acre Stanley Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world and has views for miles. Granville Island’s food scene has the best from all the cultures that have come to call this international city home.

Churchill

This Manitoba town is the Polar Bear Capital of the World and is also a great spot to see beluga whales and is a birder’s dream. If you’re lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Polar bear tours like the ones offered by Natural Habitat Adventures put you in the center of the action, visiting a den and watching the bears go about their daily routine from the comfort of the Polar Rover. There’s also ample opportunity to meet with First Nations cultures on the western shore of Hudson Bay and see an older way of life firsthand.

Quebec

About as close to Europe as you can get without crossing the Atlantic, the French Canadian province features two great cities in Montreal and Quebec City, separated by 160 miles of the St. Lawrence River. The old cities call to mind the charms of Paris, and in between is Trois-Rivieres, one of the first European settlements in North America. There are few sites as striking as Quebec City during the “blue hour” when evening sets in or dawn is on its way and the indirect sunlight makes the sky a dreamy shade of dark blue.

Toronto

Canada’s biggest city is a melting pot of cultures and sits just across Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls and Buffalo. At more than 1,800 feet, the CN Tower is the tallest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere and offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can take a stroll on the EdgeWalk atop the 36 Restaurant. For a dose of culture, head over to the Royal Ontario Museum with its mix of Romanesque and modern styles. Sports fans can get their fix at the Hockey Hall of Fame.