Newsweek article - September 2000
Ann Worthington, a work-at-home lawyer and mother in Capistrano Beach, Calif., rarely breaks away from her telecommute and Teletubby routine. So what was she doing last spring, sans husband and child, bungee-jumping off New Zealand's Kawarau Bridge? No, she wasn't caving in to domestic pressures. She was just embarking on a multi sport vacation, the latest adventure-travel trend. Leaving her husband at home with their toddler, Worthington spent the rest of her week hiking, biking and sea-kayaking across New Zealand's South Island.
Why such a frenetic vacation?
"I want to be moving at all times," she says.
Join the club. Worthington is just one of a growing number of people using vacations to test their limits and new muscle groups while traversing rain forests and mountains, rivers and the open sea. According to Adventure Travel Society statistics, active vacations have been increasing for decades, and now multi sports account for up to 14 percent of specialized adventure trips. Why would anybody want to cram so many sports into a single vacation? Many travelers are simply put off by the thought of spending a full week riding a bike, hiking a mountain or God forbid lying on a beach. "They want a little bit of everything, rather than just one week of one sport," says Debbie Shroeder, a travel agent specializing in adventure trips. "People don't want to feel they'll get bored."
Adventure outfitters are making sure there's no time for boredom. Active Adventures New Zealand, which arranged Worthington's trip, runs a two-week marathon that starts with three days of kayaking Queen Charlotte Sound or hiking mountainous terrain in Nelson Lakes National Park. The rest of the trip almost seems like Olympic training: canoeing, long-distance bike-riding and glacial hiking (they provide the crampons). But it's all optional, insists company founder Andrew Fairfax. "This is a vacation," he says. "We're not pushing people [into] anything."
In fact, multi-sporters tend to push themselves. Kellie Markovcy, an electrical engineer from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, considered taking a week-long kayaking trip. But she opted instead for an adrenaline-pumping itinerary offered by Outer Edge Expeditions' Borneo Sports Spectacular. "I like to be challenged," she says. Markovcy's two-week trip included spelunking, white-water rafting, sea-kayaking and a two-day ascent of Southeast Asia's highest peak, 13,454-foot Mount Kinabalu. Bill Barrios, a Pittsburgh graphic designer who also survived the Borneo adventure, hinted at the toll of the trip's pace. "It was horrible at the time," says Barrios, laughing, "but afterwards you wanted to do it again."
Not every trip is designed to be daunting. Dan Austin founded Adventures Plus three years ago to offer multi-sport trips for vacationers "who may not have been on a bike in 20 years." His tours to Alaska, Montana, the Grand Tetons and the Canadian Rockies combine instruction, short distances and plenty of pampering, including snack breaks of sliced melon served on silver trays. "We can introduce people to activities and they don't have to commit a full week," Austin says. They also don't have to participate in every activity. These trips aren't cheap. But for Lynn Wall, a Minnesota letter carrier who went on an eight-day Adventure Plus trip to Montana, it was well worth the $1,700 fee (for meals, lodging and equipment, but not airfare).
"I never could have planned it myself," she says. "I wouldn't know where to go or how to get around." That's the selling point of increasingly complex itineraries such as Untamed Path's two-week backpack, mountain-bike arid white-water-rafting trip that begins in the Andes and ends in the Amazon, with stops in remote villages and lectures on local customs scheduled to break up the breakneck pace. "People in the working world may be fairly active but they don't have the time to put together a two-week trip," notes owner Jen Hamar. "We know what to do if the van breaks down."
But the vacationers often don't know what to do when it's time to pack up and go home. Ron Locklear, a regular runner, hiker and biker, left Tampa, Fla., in July for a KB Mountain Adventures trip in Colorado to "prove something" to himself on his 40th birthday. After a week of Outward Bound-style action, the Harley-riding construction manager proved he was a softie, bonding with his "bunk" of fellow vacationers. "We met in a lobby Monday morning as strangers and by the end of the week we're in tears because we have to leave one another," he recalls. Somehow, the adventure guides never talk about this final hurdle: the emotional hangover.
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