WASHINGTON — Gone are the days when windsurfing, parasailing or zip-lining qualified as a unique vacation adventure. Today’s travelers are upping the ante and redefining what it means to live it up.
Laura Powell, travel expert and writer for The Daily Suitcase, says the latest craze doesn’t involve jetting off to the most exotic locations — it’s all about collecting experiences.
“The world is pretty much open to all, so in order to have that different kind of adventure, you need to have a unique experience, as opposed to going to a unique place,” she says.
And throughout that experience, collecting the best photos, composing the best tweets and checking in at the most interesting locations is imperative.
“I think that everyone now is trying to outdo everyone else — to do something more and more unique,” Powell says.
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Travel with your taste buds
While some prefer to soak up a city’s culture with museums and historic sites, others prefer to slurp it up with authentic bowls of ramen and heaping servings of pasta.
Food tourism is a booming industry, and there are more options available for tourists looking to get a taste — or a sip — of foreign destinations.
“Whereas it used to be you [could go] to a cooking school, now you can participate,” Powell says.
In Italy, travelers can tour a pasta factory; Switzerland offers a variety of cheese and chocolate tours; and tourists in Bangkok can ride a row boat through a traditional floating market or take a midnight Tuk Tuk ride to some of the city’s beloved eateries.
But you don’t have to sign up for a tour to get an authentic food experience. Companies such as Home Food and Bookalokal make it possible for travelers to dine in the home of an Italian family or attend a themed dinner party hosted by locals.
Cruise the water by night and bike paths by day
One cruise company is rocking the boat with its nontraditional tours.
By night, guests who sign up for the adventure option can dine and sleep on the boat as it travels up the Danube River through five countries. During the day, they’re led on biking and/or hiking adventures with Backroads tour guides, Powell says.
The routes and itineraries through the Wachau Valley, which is known for its rieslings and Gruner Veltliners, and along the Donauradweg, or the Danube bike path, range to accommodate all cycling and hiking abilities.
Powell says while the bike and cruise adventure is currently limited to the Danube, AmaWaterways plans to expand the new adventure to rivers throughout Europe and Asia in 2016.
A new degree of adventure
From Canada to Copenhagen, ice bars and ice hotels were all the rage in the early to mid-2000s.
“All of the sudden, everywhere that has a cold winter had an ice hotel,” Powell says.
But a chilling new destination is taking the excitement over ice structures to a whole new level. In June, travelers will be able to walk into the ice tunnels and caves of Langjökull, Europe’s second largest glacier.
“What they’ve done is they’ve burrowed out a tunnel within the glacier, so that people can actually go ice tunneling in the middle of a glacier,” Powell says. “While you can also walk on top of a glacier and even sometimes do ATV adventures on glaciers in Iceland, now you can literally walk inside.”
Peek inside the tunnels of Langjökull:
In a constantly connected world where it’s hard to escape work, no matter how many miles are between you and the office, it’s no surprise that some travelers are in need of a little peace and quiet on vacation. And the travel industry is taking notice.
“Another thing people are really interested in experiencing these days is nothing,” Powell says. She adds: “Silence tourism is kind of the next big thing. They’re finding there’s a big demand for a place where people can get away, they can walk in nature, and they may not necessarily have access to Wi-Fi and cell service.”
“Silence, please,” is the slogan on the official travel site for Finland. It’s accompanied by recommended escapes to remote lakeside cottages, igloo huts in the middle of the forest and foraging tours through the Finnish forest.
Closer to home, Powell recommends the Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada. Along with its five-star accommodations, the inn comes with a sense of peace and quiet.