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The Mature Traveler

Discovering Excitement on the Adventure Trail

September 21, 1986|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks.

The fascination and lure of adventure travel--where you drop your Walter Mitty life style and take off like Indiana Jones--is not the special province of the young.

Many mature travelers are the meat and potatoes of the adventure travel market. They ski, scuba dive, go on treks, sail, run rapids and enjoy almost all other physical travel pursuits for pleasure, satisfaction and fulfillment.

While the mature traveler can be pinned down to age 50 or 55 and over, the term adventure travel is more difficult to define.

It can be as challenging as mountain climbing in Nepal, as rugged as taking a camel safari across the Sahara. Or it can be the more placid exploit of an African photo safari by Volkswagen van, or a Western covered wagon tour, complete with rubber wheels and a roll-along bathroom.

Pseudo-Adventure Trips

There are dozens and dozens of other adventure trips in between, plus another whole gray area of pseudo-adventure trips known in the travel industry as special interest travel.

These include bird watching, archeological digs, whale watching, gem hunting and gold panning in addition to a wide variety of other tours that focus on everything from anthropology to yoga.

No one rules out the mature traveler from adventure travel or the many special interest trips. It's just that the major mature travel tour wholesalers and travel companies rarely offer adventure tours per se. They stick, for the most part, to the time-tested motor-coach tours to well-established destinations.

The mature traveler looking for adventure travel ideas or offbeat special interest trips had best look elsewhere. A good place to start is a knowledgeable travel agent.

Adventure travel is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry these days and good agents keep abreast of such trends to best serve their clients. Most agents, for example, must have read a recent industry report that said the fantasy trips for Americans focused on such things as African safaris, white-water rafting, camping in the wilderness and riding in a hot-air balloon.

If your travel agent can't come up with ideas, or if you are just starting to look for something different from the usual motor-coach tour or air/sea cruise, you may want to look at a dandy little magazine called the Specialty Travel Index.

Now in its sixth year, the twice-a-year magazine costs $3 an issue, for about 80 pages filled with more than 150 adventure trips and special interest tours and activities.

World-Wide Destinations

In addition to the adventure trips and special interest activities cited above, it has dozens and dozens more to all sorts of worldwide destinations.

You'll find such tour companies as Adventures Unlimited, Amazonia Expeditions, Buddy Bombard's Balloon Adventures, Excursions Extraordinaires, High Desert Adventures, Ocean Escapes and still others that get the adventure juices flowing.

But there are others that focus on gourmet cooking tours, wine tasting trips and fashion tours, and others on art, opera or cultural expeditions. There are tours strictly for gays, nudists, businessmen or women only. There are well over a thousand types.

Basically, the magazine is just a compilation of the tour brochures of the many companies, usually with a few enticing paragraphs about their offerings (mostly without prices), but with complete information on where to get more free information.

The guide is indexed both by activity--such as photography, wine tasting, etc.--and by geographic location.

Originally the publication was started as a resource guide for travel agents. Indeed, many agents still use it as a reference. The guide has now been offered to the public and the cost for one year (the spring/summer and fall/winter issues) is $5 from Specialty Travel Index, Dept. 13-C, 9 Mono Ave., Fairfax, Calif. 94930.

Each year the company also puts out a larger paperback book, the Adventure Travel Catalogue. This year's issue, published by Simon & Schuster, has 382 pages with more than 600 adventure travel and special interest vacation ideas and several thousand variations. More than 400 tour operators are listed, complete with addresses and phone numbers.

The subjects are roughly the same as covered in the Specialty Travel Index, each trip briefly described, but with prices or, at least, guidelines for some idea of the tour cost.

The Adventure Travel Catalogue may be found in most bookstores for $14.95. It is also available from the address above for the same price (personal check or money order), postage included.

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