What do you like best about traveling with REI?
"I like a good cultural experience," says Rob, "and you seem to find the niches and the small places that are off the beaten path." Also, Rob gives high marks to the food. "When you're exercising, you can eat what you want. And the food is really good."
What REI Adventures trips have you taken?
Croatia multisport, Kenai Fjords, Amazon Lodge, Provence bike, Thailand multisport, Trinidad and Tobago, Greek Island Hopper, Baja multisport, Tour de Mont Blanc, and Belize multisport.
What was your most memorable REI trip?
Rob's credits his most recent trip to Croatia as possibly one of the best trips he's taken with REI Adventures. "So many facets to it. The scenery, the outdoors piece, and the adventure part, the food was phenomenal and the people were friendly."
Where are you going next?
Rob's already booked for his next REI Adventures trip, this time to Death Valley. "I'm hooked!" says Rob.
What tips do you have for prospective travelers?
"People make travel too big of a deal," explains Rob. "Whenever I tell people I've been here and there, they're thinking 'wow! How'd you do that? Man that's crazy.' But it's not as crazy as you think," says Rob. "Get your credit card out, bring the right gear and have a good attitude. My advice to them is that ninety percent of the battle is you booking it."
First time traveler
What was your REI group travel experience like?
"I didn't know what to expect. For the most part, I liked it. Which says a lot because I'm kind of a loner. It was actually nice to have people that you joined up with at the end of the day for drinks and dinner."
What REI Adventures trips have you taken?
Tour du Mont Blanc.
What was your favorite thing about traveling with REI Adventures?
"For an area I'm not familiar with, it's great," says Barbara. She also added that it was great to have a native-speaking guide. "I have limited French, and it really helped."
How did the REI guides manage different ability levels?
"I was worried about being the weak link, and that I wouldn't be able to keep up," says Barbara. Once on the trip, she discovered that this wasn't a problem. "There were different fitness levels within the group, and differences in the amount people wanted to hike. The guides handled it really well. They split the group, and we joined up at the end of the day."
Did you stay in touch with people from the group?
"I've actually kept in touch with a few people from the trip, and am planning to travel again with them later. I totally didn't expect this. We're still in touch, six months later, which took me by surprise!"
Would you recommend travel with REI Adventures?
"I've been saying to everybody, that it was such a great trip." Barbara herself came to REI Adventures on the recommendation of friends. "A couple of friends had traveled with REI Adventures. Biking in France, and another trip similar to Mont Blanc," she explains. "Both people had wonderful things to say, and I felt like I couldn't go wrong."
Would you travel with REI Adventures again?
"Oh my gosh, yeah! I know that I'm going to travel with REI Adventures again, I'm positive of it." Barbara confesses she has already had her eye on a Nepal trip.
Joyce & Gary D.
Where have you traveled with REI Adventures?
Joyce is a fairly recent convert to REI Adventures, with travels to Turkey, Tuscany, Puglia, Provence and the Greek islands, all since 2006.
What's the best thing about traveling with REI Adventures?
"There have been a number of times where the guides have had a personal connection to the people or a place, which makes it special." Explains Joyce, "In Greece we were going to a church and the guide stopped at a stand and bought a little container. She told us that if her grandmother knew she had been to the area and hadn't brought her some holy water she'd be in big trouble."
Were you hesitant to travel with a group?
"Yes. But we talked to three people who had done REI trips, and they all thought they were great. So we decided to risk it, and it worked out great."
How did group travel help you?
"We had never been to a non-English-speaking country besides Mexico, so we were nervous about going to Europe because I know just a little bit of a few languages. Knowing we would have a guide and that there would be someone there to help us really eased our worries."
Were there differences in activity level within the group?
"There were definitely differences within the group," explains Joyce. "In Provence, there were only four of us and I was the best cyclist. So there were times where I was cycling all on my own because I was faster than the rest of the group. But it was nice because I knew there were people with my husband. It made it nice for both of us."
Any other highlights from your travels with REI Adventures?
"It's amazing how hard the guides work to make it all appear seamless. You get to a place, a van is waiting to pick you up, it takes you to dinner, you arrive at your hotel and your luggage is there and you don't have to worry about it. It's so nice."
Do you have any future plans to travel with REI Adventures?
"Yes. Possibly the Dunes to Delta (Africa) trip."
What made this destination special to share with your family? Why did you choose Africa?
"We wanted our family to see the magic of African wildlife while it is still possible and wanted them to have a life-long memory and be aware of what we need to take care of in the world."
Why did you choose a private trip and what modifications, if any, were made to accommodate everyone in your group?
"Our group consisted of four adults and five children. Our guide made it all work. He organized us, fed us child-friendly food and amused us with wonderful stories. Game drives were scheduled a bit later in the day so we would not have to get everyone up as early, and the guides understood the need for many pit stops for little girls (and also how to avoid lions at those times!)"
Tell us about your guides. How did they make a difference in your experience?
"Simon, a former big-game hunter turned conservationist and guide, made the trip. His innate sense of the place and skills at tracking wildlife resulted in us seeing so many animals. He taught us how to read tracks and made us all feel very secure even though we did not stay in established camps, but out in the bush. He also showed us how to respect and fall in love with the country. And we all felt this way, even the children."
What were the highlights of the trip: For you? For your kids? Your grandkids?
"The biggest impression for me was the total isolation of our camps—no phones, no other people, no planes overhead—which allowed us to adapt totally to the environment and become a part of it. It was very real in that you had to play by nature's rules—there is real danger in being a part of the food chain and you have to take care to keep your eyes on your kids and not stray past camp.
The kids still talk about sitting by the campfire, sleeping in the tents at night and seeing the elephants. Once we saw a pair of adult elephants helping support their tiny baby, still pink around the ears, with their trunks."
Any final advice you would give to families considering doing a big adventure together?
"Go for it! Open up your heart and go see the world. Kids are more adaptable than we think they are, and if the parents set up the right expectations and allow kids to make their own conclusions they won't be as likely to be anxious in a strange environment."