Marian Marbury loves to travel and loves the outdoors. Five years ago
she combined these two interests and began her own business, Adventures
in Good Company, offering other women the opportunity to have adventure
travel experiences of their own.

Joan Ruuska, 60, a database maintainer at the Federal Reserve Board,
recently took Marbury\’s “Winter Medley” trip to Minnesota and is now
looking forward to more adventure trips in the future.

“It was the most exhilarating vacation I have ever had,” says Ruuska,
who lives in Bowie. “I\’m originally from New England and have always
enjoyed the winter season, but I had never gone snowshoeing,
cross-country skiing, or dogsledding…To dogsled in the wilderness over
snow-covered trails and on frozen lakes was an experience I will never
forget.”

“Winter Medley” is just one of the trips Marbury, 52, offers. You can
also hike, canoe, sea kayak, rock climb, backpack, and horseback ride,
in destinations all over the world.

Adventure travel, says Marbury, has three principal components: it\’s
active, it\’s outdoors, and there is some element of unpredictability.
On Adventure in Good Company trips, she adds, there is another feature
that keeps bringing women back – the opportunity to relax and have
“girlfriend time.”

Adventure travel is gaining in popularity among the over-50 set for a
number of reasons. Jim Sano, president of Geographic Expeditions,
luxury walking tour specialists based in San Francisco, says that most
of his company\’s travelers are in their 50s and are fairly affluent.
“Along with their growing time and income, travelers in their 50s and
even 60s are generally more fit than their parents were at the same
age, so they\’re not intimidated by such a trip, which can go from
pretty easy to quite rigorous,” says Mr. Sano.

At GeoEx, walking tours are made up of groups of no more than 16
travelers and are led by experienced guides who live and work in the
area being toured. Accommodations range from luxurious hotels to
comfortable farmhouses. “As any walker will tell you” says Sano, “it\’s
not the end of the road that matters, but what you experience along the
way.”

“The ultimate goal of adventure travel is an unforgettable experience,
full of rewarding discoveries,” adds Bob Ellsasser, president of the
Vermont-based Country Walkers, which offers both walking and
multi-adventure trips that combine walking with active options such as
horseback riding, kayaking, snorkeling, and yoga.

“Any reasonably fit person of any age, can join one of our vacations,”
says Ellsasser. “We take special care to accommodate varying fitness
levels and preferences. We know this is an adventure, a life-enriching
experience, not a race.”

According to a report published in 1997 by the Travel Industry
Association of America, Americans have taken their passion for outdoor
excitement and made it part of their vacation experience. Based on a
national survey of 1,200 U.S. adults, the report found that one-half of
Americans had taken an adventure vacation in the past five years.

Ninety-two million adults took soft adventure vacations such as skiing,
sailing, and horseback riding trips, while 31 million Americans took
hard adventure vacations such as mountain climbing, sky diving and cave
exploring. Twenty-five million Americans took both.

The most popular soft adventure activities were camping, hiking, and
biking trips. The most popular hard adventure trips included whitewater
rafting/kayaking, snorkeling/scuba diving, and off-road biking/mountain
biking.

According to the report, “American travelers want their vacations to be
more thrilling. They are looking for new ways to challenge themselves,
to push their physical energies to the edge, and face nature at its
boldest moments. That is what is driving America\’s fervor for adventure
travel. But this trend is also about camaraderie among friends and
spending quality time with family.”

Adventure travel for the over-50 crowd is so popular that there is even
a magazine devoted exclusively to the topic. In the latest issue of
Marco Polo Magazine, “dedicated to adventure travelers over 50,”
featured destinations included Australia, Tanzania, the Taklamakan
Desert, and Amsterdam. The magazine\’s readers are “active, adventurous
travelers who are able to take the trips they never could have in their
20s.” According to the magazine\’s subscriber profile, the median age of
its subscribers is 59, and more than 70 percent have traveled overseas
in the past year.

Jeffrey and Judith Kremen of Baltimore County have taken four trips
sponsored by Country Walkers – two to Italy, one to Scotland, and one
to Norway. Judith, an historian and former director of the Baltimore
County Historical Trust, who “admits to having had her 50th birthday,”
and Jeff, a vascular surgeon, who is 60, first heard of Country Walkers
through their travel agent, Louise Kemper, at Commerce Travel in
Pikesville. “She thought the combination of walking, choice of
itineraries, length of the trips, as well as their appeal to active
people who like the combination of beautiful scenery, interesting
culture, and good food would appeal to us,” say the Kremens.

These trips differ a bit from trips the Kremens take on their own in
that Country Walkers and the local guides do the planning and make the
reservations. “We show up and have fun,” the couple say. “This is
adventure camp for adults!”

At Bluewater Adventures, which offers Pacific Northwest wilderness
adventures , approximately 90 percent of the company\’s travelers are
over the age of 50, says spokesperson Charlene Barringham. “The style
of our trip appeals to this age group as it provides a learning
opportunity while traveling in relative comfort.”

While many adventure travel companies offer trips for all ages of
travelers, Toronto-based 50plus Expeditions offers active,
off-the-beaten-path, small group tours solely for people over the age
of 50, says owner Irena Shibaev. “Our travelers are people in their
50s, 60s, even 70s, who are active physically,” says Shibaev. “They
want to participate…they don\’t want to sit in a bus.”

Shibaev offers three levels of adventure trips: easy – from two to
three hours of walking or hiking a day; moderate – from four to six
hours of activity a day; and demanding – “You have to be very fit to
take one of these trips, says Shibaev.”

Many travel companies that cater to the older travel are “too
senior,” says Shibaev. “Their trips lack vitality. We\’re active – but
we\’re not for youngsters.”

BOX
For more information on adventure travel, contact:
Adventures in Good Company, www.goodadventure.com, 410-435-1965
Bluewater Adventures, www.bluewateradventures.ca, 888-877-1770
Country Walkers, www.countrywalkers.com, 800-464-9255
Geographic Expeditions, www.geoex.com, 800-777-8183
Marco Polo Magazine, www.marcopolomagazine.com, 727-735-9455
50Plus Expeditions, www.50plusexpeditions.com, 866-318-5050

Carol Sorgen is a nationally recognized writer, editor, and public relations consultant. Her articles—on subjects as diverse as travel, health care, education, architecture, interior design, the arts, and business—appear in both print and on-line publications including The Washington Post, DC Style, Resort Living, The Baltimore Sun, European Homes & Gardens, Decorating Spaces, Chesapeake Home, WebMD, Baltimore Jewish Times and Washington Jewish Week…to name just a few.