AORE Partner News Summer 2016 - Page 17

By Joey Parent

Adventure travel is about more than just having your photo taken in front of iconic landmarks. It's about experiences. The taste of new foods, the smell of crowded markets, and the sunsets over unknown peaks. It is about learning from new cultures and also learning about oneself. These are things that cannot be experienced on a tour bus or in an all-inclusive resort. They require stepping away from what is comfortable and confronting the unknown.

This mindset is what drove Bruce Poon Tip to found G Adventures in 1990. After a backpacking trip in Asia, Bruce wanted to share these life-changing experiences and passion for learning with others. Twenty-five years later, G Adventures is an internationally renowned travel company that specializes in providing small, sustainable trips that support local communities. They are now the world's largest adventure travel company, with more than 1,300 employees offering 1,000+ small-group experiences on all seven continents.

G Adventures trips are designed to connect travelers with real cultures and people across the world. Each trip is led by a chief experience officer (CEO)--a local from the area--and is typically limited to 16 or fewer participants. The main focus is to introduce the group to extraordinary locations. This usually includes explaining local customs and traditions, teaching about the area’s history, and pointing out the best foodie restaurants and local favorites.

The company offers an immense variety of trips to hundreds of locations. While these trips are the backbone of the company, customizable group offerings are offered as well. These trips can be tailored to accommodate individual groups by selecting a standard trip and modifying it. This can include more active itineraries, enhanced (or more basic) accommodations, extended

stays, additional locations, and different trip lengths. The G staff is very accommodating and excited to work with each group to create a unique itinerary that meets everyone's needs.

Engaging real people and real communities is a key component of the G Adventures trips. This commitment to authentic local cultures is especially evident through Planeterra projects around the world. Planeterra is a unique nonprofit organization that works closely with G Adventures to determine ideal locations where communities in need can establish development projects that benefit the community itself. Once established, these projects are maintained by the people living in that area and provide opportunities to improve infrastructure, education, training, conservation, health care, and more. Planeterra projects are incorporated into many G Adventures trips and give travelers unique insight into the cultures and the communities they visit.

The adventure is a big part of what makes G Adventures trips so exciting. Immersing oneself in the landscape and exploring the outside world with experienced guides are what many people will remember for years to come. G Adventures offers an immense variety of life changing opportunities. From trekking world-renowned classics such as the Inca Trail, Annapurna, and Kilimanjaro to rafting and cycling across entire countries, G Adventures’ trips can inspire almost any traveler.

Joey Parent is assistant director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Outdoor Adventure Program.