|Vacation adventures that won't scare
Vicki Hendricks lives for adventure.
She has trekked by dog sled through Finland, skydived over the
Spanish countryside, collected exotic bugs in Peru and hung out
with hippos in South Africa.
The Hollywood, Fla.-based novelist spends her days
teaching creative writing at Broward Community College and crafting
sexy hard-boiled mystery novels around equally adventurous heroines.
In her free time, you'll find her scuba diving or
skydiving in some far-flung corner of the world, often on a shoestring.
"I'm always looking to go cheap," she laughs. "I
don't have to go cheap as much as I used to, but I traveled for
years with almost no money and now I still do it out of habit."
Knowing where look, who to ask
Hendricks is adept at finding the maximum rush for minimum bucks.
Take skydiving. With some 500 jumps under her harness, she's well
versed in the sport and knows all the insider tricks. To plan a
trip, she starts at Dropzone.com,
a worldwide Internet skydiving guide, e-mails the skydiving center
nearest her destination and packs her 'chute.
"You can just arrive there, maybe spend $5 a night to bunk
there, and they usually have restaurants and bars and everything
you need," she says. "You may be in a room with four or
six people, and they're not fancy and it's probably coed.
"Skydivers are usually really cheap and poor because they
spend all of their money skydiving. Some people actually spend their
lives going from one drop zone to another and follow the seasons."
Planning some adventure trips yourself can be cost-effective and
easy. But wise travelers also recognize the value of expert help.
When the call of the wild bid her to trek Finland by dog sled,
Hendricks called Buz Donahoo, an architect who founded Condor
Adventures of Winter Park, Fla., in 1973 as a way to support
his own travel habit.
"They're good values," she admits. "The Finland
trip was about two weeks long for about $4,000 including air. We
had five days in cabins with rented dog sleds and guides. You had
to dig out the outhouse at night, and there were no showers. We
spent two nights in a resort with hot springs, a night in the ice
castle, did some snowmobiling and swam off an icebreaker in these
big rubber suits. There was a lot involved in the trip.
"I just like variety. I like to wing it. But I would probably
not have found the ice castle or the dog sled guide. That's a little
difficult to figure out. This way it came out really well and easy
Adventurer, know your limits
Even arriving at a good working definition of adventure travel,
much less saving money on it, can be problematic, according to Carole
Lierman, meetings and incentives manager with Doug
Fox Travel in Seattle.
"Adventure travel is very subjective. What one person considers
adventure, another doesn't," she says. "For some people,
a trip to Costa Rica and staying on the beach is adventure travel.
For others, it's biking through the cloud forest and doing the rain
forest on your own."
Because most of us prefer the beach and a book to the rigors of
mountain biking, actual adventure travel is a relatively small niche
in the travel industry. Limited demand translates into smaller vendors
whose stability sometimes gives travel agents sleepless nights.