“If I were to die tomorrow, it would be without regret.” – Zach Davis, Adventure Blogger
When you think of adventure travel, you think outdoors. You picture hiking, hang-gliding, cliff jumping, four-wheeling and getting off the beaten path. Or maybe you’re on the busy path, but in a totally new city, completely out of your element. Whatever “adventure” is to you, we are drawn to this type of travel because it’s a reminder of how big and beautiful the world is – and the incredible experiences it offers.
An adventure travel vacation can also be more affordable, since much of the adventure part is free. And when you opt for a unique vacation rental over a hotel, you’re saving money and getting an authentic experience in your destination. Take it a step further and make your rental part of the adventure, like glamping under the stars or renting a tiny house on the mountainside.
Feeling inspired? So are we. That’s why we asked 20 of the top adventure travel bloggers what their biggest thrill has been. These folks know a thing or two about exploring the world, so be sure to check them out for even more inspiration.
After a life-changing trip to Ireland, Stephen realized the daily grind wasn’t for him. So he started a pattern: work and save all year, and then take off for 3-5 months. Since then he’s been documenting his journeys and helping other travelers gain the same amazing experiences.
“The Mongol Rally was a thrilling adventure. Imagine jumping in an old beat up car and setting off in London. Then, driving two months straight, most of the time without a clutch cable in the car, to arrive 1/3 of the planet away in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It is an adventure of epic proportions and every day holds the unexpected. Along the way, I survived a car crash (just a fender bender!), ended up in a Russian newspaper and visited 19 countries in all, and stared at countless stars in skies that have never known light pollution. The major highlights were the unbeatable landscapes and small villages in parts of the world only a handful of westerners have visited. The people and random adventures I had on the Mongol Rally have made it one of the most memorable adventures in my entire life.”
Travel blogger with more than 19+ years of experiential travel; started in 1996 after a life-changing trip to Nepal where he attempted the ever-challenging trek to Everest Base Camp.
Biggest Thrill: Trekking Everest
“I trekked to within several hours of Everest Base Camp, but as it turns out I began to suffer from terrible altitude sickness and had to be carried down hill (by our guide and another member of our trekking group) for the better part of a day. It wasn’t ideal at the time, but this is the trip that turned me on to International adventure travel and mountain climbing.”
In 2012, fashion industry all-star Clelia quit her job at Burberry, saved $16,000 in five months and has been traveling ever since.
“Visiting the Devils Pool (Victoria Falls on the Zambia border) and leaning right over the edge! When I released the video, the reactions were pure terror and a massive stream of “you are crazy!” comments. But actually, the experience itself, if done properly, is not dangerous as the water flow during the dry season is weak and the guide will grab your ankles to let you lean over the edge. The view from there is unbelievable to say the least; a breathtaking experience that will remain in my memories for as long as I live (and YES, I’d do it again a million times!).”
Expert travel guides for some of the world’s most adventurous destinations, focusing on overland travel. Described as “one man on a global quest to travel the world in search of home.”
“With over 12 years on a single journey, there have been plenty of thrills from the deserts of Pakistan, the heritage sites of Europe to trekking in Nepal during extreme winters. The biggest thrill? Discovering and experiencing something new. From digitally preserving temples in Kathmandu to traveling with Fulani nomads in West Africa. Every new travel experience is my biggest thrill.”
Born in Southern United States, relocated to Spain and currently in New Zealand, Liz is a self-proclaimed wanderer who has been to over 40 countries – and counting.
“My biggest adventure travel thrill isn’t what you might imagine, like bungee jumping or skydiving. A few years ago I spent a month riding horses across western Mongolia with the traditional Kazakh eagle hunters. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but it was the most rewarding, and it changed my life and how I traveled.”
The oldest and most-read hiking blog in Southern California, Modern Hiker provides free trail write-ups and detailed information on hundreds of trails for Los Angeles, SoCal and beyond. It has been featured in brands like Men’s Fitness, Lonely Planet and REI.
“My biggest thrill was a local trail back when I was first learning how to hike. The Strawberry Peak Trail in LA’s San Gabriel Mountains is in the heavily visited front country, but has a well-earned reputation for being one of its toughest routes. The hike is standard stuff for the first two miles, but then you’re off the established trail and onto a use-trail that features two tough, extremely exposed class three scrambles on the mountain’s Western face. It’s one of those routes that seem totally fine while you’re staring at the handholds but instantly becomes terrifying the second you look anywhere else. Topping out on the summit a mile later, my hands virtually vibrating from nerves, the options were to do the whole thing backwards or take a firebreak and trail back eight miles (I opted for the hike). Although I mostly hike as a form of walking meditation and exploration, I still revisit Strawberry Peak every so often when I wanted a jolt of adventure — and it proved time and time again that you don’t always need to travel halfway around the world for a dose of outdoor excitement in your life!”
Brendan started Semi-Rad in in 2011 as an inspiration for things regular folks can do; adventures for the everyman and woman. He believes we all need to spend more time doing things we love, going to places that make us feel small, remembering to laugh at ourselves, and getting a little cold, tired, and scared every once in a while.
“For years, I considered myself primarily a climber, and then I went on a 28-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. You’re on your own for a month, no cell phone service, almost no other people, carrying everything you need on a handful of boats. It’s the greatest wilderness camping trip in the Lower 48, as far as I’m concerned.”
Recognized as a top hiking and outdoor blog by USA Today, Appalachian Trials creator Zach has created a community of thru-hikers sharing their journeys and offering expert advice for adventures of all types.
“My biggest thrill was undoubtedly thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, a near 2,200-mile footpath that extends from Georgia to Maine. The sights, sounds, experiences, highs and lows of living in the woods for five months has forever changed me and my relationship with the outdoors. If I were to die tomorrow, it would be without regret.”
Matt Gibson is an award-winning adventure travel writer and photographer. He is the Inbound President of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association a nonprofit organization and CEO of Xpat.Media, an agency that helps travel companies develop their blogging and social media marketing strategies.
“I had just landed in Kota Kinabalu. It was 4:00pm, I was behind schedule, and I had 10 days to ride a motorcycle across Borneo and back in search of pygmy elephants. My rental car agent told me not to drive at night, speaking of animals on the road and careless truckers. I’d been riding motorcycles in Asia for years, though, and felt confident dealing with those things. That evening I began the long climb up the side of Mount Kinabalu on the narrow highway filled with hairpin turns that zig-zags up the mountain. I was wearing tropical daytime clothes, shorts and a sleeveless shirt, but as I climbed it got much cooler and I couldn’t safely stop on the narrow road to change. I had to press on. Then it got dark and I switched on my headlight only to find that it was practically nonexistent. Commercial trucks zipped past me just inches away as I climbed the mountain in the dark. Then I drove into a cloud. I could barely make out the edge of the road. I drove in that thick fog for what seemed like an eternity (it was probably about an hour) before coming out out of the cloud on top Mount Kinabalu and found a village to stay for the night. Scary? A little. Exhilarating? Definitely.”
After 13 years as a competitive swimmer, Katie Levy followed her outdoor passions on backpacking trips in the Adirondacks, Virginia, and Ontario, and sub-zero winter hikes in the Chugach Mountains and through trail-less Denali tundra during a stint in Alaska.
“I climbed Mount Rainier with an all-women’s team near the beginning of my evolution as a self-described lover of all things outdoor adventure, and boy was it memorable! I’m a bit afraid of heights, don’t do well at altitude, and was a complete novice mountaineer. It was an incredible experience conquering some of my fears, at least that one time, and it felt so good to do it as part of a fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers. I’ll never forget it!”
Annette is the author of the book Bucket List Adventures and serial traveler. Her blog is award winning, and as an obsessed new-experience collector, she’s striving to check the world off her bucket list one adventure at a time.
“One of my most thrilling travel adventures was swimming in Jellyfish Lake in the tiny Micronesian country of Palau. The lake is home to millions of jellyfish that are deemed relatively harmless since their sting is so light. It was still frightening for the first five minutes to be completely surrounded by pulsating plankton, some brushing up against my body. But after the panic dissipated, there was something mesmerizing about the way they moved and this became one of my all-time favorite bucket list adventures.”
Angie Orth is a Southern lady with a perpetually packed suitcase, the Jane Austen canon on her Kindle and an instinctive need to tell stories about her adventures – be they 3,000 miles away on a pristine mountaintop or in a garage where she experiments with DIY projects from Pinterest.
“It’s hard to choose one thrill in years of travel, but for a shark enthusiast like me, I’m comfortable giving the top spot to cage diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa. I spent my 30th birthday in the chilly waters off Gansbaai in search of my favorite apex predators, and I was not disappointed. There must’ve been half a dozen enormous sharks that day, and one even chomped the cage while I was in it! Definitely a memorable travel thrill! “
Heather has cycled across America, lived in a tent for four months, honeymooned in a van, climbed 45+ peaks of 14,000 feet or higher and pack-rafted the Alatna after being dropped in the middle of nowhere by an Alaskan bush pilot! She’s lived on three continents and traveled to 27 (and counting) countries.
“My most exhilarating travel experience was our five day pack-rafting trip through Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska. If you’ve never been, take a second and look up the location of the park; it’s far NORTH of the Arctic Circle. We hired two bush planes to transport us into the interior, and watching them fly away is a memory that is seared into my mind forever. It was just us, our packrafts, and a couple thousand grizzly bears!”
Dustin Main is a serial entrepreneur, digital nomad, photographer and perpetual world traveler. Since 2009, he has circled the globe again and again, photographing cultures, climbing mountains and pushing boundaries.
“After my first taste of Petra [in Jordan], I just knew I had to go back. So on my next trip, I headed in with a plan late in the day as the other travelers and sellers were heading out. Climbing high atop the ruins, I photographed the sunset as the light began to fade over the pink city. A couple of hours after the sun went down, they began setting up the candles in front of the Treasury and through the Siq for ‘Petra at Night.’ This is what I came here for. I carefully made my way up to the cliff edge and photographed the amazing scene from above, catching the stars in the sky as well the the candlelit Treasury. As I made my way back from the cliff to head down the mountain, a Bedouin man who lives in a cave in Petra invited me in for dinner, and the told me I could skip hiking out and just sleep in his cave. I watched the stars dot the sky through the open ‘door’ and listened to him yell at his goat rummaging through the the leftover food outside as I fell asleep.”
Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel is the ultimate guide to active holidays and hand-selected, personally tested adventure holidays, along with resources to make your travel planning easy.
“My biggest thrill was cycling 800 miles of the Iron Curtain Trail in Finland solo! I was an ill-prepared cyclist without a lot of experience. I had also never done an 18-day adventure before, nor had I done a big adventure alone. I had many sleepless nights leading up to it. But it’s had a lasting impact on me, because it made me realize, sometimes multiple times a day, that I was stronger than I ever dreamed I was. If I could do this, imagine what else I could do? Nothing else has made me feel so unstoppable, and that’s a huge thrill!”
Larissa is a self-described travel addict, iPhone photographer and “Master of Europe” who has talent for finding herself in the strangest yet most interesting of situations, as she travel back and forth from the States to Europe and everywhere in between.
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“Every day is an adventure living in the Balkans (Prishtina, Kosovo to be exact), but the one travel experience I will never forget is the time I took a road trip from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina to Tbilisi, Georgia. It was all very spontaneous and truthfully I wasn’t even certain the car – a 1994 Renault Clio purchased for 350 euros – would make it all the way, but she did. Passing almost 2,500 miles through Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and then back to Georgia again over a span of three weeks with no set plans, just a final destination, seems almost like a dream in retrospect and one of those adventures that could only happen once in a lifetime. Highlights included a stop down in the fairyland of Cappadocia, a small detour to the abandoned medieval Armenian capital of Ani near Kars, hanging around the cave city of Vardzia in Georgia, and of course all of the crazy (and incredibly hospitable) characters that were met along the way.”
Anje is a travel addict, coffee junkie and social media devotee who enjoys experiencing the nooks and crannies of our wonderful world in slow motion, sometimes from the seat of a bicycle. She’s a solo globetrotter, occasionally sarcastic and a South African living in the Eastern Cape.
“I got this idea in my head of how great it’d be to travel from town to town on a bicycle, just before the end of a three-year working experience abroad. I shipped everything I had back to South Africa, got on a plane to Indonesia and bought my bicycle, panniers and a few gadgets before I set off on a two month solo bicycle trip. It was my first cycle trip ever and the reason I named my blog Going Somewhere Slowly. To this day, I still consider that whole trip as my biggest thrill ever because everything about the trip was unknown and unplanned and my mechanical knowledge (or even my knowledge of how to use gears effectively when you go up a hill) was non-existent. But traveling through the valleys and over the hills, and the people I met along the way, resulted in one of my most treasured travel experiences and life lessons ever.”
Katie Boué is an adventurer, climber, former van-dweller, gear tester and avid road tripper. She’s a Colorado transplant who traded flat swamps and beaches in Florida for a life of exploring mountains, camping in the desert and playing in the snow.
“This summer I spent the entire season living out of a van solo while road tripping around the West Coast, and it shook my entire being to the core. I tackled firsts like whitewater rafting and mountain biking, rediscovered places I had visited before, and experienced the world as a confident single woman for the first time. The best way to find yourself is alone in the woods, scared and stoked and open to whatever comes your way.”
Trisha believes we all have our own preferred methods of travel – and hers is a bit different. She always volunteers, so she can learn how to eat, cook, speak and live like a local, on top of helping others.
“Last month, I finished a media trip with Vibe Israel and just had the crazy idea of moving to Tel Aviv after the trip. The next thing I knew, I was renting an apartment and living here. Everything went so fast. I think it’s one of my greatest thrills because I proved myself that I will always go after what I want. No matter what people think or say, when I want something, I really want it and I GO FOR IT. For many years, it was difficult for me to fit in somewhere because I am kind of ‘different’ in terms of lifestyle and belief. Tel Aviv accepted that person in me and made me feel that it’s okay to be different. This is a bold move that impacted my life and I will surely remember this forever. Until it feels right, I will be here. So come find me!”
Silvia finished university and started working in Japan, until she realized the cube life wasn’t for her. She bought a giant backpack, started traveling, met a boy and never looked back. She’s now lived in seven different countries and visited over 70 countries on five continents.
“My most thrilling travel experience was visiting a small market on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. I remember being quite nervous as I handed over my passport to the security guard on the Tajik border, and I wondered if it was safe to tell people at the market that I’m from the US. But as soon as I started chatting with people I relaxed and enjoyed myself – in fact most of the people I spoke with were excited to hear that I was American. It was a good reminder that individuals are so much more than the political choices or cultural practices of the countries they live in, and that it’s always surprisingly easy to connect with people, however foreign they might seem, on a personal level. It’s a lesson I continue to learn in each new place I visit, and it’s a huge reason that I travel!”