National Geographic Tours of a Lifetime

 

As featured in the May/June 2008 National Geographic Travel Magazine:

"When we started this annual roundup three years ago, we sought to bring readers 50 of the world’s most transformative travel experiences, guided by outfitters that promised to leave no trace – granola-bar wrappers or ugly-American stereotypes – in their wake.  To our delight, there’s no shortage of travel companies that share our philosophy.  Today, many of those pioneers and others are taking that notice further to foster good works through travel, without sacrificing comfort or even luxury in some cases.  In a partnership with Globe Aware, for example, G.A.P. Adventures has crafted a classic temple and beach itinerary in Cambodia that includes a four-day stint assembling wheelchairs for land mine victims.

Most goodwill born out of travel, however, is far more subtle.  It happens when we’ve arrived home.  “Ultimately, people who are exposed to adventure travel often become advocates.  They are the folks who contribute time and money to help with preservation of the environment and cultures,” says Richard Bangs, co-founder of Mountain Travel Sobek and author of a new book that explores the ancient Msori concept of stewardship of the Earth.  “Travel is fatal to bigotry and prejudice.”

We’re not talking about the kind of travel that’s done from behind the window of a motor coach or even, for that matter, the uber-physical endurance tests (skiing all of Colorado’s fourteeners in a year, running a marathon in every state) that make up much of the hard-core adventure travel niche.  And that’s where this year’s picks come in.  Using our criteria of authenticity, seasoned expertise, sustainability, unprecedented access, and local connections, we’ve chosen journeys that tap into that transformative power.  We set one of our own – contributing editor Margaret Loftus – to the task of assembling and vetting our list.  Peruse the following pages – including features on Portugal, Guatemala, and the Arctic, plus a special bonus photo essay on Slovenia – and get inspired.  Whether it’s staring down a king penguin in Antarctica, sharing mole with an Oaxacan family, or watching your kids in a pickup soccer game in Sardinia, this is the sort of travel that will stick with you, and maybe even improve a little corner of the planet. – The Editors"

CULTURAL TOURS (excerpt)

CHINA: THROUGH THE BACK DOOR

With Itineraries custom-tailored to families, A Bridge to China’s new venture shows you the country through the eyes of its people.  Make a kite with a fourth-generation kite maker in Beijing, shoot down a bobsled course at the Great Wall, meet with an Aka shaman, and behold the spectacular hair dance of the Da Wa, a tribe who were considered headhunters up until the mid-20th century.  A Bridge to China: “Immersion with the Tribes of the Aini and Wa; Beijing to Simso, Yunnan,” 13 Days.