Have you ever been on a trip where you felt like there was a glass wall between you and the place you were visiting? Have you been at a museum or a famous monument when a busload of tourists arrived changing your whole experience? Have you been on a trip where you wanted to get out, hike, and explore, yet you were forced to sit still or ride in vehicles? Have you ever wanted to stand and take in a place, truly imprint the beauty of the place on your bones, only to be interrupted by a guide wanting to drag you on to another destination?
I have. Going to a place is not the same as experiencing it. When I started Wild Nectar, in addition to promoting sustainable travel, my goal was to bring people as close as possible to a place, its people, and its glorious wonders. I’d been working in the travel business for over 16 years and I was well aware of the abundance of trips that take you to a place yet show it to you in a way where you hardly feel like you’ve been there at all. Wild Nectar doesn’t offer those trips.
Here are five elements I look for in an itinerary to make sure it’s offering the most immersive experience possible. Most of these elements are in all Wild Nectar itineraries and for “The Best Trip Ever”, you should look for them too in all your future trips:
1. Opportunities to See the Most Exotic
Travel feeds our imagination providing us with inspiration we can draw upon when we’re back in our regular lives. Does the itinerary you’re considering include unforgettable places, architecture, wilderness, gardens, viewpoints, wild animal encounters, personalities, cuisines, boat experiences, snorkeling, flightseeing, ceremonies, science projects, art, music, dance--all the most amazing things? I can’t tell you how many itineraries I’ve looked into that included a fair amount of boring, not-so-exotic activities and sights. Finding the fascinating and unusual is a talent not everyone has, and sadly, many trip operators are trying to fill your time with ho-hum or very touristy experiences.
2. Opportunities to Meet Locals, Hear Stories & Experience a Place’s Artistry
It’s easy to feel like you haven’t penetrated a place if you went on a trip and never got a chance to meet locals. Places are about the people who live in them, their traditions, their stories from past generations, their crafts, their cooking, their homes, and how they grow food. In order to fully experience a place, look for itineraries that allow you to sit down with people, share a meal, and see how someone lives. If you're only being shown the tourist version of a place, you haven't really been there. An experience I’ll never forget was learning how to make tortillas in a Costa Rican grandma’s kitchen. It was something she did almost everyday, yet for me it was an honor to be there and I loved it!
3. Opportunities to Take in Deep Nature
People travel to experience new things and be transported. Every place on your bucket list has its own powerful and unique qualities. Will the itinerary you’re considering allow you to truly experience the land? The most powerful experiences in my life have included setting foot on the blue ice of Antarctica, being surrounded by open savanna, zebras, and wildebeests in Kenya, plus floating through an impenetrable jungle in Belize. In all these moments, I had a deep experience of the land and I felt myself to be forever changed by it. Deep nature nourishes you. Nothing brings you back home feeling more refreshed than having had a deep nature experience. Seeing the land from a speeding vehicle just won’t give you this deeper version.
4. Opportunities for Surprises
One aspect of immersive travel that I look for is the trip operator’s ability to change course when something truly extraordinary happens. Certain expedition ship operators will turn the ship around to see a pod of whales, search for polar bears, or witness a volcanic eruption. Savvy land operators too will take the time to stop for that dynamic impromptu street tango performance, or to watch a lioness feed her young. If an itinerary doesn’t give me a sense that surprises are possible, I keep looking. Traveling is about being in the present moment and receiving the gift of what’s presented. My preferred operators understand this.
5. Opportunities to Feel the Wind in Your Hair
My last criteria for choosing a fantastic itinerary is making sure the trip appeals to the senses. Modern life keeps us glued to screens and cocooned in our homes so a powerful trip in my opinion has you seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and hearing. I often describe Wild Nectar’s curated collection of trips as offering “wind-in-your-hair” experiences as that’s my shorthand for saying our trips, whether they are some of our more active or less active trips, are all invigorating and inspiring, making you feel truly alive. I helped design our Signature Journeys and they all include my recommended trip elements.
Wild Nectar Immersive Travel Collection is like a travel boutique. The curated selection of trips on our website’s virtual shelves offers what we consider to be the very best experiences in each destination. We offer small group journeys, ship expeditions, and custom travel in comfortable or very luxurious accommodations. If you hope to get away from tourist hordes and experience a place at its most extraordinary, contact us and we’ll help you find a trip that will perfectly fit your wildest, most colorful dream of your bucket list destination.