October 13, 2009

The Adventures In Travel Expo: Day 2

The second day at The Adventures in Travel Expo proved to be just as entertaining as the first. There seemed to be less attendees than the previous day, but the guest speakers drew some large crowds. In addition to checking out more exhibitors, which included tour operators and tourism boards, I was able to sit in on lectures by Tony Wheeler, Zac Sunderland, and Patricia Schultz.

Tony Wheeler co-founded the Lonely Planet publishing empire with his wife Maureen back in the early 1970's. It's a pretty amazing story documented in their book Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story (which he autographed for me...thanks Tony). His lecture was a mix of the Lonely Planet's modest beginnings (their first trip from England to Australia via the silk road), plus additional trips with his family in the nineteen eighties, and what he has been doing more recently. I was pretty amazed to find out that in 1994, Tony and Maureen traveled across the US, and created what was to become one of the first travel blogs. They sent daily emails to Tim O'Reilly, founder of Web 2.0, who then posted them online. Some really cool trips that Tony has done in the last several years include:

  • The Plymouth - Banjul Challenge in 2007. Tony and Maureen drove a tiny used Mitsubishi hatchback car from Plymouth, England, all the way to Banjul, Gambia. The event is for charity and all cars who make it to the finish line, are then auctioned off. Their car which was purchased for $700, was sold for over $1000.
  • The Soyuz rocket launch from Kazakhstan. This is where Russia launches their spacecraft, and as a spectator, you can get within several hundred yards of the site. Go Russia and your lack of safety regulations! Tony showed a video clip he took and it was pretty amazing. For $30 million USD, six months of cosmonaut training, and some language courses in Russian, you too can fly into outer space for two weeks. This is where I need your help to make Globe Stompers as big as Lonely Planet, so I can do this at some point in the future. Although, Tony did not fly, he just watched the launch.
  • The Tour d'Afrique bike race from Cairo to Cape Town. Tony rode with the Lonely Planet team who took four months to complete the course. The riders rotated the roster every two weeks.
What was one of Tony's favorite trips over the years? Visit Russia and spend a day just riding the subway. Only in Moscow can you find stations with beautiful mosaics and chandeliers. It was also interesting to find out that Tony and Maureen are only partially involved with Lonely Planet publishing, but are very active with their charity organization called the Planet Wheeler Foundation, which runs projects in the Mekong Delta, Africa, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan.

You may have heard that on July 16th, 2009, Zac Sunderland at age seventeen, became the youngest person to sail solo around the world. It's amazing to think that Zac, who still has three classes to go before graduating high school, has experienced more in thirteen months than most people do in their entire lives. His trip was one of the most amazing journeys, and I was captivated the whole time he spoke. His tale included dodging pirates, fixing a broken boat multiple times, and weathering massive storms, so to speak. He's currently training for an Mount Everest expedition, and will be base jumping off the Golden Gate bridge in two weeks. I'm getting excited for his upcoming documentary, which is currently being edited down from over six hundred hours of footage taken from multiple cameras on his boat.

Patricia Schultz is the author of the best selling book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. This book was a staple of ours before Julie and I set off on our around the world trip. I am happy to say that I've been to many of these destinations, although I still have a ton to go before I die. Here are some tips that Patricia shared with the audience:
  • Rule of thumb, avoid travel destinations with airports nearby. Go further out and you'll have a more authentic experience with less tourists.
  • Home Exchange is a good site where you can swap your apartment/house with someone else in another area or country. Just like the movie The Holiday with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet.
  • One of the top three experiences in life should be an African safari. Travel to Namibia which is a new adventure capital.
  • Take the new express train in China, which travels from either Beijing or Shanghai, all the way to Lhasa in Tibet. The compartments even have oxygen to help you breathe at altitude.
  • Bhutan and Myanmar are two must see destinations.
There was a lot to see at the expo, and in between the guest lectures I found time to visit with some of the exhibitors. Here is a brief list of some interesting companies and things that are going on:

1. Museyon Guides has come up with a concept that pairs interests with travel. Check out their Music + Travel, and Film + Travel guides.

2. Contiki, a tour company specializing in trips for 18-35 year-olds (I just make the cut on this), has some fun new trips coming up for Summer 2010. I asked Jennifer Dimucci, a sales manager with the company, how one becomes a trip leader? Out of hundreds of applicants, they only choose a couple new leaders each year. It's a mix of luck and previous experience. Do you have what it takes to be a trip leader? Check out their jobs section to apply, cross some fingers and toes, find a four leaf clover, and start building up some karma points.

3. Cactus is an organization that arranges language trips abroad. It's way more fun to learn Italian in Rome, than online or listening to CD's.

4. Travel Daddy is a social networking site where you can find activity buddies while on the road. I tend to meet people in local hostels, but if you had a larger trip planned and wanted to find people ahead of time, this is a good way to do it.

5. If you are an adventurer with a some money saved up, why not take a cruise to the North Pole. Expedition Cruises run two week trips which give you anywhere from twelve to twenty four hours on the North Pole. They do not guarantee that you will find Santa Claus, but you can try.

6. My favorite booth was that of the Jamaican dog sled team. Yes, you read that correctly! The movie Cool Runnings brought us the story of the Jamaican bobsled team, and now Newton Marshall will compete in the 2010 Iditarod trail sled dog race across Alaska. I'm from Canada, and I don't even like the cold. Good luck Newton and team Jamaica.

I really enjoyed my two days at the expo, meeting tour operators, tourism agencies, and listening to stories from guest lecturers. I will definitely attend the event next year when it comes to town, but right now I have my eye set on something bigger. Next week, Quebec will play host to the Adventure Travel World Summit. This looks amazing.


Nick Jacobs said...

Amazing post! I'm traveling abroad this summer (was able to get some cheap tickets!), and this checklist has everything I need!

Marie Homes said...

I have some good point and I am sure a lot of people that are interested in that information will appreciate it! Best of luck!

Patricia Homes said...

I bet it was a lifetime experience. Meeting new people, some inovative and interesting ideas, sharing opinion and experience must be really special. Good luck!