Experiential travel has been around for a while. And it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
For many travellers, jumping on a plane and visiting the top sights of a city or relaxing on a beach for days on end isn’t enough anymore. They want more. They want something deeper, something more meaningful. Something that allows them to connect to a country, city or place they are visiting. More than just peeking through a window from the outside, they are looking for the door that let’s them enter and truly experience a destination from the inside. And, the key to that door is what we now call ‘experiential travel’.
In an industry where everything has become an ‘experience’, it can be difficult to navigate between buzzwords or an authentic immersion. Experiential travel is not just about the experience itself but the quality of the experience. It’s about how travellers feel. It’s about a new understanding, an inspiration, and sometimes even transformation.
A foodie tour in Bangkok that goes beyond ‘phad thai’ and ‘tom yum gung’ and provides travellers with insight into an essential part of Thai culture or a basket weaving workshop in Cambodia that allows a better understanding of the everyday life of local women. By actively engaging with the people, culture or environment of a destination, travellers go from visiting to experiencing. From seeing to feeling. From the outside to the inside.
Whilst this approach to travel is not new, the ever increasing demand of travellers for authentic and local experiences has elevated this former niche segment towards the mainstream. In a recent report, Trip Advisor highlighted that there have been almost twice as many bookings for classes and workshops globally this year compared to last. The travel platform’s spokesperson, Molly Burke, stated, “Travellers are booking more immersive experiences than ever. Visiting iconic sites is still a priority, but travellers are increasingly curating trips to suit their unique interests.”
Among the fastest growing experiences are outdoor adventures. Active travel is a great way for travellers to venture out, explore and experience a destination, especially when tied in with local and cultural activities. Here are three examples of active adventures that engage both body and mind.
Trek through Northern Vietnam
Six hours north of the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on the border to China, lies Ha Giang Province. One of the country’s best-kept secrets, this remote region’s dramatic scenery boasts magnificent rice terraces cascading down mountainsides and forest-clad limestone karts dotting the lush landscape. Relatively untouched by tourism, the area offers terrific hiking opportunities away from the crowds. Home to many different ethnic minorities, a multi-day trek takes travellers along mountainous trails, past wild streams and ancient tea plantations to secluded villages. Get to know the customs of the Dao ethnic group, learn about traditional tea production of the Tay people and stay overnight in a Hmong village. Besides adventurous trails and awe-inspiring views, travellers can also meet people from the various local communities and learn about their daily life in Vietnam’s untouched north.
Jungle Adventure in Borneo
A similar off-the-grid experience offers a unique adventure trip to the secluded Kiau Village in Sabah, Borneo. Located at the foot of Mount Kinabalu, the village is nestled in pristine mountain terrain and surrounded by lush rainforest. Most of the local villagers belong to the Dusun tribe, who continue to practice many of their traditional ancestral customs, such as their native Dusun dialect, on a daily basis. A fascinating journey deep into the remote jungle, travellers will have the opportunity to experience life as a local villager. Explore the scenic area on a jungle trek and learn basic survival skills from a local guide. Immerse in the Dusun culture on an evening of traditional dance, music and performances and get a glimpse of the past at the Skull Sanctuary where dozens of human skulls tell the tale of the former head hunter era.
Surf Lesson in Bali
Celebrated as a surfer’s paradise, what could be a better active experience in the ‘Land of the Gods’ than feeling the joy of riding the spectacular waves? Blessed with beautiful beaches and an epic coastline, Bali’s surf breaks are suitable for both beginners and professionals. Taught by a professional female surf instructor at a renowned beachside surf school, the lesson starts with essential techniques of how to paddle, stand up and keep balanced. After practicing on dry land first, it’s time to catch the waves and test new-learned skills in the water! Besides enjoying an active morning on one the island’s dreamlike beaches, this experience will also allow travellers to gain insight into the world of surfing, what it takes to become a successful surfer and how women can establish themselves in a male-dominated sport.
Whether it be an active adventure, cultural encounter or culinary activity, experiential travel allows travellers to delve deeper and experience a destination from the inside. If you also want to go from visiting to experiencing, reach out to our experts at Buffalo Tours and let our local team help create your tailor-made trip.