We’ve seen a lot of change in our 20 years of adventure travel, and much of this change mirrors larger changes in our society. Compared to 1999, today there is an increased interest in exercise and healthy living and people staying healthier into older years. There is the ever-evolving push for women's equality, rapid technological innovation, and dramatically increased connectivity because of the internet. The world itself is changing, adventure travel is changing with it. Here are 20 things that have dramatically changed in the world of adventure travel over the last two decades.
1. There are tons of women on the trails!
Back in the 90s, it was rare to see a group of women on the trail. Men greatly outnumbered women- the outdoors was seen as a man’s world. But now, that isn’t true. Nobody assumes that if you see a group of women on the trail together that they might all be lesbians! "Title 9 and more images of women in the wild, realizing they could be out there safely” is what really helped with this change, says AGC Guide Jan Latham.
2. There are a lot more people on the trails in general.
Trails are typically where people go to get away from the world, but social media has demystified so much of the hiking culture that people feel more comfortable going out there, especially to places they’ve seen in great pictures.
3. People stay more engaged with the outside world.
"While they’re traveling, people email more and they post more on social media. The advantage is that they are more connected to family and friends. However, it also means that they may be less fully engaged with where they are in the present," says AGC founder Marian Marbury. But travelers also connect with each other more both before and after a trip. They stay more connected to people they met while traveling after they’re at home through all those same tools that kept them engaged with their home lives while they were traveling.
4. People have become much more conscientious of the environmental impact they have on trails.
The increase in adventure travelers led to negative environmental impacts like overuse, but the trend is starting to reverse. The environment is at the forefront of our conversation in a way it hasn't historically been... but this is only after we began to see the negative impact that huge numbers of people could make on our natural environment.
5. People are better educated about sustainable travel.
There are a lot more resources for people to be better educated- about the trail, about what to pack, about LNT and sustainable travel.
6. Gear and apparel are so much more available in higher quality and directed towards a woman’s frame.
Lightweight gear is the new norm, and it makes hiking a lot more fun. Plus women’s – specific gear is a game changer.
7. 60 is the new 40!
Maybe that’s just our bias, but we think hiking is a lifetime sport. We are seeing so many more people in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s enjoying nature than we did year ago. This speaks to a general trend towards longer life of better health, and our expectations of what is possible as we age are changing to better reflect our abilities.
8. Trail information is more available to the general public.
Hiking is no longer reserved for those people who are experts in map and compass! From blogs to apps like Guthook and AllTrails to navigation systems, there is far more information about trails available to the general public than there ever has been before.
9. Travel is a DIY sport.
20 years ago, people were going to libraries and checking out guide books or using a travel agent to map their journeys. Today, everything a person could need to plan a trip can be found online
10. There are so many more pictures!
Because people can use their phones to take and share pictures, there are far more images available to more people. Travelers aren’t carrying around heavy cameras and expensive film, either. But this means that the big event of developing film and showing your family and friends your pictures has evolved, too. People are able to follow your trip every step of the way through social media.
11. Trail food has transformed... and it's good!
From the number of options to the type of prep work involved, backpacking and trail food has dramatically transformed. We’re big fans of dehydrated delicacies, and there are so many companies making tasty options that require far less prep work than in the past.
12. There is more diversity in hikers on the trails.
Our long-held beliefs about age, race, gender, and ability have all been challenged. Adventure travel, especially hiking, was historically a white man’s activity. That just isn’t true anymore! While we’re proud to be encouraging women to get out there, there is a greater cultural shift taking place and diversifying nature.
13. The variability of experiences available on trips has increased and there’s something for everyone.
There really is something for every type of traveler! Some of the categories that we’ve seen pop up over the last two decades include labels like “luxury,” “foodie,” “adventure,” etc.
14. It’s a lot easier to find hiking partners.
Social websites like MeetUp, WomenWhoHike, and Unlikely Hikers have made it a lot easier to find people who are interested in getting out into nature.
15. Airport security exists!
Back in 1999, there were far fewer people traveling and you could just walk right up to a plane with no problem. After 9/11, airport security has changed dramatically and makes makes air travel more of a hassle.
16. Reservations, permits, and a lottery system have become necessary.
Because there are so many more people exploring our public lands, many parks have started requiring permits and reservations. Some are so popular that they can’t meet the demand and have gone to a lottery system!
17. Diets have changed and we’ve changed with them.
We’re more aware than ever of what we’re putting into our bodies. The requests for special diets- gluten free, vegan, low sodium, vegetarian, nut free, etc- have gone through the roof on our trips, but we’re still able to feed nearly every participant incredible meals whenever our guides are cooking.
18. The world is smaller.
Well, maybe it's not actually SMALLER, but it sure is easy to see more of the world and it's far more common to see people traveling to far-flung corners of the globe than is was 20 years ago.
19. Sharing your trip with family has changed from letter writing to texting.
When we started leading tours, almost nobody traveled with cell phones- they were too expensive and heavy! Today, more people in the world have phones than have toilets! Postcards are lovely, but these days they’re more of a souvenir than a legitimate way to keep in touch with folks back home.
20. The way we use money abroad has evolved and is much easier.
Twenty years ago, your first task when arriving in a new country was to get travelers checks or convert currency. These days, credit cards are taken all around the world and all you need is an ATM to get local currency.
So yes- the world is changing rapidly and adventure travel is evolving with it. And 20 years later, we're still happy to be part of this ever-changing landscape!