Newly Invented Adventure Sports

March 2 2009 by Neal Mueller

NewlyInvented.jpgLooking for a fun new extreme activity for your next trip? How about something totally new! Here is a list of newly invented sports to get your adrenaline pumping.

Kiteboarding - extreme wakeboarding / windsurfing popularized in 1996 by Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin off the Hawaiian coast of Maui involving a harness attached kite the propels the rider forward and upward.

Wingsuiting - extreme sky diving popularized in 1998 when Jari Kuosma of Finland and Robert Pecnik of Croatia teamed up to create a wing suit that was safe and accessible for all skydivers.

Tow-in surfing - extreme surfing technique pioneered by Laird Hamilton, Buzzy Kerbox, Dave Kalama, and Milton Willis in mid 1990s where a surfer is towed into a breaking wave by a partner driving a personal watercraft or a helicopter with an attached tow-line.

Trail ultra-marathoning - extreme marathon running popularized by Gordy Ainsleigh in the 1980s, involving a trail run of 100 miles.

Speed stacking (for our younger readers!) - extreme cup stacking invented by Wayne Godine in 1980s involving stacking cups in predetermined sequences to competing against the clock or another player.

How cool would it be to invent a totally new sport? Gives me crazy little tingles to think that someone might be inventing the next new addition to this list right now. If you can dream it, you can do it.

Bigger, Faster, Stronger. Oh My.

February 27 2009 by Neal Mueller

biggerstronger.jpgNext time you're running through the airport terminal trying to catch your next flight, think of how much faster you'd be if you could swim through the crowds like a killer whale (max speed 34.5 mph). Or like Usain Bolt of Jamaica (max speed 23 mph).

Or how about this one. If you were a Spittlebug you could jump vertically from airport terminal to airport terminal. Air-tram?! Who needs them.

Imagine if we compared our abilities to the animal kingdom. The results might surprise you!

Running Speeds
Squirrel = 9 mph
Black Mamba Snake = 20 mph
Tyrannosaurus Rex = 18 mph
*Human = 23 mph; Usain Bolt of Jamaica ran 100-meter in 9.72 seconds
Grizzly Bear = 30 mph
House Cat = 30 mph
Cheetah = 50 mph

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Recessions are an Adventure Traveler's Dream

February 21 2009 by Neal Mueller

recessiontravel.jpgIn this global recession the overall mood is dire, and it's hard to see an end to it all. My advice this weekend is to turn off the television; put down the newspaper; close your laptop; and go outside.

The economic downturn is ushering in a period that should cry out to the adventurer inside of you. New opportunities are at your feet.

Right now, as you read this, the travel industry is slashing budgets and ratcheting down expectations for 2009 and 2010. Airline executives are hosting brainstorming sessions to devise ways to fill seats in the coming quarters. Travel operators, who have seen booking activity come to a standstill, are scrambling to capture your attention. Prices are coming down folks, and fast.

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What is Adventure Travel?

February 13 2009 by Neal Mueller

WhatisAdventureTravel.jpgAdventure travel is a broad term. There are a few things that I personally keep to when describing my own definition of the term. For me, an adventure has these components:


  • Engagement with nature and cultures.
  • Tangible end goal. A tangible end goal that pushes me to expand my known set of abilities.
  • Physical and mental test. An adventure will test my physically endurance and my mental fortitude. Pushing my mental endurance is even more rewarding than my physical endurance. My body should reach its limits before my mind quits. If this happens, I look back on the trip with pride and see it as a stepping stone to the next adventure.

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7 Adventure Destinations Just Got Cheaper

February 6 2009 by Neal Mueller

Like a saving grace, the global recession is making travel cheap for Americans. Currency traders view the dollar as a safe haven during this recession. As a result, the dollar gains strength as the stock market weakens. This may surprise many travelers, because until recently the dollar was weak.

A strong dollar is GREAT news for travelers, especially adventure travelers who love the places that are especially cheap these days. There are 7 countries that are especially cheap right now. I'll highlight them below:

7Destinations.jpg

For example, what used to cost $10 in Iceland in January 2008 now costs $4.50 in US Dollar equivalent. That is a savings of 55%. Read on for a country-by-country analysis.

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Every Cool Trip Needs a Soundtrack

February 2 2009 by Neal Mueller

Soundtrack.jpgEvery cool trip needs a soundtrack. Is your music collection getting a bit stale? Need help preparing a rocking playlist for your upcoming trip? Run out of places to get fresh info about new music? If so, you're in luck. Mashable Blog has assembled a list websites to add fabulousness to your next trip soundtrack. Below is an excerpt with some additions from us.
When you create your soundtrack consider jamming out at these hotels with in-room iPod docks.

Music Discovery Sites

Musicovery - discover new music with this cool take on Internet radio.

MusicMesh - browse through artists based on their similarities; find track lists and reviews for albums.

Pandora - type in the name of an artist you like, Pandora will create a "radio station" for you featuring that artist and similar acts.

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Winter Adventure Recommendations

January 27 2009 by Neal Mueller

winteradventures.jpgAdventure comes in all colors; my favorite is white! Snowflakes, crisp air, the silence of a snowfall. Here's the list of adventures I'm considering this winter season. I split them into three categories. Extreme, not-extreme, and in between.

Extreme:

  • Dog sledding. What could be more exhilarating than mushing forward, geeing right, and hawing left behind your very own team of 7 panting huskies as they run down a snow-covered forest trail?

  • Ice climbing. What could be more death-defying than climbing a frozen waterfall?

  • Mountain climbing. What could be more self-validating than to climb a mountain in winter and sit atop the ice-laden summit as if it were God's icy front porch?

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Economic Stimulus Package for Adventurers

January 16 2009 by Neal Mueller

AdventureStimulus.jpgThis market down-turn is affecting us all. I'm afraid to open my 401k statements these days. Even with the economy in the dumpster, there are adventure travel opportunities that won't break the (piggy) bank. Here are three. The first is wild and the second one is tame.

1) Climb in Pakistan for 50% off - now is the best time to go on a climbing vacation to Pakistan! According to this report at Everest News, the Ministry of Tourism has announced that climbing fees have been reduced by 50% for 2009. Clearly Pakistan is planning ahead to climbers' dreams alive and keep the mountains accessible to everyone. Thank you Pakistan. Speaking about good deals, most western hotel brands have super opulent hotels in the capital city of Pakistan at cut-rate prices. The Best Western Islamabad sports a marbled-floored lobby and a snappily dressed staff. Tell the manager, Pariq Mumtaz, that we sent you.

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New Year's Resolution Idea: Take a Trip

January 9 2009 by Neal Mueller

TakeaTrip.jpg"Take a Trip" is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. I think it should be the most popular resolution. Here's the list published by the U.S. Government. "Take a Trip" is such an awesome goal, and way more fun than so many others.

Some other top items on the list are "lose weight," "eat right," and "get fit." Those sound so vague, non-time bounded, and not so much fun. My advice in 2009 is to put away the Slim Fast and the Ab Roller, and take a trip.

My preferred type of trip is an outdoorsy trip.

For a simple trip, try this:
Step 1: Turn off TV or Computer.
Step 2: Drive/walk/run to the nearest forest, beach or lake.
Step 3: Discover the beautiful flora and fauna that lives through quiet observation.
Step 4: Breathe a sigh of relief as you realize how much nicer that was then the Ab Roller.

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Audacious Acts

January 2 2009 by Neal Mueller

AudaciousActs.jpgEver wanted to travel somewhere and accomplish something that had never been done before? Well, wait till you read about this. These are stories about real life adventurers traveling across the globe and making history. Sam ran across the US in 50 days. That's 60 miles a day! Dee Caffari traveled around the world in a sailboat, against the wind.

National Geographic Adventure Magazine has a new award that they award annually. It is called "Audacious Acts". It's an outrageously awesome way to summarize the most audacious adventure feats each year. These guys and gals have traveled across the world and pushed themselves to the limit to accomplish their goals. It's totally inspiring and great food for thought if want to plan an audacious adventure of your own. Check it out:

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Adventures that Require Zero Vacation Days

December 29 2008 by Neal Mueller

NoVacationDays.jpgAs the adventure columnist for Best Western it's basically my "job" to encourage you all to live your dreams and be as adventuresome as possible. That is all well and good, but some of you have shared some practical matters with me, like a lack of vacation. You've told me that you it's just not a practical reality for you to take 4 weeks vacation and go trekking in Tibet or cycling in France.

Here are five adventures that will help you free your adventuresome spirit within the practical constraints of your jobby job.

#1 The Athletic Adventure: Swim to Alcatraz and back by 9 am (San Francisco residents only).

The Southend Rowing Club hosts a roundtrip swim to Alcatraz every Tuesday morning at 6 am. It's for conditioned swimmers only who are also members, but in my experience it doesn't take more than a few months of conditioning for most swimmers to get to this point. Participants finish in time for 9 am meetings. What a way to start off the day! And best yet, this adventure this takes zero vacation.

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Destination Marathons

December 19 2008 by Neal Mueller

DesitinationMarathons.jpgThere is a whole wave of people who are using marathons as launch pads for mini vacations. They sign-up for a race in a city they want to visit and invite their friends and family to join them and cheer them on. Bada Bing, a group vacation with a purpose!

Here's are some destination marathons to get your imagination running...

Las Vegas - Vegas Marathon
New York - New York Marathon
Orlando - Disney Marathon
Los Angeles - LA Marathon
San Francisco - Nike Women's Marathon
Boston - Boston Marathon
China - Great Wall of China Marathon
Nepal - Mount Everest Marathon
Berlin - Berlin Marathon

Got another destination marathon in mind? Please share your additions in the comments!

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Swimming Adventures

December 12 2008 by Neal Mueller

SwimmingAdventures.jpgThere is a whole movement of people who are discovering that swimming in nature's water beats swimming in chlorinated pool water. I recently got into open water swimming, and have spent a lot of my recent vacation time traveling to various places to swim in bays, lakes, channels and rivers.

Swimming is the only fitness activity that invokes every muscle in your body--the only full body workout. It's also a very efficient and joint-friendly way to get fit. Water is 900 times denser than air, and to me this makes the act of swimming feel like I am overcoming something tangibly difficult. It's addictive in a wonderfully healthy way.
Here's a list of audacious swims to jump into, starting with the Everest of swims:

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Climbing Adventures

December 5 2008 by Neal Mueller

Neal Climbing.jpgYou know how it is. You go to work Monday through Friday, on the weekend you go out on the town and eat too much and drink too much with friends. Then you rinse and repeat. There's gotta be more to life. Well, in 2001 my buddy Chris and I decided we wanted a change. We bought a guide book on New Hampshire mountains and traveled up north in Chris' old Explorer. In New Hampshire we climbed Mount Monadnock from bottom to top. It was our first mountain climb. We felt like kings. The feeling of tangible accomplishment was exhilarating and it hooked us completely. After that we went on to climb dozens of mountains together. Climbing mountains is an exhilarating privilege. And sitting at the summit is a rare opportunity to sit on what I call God's front porch.
In the mood for a climbing adventure? Why not start small and dream big. Below is a whole list of climbing adventures. Some people spend their entire lives working to achieve just one of them. Bergheil!

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Baja Adventures

November 29 2008 by Neal Mueller

Baja1c.jpgNothing screams adventure like a holiday weekend. This past Labor Day I weekend warrior'd the Baja. In this blog post I'll disclose two secret campsites, two primo snorkeling holes, and two great local eateries.

Two secret seaside campsites.
Camp VII. This a secret with an expiration date. Soon this isolated camp spot will be cliff-side golf course filled with men in bad pants chasing small, white, dimpled balls. Thankfully, this site is yet undeveloped and has untouched seaside cliffs, panoramic vistas, and gorgeous snorkeling. Ask Dale at La Bufadora Dive Shop how to get to "Camp VII". It's up the road from him about 10 minutes. Turn-left at the bright yellow house. The gate attendant at the turn-off will charge you either $3 or a Tecate for parking (your choice).<

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Endurance Adventures

November 21 2008 by Neal Mueller

Last week a 10-year old boy in Minnesota wrote me an email and asked, "what adventures are there?" Kids always ask the best questions, and his question really got me thinking. I decided to compile a list of endurance adventures. There are just so many cool things to do out there, check it out...

7 Summits - climb the tallest mountain on every continent including Mount Everest

Peak and pond - climb Mount Everest and swim English Channel. Done by 3 people, never done by American.

Eight-thousanders - climb the 14 mountains in the world that exceed 8000 meters

Explorers Grand Slam - climb the 7 summits and reach both the south and north poles

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Negotiate Your Way to a First-class Vacation

November 7 2008 by Neal Mueller

During my adventure travels I keep coming back to two central truths:

  1. It's amazing what you can get just by asking

  2. A little kindness goes a long way

This post will focus on how to upgrade your vacation with a little negotiation.

I'll start with a few over-arching negotiation principles that apply across many facets of life. These should be no-brainers, but are often minimized or forgotten in the heat of a negotiation.

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Find Fitness While Flying Far Afield

October 21 2008 by Neal Mueller

Find fitness.jpgAs far as I can there are like three REALLY portable endurance sports: swimming, running, and weight lifting. "Portable" means you can work-out almost anywhere without much gear. There are some great online tools to make your workout less logistically taxing while you're adventuring far from afield:

Run
Some people can just go out and run, and some people need to plan a route and have tangible goal associated with their daily fitness adventure. For those who like to plan their route there is Google Pedometer where you can route plan your next road or trail run. If you are interested in a topographical profile view of your run check out this handy plugin to google maps, Path Profiler.

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Packing List for Adventure Travelers

October 11 2008 by Neal Mueller

Adventure Travel.jpgIn 2002 I set out to climb the tallest mountains on every continent. During my adventures around the world I found myself needing the same things over and over and over again.

10 items to bring on your next adventure:

  1. Baseball hat - sometimes it's easier to grab a lid than a shower.

  2. Audio book - allow you read a book without missing the view. Audible.com and Itunes.com have the best selection.

  3. Unassuming watch - you want the date and time but you don't want to attract unneeded attention. Tangential tip: if you visit the Masai in Tanzania they will happily buy your watch for gorgeous handmade objects.

  4. Headlamp - useful in dim trains and dank tents. The ZIPKA Plus by Petzl is portable and cheap. This tiny headlamp was bright enough to guide me up the tallest mountain in South America, and reliable enough to help me change a flat on my Jeep.
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Tips For Your Road Trip

September 25 2008 by Neal Mueller

road trip.jpgI love the serenity and the who-knows-what-will-happen opportunity of a journey on the open road. Last week I began a 3000 mile roadtrip from Philadelphia to San Francisco. I'd just graduated from a school on the east coast and was setting out to start a new job on the west coast. My trip could have been a straight line coast-to-coast, but I took a few detours to spice it up. I visited my oldest relative in Iowa City, went for a mile-high bike ride in Denver with my friend Adam, and was totally amazed by a sweltering and lifeless hike in the Utah salt flats. The roadtrip lasted five 8-hour days and cost $882 in gas, yowza! It would have cost me more in food, gas and accommodation if I hadn't done some advance planning to find nice hotels and inexpensive gasoline stations along my route.

Here are a few tools/tips that I used...hope they're helpful for your next roadtrip.

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Hotel Room Workout #1

September 12 2008 by Neal Mueller

hotel workout.jpgIt can be super hard for me to motivate myself to go to the gym after I've been crammed into seat 32B or behind the wheel. This was definitely the case last week when I arrived late into the Best Western Hotel in Mountain View, California. I'd been driving all day and all I wanted to do was crash. But I knew I'd sleep better if I got the blood flowing and stretched. I needed a workout with dynamic movements to lengthen my body. I did two decent workouts in a hotel room and I wanted to share them with you in case you have the same sort of problem motivating as I do. Sometimes the only practical option is to get in a quick workout right in the hotel room, especially late at night.

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Green Your Hotel Stay

August 21 2008 by Neal Mueller

In 2003 I set out on a 15-day adventure in Africa and it totally changed my environmental outlook. I traversed Mount Kilimanjaro from west-to-east and watched the Furtwangler Glacier melt and crumble. For me it was a dramatic example of global warming. It's hard to disbelieve what is right before your eyes. The ice fields on Kilimanjaro have lost 82 percent of their ice since 1912. I literally watched house sized chunks calve from this glacier a few hundred feet from me. It was cacophonous, traumatic and sad.

Like I said, this totally change my environmental outlook. This includes the way I travel and stay in hotels. Here are couple things I'm doing to green my travel.

  1. Turn off lights and air conditioning when gone from the room (a no brainer). The whole "we'll leave the light on for you" advertisement campaign is so 1980.
  2. Change linens only when needed. When I stay at hotels I ask the maids to do it every third day. They save time and I save the city some water, everyone wins.
  3. Refill water bottles. The energy we waste in America using bottled water is crazy; it's enough to power 190,000 homes. There is a great campaign called Refill not Landfill, www.refillnotlandfill.org.
  4. Use public transport. Here are two great public transport route finders. Google is doing their part www.google.com/transit. For all other cities go here www.publictransportation.org/systems
  5. Be an innovator. Think of creative ways to reuse "disposable" items to save money and the environment. lifehacker.com/386927/creative-ways-to-reuse-disposable-items
  6. Be a green advocate. Ask the hotel manager about their energy usage, such as energy-saving bulbs and recycling. You might be pleasantly surprised to hear what is going on behind the scenes to make Best Western hotels sparkly green. The point is, the more that hotel guests express concern the greener the hotel operations will become. Hotel managers are very responsive hosts and will take notice to innovate green operations.
Talk to us. Have you had an experience like mine that totally changed your environmental outlook?

What are you doing to green your hotel stay?

What can we be doing to green our hotels even more?

Healthy Continental Breakfast'ing

August 5 2008 by Neal Mueller

I've spent a lot of time on the road, sometimes for adventure, sometimes for business. I've visited all 7 continents. I even visited the only continent where Best Western doesn't have a full fleet of hotels (Antarctica). One year I traveled so much that I actually spent 250 nights in hotels! One of my favorite parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine. Sometimes I splurge (like chocolate mousse for breakfast in Paris), but more often than not I just want a healthy breakfast that will keep me going all day long. I put together a list of tips for all of you who are at the hotel continental breakfast bar wondering what is best to eat.

So next time you're on vacation don't let your nutrition go on vacation too. This list will help you decide what to eat and what to leave for the next guy.

  1. Choose a whole grain cereal with low-fat milk (I like Cheerios in the morning). I avoid sugary muffins, sweet-rolls, and pre-sweetened cereal. High carbohydrate/sugar snacks such as these may improve my mood for a short time, but all that sugar makes me sleepy. Being sleepy is no good if you're the driver on a road trip or if you have a big day planned.
  2. Load up on the fresh fruit for vitamins and fiber. The eggheads over at the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute recommend we increase our fiber intake to 25 grams per day. Most Americans eat about a third of this amount. This grim fact may in part be responsible for America's high rate of heart disease, colon cancer and obesity. These diseases are practically nonexistent in places with a high intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Try an apple and whole wheat toast for starters.
  3. Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good sources of protein. Each has 5 grams of protein. Jimmy Dean sausage links have a bit more protein (7 grams) but also twice the saturated fat and twice the calories. My advice is to leave the links for the next guy (despite their yummy greasiness).
  4. If you are on a weight-loss regimen, avoid the condiments altogether. Condiments such as cream cheese, butter, jelly, and peanut butter are high in all the bad calories that you want limit such as simple sugars and saturated fats. Breads taste just fine all by themselves when toasted; try it. I do this for a few weeks prior to road bike season and it shaves pounds very quickly without requiring me to change any of my other nutritional habits (and vices).

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