The Adventure Travel 101 series is designed to provide helpful information for veteran and beginner travelers alike. These posts are intended to inspire readers to pursue their adventurous dreams, while providing them helpful tips and skills to make traveling easier and more enjoyable along the way.
Let's face it; adventure travel can be expensive at times. Flights to remote destinations are always more expensive than traveling to major hubs, and hiring guides (often required where we go!), booking accommodations, buying gear, and purchasing permits, visas, or other important travel documents can add up quickly. But if you learn to be an opportunistic traveler, you may find that you can save hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars and gain some incredibly unique experiences along the way.
Sound interesting? Then read on!
What is an Opportunistic Traveler?
So what exactly is an opportunistic traveler? That's someone who recognizes that a destination may have fallen out of favor with other travelers for one reason or another, and decides to capitalize on that situation by visiting at a time when crowds may be smaller and the costs of travel are lower. This can save them substantial amounts of money and provide a very different travel environment in which they often have trekking routes, historical monuments, campsites, and other locations practically to themselves.
For example, when the ebola epidemic hit West Africa back in 2014, many countries on the continent found their tourism economies hit very hard, even if the virus was not found anywhere near their borders. Traditional safari destinations like Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa saw the number of visitors drop dramatically, and as a result lodges sat empty and many people who relied on the tourism industry were without work.
But, that meant that there were also a lot good travel deals to be had. Safari companies were offering tours at steep discounts, hotel rooms could be had for very little money, and even airfare prices dropped as demand to visit those countries dropped off to a trickle. The most popular tourist sites were free from crowds as well, reducing some of the challenges that typically comes with enjoying those places.
For an opportunistic traveler, it was the perfect time to go. In fact, some once-in-a-lifetime trips could be had at a fraction of their usual price. For someone who had always wanted to visit Africa, it was the perfect time, as prices and crowds had never been smaller.
Weighing the Risks
Of course, there are a number of factors to consider when looking to be opportunistic in your travel choices, the first of which is safety of course. In the case of someone wanting to visit Africa during the ebola outbreak, a little research would have told them that the disease was contained to essentially three countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Libera. Located in West Africa, those places are a long way from the traditional tourist locations, which were actually quite safe from the disease and never saw a single patient.
Armed with that knowledge, anyone who weighed the risks would have found that the actual chance of exposure to ebola was quite small, while the rewards of visiting Africa at that time were high. That makes it an easy choice to go for the opportunistic traveler looking to save some money on their trip.
In addition to weighing the risks of travel to a specific location, it is also important to consider other factors as well. For instance, it is important to understand exactly why a specific location has fallen off the list of popular destinations amongst tourists. Any number of variables including high crime rates, lack of solid infrastructure, political and economic instability, environmental disasters, bad publicity, and other social issues can be behind such a change of heart amongst frequent travelers.
Understanding why something is happening is the key to also knowing if it is the right time to go for yourself. For example, a poor economy can turn a lot of people off to visiting a specific destination out of fear that the same level of services and accommodations may not be available while there. But, an economic downturn can also lead to a much better exchange rate, something that can save you hundreds of dollars as well. Thinking about these factors carefully can often lead to some travel opportunities that you might not have considered before.
Where to Go Now?
With all of this in mind, where should the opportunistic traveler be turning their attention now? As usual, there are a couple of places around the world that have suffered a drop in tourism in recent months where travel your travel dollar can go a lot further at the moment. Some of those include the following:
Nepal: Following the massive earthquake that hit the Himalaya in April 2015, Nepal has struggled to rebuild its tourism economy. While trekkers and climbers are starting to make their way back, the number of visitors to that country are way down compared to previous years. But, Nepal is safe and open for business, with most of the tourism infrastructure restored. If you've ever wanted to hike in the shadow of the highest peaks on the planet, now may be a great time to go.
Egypt: The Arab Spring brought a period of instability to Egypt that made it unsafe for visitors. But those days are long past, and now it is a relatively calm destination. Yes, there are still some occasional demonstrations and terrorist attacks, but those are generally not aimed at tourists but other factions within the country. Now days, many of the famous archeological sites – including the Pyramids and Sphinx – remain free from crowds and ready to welcome visitors, as they have for thousands of years.
Ecuador: Much like Nepal, Ecuador suffered a major earthquake in 2016 that left some parts of the country in a shambles. But, it too has rebuilt admirably, and is now welcoming foreign visitors without any major problems. Most pass through the capital city of Quito on their way to the Galapagos Islands, which have remained a popular destination for decades. But opportunistic travelers will find other options on the mainland are more affordable than ever, including great treks to the summit of Cotopaxi and trips to the Amazon.
Want to take advantage of these opportunities yourself? Then be smart and vigilant when thinking about where you want to travel next. Watch the news and pay attention to what is happening around the globe. Then consider how you can take advantage of current trends to visit places that may have been too costly before. You might be surprised to find some destinations that you thought were out of reach are actually back on the table thanks to a temporary downturn fortunes.
Usually these types of situations are indeed temporary, as Africa has bounced back for instance and there are signs of life in Nepal's tourism economy too. So take advantage of these opportunities when they come, as they may pass you by very quickly.
Stay safe, have fun, and explore opportunistically. It can be very rewarding.