What I Learned from Group Hiking Trips

After 2 days of intense hiking, we couldn’t help but shriek in excitement as we arrived at our final camp.

We were a mix of athletes, people with little to no outdoor experience, and others in the middle of the two extremes. The hike was a challenge for all.

We rounded the last twist of ancient Inca trail and the mountainside dropped off to our right. Straight ahead was a manmade ledge wide enough for a row of tents. The lush green valley stretched between mountain peaks that ran as far as vision allowed, no sign of mankind aside from our camp. The clear sky was a canvas overhead, sure to be a wonderous display of stars.

This was our final night on the ancient Inca Trail before reaching Machu Picchu. The determination, strength and command of each hiker over the trek is undeniable. Each overcame their own diversity, coming out visibly more confident and fulfilled than they were 3 days prior. From conquering camping outside for the first time to sickness and fear of heights, each hiker pushed through and overcame.

I can assure you none of us will tell you it was easy, and none of us would likely elect to do it again (3,000+ stairs in one day, anyone?) but we are all grateful we went, we conquered, and we grew.

If you’re ready for something new, to disconnect and reset with nature, consider a group hiking trip! It will challenge and change you, providing for amazing memories and once in a life-time experience.

What makes hiking so great?

My absolute favorite things about multiday hikes are:

  1. You are forced to unplug and be present. When is the last time you went 6 hours without touching your phone? Is there anything else in your life you’re so attached to? Whatever it is you’re addicted to, make this a time to reset from it and just be.
  2. Shifting landscapes. I can’t think of any other experiences that allow you to live the transition of ecosystems like multiday hikes. On one hike, you’re likely to experience rolling grasslands, lush forests, tropical and dewy cloud forests, rocky cliffsides that split open to lush valleys and depending on the altitude, snow! To look and follow a path to the horizon, knowing you traveled it or are about to, is such an amazing feat of man.
  3. The night sky. Remove all light pollution and you’re left with the most incredible twinkling canvas, a clear view of the milky way, and stars so bright you feel you may just be able to reach out and grab one. It’s indescribable and something I pray you experience in your lifetime.
  4. The transformation. This is hard to explain in one paragraph. As with any trial or new challenge, there are moments of gratitude, desperation and everything between. The most valuable lesson mountain climbing taught me is that no matter how big and overwhelming the task, as long as I keep moving forward, I will conquer. It’s increased confidence in too many areas to list.
  5. The people. Learning of the cultures that call the peaks home and how they integrated life together, almost like one wasn’t meant to exist without the other is wonderous. Seeing similarities in countries separated by miles and miles of ocean and living life with them for a few short days is something that lasts a lifetime.
  6. The food. The food is always unbelievably delicious. Popcorn is a global trail snack (also my favorite). In Peru, the chef and his team bake, ice, and decorate a cake with nothing but the supplies they carried in. Hot tea and coffee are staples, and calories are a thing of the past when you spend the day hiking allowing you to enjoy everything guilt-free.

Are you ready to give it a shot?

Check out Machu Picchu or Kilimanjaro if you’re feeling hardcore. If you’d prefer to start with a few day hikes, allowing to reset (and no camping), our Out West Trip is a great starting point.

Happy Trails!

Visit Machu Picchu


How Travel Can Help Set the Course for the Rest of Your Life

The transition period between college life and adult life can be a confusing one.  A common feeling is that after graduation, one should be ready to take on the world, settle into adulthood, lock down a job, house, family and live happily ever after.  Or perhaps take a few months to travel and explore the globe before accepting a job that will launch into a career, then buy a house, build a family, and live happily ever after.

We are here to encourage the latter. And to do so with intention.  You may have read our ABOUT page and learned the foundation of this company is based on the idea that (1) travel changes people for the better (2) it’s great to experience with other people and (3) it unlocks potential you may not have otherwise known.

For most, the opportunity to have a few months – or even one month – to do as you please is very rare after the education chapter has closed. Instead of jumping into something you will be doing for the next 30-40 years, why not hold off a month or two and embark on a journey of self-discovery?

To ensure you receive the most out of your travels, be sure to include a few key components (all of which are included in each State of Unity experience!).

  1. Spend time connecting with locals. Dive into a new culture, learn with is important to them, their religious beliefs, family structure, daily life, etc.  Do all you can to understand and appreciate an alternative life outlook than how you were raised.
  2. Volunteer. Find at least one organization that could use a helping hand, hopefully one that speaks to your heart and mission.  If you don’t know what that is, try several things.  More often than not, one will develop into a fire of passion and a mission for life.
  3. Appreciate the History. To understand another culture, one must understand that cultures past; the journey it traveled, what makes the current trends last.  An excellent example is Cambodia.  This is a country whose history must be understood in order to understand current state and appreciate the kindness in its people. 
  4. Get Active. Bike Tours, hiking, walking, running, are all great ways to soak in the surroundings.  More of the senses are involved, and you’ll find yourself appreciating the architecture, wildlife, even perhaps pausing along the way for anything that catches the eye. 
  5. Eat Local! Learn what some of the favorite local dishes are and be sure to try at a few local, non-touristy spots.  Perhaps even take a cooking class if they offer local cuisine.

The goal of all of this is to help you reach outside what is already known, let go of expectations, and simply live and experience life. It is through this freedom that passions often grow.


5 Tips for an Unforgettable Trip

Committing to travel takes time, money, resources, and can often be stressful.  It’s a break from the normal routine with the expectation of new experiences, scenery, and places that make all the planning efforts worthwhile. It often doesn’t take much to create memories worth savoring, and these 5 tips will help even the most dynamic traveler have an enriching experience wherever the destination.

  1. Talk to the locals. Ask the hotel staff, barista, or friendly face at the restaurant what their favorite place to go is.  Whether it be a restaurant, park, hiking trail, most likely it won’t be something you’ll find in any travel blog.  This allows you to truly tap into local culture.  Most people are excited about where they live, happy to share all the wonderful things it has to offer.
  2. Hit the streets.  Walk, bike, scooter, run the neighborhood, beach, or district.  This has always been a favorite after arriving in a new place.  Not only is it a great way to see the area, it helps establish a sense of direction and whereabouts. Naturally, if in a place where safety may be of concern, be sure you’re not heading into a bad area.  Talk to registration or concierge to ensure this isn’t the case. 
  3. Ebb & Flow. Such as one cannot control the waves, travel can be the same.  Making plans and arrangements is often necessary and helps you make the most of your time.  It is important to remember time doesn’t hold the same level of importance across cultures.  For example, in the United States, if dinner is ‘soon’ that means one can expect to eat within the hour.  In other parts of the world, ‘soon’ could mean up to 5 hours.  Try to let go of the addition to time and instead enjoy the moments as they come.
  4. Be flexible. Similar to Ebb & Flow, but slightly different.  Once in a new place, you’ll likely come across a few things you weren’t aware of prior to arrival.  If you have a jam-packed schedule, there won’t be any time to try new opportunities.  However, if some gaps are left in days, you can enjoy leisure activities, spurt-of-the-moment excursions, and more.
  5. Get outside the comfort zone. During our interview with Ryan Curtright, he spoke of the passing of time and living the day-to-day life, when years pass by with no real markings.  We tend to keep years marked by gaps in the normal routine, such as trips taken or monumental changes.  Why? These moments mark a moment when we shifted and/or changed.  Traveling allows you to do this many times over.  When adrenaline gets involved and you try something new, it is sure to define you, whether small and known only to you, or transformational and visible to all.  Either way, don’t miss out on renewed excitement for life.

Tips for Safe Travel from a Travel Expert

Experienced traveler or first time on a plane, these rules remain the same.  Always be aware of your surroundings and how you appear.  While some places are coined safer than others, these practices should be applied regardless of where you are.  Nothing kills a good trip faster than a stolen bag or passport.

  1. Always lock your belongings.  Never trust anyone to be responsible for your stuff except you.  There are plenty of stories from travelers being told luggage is fine to leave while going on multiday excursions, returning to no bags, no answers and no solutions.  If staying in a hostel, take advantage of lockers and bring your own lock. Check out our packing list for more tips.
  2. Never keep all your cash/cards/IDs in the same place.  Try to only take what you need for each day with you, and, if in a high-risk area, perhaps even keep it hidden on your body, with a small amount in a more obvious place.  Keep extra cash and any identification you won’t need that day locked up. 
  3. Know your closest exit.  Always be aware of the best way out of a building or where you’re staying.  You just never know.
  4. Be aware of helpful/interested/distracting people.  There are more than enough scam, robbery, and kidnapping stories to go around that we won’t bother getting into more detail here. Just keep your guard up.
  5. Use the cloud.  Upload photos, location, etc. every chance you’re able, on the crazy chance your phone/laptop/etc. somehow disappears.  On this same note, share your location with a few trusted people.
  6. Move like a local.  Blend in as much as you can in areas that aren’t resort-like, tourist hotspots.  And even then, it doesn’t hurt.  Don’t be that guy or girl standing on a street corner looking at your phone trying to figure out which direction to go.  Step inside or lean off somewhere to look more natural.  Try to not stare at your phone/directions as you walk and be aware of your surroundings.  If things start to feel different or you feel the neighborhood shift, trust your gut.
  7. Bring a first aid kit.  Anything is possible.  Blisters, splinters, sunburn, who knows!  And, who knows what will be available where you’re headed or how far you’ll have to travel to get it. You can order a simple full kit from pretty much anywhere, and then add whatever is missing.
  8. Be food-conscious.  Meats left in the sun, unwashed vegetables, ice cubes and water.  Something as simple as brushing your teeth from faucet water could derail your plans for the next 24+ hours. Be aware of where you’re going and how it differs from where you’re from.  Food illness is never fun, and even less so when not in the comfort of your own home.
  9. If you’re going to party, do it smart.  Don’t accept drinks from strangers, drugs are never a good idea, and stay sober enough to be aware of your surroundings and in control of your actions.  We shouldn’t have to go into more detail here.  Be smart, stay in control.
  10. Leave valuables at home.  Flashy jewelry, designer bags, even some wedding bands are better left home than tempting a would-be thief.  If you must bring, or your destination is pretty safe, remain cautious and aware.
  11. Make copies of necessary documents.  Old-school printouts of reservations, contacts, manifests, and IDs come in handy often.  Again, on the unfortunate chance of a lost or stolen phone, these will be your lifeline.
  12. Research before you go.  Educate yourself on local customs, travel tips, crime rates, scams, exchange rates, average cost of meals, taxis, etc, and general geography. This will help reduce the chance of being caught off-guard with having to pay for something with no idea what the cost should be.

The more aware and prepared you are upon arrival, the more confident you’ll feel, allowing you to enjoy each moment of the journey. 

We love feedback – let us know what you think of our list, if it helped you, or anything you would add.  Safe & happy trails! Now pick the experience that’s right for you!


No Reservations

*My 1st Solo Trip Abroad*

As an event manager in Florida, the Christmas season was not one of celebration but what I liked to call “No Sleep Season” based on the simple fact that we were so busy and so stressed we did not sleep from November through April.  This year, I managed to have a tiny open pocket around Christmas, so booked a flight to Belize (thank you reward points!).  The selection was based on flight duration, cost, and proximity to beaches.

Allow me to preface this by saying I do not recommend traveling like I did – with zero plans, no reservations, and no one knowing my whereabouts.  Admittingly, this lack of planning is part of what makes the memory so fun, but I don’t recommend it.  Well then, let’s start at the beginning.

Typical of myself, it was a quick decision that took all of 15 minutes.  Maybe 30.  Most people stress-shop for shoes, I buy plane tickets.

Between work and the little sleep I was able to enjoy, trip planning was not top of my to-do list.  Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Belize with not so much as the first hotel night booked.  Much of this was due to being busy, but if I’m being honest, it was also due to my fear to pull the trigger.  This was my first solo trip abroad, the options were overwhelming, and I had no idea how long or where to stay. 

The little research I did do informed of a few things:

  • Get out of the city and to the islands as fast as possible (for safety)
  • The cab rate from the airport to the ferry
  • A lovely yoga retreat right on the beach, within my budget

My seatmate was a middle-aged man, tightly clasping a 4-inch thick stack of manila folders.  We chatted a bit; apparently the file cabinet on his lap was the itinerary for his family.  Every year they take a trip over the holidays.  He carried their master plan.  He then asked who I was traveling with (no one), and where I was going (not sure), and surely I must know where I’m staying (actually no, no reservations…do you have any suggestions?).  Mr. Spreadsheet’s eyes grew wide, he turned straight ahead, and didn’t say another word the rest of the flight. I still laugh about the mini heart attack I likely gave him.

Over the next five days, I snorkeled with stingrays and sharks, hiked ancient Myan ruins, rode co-pilot on a tiny plane that landed in a cow field, made new friends and never dined alone.  When traveling solo, you find yourself making conversation everywhere with everyone.  Because there isn’t a security blanket of familiar faces, you naturally meet more people.  There wasn’t a single moment I recall feeling lonely.

The entire experience was empowering, fun, and unforgettable.  I made friends with a group of American travelers who had a flight around the same time as me.  We pitched in for a car together, hung out at the airport, and stayed in touch. A year or so later, met in Iceland for an RV road trip of a lifetime; something that surely wouldn’t have happened if I were traveling with companions.

When going completely solo you’re forced to decide what you want, where you want to go, and what you want to do.  It’s a journey of self-discovery, where the only one deciding what you want is…YOU!

If the idea of a solo trip terrifies you, but you really want to give it a shot, start out with a small group trip!  It removes the stress of planning while leaving all the fun elements of meeting new people, trying new things, and visiting new places (like Belize, perhaps?!).  You will be free to be 100% authentically you.  We can’t wait to see who that is and have a feeling you can’t either.

Author: Cara Irene


When is Small Group Travel the right fit?

Why consider small group travel?  How do you know if group travel is the right fit for you?  And if it is, how do you know which travel agency to use?  Do you make your decision from reviews by strangers whom you have no idea what their likes and dislikes are and if they are similar to you?  The following guide is designed to help you make an educated decision based on your specific goals, needs, and interests.  While we hope the end result will have you booking our next adventure, it may not be the right fit at this time.  And that’s fine!  We also assist with private bookings, should that be the direction needed.  But here, we focus on the small group travel category.

  1. There are places you want to go (Iceland, anyone?!), but don’t have anyone to go with and don’t want to go alone. 

This is probably the most common reason people end up here.  Whether it’s financial, PTO, family or other commitments, there are lots of things that keep people tied to the daily grind.  Group travel is an excellent solution here because it allows you to keep living your life unrestricted.  More than likely, everyone you will meet during the tour will have similar interests as you, or they wouldn’t have ended up there.  

  1. Planning a vacation abroad is overwhelming!  How do you even begin?!

Foreign currencies, unknown languages, and unfamiliar places are just some of the things you must juggle when planning.  Not to mention the limitless amount of information, reviews, tour guides and excursions.  Selecting the right one could make or break a day or an experience, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  When using a tour company, you can rest assured they have built personal relationships with the locals and have run the same routes time and time over.  They will be using guides who speak your language and want to make sure your experience is just as good, if not better, than those prior to ensure they continue to get a paycheck.

  1. My life is in a rut, I need to shake it up, try something new, branch out of my routine!

If this is you, you are definitely in the right place!  Can you think of a better way to get your mind, body, and existence into a new flow state?  You will spend your time surrounded by new people, places, foods, and experiences.  It’s practically guaranteed you’ll return with a new spark for life, new interests. And appreciation for your experience.

  1. I’ve always wanted to try a mission trip, but, if I’m being honest, I’ve never felt called to any specific place or area.

Speaking from personal experience, if this is you, please, please sign up today!  Entering into a travel experience with an open heart, allowing God to take you where you belong, will alter the rest of your life in the most amazing way.  Check out our about page to learn more.  

  1. I’m too busy to plan everything on my own.  I just want to show up, have a good time, and relax!

Our small group trips are perfect for those who want someone else to handle the details.  We cover everything from day one to end, even sharing suggested things to do during free time.  Instead of booking a flight on your own and just winging it, why not book with us knowing you won’t miss out on any of the ‘must sees’ and not have to figure anything out once you arrive?