Amazing Outdoor Vacations

Some vacationers just aren't happy sitting by the pool, reading a book and sipping on a cool drink.

They need to feel their heart beating, the wind pushing against their face and enjoy an ever-changing scenery. For them, there is no sitting still.

"My two passions are skydiving and whitewater rafting," said 63-year-old Chuck Anderson of Idaho.

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Each year, he said, he tries to go on some type of adventurous trip, and has been on at least 10 big rafting trips.

"You're out in fresh air and having fun. And you are getting exercise and you tend to eat better," Anderson said. "When you do something like a multi-day trip on a river, the menu is very healthy, you're hiking, you're walking, you're paddling. You're doing things that keep the body going."

But for him, the rafting trips aren't just about being active but also getting away from everything else.

"There's no phones, there's no roads there's nothing but a way to relax," he said. "I'm a mortgage broker. My wife's a CPA and so we're in very high tension jobs and nobody can get a hold of you. And it's just wonderful."

Anderson said he also gets to bond with a group of "like-minded people" while doing something he loves.

Peter Grubb, who runs rafting trips out of Idaho, Oregon and elsewhere, as well as kayaking, hiking and biking trips, said that such adventures are a great way to bring together families.

"We are setting the stage for some great emotional and personal growth opportunities," said Grubb of ROW Adventures. "I think a lot of what they are seeking … they're just seeking really quality time together."

Grubb said adventure trips bring an "in the now" element to them, where the group shares stories around a campfire each night and focus on what they did that night and what's ahead the next day.

"That's a different conversation than you have after a day on the beach," Grubb said. "Part of it is that people just want to something more life-enriching that benefits both body and mind. Part of it is the opportunity for quality time with family or friends in a shared activity."

The allure of these trips, he said, is part adrenaline rush, part bragging rights.

"Who wants to come home and brag about the round-the-clock buffet on the cruise ship?" Grubb asked.

John North, a 58-year-old software salesman from Florida, said he likes his vacations a bit more tame.

"I'm not one of these people who enjoys being in a tent on the ground," North said.

But he still likes to be active.

"I want active, I want outside and I want scenery," he said. "I don't need too fancy, but I want a shower and a bed at the end of the day."

For him, walking tours through operator Country Walkers is the perfect combination. The small groups are always moving, met by interesting guides and get an up-close view of the sights. Plus, he said, there is always an interesting mix of people on the tours.

"People don't want to necessarily just sit on a beach," said Jamen Yeaton-Masi, director of operations for Country Walkers. "People have less vacation time than ever. We're hearing that the people who have only two weeks a year, they want to make sure that their one big vacation is not only fun but makes them feel good and is something different. We are hearing that more than ever."

The tours focus on eating at locally owned, small restaurants

"More and more we're hearing from guests that they loved walking during the day and then could splurge at night," Yeaton-Masi said. "They could indulge in a great meal at night and not feel guilty about it.

"It's not like one of these big tours and have an all-you-can-eat buffet. They're locally grown, organic food that's delicious but also makes you feel good," she added.

Lauren Hefferon, owner of Ciclismo Classico, a Boston-area bicycle company, tells a similar story.

"Get fit, eat well, be with your family and be one with nature," she said of her biking vacations. "We like to take hobbyist to passion."

While such active vacations are a small part of the overall travel industry -- one or two big cruise ships might have more customers than Hefferon sees in a season -- such trips are growing in popularity.

Ciclismo Classico tries to teach its travelers not just about the area around them but also about biking and how to improve their experience, Hefferon said.

"We sincerely believe in it as an alternative form of transportation that is good for the world and good for people," she said. "We call it the cycling movement because it really is a movement."