Adventure Travel (AA Travel Guides) by William Gray

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Adventure Travel (AA Travel Guides) by William Gray

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Category: Travel
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: Inspiring ideas for adventure sport holidays with a travel theme - bridges the gap between specialized activity books and Lonely Planets-type guidebooks.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2008
Publisher: Automobile Association
ISBN: 978-0749555818

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Last Friday, my local branch of Cotswold Outdoor had several travel guides and physical activity handbooks on the shelves, but nothing similar to this book, a compendium of physically active travel, with some nods to responsible tourism. The format of information on activities, well-written taster articles and plenty of attractive photos make for an inspiring armchair read for dreamers and planners. 'World class' locations are always debatable, but I found interesting suggestions in several sections. I loved the book enough to brush off the toast crumbs so that I can present it to one of my adventurous offspring this Christmas, but I'm very much afraid the easy-opening pages may give the game away!

Maybe some readers will only have a week of precious holiday to plan. Others, of various ages, might be able to indulge in gap years or longer. Some will be beginners tasting an activity for a couple of hours (oh but do we really need rites of passage like bungee jumping?). Others will be enthusiasts with considerable experience, tailoring a serious expedition to time, budget and ability. The book's suggestions fall within these parameters. I'm really only able to comment on some entries, since my experience of air and animal adventures is nil.

To my mind, a led adventure is great for taster sessions but independence is what real adventurers are after, which takes prior training and experience. Arriving at an adventure venue without these, and participation necessarily stays at beginner level.

On the other hand, relinquishing responsibility to a provider shouldn't be undertaken lightly, since other countries have differing levels of safety consciousness. With the hindsight of a whitewater rafting accident, I'd always advocate a 'what if' risk assessment of any adventure sport venue before signing your life away. I'm surprised the author didn't deal much more comprehensively with skills training, safety, insurance and international security issues in the text and/or contact section at the back.

An obvious omission, despite the photo of Ellen MacArthur, is ocean sailing, arguably the most eco-friendly travel on the planet. Hundreds of people cross oceans using windpower, contributing directly into local economies, using little fuel and avoiding problematic air travel entirely. We are not talking racing here. My friends recently completed a circumnavigation in their own yacht which took twenty four years! Yacht chartering is fab, but with radio check-ins twice a day and limited cruising areas, it's as safe and soft an adventure as the charter companies can make it.

Having just returned from chartering in the Whitsundays myself, it would be hypocritical to criticize the ambivalence of William Gray's article Should I offset my CO2 emissions? but I suspect that the ethical dilemma would be easier to resolve if the next guide in the series covered the British Isles.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending such an attractive book to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Blood River by Tim Butcher, about his expedition down the River Congo.

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