Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show: From Scuba Diving Indoors to Volunteer Vacations and Everything in Between

Attendees could learn to scuba dive indoors!
This weekend marked the 2012 Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show, the last in a series of six expos designed to showcase exciting trip possibilities, cultural performances and a variety of travel opportunities around the world.

Exhibitors included tourism organizations like the Aruba Tourism Authority and Discover Lehigh Valley, tour companies like Planet Wildlife, guiding companies like Rare Earth Adventures, and local area trails organizations like the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Whether you're looking for a guiding company for Mount Kilimanjaro or a relaxing beach resort destination, each show has something for everyone. It was my first Travel and Adventure Show, and it certainly didn't disappoint.

Learning how to climb indoors.
On the list of presenters were, among others, Patricia Shultz, author of the international bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and 1,000 Places to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die. . I'd never picked up a copy of either because I knew I'd immediately be afflicted with an incurable case of itchy feet. I have enough trouble coming to terms with the dozen or so destinations on my immediate to-do list, and adding hundreds more could put me over the edge! I found myself listening intently as Patricia described thirty of her recommended destinations, inspired both by the landscapes she described and the people she'd met throughout the course of her travels. I'm now the proud owner of a signed second edition copy of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, though I hope all of the possibilities aren't too overwhelming!

One of the most exciting parts of the show was seeking out the experiential exhibitors, including West Virginia-based River & Trail Outfitters. Their indoor rock wall was a big hit, as was the 18,000 gallon heated indoor dive pool provided by Pennsylvania and New Jersey-based Be a Diver. Both booths provided exhibitors and the general public alike an opportunity to try sports typically not available in the middle of a convention center. Outer Banks-based Kitty Hawk Kites gave attendees a chance to virtually fly a replica of the original Wright Brothers glider, built in 1902. The company is reproducing the centuries-old flying machine and giving flight lessons on the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park.

Attendees testing out a Wright Brothers glider
flight simulator by Kitty Hawk Kites.
Though the experiential booths were exciting, two of my favorite exhibitors both provide volunteer vacations and ways to give back while discovering new places outdoors - the American Hiking Society and The Village Experience .  The American Hiking Society is an organization dedicated to protecting trails nationwide - something I can truly get behind. With opportunities to build trails in places like the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Chugach National Forest, Snoqualmie National Forest, it seems the perfect vacation for people with a passion for hiking and conservation. Volunteer Programs Manager Libby Wile explained that projects vary in level of difficulty, the most difficult likely redefining my idea of an active vacation. I'm looking forward to learning more about AHS after signing up for a membership at the booth, and potentially going on one of the volunteer vacations.

Learning more about The Village Experience.
The Village Experience is dedicated to providing tourism opportunities for people interested in leaving the places they've visited better than they found them. With trips to countries like India, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Haiti, travelers truly get off the beaten path and immerse themselves in the destination's culture. I love the idea of taking a vacation to an exotic destination, all the while having a chance to do humanitarian work and gain a true understanding of a place and its people.

Of course, I couldn't leave without another catalog from NOLS to add to my ever growing collection. Every catalog seems to provide newer and more exciting opportunities to have truly transformative outdoor experiences, and I swear, someday I'll choose a trip and go for it! (Right now, I've got my heart set on backpacking in Patagonia and/or Scandinavia, though I suppose Alaska Mountaineering would work too.) Representatives at Icelandair's booth also provided additions to my bucket list, including their Volcanoes and Glaciers package.

All in all, it was a great experience. Have you been to any of the Travel & Adventure Shows? What did you think? Leave a comment!


Stephanie said…
In general, I wasn't the target audience for the show (not a pre-packaged vacation type), but it served as a great reminder of all the different ways people can experience travel and adventure. Did you ever see anyone zip-lining? I saw only one person on it, and I couldn't tell where he was coming from!
Katie L said…
Stephanie, I'm sorry I didn't reach out to meet up with you while we were there! You've got a great perspective on the whole show and you're absolutely right - it was a testament to all of the different perspectives people have on what "adventure" means. I loved seeing the PATC and American Hiking Society there alongside high end tour providers and tourism agencies. 
I didn't see anyone on the zipline, but did see the dive pool was almost always full! I was really tempted to try it :)
Stephanie said…
No worries!

Yes, it was great seeing the PATC and American Hiking Society there. And the AMC. I <3 the AMC!