Trek Talk - ElderTreks Blog


We often get asked by clients, “where should I go next?”  I suppose the answer is best decided by a few return questions.  Where have you already been?  What are your interests?  What activities are you looking for?  There can be nothing worse than putting someone on a trip that they are clearly not suited for.  It only leads to troubles for themselves as well as the rest of the group.  At ElderTreks we categorize the activity levels on our trips from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most strenuous trip we offer.  This would include trips that involve extensive hiking, often at high altitude or through swamps and jungles.  Obviously those travelers with any mobility issues or those suffering from certain medical conditions should really think twice before joining one of these trips.  But what about trips of a lesser rating, say a 1 or 2?  Could we still have problems?  The answer is a resounding yes!  It may not be the physical limitations, which come into play, but rather the general conditions at the destination, which may affect the trip.  When traveling to less-developed countries conditions may not be what we are used to at home or even what we have experienced on previous trips.  It is each person’s reaction to local conditions that will largely determine whether the trip is a cultural odyssey or a disaster.

What do we expect when we travel to foreign lands?  I am the first to admit that nice hotels and clean restaurants are of primary importance but should they “make or break the trip”?  In my experience the answer has mostly been ‘no’.  When traveling I tend to remind myself of where I am and that things are not like they are at ‘home’.  Sometimes the level of accommodation or food served is truly the best available.  It often helps to find the humor in the little differences we may encounter when traveling.  I once stayed in a hotel in Djerba, Tunisia.  The room was OK but what caught my attention was the decorative trail of rose petals that were strewn about the room – including bed, shower and toilet - in an attempt to brighten up the place!  I stood transfixed upon entering not sure if I was supposed to move anything or just trample over the flowers.  I spent a restless night in a raised longhouse in Northern Thailand once.  The villagers had placed a pig under the floor and he squealed forever.  Rising groggily at dawn I was cursing the animal as I came down the ladder.  I did not have long to wait before a few of the locals arrived with long knives and untying the pig, proceeded to butcher him in front of my eyes.  He had apparently been brought in the night before for our benefit and was to be the main dish for our welcome dinner.  How many of us have been to a restaurant in China, eagerly awaiting a local dish only to have the proprietors proudly serve us a huge plate of French fries!  All you can do is smile.  No matter how difficult, frustrating or ugly things can get while traveling I am always glad to be on the road exploring somewhere new.  Remember, it is these interesting experiences that will make the best stories when you get home. 

If you feel you are someone who has to have their trip go smooth – in all aspects - then may I kindly suggest that you choose your next destination very carefully.  No matter how exciting you find the prospect of visiting somewhere like Ethiopia to be, the food and hotels will surely disappoint.  But then again if these comforts are what motivate your urge to travel you will miss out of some truly amazing experiences.

Safe travels!

David Roth - March 29, 2011

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a tour leader? You probably think it is a life of glamor and excitement, visiting foreign countries and staying in upmarket hotels. Some of you may have even thought this might be a wonderful job based on your wealth of travel experience. There is another side to being a tour leader, one that is not as exciting.... Based on my years of experience as a tour leader I thought I would present this other side by way of a “wish list” of points that I hope will give you, dear reader another version of what it is really like. So in no particular order here they are:


  1. I wish you wouldn't complain about your recent bout of travelers diarrhea, which is quite common and should not be compared to bubonic plague.

  2. I wish people would not ask me what I think of their purchase of a water buffalo ashtray/lamp/incense burner at the local market. And yes, you paid too much for it.

  3. I wish everyone would get along on the trip and not form up into armed camps looking to curry favor with me and rejoice in the mistakes or slip ups of the other side.

  4. I wish those who suffer from excessive snoring or flatulence or some other such condition would admit to it and not look to share a room with someone else on the trip. Have a heart and pay for the single supplement. Or at the very least admit to your condition on the registration form and forewarn us.

  5. I wish people would willingly share the seats on the bus and not rush out early each morning to throw a sweater or book on the front seat.

  6. I wish people would try new foods on a trip and not look at each dish served like it was completely inedible slop.

  7. I wish people would believe me when I say not to pet that stray dog on the street in Lima, Peru. It is not as cute as you may think.

  8. I wish (after a day of seeing some amazing things) that people would not rush off the bus making a beeline for the hotel computers to check their email.

  9. I wish those joining a group tour would treat it like a group tour and not their very own private trip. I promise I will stop the bus for a photo opportunity but please don't wander off for 20 minutes while the rest of us wait for you.

  10. I wish people would understand that meeting on the bus at 8:45am to depart at 9:00am means just that and not for you to stroll down to the lobby looking to buy a postcard at 9:25am. There is actually a reason why we are leaving when we do.

  11. I wish people would not ask us what every bush or rock we drive past is called. We really don't know and will only make up an answer.

  12. I wish those who wish to shop and those who are fundamentally against it could get along. We won't spend forever in that market and yes we will get to the museum.

  13. I wish those who ask me to assist them with something on the trip would try and keep it to a legal request. And if not, to trust me when I say that what happens in Burma, stays in Burma.

  14. I wish fellow travelers would not berate or argue with local people on the trip. They are really trying to do their best and not ruin your vacation. It gives all of us in the group a bad name.

  15. I wish there were more people who thanked us at the end of a long day. It can be quite stressful looking after a group of people as we cross crocodile-infested waters in a dugout canoe or trek up the side of a mountain in search of gorillas.

  16. I wish more people were like the client who sent me photos of our trip on hand-made cards with local items from the country attached as decoration (thanks CC!).

  17. I wish to keep visiting more exotic countries and sharing the beauty they offer with those who truly appreciate it.

  18. I wish my boss would send me out on another trip soon....

David Roth - March 01, 2011

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