Five Ways to Travel You Might Not Have Thought About

A roving retirement allows plenty of scope to explore different ways to travel apart from the usual planes, trains and automobiles. You may not have considered other ways of getting out and about while you’re travelling, so I’ve put together my five favourite modes of travel that still allow you to do and see the things you want but add a little flair and make for some exciting adventures along the way.

Bicycle

©Sharyn Nilsen

What better way to see the world than slowly? Ambling along at your own pace and stopping to smell the flowers occasionally. My husband Tim and I took up bicycle-touring after meeting a group of cyclists in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, while we were backpacking across the Silk Route.

Listening to their stories of adventure every night stirred up memories of a time when we first began travelling independently. No smartphones with GPS, no internet and no booking accommodation in advance.

Technology hadn’t impacted backpackers back then and you had to survive on your wits. We still longed for those days and bicycle touring seemed to provide that “out of your comfort zone” experience that we sought.

We looked at these young, enthusiastic travellers and wondered whether we could possibly still be fit enough to do it. Fortunately, as we were soon about to find out, bicycle touring is not just for the young and healthy. We discovered that without any previous training, you could hop on a bike and cycle all day.

Bit by bit our fitness improved, eventually completing our first cycle tour, a 7,000 kilometre, five-month trip between Perth and Brisbane. As we found out, not only is it a healthy way to travel, you meet lots of curious people wanting to know all about your trip and often offering help. We made so many new friends since hopping on the bikes.

Sailing Boat

You don’t need to be nautically minded to go sailing. You can go aboard as crew and learn as you go—Tim and I did. Chartering a yacht is expensive but crewing is an affordable way to see areas of the world like the Caribbean where flights and ferries often restrict you to small groups of islands.

The yachting community is tight-knit and very social. Boats tend to come together in sheltered harbours and share their experiences, always ready to lend a hand and buy you a beer. You’ll enjoy many a night with like-minded travellers watching the sunset over the horizon and telling tall stories of the sea.

With sailing, your transport, accommodation and food are included. You can crew for free or on a shared costs basis. Of course, sailing is not for everyone. You need to exist in tight confines with others for long periods, so some social skills are essential.

If you’re crewing, you need to be able to help around the boat, both on deck steering and keeping watch and below, cooking in the galley. If you have a good skipper, you’ll learn a lot as you go.

Camel

©Sharyn Nilsen

The “Ships of the Desert” have long been a traditional means of transport across the Middle East. These hardy animals have carried all forms of foreign trade upon their backs for eons, helping to bond Asia and Europe in commerce and culture.

In Rajasthan, we headed out into the Indian desert on Christmas day, feeling like one of the three wise men. We were handed the reins and off we went. It was that simple! Of course, the camels knew precisely where to go without us needing to steer them, but with the handlers nowhere to be seen, we still got to see the desert wilderness and feel like Bedouins from our high vantage point atop the animal.

At camp that night our sore butts were forgotten while we were entertained by local dancers around a huge bonfire. Under a vast, starry sky, the beating drums and swirling bodies transported us back to a time of maharajas, sultans and caravanserais.

If you get the chance, this memorable experience is well worth it.

Hiking

Walking is something almost all of us can do, so, if you love nature and adventure travel, hiking is definitely for you. In America, where they have numerous national parks that accommodate hikers, famous long-distance trails like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail attract intrepid travellers from all over the world.

Hikers get to go to places that don’t have roads and see things you’ll never see from the comfort of a car or bus seat. My husband Tim and I hiked for four weeks to above Everest Basecamp in Nepal, we climbed to 5,535 metres above sea level and stood face to face with the world’s tallest mountain. The surrounding views were surreal, like nothing else we’d seen on Earth, an expanse of white peaks and troughs shimmering under a clear blue sky and no one else to be seen.

©Sharyn Nilsen

In Peru, we hiked the Inca Trail, it was a five-day walk above deep mountain valleys to the Sun Gate and one of the most amazing sights you can imagine, Machu Picchu sitting astride a knifepoint ridge high above a winding valley floor.

In New Zealand, we hiked the famous Milford Track which leads you for four days through temperate rainforest, opening out onto the incredibly beautiful Milford Sound.

Hiking can be self-supported (tent and food), or you can hire a local guide and porter for way less than an organised tour. If you’re heading to the mountains, take it easy (and slowly!) altitude sickness can affect anyone over 2,500 metres. Once down though, you’ll feel like superhero for a week!

Overland Truck

Overlanding originated in Australia many years ago. Nowadays, with commercially available 4-wheel drive trucks, Overlanding has become synonymous with Africa and South America.

With a lack of infrastructure, limited food options and somewhat questionable security, Overlanding on these continents becomes the perfect solution for your visit.

As with sailing, transport, accommodation and catering (more hygienic) are all part of the deal. You’ll get to see places you couldn’t reach on your own. The truck also provides safety in numbers, is cheaper than doing it yourself and you get to make new, likeminded friends.

©Sharyn Nilsen

Overlanding caters to many different styles and budgets. From more expensive accommodation and an onboard chef in safari parks, to setting your own tent and cooking for everyone at the bottom end of a market.

Sitting around the campfire at night somewhere in the African savanna listening to the wildlife do their thing is one of those rare experiences that stay with you forever.

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