Thousands of travelers were shocked to receive an email from REI Adventures in late March 2021, telling them that their international tour had been canceled. People have been calling our office telling us "My REI vacation was canceled, can you help? What options do you offer?” And others tell us “I wondered what alternatives to REI Adventures there were and found your company as I searched for adventure travel alternatives.”
We can’t speculate why REI Adventures made the decision to stop all international tours and focus only on tours in the United States, but that is what they did. The decision was controversial and no doubt a difficult one to make. However, we can certainly understand the dismay and disappointment many people experienced when they opened the email from REI telling them that their dream active travel vacation had been canceled.
While this has created heartbreak for many travelers, it has, on the other hand, provided an opportunity for travelers to connect with other travel companies they may not have known about. As a smaller company, it’s hard to compete with a behemoth like REI. Yet, as a company that has been around for over 40 years (longer than REI Adventures) and under the same family ownership that entire time, we sometimes feel like the tortoise in the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare. We remain steady and focused on our missions of “Sharing Nature and Enriching Lives”, and “Building Connection Through Travel.” Our companies, ROW Adventures, and Adventure Unbound, are finding new opportunities as disappointed REI Adventures travelers reach out to learn more about our trips, not only in the United States but around the world.
ROW Guests laughing with a Galapagos Guide on a hike through a National Park in the Galapagos Islands
Since 1979 we’ve been running trips that span the globe, cultivating meaningful and cherished relationships with guides and local tour operators in over 20 countries. In Turkey, we have friendships that date back to 1984 when we conducted our first gulet (yachting) tour along the southwest coast. In Croatia, we’ve been working with the same family since 1988 (when Croatia was still part of Yugoslavia). In 1992 we made the first rafting descent through the rapids of the Rio Upano in Ecuador and continue to work with our original partners there for our sea kayaking and other land-based tours in the Galapagos Islands. In 2012 we were the first US adventure travel company to operate a trip on the Balkans Peace trail, on a hike that bridged Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo. We cherish Francois in Corsica, Nikolina in Croatia, Pepe in Peru, Alejandro in Cuba, Fabian, Monica and Ruben in Mexico, Patrick in Namibia, Stretch in Zimbabwe, Simon in Quebec, Basem in Egypt, Tala in Jordan, Alper in Turkey, and dozens of other guides scattered around the globe. The list of people who we trust, and who benefit socially and economically from our tours, is long and varied. We can’t imagine abandoning these people. They are people who have given their hearts and soul to create rich experiences with our guests. Like us, they have worked long hours and spent worried nights making sure that every detail of our guests’ experience was perfect.
ROW Guide and Friend, Alper, pouring champagne for ROW guests on a Turkey yachting tour
Beyond our guides, so many other local businesses benefit from the tours we bring. Restaurants, small inns, transportation companies, community enterprises, and local parks and nature preserves. We see travel as one of the best ways to share the wealth of the United States with the world, while also nurturing connections between cultures. It’s a mission we believe in and live.
There has been a lot of conversation around what the post-Covid-19 era of travel will look like, and how we can be more responsible travelers that embrace truly sustainable and regenerative travel. It’s an important conversation in which we are actively engaged.
Like many travel companies that offer international trips for Americans, the past year has been tremendously challenging. We have had to pull in the reins, tighten our belts and refocus our efforts. Through this we have lent our support to our international guide team as best we can. Through our membership in the International Galapagos Tour Operators Associations, we recently donated $5000 to support Galapagos guides who’ve been without work for the past 12 months. We’ve kept as many of our international operational employees employed as we could, even if on reduced salaries. We’ve kept in touch with our guides around the world, sending a kind word of care and support. We know that when we receive messages of support it sustains and energizes us in important ways.
ROW and Adventure Unbound Founder, Peter Grubb, on an exploratory kayaking tour with a group of Baja sea kayak guides
If you’re a person who had their REI Adventures trip canceled unexpectedly, we feel for you. We want you to know that there are alternatives, including many smaller, family-run companies with great track records that would welcome you into their fold. We hope you might explore our ROW Adventures and Adventure Unbound tour options and, if we don’t have a trip that fits, we can recommend you to friends of ours in the world of travel that could help.
As the saying goes, “we’re all in this together.” By supporting each other, offering encouragement and love, we can weather this pandemic and someday once again be inspired by far-away lands and share the joy of laughter, good conversation, and discovery with others.
Guests enjoy an evening dining and drinking together on our Corsica Hiking and Kayaking tour