International Travel with ROW Adventures
A Positive Force for Good!
With over 4 decades orchestrating active travel, we are in a unique position to design and bring to fruition, the finest in meaningful, relevant and enriching travel experiences that connect you with the wonders of the world while also harnessing the power of good that comes from travel. What is this power of good? Economically, our style of travel provides a shift of wealth from the developed world to the developing world. Socially, it provides a rich tapestry of learning for both the traveler and those visited. Spiritually, it provides the opportunity for personal growth, introspection and the nurturing of gratitude. Intellectually, it challenges one’s concepts and world view and leads to fascinating questions and observation. We do our best to set the stage for all of these dynamics to be discovered and enjoyed on our tours.
How did we get to be a pioneer and innovator in the world of active and adventure travel?
Early Travel Roots
Travel was something born out of love for founder Peter Grubb and co-owner Betsy Bowen. In 1965, when Peter was just 7 years old, his parents took all 5 of their children across the United States by train and on to Europe by ship. They spent 5 months traveling around in a VW van, camping and staying in youth hostels. In awe of the all the world had to offer, Peter’s passion for history and exploration was cemented. His parents continued to take him to far corners of the earth and when the time came time to fly the nest, he booked a ticket to Europe. Over the course of a year, he studied French in Paris, hitchhiked across North Africa through Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and lived on a kibbutz in Israel for 3 months.
Returning to the US, he started college at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and after his sophomore year got a job working as a river guide on the New and Gauley rivers in West Virginia. This awoke a new passion and Peter found immense joy in guiding people down the river and sharing with them the natural and human history of their surroundings.
It became clear to him that sharing a world of discovery with people was his life’s purpose. He moved back West to explore multi-day rafting trips, and in 1979 founded ROW Adventures, offering white water rafting trips across the Pacific Northwest.
The Begining of International Travel at ROW
Betsy joined the company in 1982, coming from a family who also appreciated travel and the great outdoors. In 1984, they married. Their honeymoon became the launch of ROW’s international arm. They led the first tour in Greece and Turkey, staying on in the region after their delighted guests departed, to properly celebrate their marriage. Autumn tours in the Mediterranean became a pattern, and with the rafting season ending mid-September, international tours allowed ROW to become a year-round operation. By 1988, they had expanded to the former-Yugoslavia region and in 1992, they launched operations in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
In the early years, 1984 to 1991, Founder Peter Grubb and co-owner Betsy Bowen personally led all our international tours each fall. As we started year-round operations, we found local guides and nurtured them to lead our tours, a model we still use to this day. We believe that locals provide the most genuine and fulfilling guide experience for our guests and while Peter still leads several tours a year in conjunction with a local guide, most of our tours are led solely by people who live in the area being visited.
Specialized International Travel Through 3 Great Brands
As the years have gone by, we have added more international destinations and now offer trips in over 25 countries by way of three distinct brands: ROW Adventures, Sea Kayak Adventures and Adventure Unbound. We consider some of these tours “ROW Classics” and have them featured on the ROW website. You can browse all of our other international tours on our Adventure Unbound site, and for those trips with a focus on sea kayaking and whale watching on our Sea Kayak Adventures site.
In 2005 ROW Adventures launched a cutting-edge land-based tour to the Galapagos Island that included sea kayaking and camping. It was the first of its kind and the beginning of a trend that changed the face of travel in the Galapagos. At that time, the vast majority of tours took place aboard boats and ships. Today, about half of those who visit the Galapagos stay in the small towns on the islands and do day tours. Our Galapagos Unbound tour remains the vanguard and highest-quality land-based tour available and the only one that includes two nights of beach camping. The success of this tour propelled us to expand to Peru in 2006 and then on to other countries and continents as our international traveler base expanded.
In 2012 we acquired Sea Kayak Adventures from two former ROW guides and expanded the brand and concept to offer sea kayaking and whale watching tours around the world. Baja, Mexico and British Columbia, Canada remain our two primary kayaking destinations along with our unique Galapagos sea kayak tour, and we continue to blaze new paddle routes. We were the first sea kayaking company to offer kayaking trips in both the west, central and eastern parts of Cuba, starting in 2015. In 2019 we added our amazing Primates & Paddling tour in Rwanda. As international travel returns in the future, expect to see more pioneering kayak adventures.
Because of our long history as a rafting and paddling company, people often didn't recognize the diversity of programs that we offered, including safaris to Africa, walking tours in Europe, deep explorations of South America, cruises to Antarctica and more. In order to best represent these adventures, and expand our passion for international journeys, we created a new home for them called Adventure Unbound. Led by local guides, always sustainably operated in a way that benefits local economies and small, locally-owned businesses, these culturally-immersive, active travel adventures connect you to the people, nature and places of the destination in a natural and unpretentious way that gets you beyond the common and invigorates the mind of even the most curious traveler.
Unique & Award Winning Travel Experiences
You will discover a diverse and eclectic choice of tours at ROW and our sister companies, including destinations that are not well known. These might be hidden corners of more popular places (such as the island of Corsica in France), or places that few other travel companies visit (the cave art of Baja, Mexico; the Turquoise coast of Turkey; gorilla trekking in the Congo; the National Parks of eastern Cuba; etc.) When we offer tours to classic destinations, such as the Galapagos Islands, or Egypt, we do so in fresh, creative modes that dig deeper than the normal tours and provide exclusive, enlightening insights. This approach has won us recognition by a variety of publications and organizations. A few highlights include:
- 2019 & 2020 - AFAR Magazine - Travelers' Choice - Best Kayaking and Rafting Trips
- 2018 - World's Best Tour Operator - As voted by the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine
- 2008-2015 - Five time winner of "50 Tours of a Lifetime" from National Geographic Traveler
- 2012 - World's Best Tour Operator - As voted by the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine
- 2008-2009 Best Adventure Company on Earth - National Geographic Adventure
Join Us In Our Quest
We do not offer luxury tours that create separation from the local realities of the places we visit. Rather, our trips are immersive, intimate and authentic. We support locally owned accommodations and restaurants that have a positive impact for our service providers and ourselves. We employ local guides that open windows into their lives and countries that would be hard to find on your own. We go beyond the iconic "must-see" places, to find hidden treasures. The end result is that we send you home with sparks of discovery, a thirst to learn more, connections that endure, and memories that last a lifetime.