Life's Short … Prioritize Adventure!
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First of all, welcome! Just a brief intro: my name is Cliff and I’m a travel and commercial photographer as well as speaker and educator. I’ve worked with a variety of clients and students around the world. Over the years, I’ve honed my skills and pared down my kit with the singular focus of “experience over gear”. I have taught myself and countless others how to get more with less – recently, more often than not, shooting with just my iphone.
It is in this spirit of experience over gear, of adventure and wonder and memories over backpacks, lens choices and memory cards, that I have partnered with Zephyr in creating a truly unique photographic experience.
Our focus, first and foremost, is on the location, the culture and its people. All photo tips and workshops are optional, as your interest dictates. You should prioritize the experience of being in Bhutan. I will be with you to teach and to help you capture your unique experience for yourself. I will be providing tips and tricks along the way as well as offering mini-workshops on helpful topics. I will be available to provide tips and advice to help you capture your vision throughout the journey.
In line with this experience-first approach, it is important to note you do not need to be an aspiring photographer or even interested in photography to embark on this remarkable journey with us. Though fair warning, when you learn how to quickly and effectively taking breathtaking images during your travels without compromising your experience you might find yourself quickly gaining interest!
New York, NY
As on all of our adventures, we want to ensure you have the best experience possible – which is why we like to set expectations appropriately for every trip.
Accommodations & Meals
Visiting developing countries can be eye-opening and life-changing, and hopefully visiting Cuba is both. Accommodations may simply not be up to the standards you are used to. Additionally, while the food in Cuba has some excellent characteristics (such as fresh fruit), it can also be simple and repetitive, often based on rice & beans, chicken, potatoes, etc. We ask all our guests to appreciate the authenticity of your cultural encounters as well as the people, food, culture, and adventures that are exceptional in their differences.
Traveling in a Developing Country
Travel in Cuba requires a flexible attitude. Our days are full and things don’t always run on time. Note that the activities and visits listed are not guaranteed but we endeavor to do our best to provide the content intended by this People–to-People exchange program. Additionally, there is little to no wifi and no U.S. cell phone service.
U.S. Credit Cards & Medical Insurance
U.S. credit cards and medical insurance are not accepted in Cuba. You will need to bring enough cash with you to exchange to Cuban tourist currency (CUC). You will also need to purchase temporary Cuban medical insurance prior to entering the country. You will receive more information in your Pre-Departure Packet.
Tourism and the Cuban Government
All businesses pay a percentage of their earnings to the government to pay for services for the country, just as we do in U.S. We stay in private accommodations and eat at private restaurants, when possible, where a larger portion of the money goes to the owner of the establishment than the government. The money that the owners pay to the government fund services such as healthcare and education, including college education. The most direct impact you can make while in Cuba is providing tips to those that have helped you throughout your day.
Hills & eBikes
Sicily’s terrain is quite hilly. Because of this, you will have the option ride a regular bicycle or an e-bike. E-bikes are bicycles that use an integrated electric motor that can be used for propulsion. You pedal normally but receive additional assistance from the motor so they will help you up those Sicilian hills.
Changes to Your Itinerary
While everything under “What is Included” on the right side column will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.
Our walks will vary between well-beaten gravel paths to cobblestone streets to some rocky ascents and descents, please bring good shoes and walking sticks. We will let you know ahead of time what to expect on each trail as well as if there are alternate routes.
Climate & Weather
The Amazon rainforest and the Galápagos Islands are amazing yet unpredictable places. We will be in a true tropical climate where it may be cooler and raining one minute, and sunny and hot the next. To make sure you have the best experience possible, prepare for all types of weather by bringing a waterproof windbreaker and a few moisture-wicking layers that can be added or removed easily. You’ll also want to make sure to pack your swimsuit and lots of sun protection!
As we are traveling through the Quito area, either before or after the tour, please be mindful and aware of pickpockets. We would recommend leaving your valuables at home, especially when snorkeling as some fish are attracted to shiny objects.
Land-based vs Boat-based Galapagos Trips
Many Galapagos trips take place on boats. We prefer land-based trips for a few reasons. Staying in hotels allows you to access the beach, the pool, and the charming town near our hotel, connecting you to the local culture. Hotel rooms are much more spacious, allowing you to spread out a bit. Boat-based tours occasionally encounter high seas, which is never fun for anyone, particularly those who are prone to motion sickness. While we will use small boats to travel from place to place on our trips, we can generally work around any weather we encounter and limit our time on the water if conditions make this necessary.
It’s all about the adventure! (It’s even in our name) We wouldn’t want to disappoint by providing a guide with you the entire way, holding your hand. We will provide detailed route directions before each day’s ride. Our guides will be available in case anything comes up but you won’t need to worry about staying with the pack or keeping up with faster riders.
This trip is rated as Moderate which means we’ll be on slightly harder routes, including going up and down a good number of hills. Though not every route will be tough, you will need to have a base level of fitness and have the basic skills of riding a bike.
You will see that everyone bikes in Belgium! Ironically, the quality of bikes available in Belgium is not as good as many of our other tour locations and the bikes are rather basic models used for everyday transportation such as 7-speed cruisers rather than road bikes or mountain bikes. That said, they are perfect for what we use them for – leisurely rides along mostly flat paved bike paths!
This tour is rated For All Abilities and is a moderately active trip but with relatively easy biking on mostly flat, traffic-free paths. Daily mileage varies depending on beer tastings and other activities for each day but is roughly 10 – 15 miles per day (but as little as 6 and as much as 25). While you will get daily activity either by biking or walking each day in the beautiful cities we visit, this is not the best trip for someone looking for a major workout and tons of mileage (check out some of our other biking trips for that!). Conversely, this is not the best trip for someone not interested in being active on vacation (check out our Taste Vacations for that) or somebody who doesn’t bike! Being comfortable with bicycling is a MUST!
Much of the Belgian cuisine revolves around cooking with beer. Which is awesome for beer lovers! Many dishes consist of a variety of meats ranging from beef, rabbit, and even horse braised in a variety of Belgian brews. Green vegetables are not commonplace and may not even be an option on a menu, however, some places have excellent, large salads.
Belgium is one of the great beer cultures of the world, and they have a very wide variety of brews for nearly anyone. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “Beer Drinker” don’t rule this trip out! Belgian beers bear little resemblance to many American brews. They range from light sweet abbey style brews to dark spicy Cuvee Royale to bright, fruity and sour lambics. That being said, if you don’t drink at all, this may not be the trip for you as it does revolve around visiting and touring a lot of beer meccas.
Almost the entire tour takes place on flat, paved, car-free bike paths with a very gradual downhill grade that is really not noticeable except to help tired muscles at the end of the day. There are paved trails on both sides of the Mosel river and we are able to cross from one side to the other via numerous bridges along the way to maximize our scenery. While we have long routes, most of those are flat too, so don’t expect many hill climbs. In sum, this is a flat, smooth, scenic, and mostly car-free tour!
Different Location Every Night
We will be covering as much ground as possible following along the Mosel River, which in turn means we will be staying in six different hotels. We will have to pack up every day but this allows us to bike from hotel to hotel.
We have available for rent very nice 27-speed touring bicycles that are suitable for the road conditions we encounter on this trip. You have your choice of drop down or upright handlebars and standard or SPD pedals. You can also rent a road bike for an extra charge. Bicycle rentals come with a front handlebar or rear bag and a lock but you must bring your own helmet.
There are paved trails on both sides of the Mosel river for almost the entire distance we travel. They are almost entirely flat with a very gradual downstream grade that is really not noticeable except to help tired muscles at the end of the day. We are able to cross from one side to the other via numerous bridges along the way to skate on the best surfaces. So while there are some instances of rough pavement or other features, especially in towns, it is mostly pretty smooth skating. This tour is very moderate in difficulty.
Different Location Every Night
We follow the Mosel River our entire trip, which means we stay in six different hotels. We will have to pack up every day but we think it is worth it to see the incredible scenery along the whole route.
Changes to Your Itinerary
While everything under “What is Included” on the right side column of this page will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience.
Skating or Biking
Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have fantastic paved, traffic-free paths that are perfect for both skating and biking. If you’d prefer to bike on this trip, we will secure a bicycle for you to ride at an additional rental fee.
The islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are the playground of the rich and famous. Because land and development on the islands is limited, real estate is expensive, and any business that operates on either island correspondingly charges higher-than-average prices. The cost of this trip is a reflection of this reality: these two islands regularly top the “most expensive places to vacation” lists. However, we obviously think it is very worth the price!
We skate on a variety of surfaces during the trip, mostly on lovely paved and car-free paths, but sometimes use city streets as connectors and country roads as extensions for additional mileage. Overall, the paths are in good shape, but they are not new, so have imperfections such as tar snakes, cracks and sometime gravel at street crossings. We are skating on an island, so you should also be prepared for occasional patches of sand. We do notify trail crews ahead of time that we are coming, and request that they sweep the trails prior to our arrival, but they offer no guarantees for this.
Description of Expectation
Description of Expectation
Chile and Argentina are large countries and even though we are only seeing a small portion of each, we do cover a lot of ground on this trip! We prioritize exploring several wine valleys in Chile (Maipo, Colchagua, Casablanca, and Aconcagua) and then spend a better part of one day traversing the Andes in our private shuttle when we move from Chile to Argentina (with time at the top of the pass to get out and hike to a viewpoint of the mighty Mount Aconcagua). While we would love to be able to snap our fingers and magically appear at our next destination, this is not possible and it means we spend more time shuttling than either you or we would probably like. The tradeoff is that we get to see and do a lot. We think the road time is worth every amazing sight and sip of this trip! If your idea of a vacation is to stay in one place, this may not be the best trip for you!
This trip is rated For All Abilities. We do have a good mix of activities and wine exploration, so it is not a full day of physical activity as you would get with some of our other tours. You’ll still get your blood pumping and certainly break a sweat, but it will just make our wine tastings that much sweeter.
Attitude is Everything! Traveling in Bhutan requires a laid-back attitude and flexibility. Don’t expect things to be like they are in the West. The hotels are basic and may not be as comfortable as what you are accustomed to at home. There may be only Asian-style, squat toilets in a few locations (although these are not the norm). The food will not have the variety you’re used to (although we have found it to be delicious). The trip may not follow the original itinerary because the tour operator in Bhutan may have to make changes due to weather or logistical issues. Roads are winding and often under construction so drives may take longer than expected. We can’t stress this enough: The key is to relax. Let your guides take care of you. Live in the moment and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. We in the West tend to value punctuality, productively, and assertiveness. Buddhist cultures tend to be more relaxed about time, polite and gentle in awkward situations, and forgiving. These attitudes are part of the reason we go to Bhutan.
Changes to Your Itinerary. While everything under “What is Included” on the right side column will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.
Different Location Every Night
We will be covering as much ground as possible, which in turn means that we will be staying in four different hotels. We will have to pack up every day but this allows us to bike from hotel to hotel.
It’s all about the adventure! (It’s even in our name) We wouldn’t want to disappoint by providing a guide with you the entire way, holding your hand. We will provide detailed route directions before each day’s ride as well as have GPS units available. Our guides will be on the trail with you but you won’t need to worry about staying with the pack or keeping up with faster riders.
The majority of the paths we’ll be on are paved trails separate from car traffic, but there are a few gravel sections and very limited sections where we will be sharing with cars.
It’s all about the adventure! (It’s even in our name) We wouldn’t want to disappoint by providing a guide with you the entire way, holding your hand. We will provide detailed route directions before each day’s ride as well as have GPS units available. Our guides will be available in case anything comes up but you won’t need to worry about staying with the pack or keeping up with faster riders.
The Classic Inca Trail reaches an altitude of nearly 14,000 feet, so altitude is a definite factor on this trip. We help mitigate the risk of altitude sickness by gradually acclimating to the altitude before beginning our trek on the Inca Trail. However, you may also want to consider a medication such as Diamox to help lessen the effects of altitude.
On the Easier Inca Trail trip, the highest altitude you will reach is actually in the city of Cusco, which sits at nearly 11,000 feet. You will still likely feel mild effects: shortness of breath, sleeplessness, and slight headaches. However, you will unlikely suffer any serious effects at this altitude.
There are 500 Inca Trail passes available each year – and they always sell out! Because of this, you’ll want to book early in order to secure your spot.
Often times our first choice hotels are not available. If this is the case, we will substitute these hotels with equal or better options.
While camping on the Classic Inca Trail, flushing toilets will be scarce. We will provide a private, clean toilet tent when we set up camp for the night, but you will need to use the faciliTREES while on the trail.
We’re not going to lie, the flights to New Zealand are long, ranging from 14 – 18 hours depending on where your starting airport is located, and expensive – but it’s absolutely worth it!
Limited Trail Options
We’ll be hiking point to point in order to cover as much ground as possible during our time in New Zealand. Because of this our the days on the QCT are NOT as flexible and we are not able to offer a range of route distances. On these days you will need to be prepared to do the full distance. However on one of the days, you may opt out of the hike by taking a boat ride (NZ $45) instead. Though you would miss the beautiful trail scenery, there is a lot to do at the Lodge where we’ll be checking into and you would otherwise not get a lot of time there.
Not So Vegetarian Friendly
We truly try to accomodate everyone’s meal preferences on every trip, but due to the location of this tour Vegetarians should take note that meals are meat heavy.
We’ll certainly be having some fun in the sun and enjoying the 78 – 84 degree F days. The temps can then drop to the mid-50s at night, making it ideal camping conditions – but please bring layers!
We’ll be supplying you with all equipment needed for kayaking and camping. However, we would recommend bringing your own sleeping bag and wet suit. If you don’t have a sleeping bag or wet suit, don’t fret, there will be ones available to rent if needed.
Our Baja trip is rated Moderate, which means that some base fitness is required, as our main mode of transportation will be via kayak. However, you do not need to be an experienced kayaker, for a few reasons: a motor boat escorts us and transports all our gear, so kayaks are light; you have the option of selecting a tandem kayak and we can pair you with a stronger paddler or guide, which means you wouldn’t have to paddle as hard; and if you decide to skip the kayak for a day, it is no problem as you can ride the motor boat to the next camp and paddle a shorter distance from camp when you arrive.
If you want to prepare physically prior to the trip, your enjoyment will likely increase! We recommend anything that strengthens your core and shoulders/arms. Yoga, sit-ups and push-ups are all good. If you belong to a gym, you might ask a trainer what would be good exercises to prepare for kayaking.
No Single Supplements
We get to journey to the end of the earth! Limited space comes with the territory and therefore, no single supplements are available for the overall trip. The lodging will be dorm style for the majority of the tour, but you may be able to request a single supplement for our hotel nights. If this is something you’d like to consider, please let us know as costs vary.
Lodging and Meals
Seeing as we are basically leaving civilization behind in order to explore one of the remotest places in the world, meals and lodging isn’t of the five-star quality kind. For instance, it is difficult to find fruit, but we believe it’s all a part of the experience!
In order to get you from civilization to these remote locations, there will be some time spent driving in vans. This can’t be avoided, but we guarantee it’s worth the trip!
Weather is always unpredictable and winter in Yellowstone is no exception! It is possible that there may be no snow, but don’t fret, we plan great alternate activities to take the place of the cross country skiing and snowshoeing if this happens to be the case.
While in Yellowstone, we’ll be taking the snowcoach to get from place to place. These fun and funky snow vehicles can get quite crowded as they fit all our gear and people from two vans into one! But they are definitely a part of the experience and allow us to do and see things that wouldn’t be possible without them. Plus we strive to be responsible citizens of this sensitive area and not waste resources for the 30-mile trip in! (Snowcoaches get about 2-3 miles per gallon of gas)
Since we’ll be transporting in the snowcoaches, and therefore have limited space, you’ll want to pack smartly. Wear what you want to wear for snowshoeing and pack your extra ski clothes, lunch, and x-c shoes in your ski backpack. This will be on your lap during the snowcoach ride. Your overnight bag should include only what you need for two days: toiletries, wallet, reading materials, pjs, dinner clothes for 2 nights, ski clothes for Day 3 (clean base layers), socks, and shoes (if you don’t want to wear your boots to dinner).
We get to explore the 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone National Park – and given the sheer size of the park itself, we will have to have spend time shuttling from point to point. But no fear, keep your eyes peeled as we drive as we will get to see some amazing sights along the way!
Food and Lodging in Yellowstone
Staying inside the park is a top priority – you get to explore and experience so much more by staying in the heart of Yellowstone. Since it is a national park, the accommodations and food options are not going to be equal to a five-star hotel. But, we think the rustic experience just adds to the overall adventure!
Delays in Yellowstone
It is not uncommon to get stuck by one of Yellowstone’s famous “Bison Jams”. This is when a herd of bison has decided to cross one of the roads within the park and causes a traffic jam. Though they can be inconvenient while trying to stay on time, it is a one-of-a-kind experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Additionally, July is one of Yellowstone’s busiest months so the park will be crowded. Your guides try to manage this by timing the tour schedule appropriately as well as showing you lesser known (and frankly better!) vantage points for some of the biggest attractions.
This beer tour is anything but typical. We will technically only be touring one brewery during our trip. We figure, being in the gorgeous setting of Montana and Wyoming, why keep our guests indoors? We’ll certainly be quenching your thirst with a wide variety of beer throughout the trip with beer-paired dinners, meet and greets with brewery staff, and tastings in breathtaking settings (like overlooking Old Faithful!) You’ll learn and taste just as much, if not more, than if we were taking you from brewery to brewery.
We’ll be exploring a number of breathtaking and diverse hiking trails and bike paths – not to mention some amazing breweries. This means we will need to shuttle to and from trailheads and breweries. We will also be driving to and from the Great American Beer Festival that is being held in Denver. We promise the road time is worth every amazing sight and sip of this trip.
Visiting a Developing Country
Tanzania is a developing country which means life is taken at a slower pace. It also means no internet. We highly recommend taking this rare chance to disconnect and give your brain a little peace and relaxation!
Alaska is one expensive place! On average, it is 20% higher in all costs compared to other parts of the US and the price of this tour reflects that. Despite this, the last trip we ran in Alaska was rated a 4.5 out of 5 (5 = outstanding) in “Value for Money.”
Alaska is also one wild place! It is quite possible to see a moose as you roll along the trail, or a bear in the road as you walk to dinner. Even though we spend our time in the most populated areas of Alaska, wildlife sightings are common (although actual encounters are rare). We take precautions to make sure you remain as safe as possible while out and about. Our guides are trained to minimize our risks.
Alaska is also one wet place! Weather is one element out of our control and Alaska is well-known for its wet climate. You should be prepared to have moments of skating or biking on wet pavement. Fortunately, the mountains continually cycle the air and the rain usually doesn’t last all day. Since our trip dates are near the solstice, the days are very long, allowing us to adjust our schedule as necessary by delaying our trail activities until things are drier. If we absolutely are not able to skate or bike, there are plenty of other fun things to do!