HALLIE EPHRON: A little over a month ago, my daughter Molly moved to the Yucatan where she's working as marketing and fundraising coordinator for the Na'atik Language and Cultural Institute, a fabulous not-for-profit with a great concept: tourists who take classes in Spanish or Maya at Na’atik help to provide affordable English classes to local students in the Mexican Maya Zone. Speaking English is pretty much required for many of the decent jobs in this heavily touristed part of the world.
What Molly has had so far is an extraordinary adventure travel experience.
First there's the wildlife. The free-range gekkos (lots of them) that cruise her kitchen ceiling. Scorpions that come to rest on her Spanish homework.
Tending bee hives with a Maya father-and-son beekeeping team. (Yucatan honey is famous.)
Getting covered in mud, biking through the jungle at night to see snakes eat bats in a cave.
She's swung by a rope into a remote limestone swimming hole (a "cenote" with opalescent blue water.) She and her friends traveled there by taxi, got dropped at an unmarked road on the side of the highway, and waded into the jungle to find it. Trusted that the cab would come back hours later to get them.
I'm so proud of her, because the work she's doing is so good, and because of her adventurous spirit. I know my husband and I gave her the travel bug, but we are wimps by comparison.
Just for instance, here's a picture of my husband this summer in Ireland, sizing up a rope bridge that we will have to decide whether to cross. I leave it to you to guess whether we did or not.
So what's your most adventurous travel experience (so far)? Or have you stuck to tour buses, comfy cruises, and resorts?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, dear. You have to count your blessings that you gave your daughter not only a good heart, but a confident one. I, on the other hand, am confident that I can find my way to my hotel room, generally confident that I can figure out how the shower works, and confident that if the soap is too harsh, I will have brought my own.
I am okay in big cities, happy to explore and poke around. I'm not one bit afraid of heights, or depths, or language. But um, as I once heard Sue Grafton say: "I don't do rustic."
I told you this, right? When I recently went to the doctor and they suspected Lyme disease, she asked me "When was the last time you went hiking, or into the woods?" And I thought about it and replied "...1979?" (I don't have Lyme.)
And I think-yes! Of course you went across the bridge! I would have, too. I think...
HALLIE: Uh, something I neglected to share: my husband is afraid of heights. If it had been up to ME we'd have crossed that bridge. Really.
RHYS BOWEN: When I was younger I was quite adventurous. Jeep over a 15,000 foot pass into Ladakh, for example. But I hate bugs. My daughter did something similar in Yucatan and El Salvador, Hallie. 13 inch scorpions on the walls. Hairy tarantulas walking past. She slept in a hammock (in the mistaken belief that the spiders wouldn't visit her there).
Not for me. I used to love camping. Now I need a comfortable bed and hot shower.
But John and I did the red center of Australia in 2009. We were up close and personal with crocodiles and saw enormous spider webs. But no more jungles, thank you. From now on my biggest adventure is to decide what type of pate to buy at a French market!
LUCY BURDETTE: No, no, no to the tarantulas and scorpions! I used to love camping but that's been a while (not as long as Hank.) But truth is, I love being home and so traveling of any kind feels a little hard. So now that I'm doing more of it, I pat myself on the back for going:). Looking forward to seeing Australia next year, but not the way your adventurous daughter would do it Hallie!
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I did a lot of cross-country camping (in a tent) in my youth, so now my idea of getting into nature is a five-star hotel and the nature channel on TV. Seriously, private bathroom, hot running water and room service. A hotel bar.
The funny thing is that my husband and I support the National Parks and Wildlife Federation. We love nature. We know it's important. But we just don't feel the need to actually go there.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I think it's an age thing, don't you? When you described Molly's adventures I thought, "How wonderful! For anyone between eighteen and twenty-nine!"
I mean, just this summer, The Boy went to an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival in Michigan for a week. He slept in the charter bus (which broke down two times,) camped in a tiny single-sleeper tent, lived on hot dogs and peanut butter and never had anything dry to wear after it rained the first night. He had a grand time.
Me? No way. I'd be like those people who go to Burning man in luxury campers with flush toilets and a/c.
I banged all over Europe when I was twenty-one with my Eurailpass, staying in fleabag pensiones with cold and cold running showers down the hall, braving public bus and subway systems in languages I didn't know.
I spent a romantic evening in Rome with a Finn, had to barricade my
hotel door against the Irishmen I'd been drinking with in Heidelberg,
saw Der Rosenkavalier at the Vienna Staatsoper wearing jeans (I got the
student rush tickets for standing room stalls.) I'm with Hank here - I
like my adventures urban.
Nowadays, I'd still happily go to all those cities, but I want a comfortable bed in a good hotel with an ensuite bath. And I'd probably take taxis a lot more.
HALLIE: So, dear Gentle Readers: Would you walk through the rain forest or take the zip line? Take the river cruise or the rapids raft? Order french fries or deep fried bugs?