Soft Adventure Travel

Harlan Hague

Picture this: you're sitting with us on the open after deck of a small riverboat, sipping a glass of good wine and watching pink dolphins rise near the boat. The sun drops below the horizon, and we turn to watch clouds tinted with twenty shades of pink change into layers and columns and great swirls of whipped cream.

The aroma of grilled peacock bass and piranha, which we caught just hours ago, drifts over to us, and dinner is announced. We get up, all thirteen of us, and walk over to the buffet table.

This was the scene most evenings of our expedition by riverboat on the middle Amazon. This is the sort of travel that I enjoy. We've sailed in southeastern Alaska on a 70-passenger, shallow draft ship, moving up salmon-clogged streams by zodiac and walking along trails, shouting "hey bear, hey bear!" We've motored up the waterways of central California for a close look at delta marshes and the Napa Valley wine country and watched the sun set through San Francisco's Golden Gate. We swam with sea lions in the Sea of Cortez, watched hundreds of dolphins--the naturalist estimated a thousand--converging on the ship, and petted whales in Magdalena Bay.

Miyako flowerFarther afield, we have walked in fields of wildflowers in the Alps around Mrren and had tea on a canyon-side terrace, almost in tears at the magnificence of the Jungfrau range opposite. We have watched the sun rise over the Serengeti from a hot air balloon and strolled the streets of the tiny mountain village of Stlberg im Harz in Germany, just awakening from its decades of isolation on the western border of then East Germany. We've biked through tulip fields in northern Holland. We sat for hours on an early morning, watching the sun's rays pierce the dark overcast and illuminate the walls of Machu Picchu, sparkling from last night's rain. We sailed the turquoise waters of Turkey's Mediterranean coast and hiked inland, marveling at  unexcavated Hellenistic and Roman ruins reachable only on foot. We stood in wonder, gazing at the snow-capped mountains from atop Tibet's Potala Palace. We thrilled at the sight of a resplendent quetzal pair in Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest and wondered at the magnificence of the lost Mayan cities of Tikal and Xunantanich in Guatemala and Belize. We've been inspired by the wonderful colors of autumn in Japan and Uluru at sunset. We returned often to the Caribbean, making sail on a windjammer at midnight under a full moon, bagpipes playing Amazing Grace . . . .

Soft adventure. The sort of experience that goes beyond the typical tourist itinerary. There is no great physical challenge involved here. There is  considerable food for the spirit. And the body. And on the windjammer, a rum swizzle at every turn. Not to worry, you're not driving.

In addition to our independent traveling, I began organizing and escorting tours when I was teaching college history. My wife taught English as a second language at the same college. I never tried to make money on my tours, just earn a compensatory place on the tour. We traveled rather extensively during our teaching years, always taking our three daughters with us. The youngest was one year old on her first trip to Europe. They continued to travel with us through their university years, and indeed beyond. We lived in England's north Cotswold Hills during a most satisfying sabbatical year and return often. I wrote a short reminiscence of that idyllic year so my daughters would remember how I felt about it. After our retirement from teaching, I continued to organize and escort tours.

My tours page comments on some of the tours that I have organized and escorted. Since 2008, my writing, chiefly screenwriting, has increasingly occupied my day, and I have given up organizing tours. Doing tours was great fun, and we enjoyed the company of kindred spirits and made some good friends. But now I have no time for the demanding task of planning and organizing tours. My wife and I continue to travel independently.

Tanzania: lioness and cub

Before embarking on a teaching career, I was stationed in Japan with the United States Navy and enjoyed it immensely. I eventually took my discharge in Japan and returned to the United States on a solo trip of six months through southeast Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. To date, I have visited sixty or seventy countries and dependencies and am anxious to see the rest of the world.


Windjammer at sunsetI was a Windjammer Barefoot Cruises zealot. Windjamming in the Caribbean was one of my favorite holidays. This was my kick-back time. I sailed on most of the Windjammer ships more than once, including the ill-fated Fantome, a good ship. I  took two groups on windjammer cruises. See the description of the January 2003 cruise. Also see my articles about sailing on the Flying Cloud and the islands of Antigua and Grenada. Alas, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is no more. It was a good run and great fun while it lasted.

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