Hanging Coffins - Sagada, Philippines
Hanging Coffins – Sagada, Philippines

Have you ever been in a conversation and the person you’re speaking to drops a show-stopper like “I just returned from climbing Mount Everest.” Nothing you say next can possibly compare. Welcome to the world of Experiential Travel.

There is a growing interest in the kind of travel that offers authentic, one of a kind experiences. The popularity of experiential travel is emerging as a segment of travel consumers are willing to pay as much for bragging rights as the trip itself.

This type of travel is personally rewarding and can offer the life experiences that trump all others. There are different kinds of experiential travel: cultural immersion, the out-of-reach, the adventurous and the extravagant.

I like the kind of experiential travel that allows me to engage in local culture and provide a completely immersive experience. A visit to a remote tribal area in the northern Philippines to get a rare glimpse of hanging coffins was one of those experiences for me.

On a photography trip with my buddy, humanitarian photographer Karl Grobl, through Jim Cline Photo Tours, we trekked for two days along tiny winding roads in Northern Philippines mountains to get to Sagada. Once there, a local tribesman led us to a remote area where we endured a strenuous hike down the mountain on rugged terrain and in high altitude, to get to cliffs that set the scene for a moment I will never forget.

Suspended from the sides of the cliffs were coffins of the local elite who could afford such a prestigious burial. It was an incredible sight to see metal bars wedged into rock completely suspending the coffins  in mid air. While the journey just to to this remote region required two 10-hour days of rugged travel, the payoff for me was seeing something most people in the world will never see, or even know about.

The Travel Market Report, a publication that tracks trends for the travel industry, indicates that experiential tourism is booming. More and more people are trading in general tour packages for authentic, unique or exotic experiences.

What this means for you is that Travel Agents and travel companies are responding to the trends. They are now making more experiential travel options available to consumers. The 2013 report indicates that places like Eastern Europe, Russia, China and locations in South America are trending upwards. As a result, you are likely to find lots of options for experiential travel through packages, add-ons and customized itineraries.

Where do you start?

  • Research -find out what’s out there. Start with a country you’ve always wanted to visit. Search for the unique experiences available at that destination or research to find something there that you have never heard of before.
  • Dream – What is the craziest thing you can ever imagine doing? Start looking for it. Chances are that experience exists.
  • Ask – Ask travel agents, friends, other people who do this kind of travel for recommendations.
  • Get motivated – Go for it! You will learn a little about yourself in your pursuit to earn the bragging rights of a tremendously cool experience. Want to go to the moon? Soon, you will be able to do that!

Your launch into experiential travel comes at a cost — be it time, money or physical exertion. Again, if these experiences were easily accessible to everyone, everyone would do them…that’s what makes them appealing. It’s like earning the medal at the end of the marathon rewarding your training and effort. The take-away of experiential travel is the trophy of memories and the forever stories that can stop idle conversations.

That being said, experiential travel is growing in popularity for a reason. People like to be able to say they’ve done something extraordinary and have the pictures to prove it.