As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve made outdoor activity a priority in my travels, emphasizing the exploration of natural environments—canyons, cliffs, beaches, woods, jungle, caves—over urban environments, such as towns and cities. This isn’t to say I don’t still enjoy the odd tour of a museum or city walk, I’ve simply made engaging with nature on a physical level a priority.
Now, I recently decided to teach abroad, but had no specific destination in mind, so I’ve been researching destinations not simply as options for future trips, but for a possible move. Obviously, if outdoor activity and exploration was to be a priority for my travels, it would certainly have to be considered when choosing a new place to live.
My research began with South America and Southeast Asia, and it became apparent early on that most countries have locations that serve as bases for outdoor activity. On my last trip through Europe I found such a base in Castellane within the Gorge du Verdon region. It’s a tiny town, just barely bigger than a village, really, but its main street is lined with adventure tourism outfits touting kayaking, rafting and canyoning excursions into and around the Verdon.
I’m not saying I’d want to live in the equivalent to Castellane (though, for a year, I don’t think it would be too bad at all), but knowing where such an adventure base is located in any given country can certainly direct your travels when making outdoor adventure a priority.
A few examples I came across in my research: In Chile, Puerto Varas and Pucon are regarded as outdoor adventure meccas in the region, offering gateways to its volcanos, lakes and canyons (these happen to be two locations I have been focusing on when searching for teaching jobs); in Colombia, San Gil offers mountain biking, hiking and canyoning; in Argentina, Mendoza, near the Chilean border, is the place to go, with the added bonus of also being located in a prime wine-producing region; in Peru, Cusco is a great base not only to visit Machu Picchu and other historic sites, but also gives access to nearby canyons and the Amazon, while Iquitos offers adventure travel in the heart of the northern Amazon basin; in Ecuador, Quito itself seems a great place to book adventure tours, while nearby Mindo is surrounded by extreme nature begging to be explored; moving to Southeast Asia, Vietnam’s top outdoor adventure base seems to be Dalat, which features canyoning, hiking and mountain biking in a cooler, less humid environment; in Indonesia, Bali is a good base for canyoning and surfing, while the Kalimantan region on the Island of Borneo is all about jungle exploration and communing with Orangutans; also on Borneo, Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu seems to be an excellent base for hiking and rock climbing, and Miri is where to go to explore the wonders of Gunung Mulu, though it seems there are also camps nearer the National Park.
Now, remember, I’ve never actually been to any of these places, they just came up in my research and made it onto my list of destinations, either for eventual trips or, in some cases, as potential new home bases.
You’ll note that “canyoning” comes up often. I’ve actually found that using the activity as a search term is an excellent way to uncover these outdoor activity meccas, given that canyoning requires canyons (obviously), rushing water, waterfalls, all of which contribute to an environment tailor-made for any number of outdoor adventure sports. Anyway, it’s a good place to start, even if the activity itself doesn’t interest you.