Walking Adventures International (WAI) is a family-owned travel planner and tour operator offering travel programs on all 7 continents. We have offered walking tours as the optimal way to connect with the world since 1989.
WAI had its beginnings fifty years ago when George Friesen, a high school history and foreign language teacher, began organizing and directing tours to Europe. In 1989, he started basing all his tours on the winning combination of motorcoach sightseeing blended with two to four hour walks. This concept grew in popularity, and in 1992, his son Dan, current owner of WAI, joined George to help expand the WAI travel philosophy to new areas of the planet.
Our programs are based primarily upon the combination of walking and motorcoach travel. A growing percentage of our programs include train travel and river cruising. Each trip is led by two WAI guides who are familiar with the itinerary and walk routes. On international programs, a national guide joins the leadership team. The national guide is an indispensable resource for an exceptional tour, but we charge WAI tour leaders with primary responsibility for the success of the program. Tours in North America typically feature WAI guides as tour directors with input from selected local guides on a destination-by-destination basis.
We have tours based on all 7 continents, with over 60 different destinations worldwide. We offer 15 different destinations on average per year, featuring a different rotation of destinations each year.
Walking is the oldest form of exploration, and we believe it is also the purest form of travel. Walking slows us down and gives our senses a chance to connect with our surroundings. Sights, sounds, smells, textures, and even the tastes of a destination become real and focused when we see the world from a walker’s point of view.
Most walks are planned by WAI staff. Often we partner with local walking clubs to share the trail, providing the added dimension of walking with local, everyday citizens from our host country who love walking,and enjoy sharing this gentle sport with others.
“Close to the ground” is a term we use to capture our belief in connecting travelers with the destination we are exploring together. Though we sometimes stay in upscale hotels, we believe that the more we try to take America with us when we travel, expecting our destination to provide all the comforts and conveniences of home, the less we truly experience and connect with the destination’s history, culture, and natural wonders.
Our goal is to avoid “tourist bubbles”—hotels, restaurants, excursions, shopping venues—created by the mass market tourism industry. Tourist bubbles are specifically designed to keep visitors in their comfort zone, spending money, while processing high numbers of travelers efficiently. In contrast, we believe a blend of walking and traditional sightseeing provides an authentic travel experience. Traditional sightseeing, often on foot, allows us to discover the landmarks and points of interest that have become linked with the identity of the destination. Walking takes us to out-of-the-way places, revealing a region’s true character and offering us the chance to view often overlooked local sights, which most travelers never get the opportunity to see.
“Safe but not scripted” is another catch phrase that captures our travel philosophy. In many ways, WAI bears more similarities to a travel club than a travel company. Travelers express preferences for which destinations we feature by “voting” with refundable Early Bird deposits. Every year the schedule of tours is different; we only offer a portion of our Adventures in any given season. Each edition of a tour is its own customized Adventure; no two are ever exactly alike! Unlike many larger tour operators, we are not a tour mill, cranking out dozens of sanitized, cookie-cutter tours.
Because our travel footprint is global, we rely on local travel partners to help protect the standard of our arrangements. Our programs are not fully scripted, however, and sometimes the unexpected becomes a meaningful and memorable element of the travel experience. Part of an authentic journey is the ability to be flexible, while learning more about yourself and the local culture in the process!
Feel free to call +1 360.260.9393 or email [email protected] with any questions about how you can join Walking Adventures International for an up-close and personal travel experience.