Book Review: Riding The Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean

Adventure Travel has become one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. Veteran travelers are increasingly searching for new and different experiences when they go abroad. More often than not, they’re looking to get off the beaten path, and away from the typical tourist crowd, to see their destination in a unique way. These are the travelers who take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu rather than hopping the train. They sleep in Himalayan teahouses, they visit remote places, and when they come home, they’re already planning their next getaway. Usually to some place even more remote and adventurous than the one they just visted.

Riding The Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean is a new book, from National Geographic, written with adventure travelers in mind. The book is a collection of 50 of the best adventures from around the globe. Some of them are tried and true adventure travel classics, while others are new and take place in emerging adventure destinations.

The books is written by Don Mankin and Shannon Stowell (along with a group of contributing travel writers), and comes with a forward penned by Richard Branson. Hulahula is broken down into sections for various regions around the planet. Each region then has several suggestions for a great adventure travel experience somewhere in that area. For instance, when you reference the section on Asia, you’ll find such suggestions as trekking in Bhutan or wildlife spotting and cultural exploration in India. Flipping over to the section on Europe offers tips for cycling through Tuscany and hiking the Pyrenees in Spain.

The Introduction to the book is an excellent resource for anyone about to embark on one of these journeys. It offers up all kind of tips for the experienced traveler and newby alike. For instance, it makes suggestions on getting in shape for you adventure, buying travel insurance, and things to bring on your trip. The last section can prove invaluable to someone who hasn’t experienced travel in a remote location before. For instance, when traveling to Disney World you generally don’t need to worry about bringing your own toilet paper. Making a journey through rural China may be a different story.

Each chapter focuses on one of these adventures, and opens with a brief intro to the location in which it takes place. From there you’ll find a trip description which goes into a bit more detail on what the adventure entails, including a first hand account of the author’s experiences, which helps to make a more personal impression on the reader.

From there, we find sections on “Why Go” that helps to define, in the most basic terms, what appeals most about the trip. The section labeled “Special Issues and Challenges” offers a few things to keep in mind before heading off on these adventures, which can be quite demanding on a physical and emotional level. The “Variations and Options” portion of the chapter will suggest some additions or changes that will allow you to personalize the adventure to suit your own tastes. “Resources and Information” closes the chapter and lists prices, tour operators and websites for finding more information.

Of course the real highlight of the book are the amazing trips that the authors recommend. These adventures range from active to extremely active. These are not trips for the traveler who prefers to sit on the beach for a week. They’re for the person who wants to pack everything they possibly can into their vacation, and come home exhausted and happy.

Adventure travelers will go kayaking, both fresh water and on the sea. They’ll go backpacking, trekking, and cycling as they explore every corner of the globe, and along the way they’ll have cultural and spiritual adventures to go along with all adrenaline fueled ones that they’ll enjoy as well. They’ll go on walking safaris in Africa and take in the culture and history of Greenland, while glacier hiking. There are options to visit remote jungle tribes in Papua New Guinea or exploring Copper Canyon in Mexico by Rail. And of course, there is the title adventure. You can always ride the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean, which in this case refers to kayaking the Hulahula River out of the Brooks Mountains in Northern Alaska. An 11 day adventure that winds it’s way through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Once you’ve worked your way through the initial 50 trips however, the fun isn’t done just yet. The latter half of the book offers up another 26 trips, described more briefly than the original batch. There is also an analytical look at where adventure travel is headed, both geographically and philosophically. This section of the book takes a nice look at ecotourism, sustainable travel, and volunteer vacations that allow you to have as much of an impact on the places you visit as they do on you.

Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean attempts to be a guidebook for adventurer travelers, and for the most part, I’d say it succeeds. It covers a lot of ground in it’s 304 pages and serves as a really great reference for the seasoned traveler who is looking for something a little different. There were times when I wished that the book provided a bit more detail on the various trips it describes, but on the other hand it always provided direction to find more info on your own, and part of the theme of the book is exploration. The descriptions are very well written though, and always stir the imagination and serve their purpose of inspiring us to travel to those locations.

One word of warning about this book however. Hulahula will be dangerous to your “Life List”. If you thought that you were whittling away at all those things you wanted to accomplish, then you may want to stray away from this one. Hulahula is pretty much guaranteed to add new items to that liast, thus extending it even further. If, on the other hand, you have no problem with the fact that your Life List should be an ever expanding and changing work in progress, than this is the book for you. My personal list certainly grew while reading the book, and that’s a alone should earn it a place in your travel library.

Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean will be available Tuesday, May 20th from National Geographic Books. Cover price for this trade paperback is $18.95.

Kraig Becker

4 thoughts on “Book Review: <i>Riding The Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean</i>”

  1. There are so many good ones, it’s tough to choose. I’d love to go trekking in Bhutan or take the trip to Antarctica, but there are at least a dozen or so more that I’d love to take, and overall you can’t go wrong with just about any of them.

    The Inca Trail use to be high on my list, but the more I hear about how crowded the trail gets and how much litter can be found along the way, the more I think I’d prefer one of the alternative routes when hiking in the Andes.

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