People are always looking for a new definition of "getting away from it all." Could mean a weekend in a place without cell phones or it could be a long duration trip where you're away from home three weeks or more. These long-haul trips are realistic opportunities to immerse yourself in a culture and a lifestyle that are light years away from your daily grind. Most importantly: They're not just for the rich. Here are some tour providers that make travel feel like an almost permanent escape.
Dragoman Overland (tel. 800/227-8747; www.dragomanoverland.com) has forty years of experience running overland vehicle trips through four major continents -- North America, South America, Asia and Africa. These trips are reminiscent of the old type of global travel. Travelers see the globe on their feet, traveling on a bus with their bags sometimes piled on top. They stay at family run hotels and local campsites, using cooks in Africa to get a flavor for local cuisine. You pay for any extras outside of lodging and keep your food money set aside in a kitty of recommended size. Dragoman trips can be purchased on a weekly basis, by the package, or you can string several Dragoman trips packages and stay on the road for any duration you choose.
For the serious long-haulers, Dragoman has a 52 week trip departing on April 7, 2007 from St. Petersburg, Russia and finishing up on April 8, 2008 in Cape Town. The price of the trip is $20,890 with a recommended kitty for additional meals coming to $6,310. This trip takes you overland in a truck through Beijing, Istanbul, Cairo, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Victoria Falls. There are breaks along the way that will increase your kitty and impact the overall length of the trip. If you're uncomfortable with traveling in the Sudan, as many travelers are, you can fly and meet the trip in a future destination.
If you're not gung-ho about being away for a year, Dragoman has three to four week trips to Western African more suitable for people with extended vacations. Its "Music Travel" trip through Mali lasts 21 days, starts and ends in the capital Bamako, and departs just before Christmas on December 17, 2007. The trip visits drumming workshops in Bamako, the Djenne Monday market, the Dogon tribal region, the Niger River, a tour of Timbuktu and the Tuareg Music Festival in the middle of the Sahara Desert. An additional excursion takes you to the village of Ali Farka Touré, one of Mali's and Africa's most internationally recognized music stars. The cost of the trip, with accommodations at campsites and some wildlife camping, comes to $1,570 for the full three weeks with a recommended kitty of $600. Two permanent Dragoman crew will accompany you on your journey where you'll meet local guides along the way. For the faint of heart, this trip is labeled "tough but rewarding."
Djoser Travel (tel. 877/356-7376; www.djoserusa.com) has a 22-day trip to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica. This trip departs at least once monthly but also goes four times in July alone, increasing departures in the warmer summer months. The price out of New York with airfare comes to $3,100 with a Los Angeles departure coming to $2,980. The land-only portion costs $2,410 with a single supplement of $470 if you're going it alone. Airport taxes and fees with fuel costs come to $190 with an estimated weekly expense of $340 rounding out your expenses. Starting off in San Jose, Costa Rica, this lengthy Central American experience proceeds on to Monteverde National Park, Rincon de la Vieja for some optional horseback riding, then to Isla Ometepe, Granada on Lake Nicaragua, Masaya National Park, the Mayan city of Copan, the crater lake of Atitlan in Guatemala, and finally the colonial town of Antigua and Guatemala City. Group sizes on this trip range from 15 to 20, but there are only slots for four North Americans. Accommodations are in small tourist class hotels with a colonial feel. With Djoser, you decide where you want to eat. You can eat with a group or go off on your own.
For non-package, do-it-yourself travelers, Discover New Zealand (tel. +64 9/306-7670; www.discovernewzealand.com) has put together a 21-day travel itinerary that takes you through the North and South Islands. The plan for the trip stays extremely detailed in terms of locations and sites but is scant in recommending hotels or places to eat. You can use the website, however, to match accommodations with locations and come up with a list of hotels to pre-book or book along the route.
The website can also put you in touch with motor home and car rental agencies for the trip. While long-term rates are available for RVs, day rates for five to 20 days start at around NZ$89 per day for a Spirit 2 Deluxe vehicle that is just slightly bigger than a minivan but comes equipped with a toilet, shower and full kitchen. If you go the RV route, you can stay for free nightly through a network called Native Parks (tel. +64 9/974-2376; www.nativeparks.co.nz) that provide overnight parking in beautiful locales throughout the country for a NZ$49 annual fee. Think of the money that you can save you while cruising around New Zealand for a full three weeks.
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