When it comes to adventure travel, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The many benefits of hiring a professional adventure travel guide can more than make up for the cost.
In my early twenties, my greatest adventure during a summer backpacking in Europe was the actual city-hopping itself.
It wasn't until seven years later, when I took a backpacking trip to Costa Rica, that I began incorporating adventure sports such as zip-lining, surfing, and jumping off waterfalls into my days.
Adventure travel became an even bigger theme as I planned my trip around the world.
I dreamed of trekking in the Himalaya, despite having only camped overnight in the woods a few times as a kid, and hiking to Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes.
Such adventures were well beyond my experience, comfort level, and tolerance for risk. Hiring a local guide made them achievable.
Today, companies like 57hours are making it easier than ever to find highly-trained adventure guides.
57hours is a mobile app and website that helps adventurous people find professional guides for rock climbing, backcountry skiing, avalanche education, surfing, kiteboarding, and mountain biking.
Here are five key benefits to hiring a professional adventure travel guide.
First and foremost, hiring a guide can help you stay safe while you push your boundaries — physical, psychological, and emotional.
For hiking and trekking, you can depend on guides to know the route, weather, and good places to take breaks, eat, and camp for the night.
At high altitudes, they can ensure you're acclimatizing correctly, thereby helping to minimize the effects of altitude sickness.
In backcountry skiing and snowboarding, they'll be aware of avalanche conditions and plan accordingly.
For rock climbing, they'll set up ropes and belay you.
Guides should have first-aid training, and in extreme instances, may be in a position to save your life. Such was the case during my trek in northern India.
Trekking in northern India
A Swiss traveler and I hired a local Indian guide, Ashok, and porter in the town of McLeod Ganj to lead us on a four-day trek to Indrahar Pass (4,320 meters).
Upon reaching the mountain pass after four hours of climbing on our third day, my Swiss friend was not feeling well. He had a headache and looked unsteady.
As we descended, he slipped on an unstable rock and began to fall forward toward the edge of a cliff. Without hesitation, Ashok jumped on him, immediately arresting his fall.
The scene unfolded in the blink of an eye. Later, in camp, the Swiss man acknowledged he was in trouble, and our guide likely saved his life.
As much as I love solo travel in general, I do not have the experience or confidence to hike long distances alone in the wilderness.
For solo travelers, hiring a guide means more than just having someone there to ensure your safety.
An excellent guide will answer all your questions, educate you on local customs and culture, and find ways to entertain you and keep your spirits high.
All of the above was true, and more, when I went trekking in Nepal.
Annapurna Sanctuary Trek in Nepal
By the middle of our third day trekking in the Annapurna region of Nepal, I was certifiably exhausted.
We'd stopped for lunch at a teahouse, yet my breathing remained labored, and my hands were tingling.
Our Nepali guide, Mohan, gave me the option to continue another day and a half to Annapurna Base Camp (4,200 meters), or stay nearby with our porter, Nima Sherpa until he returned with the other trekker.
Rather than risk further physical problems, I stayed behind. Nima took good care of me, offering words of encouragement to keep my spirits up.
When Mohan returned with the other trekker, we resumed the trail together. Rested, I was full of energy and had a great time the remaining five days.
Throughout the trek, our guide sang popular Nepali songs and made lots of jokes.
I can't imagine having done the trek without our guide and porter. Their presence and friendship added richness to the experience.
3. Regional knowledge
An excellent adventure travel guide will have a strong understanding of the area where he/she operates. This entails knowing local trails, conditions, weather, and risks.
Guides will also ensure you have all the equipment you need before you begin.
Depending on the type of tour, you may be provided equipment, which should always be in good working order.
Mountain biking in Colombia
During my time living in Medellin, Colombia, I had the opportunity to spend a day mountain biking outside the city.
Living in a big city, I had fallen into a rut and wasn't getting a lot of physical activity. Escaping to forest trails in the countryside was a breath of fresh air.
I hadn't owned a bike since I was a teenager and got a kick out of riding a modern, full-suspension Trek mountain bike.
4. Personalize your tour
Independently hiring a local travel guide makes it a lot easier to personalize your tour, too.
Whether you're traveling solo, with a partner, friends, or family, the decisionmaking is left to you.
A good guide will make sure you have a fun time, in part, by ensuring the experience is tailored to your skill level. This is also done for safety reasons.
Rock climbing in Laos
During my 'round the world trip, I was in Vang Vieng, Laos for my birthday. I celebrated by going rock climbing.
I hired a local rock climbing guide who took me up to a popular wall. I belayed him so he could set up the rope on a beginner route.
He then belayed me as I slowly made my way up the sharp limestone wall. I was able to get within a few meters of the top.
I also tried an easier route, which was more manageable. However, I still fell a few meters short of the top before having to abseil down.
Spending a few hours challenging myself physically, with lush views of the Laos countryside behind me, made for a memorable birthday. And it wouldn't have been possible without a local guide.
Check out some of the most popular rock climbing spots worldwide.
5. Support the local economy
Hiring local adventure travel guides also helps to put money in the pockets of locals living in the areas you visit.
Your money not only helps them to live a good life, but it's also often helping to support their families, too.
I am a big believer in tipping generously, and not subscribing to the idea that a few US dollars is being generous in places like Nepal and Peru.
Adventure travel guides often lead strenuous, dangerous activities. Trekking guides are away from their families for days, sometimes weeks (or even months) at a time.
Tipping generously shows you appreciate their services, support, and care.
Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
When I arrived in Peru, I knew I wanted to make a trek to Machu Picchu instead of hopping on a train. I wanted to earn the experience and see the surrounding region along the way.
Hiring a local guide in Cuzco for the Salkantay trek made the experience possible on a backpacking budget.
Our guide, who spoke English well, took good care of us. When one woman was experiencing the adverse effects of altitude on our second day, he helped her hire a mule and led them over the 4,600-meter pass.
The porters saved us time and energy by setting up our tents, cooking, and cleaning our dishes. It was a team effort, and I was happy to tip them well when it all came to an end.
By now, I hope I've convinced you of the benefits of hiring an adventure travel guide. A good one will keep you safe, educate you about the local culture, and help you push your limits.
Ready to plan an adventure, but not sure where to start? Check out the wide variety of outdoor adventures at 57hours.
This story was brought to you in partnership with 57hours.