Organic living means getting physical, even when you’re on vacation.

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Before signing up for an adventure tour, be aware of three issues that could sour your experience: tour guides’ qualifications, attributes of a quality program and risks (real or perceived).

“Bad experiences could range from mild disappointment to catastrophe,” says Alan Ewert, PhD, a professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. He offers the following suggestions:

Check guides’ qualifications. Verify whether guides are specifically certified in the actual activity. Does the rafting guide, for example, have a rafting certificate? Guides should also have, at a minimum, a wilderness first-responder level of medical training.

Ask questions. Does the program appear to be well-designed? Are the client’s goals considered, and do they match what the program is delivering? Potential clients can ask for references and evaluations, as well as a safety report that lists complaints regarding injuries and other legal issues.

Know the risks. Check to see if major potential risks and dangers are clearly stated or if the company appears to be glossing over them. How physically challenging will activities be? Are  special skills required?

Participants in adventure tourism or education often return home with a sense of achievement and greater resilience, Dr. Ewert notes.

“Adventure education programs are often designed specifically to help vacationers develop these positive experiences,” he says. “Research supports the occurrence of these outcomes, but now we want to find out how this occurs, how long it lasts and whether these new skills transfer to the greater community.”

Book Pick of the Day: Ecological Literacy: Educating our Children for a Sustainable World