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Written by Milly Whitehead on 24 / 02 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

Our favouite tailor made travel company

To kick start our “Friend round Friday” we have invited Justin Wateridge, CEO of Steppes Travel, our favourite tailor amde travel company, to inspire our Leap families with adventure travel ideas which are off grid and involve elements of contribution and challenge BUT instead of a hammock they deliver crisp white sheets at the end of the day.

Steppes is perfect for our families who have been inspired by their kids Leap experience and indeed for our older Leapers who are now working, getting married and fancy a hurrah moment.

Justin is a big influencer in the world of travel – he has helped spearhead the war on single use plastic and his own travel curiosity has helped open random destinations which provide unique experiences for those who allow themselves to be guided to the unknown. Through his team at Steppes, you can guarantee old-fashioned, top-notch customer care, a team who will encourage you to be more curious and will directly support grass root communities and conservation projects.

Short haul

Justin has recently taken his family on a trip through the Balkans. They loved the huge variety of activities and adventures from visiting Roman Temples in Croatia, rafting in Montenegro to e-biking in Slovenia. This was the perfect trip for all ages, and again, just on our European doorstep.

He is also passionate about protecting biodiversity and contributing to wildlife conservation, from the tiny insects to the large mammals.

Romania encapsulates this from the stunning chemical free wild-flower meadows which are a haven for bees to the protected bears in the forests. The trip to see the bears is an adventure as you travel through the medieval Saxon villages in Bucharest to the woods in Transylvania. You are hidden away in hides where you can witness bears and wolves in their natural habitat. There is no human / wildlife conflict here and by going you will support the European Nature Trust.

Just here in Europe there is so much to see, from lynx in the south to bison in Poland and by going, it creates a movement of funds to these amazing trusts who protect these animals.

Long haul

Further afield, Alaska has the magnificent Kodiak bears for you to see up close from a tundra buggy, or the polar bears in Churchill, Canada. Polar bears gather here in September, waiting for the nearby Hudson Bay to freeze. The human residents live prepared for the unexpected, and sadly this creates a human / wildlife conflict.

Travel is a privilege for families and young people to make memories and have formative experiences and, with Steppes, you know that funds help with projects and communities on the ground.

Another advantage of using Steppes is that you have access to places that the public don’t such as the orangutang rehabilitation centre in Tanjiro Putin in Indonesia. Here the tourist revenues keep the forest intact and protects the orangutang through the Orangutang Foundation.

Or perhaps help with darting a rhino in South Africa, again not your usual holiday experience, but be reassured that your money goes towards helping conservation and community projects and gives you a chance to get involved in this amazing activity.

It is not cultural voyeurism, it is about giving back and contributing, knowing that it is on the communities’ terms and will benefit them directly.

Steppes work with the best guides who are key to a fantastic adventure – for example…let Reuben in Belize show you how to get a tarantula out of a tree stump with a small stick. Their local knowledge, storytelling and individual personalities are what you buy into, and they will tailor your trip into what you want out of it. It will be these amazing individuals who you will remember far beyond the colour of the wall paint at your hotel.

Let yourself be guided off grid

So, when it comes to travel and you are about to book another villa holiday - hold fire for a second and consider an adventurous, off grid experience instead, from having a private cooking lesson in the paddy fields of Southeast Asia, sample some of the world’s finest olives oil in Andalucía or visit the high-altitude vineyards of Cafayate in Argentina. The serendipity of travel.

Thank you, Justin, – I’m off to book – anyone coming?

Need inspiration and direction?

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Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

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