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Byline: Syd Kearney Houston Chronicle

Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu once said, ``A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.''

We've adapted that for the '90s traveler: Take a hike.

Walking vacations are on pace to become the most popular form of group travel during the next 10 years. That should be no surprise to the more than 36 million people who, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 recent figures, make walking a part of their regular fitness routines.

But fitness goals don't represent the main impetus making these tours so popular.

``People are slowing down, but they are not becoming less active,'' says Bob Maynard, president of Country Walkers, which has offered walking tours for 19 years. ``People want to see where they are going. They want to take the time to get to know the places and the people.''

Walking lends itself to deliberate exploration. You can smell the sage growing on the mountainside, taste a sweet plum plucked pluck  
v. plucked, pluck·ing, plucks
1. To remove or detach by grasping and pulling abruptly with the fingers; pick: pluck a flower; pluck feathers from a chicken.
 along the trail, pet a camel tethered Attached to a data or power source by wire or fiber. Contrast with untethered.  in a dusty yard and hear the laughter and songs of children coming from a tiny schoolhouse.

All are experiences you would not have if you ``zoom through on a tour bus,'' says Janine Cloney-Robertson, marketing director of Progressive Travels.

Progressive Travels started with biking tours to France in 1985. It got no bites when it offered walking tours a couple of years later. But when the company trotted them out again in 1991, the timing was right, Cloney-Robertson says.

Today, walkers account for about half of the Seattle-based company's clientele.

Walking tours are as diverse as people who walk. Exotic destinations such as Nepal and Tanzania draw the well-traveled, while well-trod paths in England's Cotswold region and France's Provence appeal to the new vacationer.

``People who are new to soft adventure programs are often apprehensive about group travel,'' says Country Walkers' Maynard. ``We don't want to scare them off, so we give them space.

``Our tours take walkers about six to nine miles Nine Miles is a reggae "band" started by Yoshiaki Manabe (真鍋吉明) of The Pillows. The name Nine Miles comes from the name of the town in which Bob Marley grew up in Jamaica.
  • Yoshiaki Manabe is the only member of the "band.
 a day with plenty of stops. ... We go to the little restaurants and the farmhouses. To places that are special and inaccessible inaccessible Surgery adjective Unreachable; referring to a lesion that unmanageable by standard surgical techniques–eg, lesions deep in the brain or adjacent to vital structures–ie, not accessible. See Accessible.  to the bus tours.''

Country Walkers tours are typical of these soft adventures. Guides lead manageable groups - generally 14 to 18 people - on morning and afternoon outings that total about eight miles a day. Most meals are taken together. Sitting around the table typically will be a well-educated, economically comfortable group ranging in age from the late 20s to the mid-70s (average is about 45). There will be more single women than men, with a balance of couples and singles.

This formula must be working, because repeat clients represent up to 60 percent of bookings for the most successful companies.

Wandering Wandering
See also Adventurousness, Bohemianism, Journey, Quest.


German name for the Wandering Jew. [Ger. Lit.
 into the walking-vacation world is an eye-opener. For starters, more than 170 companies sell vacations for walkers. That leaves few destinations untrekked. Choosing among the many outfitters can be tough, but cost and a pretty brochure shouldn't be your only criteria.

Prices are based on service and the type of accommodations and meals provided. Butterfield & Robinson boasts of having the highest fares, pinning its prices on quality.

Other companies strive to be budget-conscious. Five-star accommodations are eschewed for small inns or bed-and-breakfasts, where charm is balanced with economy. Instead of feasting on gourmet meals, walkers enjoy pub lunches pub lunch nrepas m de bistrot

pub lunch nin Pubs servierter Imbiss
 and picnics.

Walkers in luxury and standard group tours meet at an appointed place, and from there, put their vacations on cruise control See adaptive cruise control. . The guides take care of nearly everything, from bags to conversing with foreign waiters.

The walks, too, can be a stroll in the park. Generally there are no backpacks, no lugging of equipment (vans often tote luggage between destinations). A fanny pack, your camera and a bottle of water is all you'll tote.

Here are some of the best-known walking-tour specialists.

Request catalog catalog, descriptive list, on cards or in a book, of the contents of a library. Assurbanipal's library at Nineveh was cataloged on shelves of slate. The first known subject catalog was compiled by Callimachus at the Alexandrian Library in the 3d cent. B.C. `s from several companies to compare itineraries, prices and dates.

Butterfield & Robinson is celebrating its 30th year of leading biking and walking vacations. The Toronto-based company specializes in luxury tours, offering more than 60 trips on six continents Six Continents is a large retail PLC in UK which split into Six Continents Retail known as Mitchells and Butlers plc. The hotels and soft drinks business of Six Continents PLC is now known as InterContinental Hotels Group PLC. .

Information: (800) 678-1147; Web site,

Backroads is a multisport mul·ti·sport   also mul·ti·sports
1. Composed of, involving, or accommodating several sports: a multisport competition; a multisport stadium.

 company offering rafting raft 1  
1. A flat structure, typically made of planks, logs, or barrels, that floats on water and is used for transport or as a platform for swimmers.

, skiing, biking and kayaking Kayaking is the use of a kayak for moving across water. Kayaking is differentiated from canoeing by the fact that a kayak has a closed cockpit and a canoe has an open cockpit. They also use a two bladed paddle. Another major difference is in the way the paddler sits in the boat.  adventures, Backroads divides its foot-powered tours into hiking hiking

Walking, often among hills or mountains, as recreational sport. It represents an activity in its own right and also figures in backpacking, camping, hunting, mountaineering, and orienteering.
 and walking categories. Walking trips take participants - with a group average of 17 people - over mostly level terrain on well-worn paths or roads; distances tend to be short. A hiking designation signals more elevation changes, uneven terrain and greater distances. Participants often receive a choice of ``carefree'' camping or inn accommodations.

Information: (800) 462-2848; Web site,

Mountain Travel-Sobek has been hosting adventures for more than 25 years. In addition to walking tours, its itineraries feature rafting, kayaking, mountaineering mountaineering
 or mountain climbing

Sport of attaining, or attempting to attain, high points in mountainous regions, mainly for the joy of the climb.
 and safaris, and encompass 60 countries.

The company rates its hikes on a scale of one to five, with five the most demanding. A five-rated trip would feature steep hiking over rugged terrain at high elevations. A moderate walking trip would average 10-16 miles a day on easy trails. Information: (800) 227-2384; Web site,

Seattle-based Progressive Travels specializes in walking and biking trips in Portugal, France, Italy and the Pacific Northwest. With more than 12 years of guiding experience, the company focuses on providing small groups unique lodgings and elegant cuisine. The walking tours average seven to 15 miles per day.

Information: (800) 245-2229.

Country Walkers, based in Waterbury, Vt., offers more than 30 itineraries in 16 countries. Walking distances range from four to 12 miles each day.

Information: (800) 464-9255; Internet site,

The Wa`yfarers, which specializes in walking tours of Britain, Ireland, France, Italy and Switzerland, offers 21 itineraries that focus on the history, culture, food, wine and natural beauty of each destination.

Groups of about 14 people walk about 10 miles per day, though Wayfarers recently has added a more challenging journey for the serious walker: a six-day, 85-mile, coast-to-coast trek across Ireland.

Information: (800) 249-4620; Internet site,


Photo, Box

Photo: (Color) Walking tours, such as the one along the coast in the British Isles British Isles: see Great Britain; Ireland. , are highlighted by captivating cap·ti·vate  
tr.v. cap·ti·vat·ed, cap·ti·vat·ing, cap·ti·vates
1. To attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence. See Synonyms at charm.

2. Archaic To capture.

Country Walkers

Box: On Location (See text)
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Title Annotation:TRAVEL
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 6, 1997

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