So it must have been daunting to QuébecOriginal when they invited a group of travel bloggers and big-time travelers on a press trip to the Laurentian region of Québec, Canada. (See Wanderful’s disclosure statement here.) After all, if these avid travelers fit the stereotypes above, they would be passing judgment on every adventure and challenge that came their way as they explored the wilderness of the North.
Questions they’d probably ask themselves:
Is this a new and unique experience?
Is the view enough to take my breath away?
Is this an adventure I’ll remember forever?
It turns out, there wasn’t much to worry about. We happened to be part of a group that matched all of the positive stereotypes of avid travelers:
They’re game to try new things.
They’re curious and inquisitive.
They appreciate the little moments, sights, sounds, etc.
It didn’t hurt that Magalie and Pierre, our press trip leaders, had a bunch of activities planned that almost effortlessly won over the avid travelers who took the Laurentians by storm.
However, if you’re planning to host avid travelers and find yourself fretting over whether your views, adventures, and experiences will live up to their standards, follow these four simple tips!
1. Ask her to do her own dishes.
Before we even got to the real adventuring in the Laurentian region of Québec, we took on the challenge of shopping for a diverse group of women, many of whom were vegetarian.
In Saint-Sauveur, a quaint village known for its night-skiing, we stopped for what might have been a quick shop. Instead, it lasted for more than an hour. I arrived late to the party, but I can only imagine it consisted of lots of compromising.
Around the campfire that night in Mont-Tremblant National Park, the sun dimming into a deep darkness, we ended up with a pretty impressive meal: a salad of mixed greens, pine nuts, and tomatoes; sausages; cheeses of older and younger varieties; foie gras; deliciously creamy pâté; wine; and scotch.
But it wasn’t the alcohol that loosened the avid travelers up; it was doing the dishes.
Our Huttopia tent came with a lot of things (electricity, utensils, a small fridge), but the four or five of us who set up a dish-washing station on the raised wooden deck of the tent didn’t need much:
Water boiled in a pot on the small stovetop
As one blogger sat on the deck, her legs dangling off the side, sudsing the dirty plates and glasses, another took them as they were passed to her and passed them through a quick swipe of the towel, quickly becoming wet itself.
Another blogger took on the duty of filling a second basin for rinsing, and others just lingered. The smell of fresh dishes in warm water mingled with the start of a campfire in our small fire pit. Wine was sipped, marshmallows were speared for future roasting, and everyone enjoyed the happy work that came after filling our bellies with satisfying food (vegetarian and not-so-vegetarian) in a forest that quieted to night.
2. Make her catch her own lunch.
What I heard from the musings of the other bloggers on this trip was that press trips are usually pretty luxurious. You get shuttled from place to place, your days are planned out for you, your meals are served.
This press trip, I heard, was different—and delightfully so. It was billed as “glamping” or “glamorous camping.” That meant we stayed in a Huttopia tent rather than pitching one ourselves and enjoyed electricity, delicious food, and incredibly knowledgeable guides at both of our destinations: Mont-Tremblant National Park and the outfitter Club Mekoos.
The difference was that much of our days were up to us to fill, and there was no shortage of things to do—kayaking in a picturesque lake, hiking on trails with a smart and enthusiastic guide, picnicking on river peninsulas.
I, for one, enjoyed a whole luxurious afternoon sunning myself on a dock on a lake, swimming in chill water, reading, and joining some of our group in making a French-Canadian mother and son laugh at our antics.
One of the activities that was planned for us at Club Mekoos was to head out onto boats in twos and threes and catch ourselves lunch.
It was an activity not happily anticipated by everyone, myself excluded. While the idea of hooking fish was unseemly to some, I loved the idyllic image of all of us out on our boats, quietly motoring through the water, providing for ourselves.
While some of the group may have started out unsure, happy squeals of success sounded across the water, proving that they were converted. My boat-mate and I fully embraced the cast, the tug, and the persistent reeling-in that it took to catch a brook trout. And we were often visited by fellow fisherwomen, proudly displaying their catches or tallying up the number of fish they had in their buckets.
And when we were taxied in large pickup trucks to a beautiful lakeside picnic and our brook trout was served to us (having just been cooked in a large frying pan on the beach), glistening with grease and crispy from head to tail, many happy travel-blog pictures were taken and posted.
Besides that, it was pretty quiet. Good food does that.
3. Force her to sit quietly, waiting for bears.
On this trip I learned that avid travelers are a pretty chatty bunch. They like to swap stories, describe places they’ve been, make recommendations, and comment on every activity. Except when munching fresh-caught brook trout, it’s unlikely you won’t hear their opinion on something.
I had never heard our group so quiet than when they were watching for bears.
Our Mekoos guide Renaud (More about him later.) shuttled us over impossibly bumpy dirt roads, through dense forest, the tips of trees scraping our windows, to one very unassuming tree. Towards the top of that tree was a bear blind, a wooden structure with a few benches built for watching bears.
When we were all inside the blind, Renaud gave us our instructions:
Once he had put the bait in the large blue barrel in the clearing below, we were to be absolutely silent. One gasp, one sniffle, one creak of wood would be enough not only to scare away a bear that was present but to deter bears from coming at all.
Our quiet began even before Renaud was finished with the barrel. But the scuffles of feet and creaks of wood as we settled in disappeared once he was back in the blind, and it was time to wait.
The silence was astounding. Each traveler sat, eyes practically peeling the bark of the trees, parting the branches, brushing aside leaves, in hopes of catching a glimpse of a bear. It was so quiet that I could hear the flapping wings of a turkey vulture flying overhead.
When a large male bear finally appeared, the avid travelers were equally silent, this time in awe.
4. Put her in front of a charming, French-speaking outdoorsman.
There’s almost nothing, I noticed, that avid travelers like more than conversing. When they can coax a good story out of someone, they’re even happier. Make that someone a handsome, charming outdoor guide, who also happens to speak French, and the women in my group were golden.
Our guide at Mekoos, Renaud, joined us for dinner in the lodge on the last night of our stay. Outside the long bank of windows, there was a lake (one of hundreds on Mekoos’s land), but the mountain region was so dark, it was invisible. Inside, the lodge was warmly lit and cozy, with wood everywhere and checkered tablecloths on every table.
Our table was a long one to fit all of the avid travelers; Pierre and Magalie; and Renaud, who happened to be seated right across from me.
We were served squash soup, juicy filet mignon, and decadent chocolate cake, all accompanied by a good, dry red wine and all prepared by one chef. As we swished our wine and admired the flavors, myself and the other avid travelers were glued to Renaud’s every word.
He described how he learned what he knew from Alain, a master. He explained how there are different hunting techniques for different animals, and he discussed the experiences he’s had guiding the visitors who come to Mekoos. When he described the wolves he had spotted and heard, his voice became soft and reverent. And when he told us about his family and showed us a photo of his baby, his face broke into a smile and we ooo’d and aahhh’d over the cuteness of that tiny, future outdoorswoman.
For a group that tended to be caught up in our own experiences (And who can blame them? They were gathering them up for blogs to come!), we deferred to this young man who came to the table with such knowledge of and respect for the woods. And, of course, his charming French-Canadian accent didn’t hurt.
Avid travelers come with a lot of baggage: They’ve seen amazing views, they’ve learned countless facts, they’ve spoken foreign languages, and they’ve challenged themselves to unique adventures. It may seem like a daunting task to win them over, but it really couldn’t be simpler: Let them engage in a memorable way.
Let them do so in an environment as breathtaking as the Laurentians of Québec, and your avid travelers will be talking (and writing) about their experiences for a long time to come.