September escapes

Upgrade your holiday with a boutique adventure

Written by Anna Brech

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Annual leave is the perennial thorn in the side of our travel plans. Sure, we’d love to take six weeks moseying around Colombia, or the highlands of Peru. But how to wrangle the time off (career break, aside)? Here at Flash Pack, we put oil on the wheels of your wanderlust, by condensing a series of epic adventures into the space of one fortnight trip (or even a weekend). By travelling with a group of like-minded strangers, you get to try things you would struggle to arrange alone – such as taking a night-time cruise down the Amazon, wine-tasting in the desert, or canyoning through Sicily’s Alcantara Gorges. And by sharing a room, you’re able to stay in some seriously slick hotels – while avoiding the dreaded singles tax. Plus, you get to meet a whole bunch of people just like you along the way. We take care of the details, so all you have to do is turn up. As three-time Flashpacker Andy says: “It changes your mentality of holidaying.” Here’s how you can upgrade your holiday habits, to supersize your precious annual leave and relish an adventure like no other:

Farewell, logistics

When you go abroad ordinarily, a fair amount of planning is involved. You trawl the internet, post questions on forums, and generally cast around to pull together a potent, on-budget itinerary. On Flash Pack trips, we take this logistical element right out of your hands. But our trips are far from generic or predictable. We look for the most dynamic experiences available in any given place, and then line ’em up thick and fast. Travelling in a group means we can use private transfers and do more off-radar activities, providing the resource for a bigger and better trip. And even seasoned travellers appreciate both the lack of hassle and the unique access that this brings. “I think men always like to be macho and think, ‘I can plan this myself’. And I’ve done it before and it’s not that easy,” says Andy, who joined us in Myanmar, Jordan and Sri Lanka.

Oliver, who travelled with us to Myanmar, agrees. “Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have had the inside knowledge of the country to take myself to various different villages or go on different hikes, and that kind of thing,” he says. “But because it was organised for us, that was all included. And I don’t think that’s something you could do on your own.”

Adventure with meaning

We know that new experiences make us happier and more creative. Trying something different also makes time feel like it lasts longer. So, meaningful and authentic activities are at the front and centre of what we do. We won’t do something just for the sake of it; it needs to tap into local culture, or make you feel challenged and energised. “The itinerary was really good, because you get the flavour of the country, and the flavour of the experiences that really make you feel like you know part of the culture,” says Agnes, who came on-board for our Peru adventure. “[You] get to experience the country a lot more than if you would have done it with your friends, I think.”

Julie, who joined us in Scotland, believes this experiential focus gives us the edge. “I would definitely recommend it,” she says. “It wasn’t touristy. It felt very unique. I felt quite special, and I felt like all the details had been arranged really well.”

Boutique boltholes

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Just because we channel the thrill of adventure, it doesn’t mean we have to stay in a 20-bed dorm with broken-down fans. We’re on a mission to put the flash into backpacking, by staying in beautiful places that complement our meticulously crafted itineraries. This might be an award-winning eco lodge in the Jordanian desert. It may be a glamping pod under the Northern Lights of Finland. Or it could involve bedding down in a real-life Texan cattle ranch. But wherever it is, you can be sure it will have an element of boutique about it.

As Peru Flashpacker Craig says: “It’s not just going away and staying by the beach or by the pool and doing nothing for two weeks. You get all the adventure that you could want plus that little bit of luxury with people that think and are the same sort of age as you.” In order to elevate the level hotels we stay in one notch further, our travellers usually share a room. You don’t have to, but most people enjoy the experience – it’s another way of meeting great people, and we match you carefully. Emily, who joined us on a fleet of Spanish Vespas, made a friend for life with her “brilliant” roomie. “We got gossiping every night and she’s coming over for New Year,” she says.

The like-minded link

The people that you travel with can make or break a holiday, which is why we’re so careful about the groups we put together. “The group dynamic is so important to us,” says Flash Pack co-founder Radha Vyas. “We’re completely obsessed with it. Because, who wants to go on holiday making small talk for two weeks? Certainly not me. So, it’s really important that everyone comes with an open mind and a spirit of adventure.”  Not only that, but everyone on our trips is aged in their 30s and 40s, and typically holds down a demanding career. This means you’ll get to bond with people in the same life stage as you; an eye-opening experience at a time when many of us have forgotten what it feels like to make real and meaningful connections.

“To be on holiday with people who are of the same age as you, and coming at life at the same sort of stage as you as well, is really cool,” says Abbie, one of our Sri Lanka adventurers. “There were doctors, there were HR professionals, there was such a wide range of people, all of whom have really busy jobs.” Travelling with strangers means you’re more likely to take risks and jump out of your comfort zone – a key element of our philosophy. We’re not about lazing by the pool for two weeks, or following the tourist trail: we aim to conjure up transformative travel, with local insights and vibrant experiences that will broaden your horizons and fire you up. Meeting new people is all part of that journey. So, come make the most of your holiday and supersize your rare time off. You’ll never look at an Ibiza holiday rental in the same way again…

Photos: Flash Pack


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