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Dutch tulips: better than cave biking. Photo by Rachel Kramer on flickr.

Dutch tulips: better than cave biking. Photo by Rachel Kramer on flickr.

According to a recent survey of 40 countries around the globe conducted by motor home rental site SHAREaCAMPER, the Netherlands has the most adventurous people per capita, followed by Australia and Sweden.

The survey tabulated the number of online searches in each country for such adventurous activities as skydiving, bungee jumping, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, surfing, BMXing, and caravanning — the latter being what Australians (where SHAREaCAMPER is partially based) call traveling in RVs, campers, or motor homes.

Strictly in terms of sheer numbers of total searches, the United States placed first, but of course has a much higher population than the other countries. The U.S. finished ninth in the per capita rankings.

While the Netherlands was  outdone in skiing by Norway and Australia in surfing (no surprises there), Switzerland in bungee jumping (kind of a surprise), and India in hiking (a real surprise), overall the Dutch came out on top.

That rings true to me, because some of the most bizarre adventurous experiences I’ve had have come in the Netherlands. It’s almost like the Dutch go out of their way to torture themselves with invented physical activities that no other people would even conceive of.

The Dutch typically cycle without helmets, except in caves. Photo from Dutch Cycling Routes

The Dutch typically cycle without helmets, except in caves. Photo from Dutch Cycling Routes

So I thought this would be an appropriate time to reprise and augment part of a previous post I wrote two years ago titled “7 Travel Adventures I’ll Never Do Again.”

Two of the seven — mud walking and cave biking — were from the Netherlands and represent a particularly, well, unusual approach to adventure travel, providing lots of discomfort with little real excitement, except possible death from drowning or getting knocked unconscious in a pitch-black cave.

Only bungee jumping would be further down on my list of things not to do again than these two:

  • Mud walking. There’s nothing even remotely romantic about mud walking, but it appeals to a certain segment of the Dutch, who like to call it “a bit of walking.” I came properly prepared with cheap high-top sneakers that I had bought especially for this experience. Since I knew I was only going to use them for a few hours before tossing them into the trash, I didn’t pay much attention to the fit — which they didn’t.  At all. But into the mud I went.

The mud was thick and sticky and oozed into my sneakers as I sank further and further into the morass. I was with a group of ten Americans and Canadians, and only two of us got more than a few feet into the mud before turning back.

I'd rather ride a camel than go mud walking again, and I really don't want to ride another camel. Photo by upyernoz on flickr.

I’d rather ride a camel than go mud walking again, and I really don’t want to ride another camel. Photo by upyernoz on flickr.

But I was determined to finish — it wasn’t easy to find those cheap high-top sneakers — which meant slogging through a muddy lake bed that would fill with water later that day when the tides came in. In other words, after a certain point, it would be too late to turn back or risk drowning.

So, with mud now sometimes reaching up to my knees, my feet blistering and raw from sneakers that didn’t fit, and the tides threatening, I mucked through the miserable course to the end.

“And how did you enjoy your bit of walking?” a Dutch man asked me afterwards as I limped to our van, now shoeless. ‘There’s a big mud walking festival coming up — why don’t you come?”

I told him I was pretty much booked for the next 10 years, but I’ll be watching for it on Survivor: Netherlands.

  • Cave biking. This was another Dutch treat. Our group mounted bikes and donned helmets to ride through what turned out to be a narrow, pitch-black cave — with low ceilings.

Our “guide,” a callow 20-year-old, warned us that if we didn’t keep pedaling, our bike lights — powered by the pedaling process — would go out. So off we went — and the guide soon bolted out of sight.

Meanwhile, I kept bumping my head on the ceiling of the cave, so I was forced to bend way forward or risk multiple concussions (the helmet helped, but like in football, you can still get your bell rung.)

This raises the question: why would the tallest people on earth, as the Dutch are on average, choose to do something like this?  Just asking.

When I had to stop at one point to readjust my helmet, the real fun began. The group had gone on, but I found myself in total darkness. Which way to go? But to have light, I had to pedal.

After hitting the side of the cave, I saw that the cave tunnels split off into two directions. Stopping to ponder my situation only put me into total darkness again. Fortunately an even more laggard rider approached me from behind, pedaling and bringing light.

Eventually we found our way out, but next time I’m in Holland, I’ll stick to tiptoeing through the tulips.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
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  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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