There is a category of my business known as “adventure travel”. It evokes images of llama trekking in the Andes, zip-lining across the Amazon, hang-gliding or similar vigorous pursuits which would have made Teddy Roosevelt proud.
By this definition, we don’t do adventure travel at Shebby Lee Tours. But – in my opinion – adventure travel doesn’t have to be dangerous to be appealing. I think that the tours we offer are adventurous because they encourage participants to step outside their comfort zone, to learn something or go somewhere they never expected to go, meet interesting people and expand their horizons. This is what we do every day on our journeys, and after 35 years I personally am still learning, still expanding my horizons, and still enjoying what I do.
While participants in the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup program don’t exactly herd these magnificent beasts from horseback (actually we observe this annual ritual from the safety of a fenced-in viewing area), we are still privileged to observe an Old West tradition which gives us a rare glimpse into the past. And when the herd is safely inside the corral we have the opportunity to see these pre-historic mammals very close indeed.
Perhaps you might call the experiences we provide for our participants adventures of the mind. Many of these involve living history reenactors who might convince you that Lt. Col. Custer and his lovely wife have just stepped out for a horseback ride on the prairie and will return momentarily. Or as you step onto the beach under a sign that states you are now in 1805, the rag-tag members of the Corp of Discovery demonstrate how they are boiling sea water for the salt, and are anxious to barter what few possessions they have left for any food that isn’t dog meat or “pore” elk.
Such experiences enrich our lives without risking life and limb. Explore first-hand the sites where pivotal events of the history of the West actually took place, walk in actual wagon ruts, experience other cultures through their cuisine, music, or dance – all of which help us gain historical perspective.
Our pre-tour documents include a suggested reading list, which provides not only background for the adventure ahead but creates a commonality not usually achieved by travelers until several days into the tour. Friendships flourish under such conditions, and nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing people who were strangers just hours before with their heads together sharing knowledge about the topic at hand.
Our mantra has always been: It’s not the destination, it’s the journey, and it’s never been more true than today. What could be more adventurous?
Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.