ROGUEXPERTS: Aleksandra's Top Picks

 YES - I survived being sacrificed to mountain gods! Life is awesome!

YES - I survived being sacrificed to mountain gods! Life is awesome!

Name: Aleksandra L., Houston
Trips completed: Run Bend, Run Tahoe, Run Morocco: Mountains & Coast, Run Alpe-Adria
Trips currently registered for: Run BC

Describe your most memorable day:

Trekking up to the base camp of Jebel Toubkal - complete with stunning views, 2 miles of hiking in snow, and incredible sense of accomplishment!

Describe your favorite run:

The long run along Lake Tahoe - the most beautiful run ever!

Your favorite meal?

This one is nearly impossible to answer - there were so many memorable meals between Morocco, Slovenia, Croatia… And yet I would have to go with the home cooked, family-style meals on the Lake Tahoe trip. If you guys ever get bored of guiding running trips, gourmet chef would be a solid plan B…


What was your most challenging moment or day?

I would have to say the long run to the palm oasis in Morocco. Six miles straight uphill, then coming out on a plateau where the wind was enough to freeze off your ears and digits, and then being left behind by the support team (through my own fault - I strayed off the track) and running the last 9 miles completely alone in the mountains whose sheer scale made me feel tiny and utterly lost. And some lingering doubt - just the day before we joked about an old Moroccan custom which required ritual sacrifice of one runner to the mountain gods to assure successful future running trips… Did I just get voted off the island??

Needless to say, there was happy ending to this - 2 miles before the finish I was met by Hamid bearing snacks and water… : )

Which place or experience exceeded your expectations (or just surprised you)?

Again - Morocco - it was such an unexpected range of vistas and landscapes, the sheer beauty and scale of the mountains, and the incredible friendliness of people!

What’s the most important item that you pack?

An ATM card. Especially on international trips, you always underestimate your need for cash for incidentals. Other than that - sterile needles for unexpected blisters (along with dressing supplies, athletic tape, and prewrap). Bonus packing tip: I use 2 gallon ziplock bags to pack all clothing items - it does wonders for ease of repacking and finding what you need - especially if you use a backpack or a duffel bag.

From SIGN UP to GO TIME: What to expect when you register for a trip

TFJ jump.jpg

So you’ve browsed, wondered, Insta-stalked, dreamt and maybesomeday-ed enough, and today you’ve finally decided that it’s time. You’re going for it! Here’s how you make it happen, and what happens after that:

FIRST:
You’ve gotta get registered. Head back over to our website (yes, we know you’ve been lurking around it for awhile now) and click the “Sign Up” button on your chosen trip page. Assuming that it’s more than 3 months from the trip start date, choose “Deposit” and add it to your cart. If there are less than 3 months remaining until departure, then you’ll choose “Pay in Full.” Bringing along someone else? Update the quantity to “2.” Flying solo? Then you’re all set - click “Check out!”

NEXT:
Fill in basic personal and payment info, then answer a few questions about any special diet requirements, relevant medical conditions and your running abilities. Acknowledge the waiver then hit SUBMIT - you’re in! You’ll immediately receive an automated receipt with a message letting you know that we’ll begin group communication about 4 months out from the departure date, but that you’re welcome to send along questions at any time. If it’s already less than four months til go time, Gabe or Allison will get in touch with you within a few days (we aim to be quick, but sometimes we’re camped out in the Sahara or chasing whales in Patagonia or bagging peaks in Ireland with a group and can’t get right to it).

4 MONTHS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE:
You’ll receive an email from either Gabe or Allison reminding you about your balance payment due date and giving you log in information to your trip Basecamp page, which houses the packing list, itinerary, some basic facts and cultural information about your destination, guide profiles, flight booking requirements and a place to submit those details once you are booked. You’ll also find a link to the group Facebook page, which is a closed group that provides a great place to share travel plans, ask general questions and “meet” others in the group before the trip begins (it later becomes a great place to share photos). Take a minute to jump over and introduce yourself!

3 MONTHS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE:
Head back over to our website to pay your balance, if you haven’t already. This is also the time to register for a private room or early arrival if you want, so that we can make the appropriate bookings for you. Start looking for flight deals, and book when you see something that you like. Then, start the countdown (and give yourself permission to go buy any new gear that you want..er, need)… time is officially flying!

(For those “occasional” runners among us, this is a good time to start getting back into it…)

60-90 DAYS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE:
Gabe or Allison will check in again via email, reminding you to submit your flight details if you haven’t yet and providing an update of the travel plans they’ve received so far. 

1-2 WEEKS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE:
Final notes! We’ll confirm all of the arrival times and give you a detailed rundown of what to expect on arrival day - where we’ll meet you, where we’ll take you and what we have scheduled for you (other than a good night of sleep!). You’ll get a list of accommodation names in case you want to share it with someone at home (or just get a preview for yourself), a few last minute reminders and that’s that… go time is just around the corner!

1 DAY PRIOR TO DEPARTURE:
Your last day at work is done, your flight is tomorrow - and you haven’t packed a thing! No worries, just pull up that packing list, throw it all in a bag, triple-check that you’ve got your passport, put your running shoes in your carry-on (pro-tip!) then try to suppress your excitement (and maybe some nervousness too) enough to get some sleep…

DEPARTURE DAY:
Get yourself and your luggage to the airport with plenty of time to spare, get to the gate, update your social media channel of choice to let everyone know about the exotic locale that you’re headed off to (you’re going there to run?! on vacation?! are you crazy?) then board the plane and get comfortable. We’ll be there to meet you on the other side!

ROGUEXPERTS: Lindy's Top Picks

At the final dinner of each trip we like to ask everyone about their favorite and least favorite runs, meals and places, and we’re always struck by how diverse the answers are. One person’s “best day ever!” can be another person’s most challenging run of the trip, and someone who couldn’t get enough of the roast lamb in Patagonia will be countered by someone who will never forget the beautifully prepared salads from another meal. So, we thought it would be fun to play the same game on a wider scale by interviewing some of our “experts” - those who have traveled with us multiple times - and hearing about the experiences that stand out most to them from various corners of the world:

Patagonia Run


Name: Lindy R, Toronto

Trips completed: Run Bend, Run Morocco: Mountains & Coast, Run Patagonia

Trips currently registered for: Endurance Adventure Morocco, Run Alpe-Adria

Describe your most memorable day:

I have two! I couldn’t decide which one is more memorable.

My first one was on our first run in Morocco. I was very nervous for the trip. Would I be a good enough runner, could I keep up, would people be friendly, was I crazy signing up for a trip knowing nothing about the organisation or anyone on the trip? Five km into that run I knew I had stumbled onto something special.

My second memorable day was in Patagonia. It was the day after my favourite run (see below). We started the day bright and early with a 8 km run along a spectacular lake. This was followed by a catamaran ride across the Blue Lago Pehoe. It was breathtaking! We then started out on a 12 km hike towards Grey Glacier. We finished the hike climbing across suspension bridges with amazing views of the glacier. The day wasn’t done there! We then went kayaking right up to the Glacier. I remember sitting down for dinner physically exhausted from the most spectacular day of running, hiking and kayaking and feeling so amazed by everything we got to experience that day.


Describe your favorite run:

One of my favourite runs was on the Patagonia trip. This run is on part of the Ultra Fiord Ultra trail race course. Makes you feel hardcore! You start with a breathtaking views surrounded by tourists. You quickly leave the tourists behind as they are enjoying the scenery from afar surrounded by buses and other people, while you get to run with views of multi-coloured lakes and the breath taking mountains. You finish with a nice single track descent into the Rio Serrano valley and end at a lovely eco friendly, locally owned accommodation. We even got to run with the owner! We iced our legs in the glacial lake while taking in the spectacular views.


Your favorite meal?

I’m vegetarian so I am always nervous traveling to foreign countries. Morocco’s tagines were amazing! I’m signed up from the Croatia/Slovenia trip so I’m sure my answer will change in May.


What was your most challenging moment or day?

I was scheduled to go back to Morocco in March. I couldn’t wait to go back! I remember getting home from work at 900 pm the night before I was supposed to leave to find out due to a storm in Boston my flight was cancelled. After multiple hours on hold (3-4 hours) I found out that due to a storm in Europe and the storm in New England they couldn’t reschedule my flight for 3 days. I made the tough decision to cancel my trip as I would have missed a large chunk of it. Gabe and Allison were supportive and amazing to work with. They made a very difficult and frustrating situation so much easier.

Which place or experience exceeded your expectations (or just surprised you)?

Morocco (and Rogue Expeditions)! I chose Morocco simply because the dates worked with my vacation time. I thought I’d enjoy the trip and I figured I’d do one trip and be done. I didn’t expect I’d fall in love with the Morocco or Rogue Expeditions. I’ve made lasting friendships (had 3 Rogue friends travel to Toronto to run my first marathon with me!) and countless memories. I’ve done 3 trips and am signed up for 2 more.

What’s the most important item that you pack?

Gabe and Allison have been running these trips for years now. They have the packing list perfect! I always bring exactly what they recommend. They haven’t steered me wrong yet. I’ve never been on a trip and thought I should have brought x y or z.

The one thing you shouldn’t leave home without is travel insurance. My cancelled trip due to weather was 100% covered by insurance. They recommend World Nomads who are incredibly reasonably priced and amazing to deal with. I hope you don’t have to use the insurance but life happens and it helps lessen the “pain”.

Group travel and strangers as roommates: What's it really like?

  The crew from Run Morocco: Gorges & Sahara 2014

The crew from Run Morocco: Gorges & Sahara 2014

"Group travel" is sometimes used as a dirty word, conjuring visions of crowded tour buses, faceless tour guides and rigidly scheduled itineraries. The idea can also sound intimidating to a solo traveler who assumes that everyone else will show up with a partner. Plus, what are the chances that you'll even like any of those people? 

In our experience, it turns out that chances are pretty darn high. When you find the right niche (like, you know, running), group travel is an amazing way to connect and quickly bond with like-minded people. It also allows you to access incredible places and experiences without having to waste time and energy on the logistics which, for those with a job and perhaps a family too, is a big deal. And as far as those solo traveler fears go, forget them: the vast majority of our runners show up knowing absolutely no one (though within the first few hours that all changes!).

But, we know you'd rather hear from the people who go on the trips, not the people who create the trips. So we've interviewed two RE alum who joined us - solo! - in Morocco a few years ago. Cepee and Annette each brought along varying levels of travel experience and running ability, and both had reservations about traveling with a group. Read to find out about their pre-trip worries, on-trip experiences and their enduring post-trip friendship (and business!).

 

Describe your general travel experience prior to your RE trip. Had you done any group travel before?

CEPEE: In 2014 I joined Rogue Expeditions on their trip to Morocco; I was 34 years old and had been to Morocco twice already. I started traveling abroad when I was 17 and had mostly traveled on my own before joining their trip. I have always enjoyed the freedom and benefits that solo travel provide. It’s perfect for slow travel, you can create your own itineraries and immerse yourself into local culture very quickly. For me, group travel always appeared to cover too much ground too quickly, was overpriced, and focused more on sightseeing than cultural immersion.

Some of the places I had visited were the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, England, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Czech Republic, Iran, U.A.E, Turkey, Portugal, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Canada, Colombia, Austria, Belgium, and Iceland.

ANNETTE: My travel resume at that time was filled with vacations through North America, Europe and Caribbean. Not too shabby…  I mainly traveled by myself  or with 1-2 others, meeting up in different locations. On occasion, I experienced traveling with small groups of 5 for those birthday/wedding trips. 

 

When you registered for Run Morocco, did you know anyone else in the group?

ANNETTE: When I signed up, I thought surely I'll know someone in the group since I had been running with the Rogue community for a couple of years. At the first meeting, I quickly recognized no one! I knew Allison as a running coach for Rogue yet I had little interaction with her. But I felt confident having her there, a familiar face.

CEPEE: I didn’t know a single soul before signing up!

 

Did you have any hesitations about a group tour?

CEPEE: Not really. Although I had never been on a group tour and was very anti-group, I was still drawn to the opportunity because it seemed different from the standard group tour experience. I had never heard of the combination of running + travel and figured the type of people this trip would attract would be unique, not the standard motorcoach group tour crowd.  

ANNETTE: I did have some reservations about traveling with a big group: would we be a target? Would we get along? Can I stand to be in a group for 10 days straight and not go off on my own? Should I be at anyone's running pace? Once I met everyone, I felt an ease knowing that we all had the same worries.

 

What ultimately convinced you to take the plunge?

CEPEE: It was a combination of recently falling in love with running and the opportunity to combine that with travel, the trip falling on my birthday, the affordable price, and some personal reasons that pushed me to Morocco.

ANNETTE: At that point in my life, I was looking to flip it upside down and get out of my comfort zone. I was looking for a different type of adventure and country than just visiting the typical cities or beaches. I wanted to be active through my travels and experience a new culture at the same time. I had never been that far from home or run so many miles in a week.

 

Were there any surprises (good or bad) about traveling and running with a group of different backgrounds and ability levels?

ANNETTE: I was elated to find out that we were not expected to run at the athlete/co-founders level! We had all abilities ranging from walking, trekking to speedy athletes.  Everyone was so encouraging with each other; I ran or walked at least once with everyone in the group. I do recall thinking at the end of the trip that I didn't once worry or think about our security or safety. When you travel, that is clearly something constantly on your mind!

Ahhh! One bad surprise was when majority of the group got sick with a 12 hr stomach bug; thankfully I did not nor did my roommates! One of the most special moments was bringing the school kids clothing and supplies; seeing their faces light up with glee made me happier than them! I did meet 3 women on the trip who happened to work for the same company I did. We had a special and unique group that made for the most fun adventure! 

CEPEE: When you put a bunch of strangers together and place them outside their comfort zone you never quite know how the group dynamics will work. I was surprised by how well everyone got along, by the different ages, varied backgrounds, and running abilities. Given that each run is supported, all runners can enjoy each day, you can do a few miles, a full marathon, or take the day off if you need to. However, the excitement of running through Morocco pushed us all to run more than we expected; I think we really surprised ourselves!

I was also surprised by the amount of fun we had. There were so many inside jokes made on that trip that still crack me up to this day when I think about them. I imagined that I would be exhausted by the daily mileage and that there wouldn’t be much energy left for socializing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I enjoyed the random opportunities to connect with everyone, especially the long group dinners.

 

You two were placed as roommates, but were strangers going into it. How was that?

ANNETTE: I was asked by the RE crew if I would be okay rooming with two other ladies around my age throughout the trip. I thought sure, why not, what could possibly go wrong? I briefly spoke to both ladies at the meet ups but barely remembered their names. Fast forward to the trip… Literally on the first night, Emily, Cepee and I created an incredible bond; we shared our personal stories, found how similar we were and why we were on this trip. Any pre-trip nerves or notions were eased; I met new, long-life friends and we are now known as the "3 Marias." Placing three people in a room may sound like a nightmare, but for us it was an adventure. Hats off to the camp counselor for taking the risk! 

CEPEE: I was placed with two other solo female travelers in a triple room. We bonded quickly on the first night of the trip. One of my roommates was Annette and has become one of my closest friends, travel buddy (we’ve traveled abroad together every years since Morocco), and now co-founder of our online community She Hit Refresh (see below)!

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Since meeting in Morocco, Cepee and Annette have become the co-founders of an online community that was born out of their combined life and travel experience. She Hit Refresh is a community for women 30 years and older who want to break free from a life of routine and start a life of travel. If you've got even the slightest case of wanderlust, check it out for a serious dose of practical, real-world tips and inspiration.

Then, once inspired, take a look at Run Morocco, our longest-running and most popular running adventure.