For many, travel is too often cursed with an oppressive air of sameness—the uneasy sensation that this bus, or pedicab, or horse-drawn carriage has driven this exact route—with this exact driver commentary—so many times that there might as well be grooves in the ground.
That’s why Ken Sooley set up CapeRace Cultural Adventures—a near-self-guided tour of Newfoundland and Labrador that is captivating guests and winning awards (June ’09) from the likes of National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Here’s how it works: As a CapeRace guest, you get a key that opens a trio of restored heritage homes—one in the provincial capital of St. John’s and the other two farther afield, in a pair of utterly unspoiled coastal communities. The private houses are yours exclusively for a few days, allowing you time to meet the neighbours and get a taste of what rural “outport” life is like. Then you move on to the next one.
But as they say in the infomercials, that’s not all! You also get The Traveler’s Diary—a guidebook custom written by your host and available only to CapeRace clients. It’s a treasure trove of contacts and ideas, the sort of personalized must-do list you’d get from an insider friend. Directions and pointers are just vague enough to all but guarantee you’ll have a few candid encounters with the locals. You’ll end up banging on a few doors along the way, and don’t be surprised if you find someone banging on yours.
“We pepper the book with obscure leads to increase the chances of interaction,” says Sooley, who has just wrapped his fifth season.
Sooley can also, if guests prefer, send text messages enroute, drawing attention to local gigs, benefits, house parties and similar gatherings that those “just passing through” might not otherwise encounter.
This past summer, National Geographic Traveler declared CapeRace one of the “50 Tours of a Lifetime.” The magazine chose its winners based on innovation, level of immersion, sustainability and authenticity. Given those criteria, it’s hard to figure out how they came up with another 49.
Self-guided, 10-day trips run between April and October, and start at USD $1,500.
Read more about CapeRace Cultural Adventures.