Is there a vacation experience you have re-told and shared more than others? The chances are that if you have re-told the details of a particular vacation or holiday, it was in someway a noteworthy experience – for either the better or for the worse. It seems that a more intensely experienced vacation is going to generate more talking points in recanting it’s history. If we quantify the frequency of re-telling stories of a vacation, we may have a good metric for metering the intensity of the vacation experience.  Lets call this the vacation “story rate”. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s eliminate retelling of “worst ever vacations”, rather lets talk about telling stories of our best holidays and vacation experiences, keeping the discussion more uplifting.

Usually when we tell the vacation story prior to departure, we start by identifying a destination:

“I’m going to Hawaii!”

“We are going to Dinseyland”

“I am going to the Mardi Gras”

Experiential travelers include a vacation description that might include a destination and an accompanying set of active adventures that are connected to the destination:

“I am running with the bulls in Spain!”

“We are snorkeling in New Zeland”

“We are fly fishing for steelhead in British Columbia.”

Horse riding vacation experiences

Experiencing a ranch vacation

There is a significant difference between a “vacation” and a “vacation experience”. A vacation experience will send us home with deeper memories that are easy to tell, since we are the players in the story to be told.  A passive and less experiential holiday might easier become a lost memory. These are memories of things that were generally observed from a disconnected perspective. The passive and non-participatory holidays are also going to engage us less because they will less fully satiate our full battery of senses.

Learning and experiencing new skills defines experiential travel

Learning new skills, such as firearm safety while on a ranch vacation

In contrast to more passive vacations, an experiential traveler will search out those opportunities that engage a larger range of the senses. The dude ranch experience is a natural fit for this kind of active experiential travel. Dude ranch vacationers will be fully immersed in a historical and cultural phenomenon as well as actively participating in events such as trail riding, cattle round-ups, line dancing, and adventure sports such as rafting, shooting sports, fishing, and more. Dude ranchers vacationers are not just going to the ranch, they become players in the larger ranch experience. Dude ranch vacationers are not watching the show in the auditorium. They are on the stage of real life in the West.   They become true life characters. For a brief period they live with authentic roles played-out on an outdoor stage of intense majesty, bounded in history and in the culture of the American West.

Rafters Activiely participate in ranch vacations

Adventure Travelers Search Out Active Participation on Holiday

As ranch owners we must sell more than the location, we must sell the experience. We must also become experts at finding prospective vacationers who are driven to buy into an adventure . Finally, we must accurately inform and educate vacation ranch prospects.

The first key to guaranteeing that the stories told about our ranch vacations are positive, favorable and frequent, is to accurately represent our ranch vacations. The easiest way to generate a high rate of negative storytelling is to sell a vacation that is vastly different from what the visiting ranch participant expected. Unmet expectations, and realities that are grossly divergent from expected ranch experiences will generate hostility, disappointment, and a high story rate that is on the wrong side of the ratings.

If we define experiential travel in part by “story rate”, then it might also follow that ranch owners should consider themselves in the role of the screenplay writer or the script writer. Hopefully, we can script, produce, and present a dude ranch story that will foster and cultivate the frequent retelling of a great story.

See you on the trail,

Doug