California Native Attends ATMEX 2015

Last month California Native founder and president Lee Klein, again attended ATMEX, the premier Adventure Travel event in Mexico held in Chiapas, quickly becoming renowned as the adventure capital of Mexico. It was a great opportunity to meet again with adventure tour providers in Mexico and develop future partnerships for providing California Native adventures in this exciting and beautiful state.

Along with friends in the adventure travel industry, Lee visited Santiago Comaltepec, village of Chinantla, Santa Cruz Tepetotutla, Rio Soyolapam and the pyramids in Palenque.

ATMEX Convention 2015
ATMEX Convention 2015
ATMEX Convention 2015
ATMEX Convention 2015
Church in the village of Santa Cruz Tepetotutla, Oaxaca
Church in the village of Santa Cruz Tepetotutla, Oaxaca
Friendly locals in the village of Santa Cruz Tepetotutla, Oaxaca
Friendly locals in the village of Santa Cruz Tepetotutla, Oaxaca
Rio Soyolapam
Rio Soyolapam
Los secretos de chinantla, oaxaca - The secrets of chinantla, oaxaca
Los secretos de chinantla, oaxaca – The secrets of chinantla, oaxaca
Lee visits the waterfalls at Santiago Comaltepec
Lee visits the waterfalls at Santiago Comaltepec
The waterfalls at Santiago Comaltepec
The waterfalls at Santiago Comaltepec
Pyramids in Palenque
Pyramids in Palenque

30 Years of Adventures With The California Native

Lee at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan.
California native founder, Lee Klein, at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan. What a way to make a living.

This June we are celebrating our 30th Anniversary—30 years of leading fantastic trips to exotic destinations around the world.

This anniversary comes as a proud moment for our company’s founder, Lee Klein, who continues to scout new locations world-wide in search of new destinations for the active traveler. Klein, who holds an MBA in Management and a BS in International Marketing, spent more than two decades as a corporate manager and college professor until, in 1983, while climbing Ayer’s Rock in the Australian Outback, he decided to drop out of the corporate world, take off his suit and tie, and create an adventure travel company based on the lessons he taught his students on how to succeed in business: “keep the quality high, keep it affordable, and treat people the way you would like to be treated.”

Lee and Ellen on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.
Lee and Ellen Klein hiking on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.

The initial offering from The California Native was a tour billed as “The Other Los Angeles.” This day-long excursion traced the route of the San Andreas Fault from the Mojave Desert to the San Gabriel Mountains without ever leaving Los Angeles County. The tours became so popular that colleges in three California counties offered them as part of their community-education programs. From this, the company expanded its offerings to include tours to the Channel Islands, Death Valley, Yosemite, and other uniquely California destinations, as well as white-water rafting, ballooning, spelunking (caving), sailplane gliding, and other outdoor adventures. “My family has lived in Los Angeles for generations,” writes Klein in the company newsletter, “hence the name The California Native.”

California Native founder, Lee Klein, rappelling in Argentina
Lee rappelling in Argentina. Hey, this is research.

Satisfying the growing client base led to the development of The California Native’s most popular destination—Mexico’s Copper Canyon. These escorted and independent tours feature the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad (labeled as one of the most spectacular train rides in the western hemisphere) and highlight one of the most primitive indigenous cultures still subsisting in North America—the Tarahumara Indians. The California Native has become a leading source of information on this remote area and the company and it’s guides are known throughout the area for their work with the Tarahumara.

Today, The California Native offers a wide selection of tours to destinations including Costa Rica, Yucatan, Patagonia, Peru, the Galapagos, Ireland, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, and more destinations are in the planning stages.

When Times are Slow It’s Time to Go

Now is the time to travel with The California Native

The economies of the world’s countries are slow. Travel and tourism are down. Hotels have plenty of space. Crowds are down. Now is the perfect time to take that trip you have been dreaming about for so long. Travel now before the crowds come back and the prices go up. Join us on a trip to one of the exotic destinations around the globe that we specialize in. Whether it’s Mexico’s fabulous Copper Canyon, the magical Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, or the rainforests of Costa Rica we are ready for your call.

Always wanted to come eyeball-to-eyeball with a flightless cormorant or a giant tortoise? Then the Galapagos is for you. How about enjoying a fantastic cruise through the Straits of Magellan, hiking on a glacier and sipping whiskey over-the-rocks of ancient glacial ice? Patagonia is the place, or travel back in time to visit the mighty empire of the Maya—the Yucatan is your destination. Perhaps you prefer to stroll or bicycle through the green hills and friendly villages of Ireland? These are just a few of the adventures that we have lined up for you.

Wherever your dream destination is, now is the best time to travel. When the times are slow it’s time to go.

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming


Back when I was a college student in the 70’s, traveling the world, I was rarely in touch with my family and friends. To talk on the phone, we had to schedule a time and I had to call collect. Even then it was very expensive and everyone talked fast so as not to rack up too big of a phone bill. Then there were those kiosks that charged a premium to be able to call overseas. It was a hassle.

So, most of the communication at that time with the family was by letter. That’s right, pen, light paper or aerogram*, and an “airmail” envelope and stamps. Written words! Friends got post cards. I always shopped long and hard to find post cards that most exemplified the destination. Some had multiple pictures, and some just some really beautiful view that I had actually seen. I also purchased postcards for myself at each destination so that, in case photos didn’t come out well, I’d still have pictures. The post cards went into the album with the photos.

Communication has changed dramatically for the traveler. How many actually write letters? Send Post cards? These days your every move can be documented for all to see in real time, at little to no cost. Between Facebook, online photo albums and blogs, all that’s needed is some free WiFi and a computer or Smart Phone, and you can communicate with the world. You never have to pick up a pen. And photos? If it didn’t come out well, just take another and another until you have the shot you want.

But what of the lost art of letters and postcards? Recently I went through some boxes of “memories” and found several letters and post cards I’d sent home during that college year. I spent hours reading them and reliving the fun times. It was wonderful. Now if I want to look back on a recent trip, there is not much to see except the digital photos, but with time I will forget where I was and all the little nuances that are not in the short caption.

Email letters can be printed and kept, but consider a post card or two as you travel—maybe even sent to your own address. What a wonderful way to remember your trip in years to come.

*The US Postal Service stopped printing aerograms in 2006.

Traveling Easy With The California Native

Traveling EasyIts summer vacation time! As many of us travel this summer, we see longer lines, airline cut backs and fees, not to mention unpredictable weather. Here are a few simple tips to make your trip a wonderful adventure to remember.

Attitude is key! If you start with a good attitude, others you encounter will mirror that, and you can handle anything that happens.

Be flexible. Sometimes things happen, good or bad, changing your plans in an instant. If you are willing to just smile and “go with the flow,” you will certainly have an adventure, and it may even be better than the original plan.

Pack LightPack light. This can’t be emphasized enough. If you plan carefully, you’ll have everything you need and you can carry it on the plane, avoiding luggage fees. Pack layers instead of bulky items for cold weather. Pick a color scheme and pack mix- and-match items you can wear in many combinations. Have a master packing list on your computer. Before each trip, print it out, modifying it for the length of the trip and the weather.

Pack chargers for your iPod, cell phone, camera battery, computers, etc. Also pack an extension cord. This way, if the outlets in a hotel room are limited, you can plug three things on one cord, and if you need a voltage converter or adapter, you need carry only one. Pack loose batteries in a plastic bag in your carry-on. Since January 1, 2008, lithium batteries are permitted in checked luggage only if installed in the electronic device.

Pack everything in a carry-on suitcase and a backpack, in neat layers. Stow your carry-on in the overhead bin and your backpack under the seat (ladies, put your handbag in the backpack!). Make sure any liquids or gels are 3 oz. or under, and stored in one quart-sized zip-lock bag that is easy for airport security to inspect. Also, take some twist ties. These are great for securing zippers on luggage when you are on the move and can be taken off easily at security.

If you must check luggage, make sure you have your toiletries, medications, electronics and chargers, and a change of clothes in your carry-on. Lost luggage can put a real damper on a trip. Pack an extra bag that packs flat, for those once-in-a-lifetime purchases and souvenirs. Check this bag on the way home. Many airport luggage shops sell them. Check your airline’s website for any specific luggage restrictions.

Time Your ArrivalTime your airport arrival to give yourself enough time to get through security, but don’t arrive so early that you spend hours sitting around. Check to see which carriers fly from the same terminal. A lot of short-haul airlines usually mean a longer security line. Check your airline’s website for flight status updates which send text or voice messages to your cell phone advising you of your gate number, and changes, delays, etc. Since most U.S. domestic flights no longer provide meals, we like to get to the airport for a morning flight in time to get through security, then sit down and have a nice breakfast.

Speaking of food, if you are flying domestically in coach, bring your favorite snacks. Although airlines sell a variety of items, you’ll save money and have healthier snacks you enjoy. For flights during mealtimes, buy a sandwich and drink after going through security. If you buy them in advance, be careful about liquids—salad dressing, drinks, sauces, etc. may be confiscated.

Our packing essentials for any trip: bathing suit, hand sanitizer pads, or gel (in your quart-sized plastic bag), bandana (has many uses), extension cord, head lamp (great for reading), plastic bags, twist ties, small tripod for camera, small rolls of toilet paper, and most important, a good attitude and a smile.

Summer is also a good time to book your trips for the Fall. Check out all of our exciting vacation destinations.

To Insure or Not to Insure, That is the Question.

“Should I take out travel insurance?” This is a question that travelers often debate. Is it worth the cost of the premium? Some people think that travel insurance is a glorified life insurance policy covering your life and limb when traveling but this accident coverage is just a small part of the package and a part that is hardly ever used. A good comprehensive travel policy offers so much more.

Buying travel insurance can be a difficult decision for some some folks.

One of the most important benefits of a travel policy is trip cancellation and interruption coverage. This protects your travel purchase against unforeseen illness or accident that keep you from traveling. When you are considering purchasing a policy be sure and look at the trip interruption portion. Will it reimburse your unused, non-refundable portion of the trip? If an unfortunate situation arises where you will have to return home for a covered reason, it can help cover the increased transportation costs of traveling home on short notice. The policy many also cover you for missed connections, travel delays and even work/business related reasons.

In the unlikely event you become sick or injured during your trip, emergency medical and dental coverage is important to have. It is surprising, the number of health insurance policies that do not cover medical services when you are traveling internationally. It is a good idea to check with your health insurance provider to see what kind of out-of-country coverage you have.

I hate it when my luggage is lost or delayed. It is so irritating to lose your personal items only to find out the airline covers virtually nothing. Your travel insurance Baggage Protection will help replace lost or damaged items, and if you have to wait for your bags to catch up, it is somewhat comforting to know that you will be reimbursed for items that fail to make it intact.

When should you buy travel insurance? I would suggest buying your insurance right after booking your trip. The price is the same whether you buy it a year before the trip or the day before you leave, but buying it early gives you the most coverage time, and sometimes gives you bonuses such as covering pre-existing medical conditions and supplier default.

Make sure to use a reputable insurance company. Over the years, we have offered several different companies and have found Access America to have the best coverage, also the most fair when it comes time to pay a claim. We highly recommend using them for all of your travel insurance needs whether traveling on your own or traveling with us.

Be sure and know what your insurance covers. Read your policy ahead of time and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Most of the time you will find that you are covered for more things than you thought.

No one wants to think about the “what ifs” so let travel insurance take away some of these worries. Even though the odds are low that you might have to file a claim, the security and peace of mind provided with travel insurance is worth every penny.

The California Native’s Summer/Fall Newsletter is Now Available

The Summer/Fall 2009 edition of The California Native Newsletter is now in the mail. The newsletter, published by The California Native since 1984, has more than 10,000 readers (not counting those who download from the web). If you are not already a subscriber to this free newsletter you can signup now.

This issues feature stories include:

Lee Klein prepares to fly over the Nazca Lines on The California Native Peru ToursREVISITING PERU’S NAZCA LINES

The desert markings, believed to have been made thousands of years ago, made little impression on occasional travelers who viewed them from ground level, but when they were spotted by aircraft in the 1930’s they caught the world’s attention. They have since been surveyed, mapped and studied. Only two questions remain—who made them, and why?

Rafting is one of the many options for guests on The California Native Costa Rica ToursRAPID TRANSIT: COSTA RICA STYLE

Costa Rica has long been a favorite destination for both the beginner and the experienced river runner. With ample annual rainfall, mountainous landscapes, and plenty of road-to-river access, the country prides itself on being a whitewater paradise.


Packing a pearl-handled revolver, a riding crop and three lovers, the Baroness Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet disembarked on the Island of Floreana, in 1932, and declared herself “Empress of the Galapagos.”

The cathedral is a favorite hiking destination for guests on The California Native China ToursCOPPER CANYON’S LOST TREASURES

In 1880, Alexander “Boss” Shepherd, the last territorial governor of the District of Columbia, packed up his family and, in the remote village of Batopilas, at the bottom of Copper Canyon, developed one of the richest silver mining operations in the world.


Naxi ladies strolling home after work can be seen on The California Native China ToursBecause the Olympics were hosted in Beijing, chances are that you learned more about China in 2008 than at any previous time. On the other end of the country, far from bustling Beijing is Yunnan Province—home to the largest variety of ethnic groups in China.

The newsletter also includes schedules, prices and descriptions of California Native’s tours to Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Peru, the Galapagos, Patagonia, Costa Rica, Yucatan and Chiapas, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, Bhutan, Yunnan, China, and Ireland.

Pizza: The Universal Food

Traveling around the world, an important part of the experience is tasting the local cuisine. From Mexico to China, from Hungary to Bhutan, no trip is complete without sampling the regional specialties.

But on a long trip, after days or weeks of eating the local dishes, I always develop a craving for the universal comfort food—pizza. And so, I make it a part of each of my journeys to try the local pizza, the one food, besides a ham-and-cheese sandwich, that can be found almost everywhere.

In Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma), we found excellent pizza at the Rudyard Kipling Bar & Grill. In LeJiang, Yunnan Province, China, after many days of Chinese banquets for lunch and dinner, in spite of protests by our Chinese host, we headed for the nearest pizza parlor and enjoyed our pizza and beer feast.

Traveling through Thailand, we discovered excellent pizza was at the Slow Food Italian Restaurant in Chang Mei, where the proprietor, an Italian expat in a wheelchair, greeted each guest. All of his staff were also wheelchair bound or disabled.

On a dark and stormy night, in a remote corner of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains, Doug Rhodes, the owner of the Paraiso del Oso Lodge, outside of the little village of Cerocahui, in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, proudly served us what he declared was the “best pizza in Northern Mexico.” Kerosene lanterns lighted the dining room and the pizza was covered in generous portions of olives, which my wife, Ellen, hates, and had great difficulty trying to remove in the dim light. I, however, tended to agree with Doug’s assessment.

Last year, while visiting Budapest, Hungary, we enjoyed the pizza at Al Capone’s, a chain of pizza parlors in Eastern and Western Europe, which is now owned by Australian pizza giant Domino’s Pizza.

Wherever in the world we go we are not that far from home when we can take a break from the ethnic food and enjoy a great pizza. My favorite toppings are ham, pineapple, mushrooms and olives. What are yours?