Gene and Jo Ann Taylor Mount Kilimanjaro

Gene and Jo Ann Taylor trek on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Thirty years ago, Walking Connection co-founders, Northwest Valley residents and husband-and-wife duo Gene and Jo Ann Taylor could not have foreseen how far their dream would take them.

It all began with a local walking club Jo Ann started in the Sun City area through her then-employer Nike.

As the group of walking enthusiasts grew, so did the media attention, which ignited interest by local companies and corporate sponsors, thus expanding the walking program across the Valley.

Soon thereafter, a trail hiking program was added for the more adventuresome, seeking trail hikes throughout Arizona. Walking Connection was born.

Then came the big step: creating walking and hiking adventures around the world for small groups of like-minded active travelers.

Gene and Jo Ann have crisscrossed the globe traveling to over 40 countries, searching for just the right places for their guests, creating amazing itineraries providing travelers with authentic experiences.

Experiences include walking the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, hiking the Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain, walking the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru, and going on Safari in Africa.

But why walking vacations?

“The places we visit, the people we meet and the serendipitous experiences we enjoy seem to come to us at pedestrian speed,” Jo Ann said. “The purpose of our travel is to experience life not as we know it, but to learn, share and connect to it as it exists, untouched, in a place that is new to us. Walking simply is the best way to do that.”

Gene added, “Much of western life moves past us through the pane of glass: cars, planes and, more frequently, the screen of a cellphone, tablet or 50-inch HD television. Transportation or electronics make up a lot of our day-to-day life experiences.

“Taking an adventurous walk through a foreign landscape, along a footpath that has stood for thousands of years, or to walk into a village and meet an ethnic tribe of people who still live their lives as their ancestors did generations before them, changes that… forever.”

For more information about Walking Connection’s small-group and independent adventure travel destinations, visit walkingconnection.com.