Travel is a means for many of us to expand our perspective and our understanding of the world that surrounds us. These long-lasting benefits can also be found in reading. It can allow us to form new outlooks on life, inspire the acquisition of knowledge, introduce ourselves to new places of discovery, and even have the power of transforming our lives for the better. Each of these values are typically most inspired when reading novels that allow us to transport ourselves, often without knowing, into the character’s journey, voice, and soul. It is then not uncommon for increased personal investment to occur, as we willingly search for opportunities to escape into the fictional world that our favorite authors present to us. Many series have this power – such as Harry Potter, Twilight, Gone with the Wind, Poldark, Lord of the Rings, and in our case, Outlander.
Outlander is a series that is loved by many across the globe. The vivid story telling of Diana Gabaldon will certainly grab your attention, as it is easy to relate to the phenomenal characters she presents. While we bond to each character, we ultimately step into their world and travel their footsteps through the detailed narratives described in the author’s scenery or even the historical timelines that are depicted. Reading undoubtedly builds our imagination, and that can lead to the desire to find the literary path that inspired the series, even its counterpart of book adaptations to film. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to step within the frame of your favorite novels and explore the true inspiration for its creation? We certainly would. Thankfully, we have found that we can achieve this through the remarkable and unique tours offered by the travel company Novel Adventures.
Kim and Andrea are the founders of Novel Adventures, a tour agency that brings books to life through literary adventures. Sass3 had the privilege to speak with Kim to learn more about their company: from their early beginnings, the diversity of adventures they create, and how they have ultimately transformed the face of travel. We are ecstatic to share their story, as we anxiously look forward to planning our own travels to Novel Adventures’ Gathering at Fraser’s Ridge in the next year.
From an Idea to a Partnership
Kim’s family has always recognized her gift in organization and planning. She has provided assistance in creating travel itineraries that captivated their every need, no matter the destination. Kim included precise suggestions of where to stop for food, gas, or entrance to visitor locations. The level of detail she provided to her family in each itinerary alleviated the stress of being in an unfamiliar location. From family members to friends, Kim enjoyed her hobby of helping others find the joy in travel. She did this for many years. As time progressed, she found herself planning trips for book lovers of all genres – such as the Twilight series, that included Washington hikes and visiting various filming locations from Forks, Oregon, and to Canada. Unbeknownst to her, this hobby began to form the foundation for a new venture that would inevitably grow well beyond the boundaries of friends and family.
Kim and Andrea initially met and formed their friendship through the shared activities of their children. Each were Girl Scout Troop Leaders who enjoyed participating in a variety of events. This enabled them to form a bond based on the primary principles of the organization: growth through discovery, hands on experience, and opportunities for exploration through travel. As their friendship grew, Kim was presented with the idea of forming a book club within their community. She had never heard of Outlander; however, being part of the monthly book club, she was introduced to the series. It took 250 pages for her to be fully committed to the first novel, subsequently leading her to delve into the series by reading seven books within a six week time period.
“I said to myself, ‘Why did I not know this book before?’ Once I started, I simply couldn’t put it down. I have been hooked ever since!”
-Kim, Novel Adventures
Passion for discovering the history surrounding Outlander led to a planned trip to Scotland with Andrea, later to be co-founder of the company. Their goal, just like many other Outlander enthusiasts, was to follow the footsteps of Jamie Fraser. At that time, there were not many travel companies that offered the experience they were searching. Kim then took the initiative to create her own itinerary with elements that also included unique experiences like hiking, locating Craigh na Dun, and even horseback riding through the Highlands. Each activity was chosen to relive Jamie and Claire’s journeys throughout the majestic and mystical landscapes of Scotland. Their trip was a success by not only locating the literary locations represented in the series, but also creating lasting memories of the specific book scenes that enabled them to follow in the paths of their favorite characters. Outlander had come to life.
“We had the hard core ideas of where we could find the fictional locations of the book. We even asked Diana questions to get more clarity. We were determined to travel as close as possible to the scenes presented in the Outlander series. We loved every minute!”
-Kim, Novel Adventures
In February 2013, Kim and Andrea decided it was time to find Fraser’s Ridge. Research led them on the nearest path to this literary location that is nestled between the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock, near Grandfather Mountain, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. If you recall from the books, Fraser’s Ridge was chosen by Jamie due to the presence of strawberries – a premonition that it was the rightful place to lay their beginning foundations because strawberries were a point of significance in the history of the Fraser clan.
“Strawberries ha’ always been the emblem of the clan – it’s what the name meant, to start with, when a Monsieur Fresiliere came across from France wi’ King William that was – and took hold of land in the Scottish mountains for his trouble.”
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16
Winding down from their search of the ridges near Blowing Rock in North Carolina, Kim and Andrea visited a resort that had accommodations that prompted memories of the Outlander series. One location in particular, an underground stone cave, reminded them of a well loved scene with Jamie and Claire in the first novel of the series. This location and the summary of their travels reinforced their great appreciation and admiration of the Outlander series. While they sat and reflected over their adventures with wine, they discussed their common interest in making specific travel guides for each book. That thought sparked the idea to evolve their current hobby of creating travel destinations based on popular novels into a business. It was in that moment that the idea of Novel Adventures was created. By May of 2013, Kim and Andrea formally announced their business endeavor of creating a travel company that would provide clients with the opportunities to travel the life of their favorite novels. Four years later, Novel Adventures continues to surpass their expectations, as they continue to add and build tours for every book genre across all parts of the globe.
Changing the Face of Travel: One Traveler at a Time
Traveling revives the spirit and opens the mind to endless possibilities. Traveling as an individual or in a small group may be difficult to those who are not familiar with a particular destination or when additional assistance is needed to accurately get to high points of interest. We have found that Novel Adventures enables their clients to discover new locations with confidence, knowing that every detail has been fully accounted for. From building custom trips for mothers and daughters or girlfriends alike, they have grown due in part to their philosophy: treating customers as they would their own friends and family. This often entails personal contact with each client to review every item on their customized itinerary. Additional activities to expand their journey may also be included that suit each person’s adventure level. Novel Adventures has also coordinated hikes, opportunities for cliff jumping, spending time in specific points of interest, staying in historic locations, or even traveling to outlying cities without the constraint of a tight or rigid itinerary. Each individual traveler can make it uniquely their own.
Novel Adventures have extensively researched each itinerary that is created and have visited every location to ensure quality. They have created connections across the globe to highlight the precise interests of their clientele while supporting the exploration of culture and history of each destination. To read these stories in historical fiction is one thing, but actually walking the footsteps of history completely changes your outlook. These stories become internalized as the connection between fiction and reality meet through the experiences of travel.
“Scotland is the perfect place to discover the legends and lore of the past. I love to explore the possibilities.”
-Kim, Novel Adventures
Novel Adventures’ upcoming sold out travel itinerary to Scotland entitled the ‘2K17 Sacred and Historical Scotland’ is one tour that will reflect the rich Scottish history that surrounds this magical country. From novel and filming locations, to the breadth of history found in castles, churches, abbeys, and battlefields, Novel Adventures encourages their clients to find a vacation that will fulfill their quest for historical knowledge, support their literary interests, and, most importantly, satisfy their own sense of adventure. If you are currently looking to fulfill a dream holiday of following the lives of Jamie and Claire depicted in Voyager, you must explore Novel Adventures’ newest cruise tour that will include ports in Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Cozumel. You can read more about this incredible opportunity that will set sail in 2018 by clicking here.
The Gateway to Fraser’s Ridge: Highland Games, Gatherings, and More
My first discussion with Kim regarding Novel Adventures was centered around our shared interests of history, travel, and admiration for books. For myself, our instant connection was formed through our discussions of Scottish legends, such as the Hill of Angels and an ancient Fortingall Yew tree that has been identified as one the oldest living organisms in Europe. I was captivated by Kim’s stories because I found similarities between all the things that we each hold dear: travel, history, friendship, and family. I knew then that I must explore Novel Adventures further, as my hope is to one day fulfill my dream of traveling the Outlander footsteps abroad as well as in the Americas with my own clan. With my growing ambition to travel to each location depicted in the books, I decided I must narrow my goal to America for now. The Gathering at Fraser’s Ridge event, held yearly by Novel Adventures, will be the perfect place for me to start on my journey.
One of the highlighted yearly events at The Gathering at the Ridge is participating in the ‘calling of the clans’ at The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. This event is truly one of a kind and everything that these games encompass brings you closer to the literary Gathering held on Mount Helicon that Diana Gabaldon so eloquently described in The Fiery Cross. Each year North Carolina hosts the largest Highland Games in the country. However, it is only through North Carolina’s rich Scottish history that we can understand its true level of importance.
History dictates that there was a high point of immigration following the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Following the Jacobite Rebellion, some Highlanders entered indentured servitude or were pardoned on the condition that they would leave the country, leading to a large majority of immigrants to come to the Americas and ultimately settle in North Carolina. The attraction to a milder climate, desire for fertile soil to cultivate crops, and hopes for a better life were the bases for this migration. The Highland Games have drawn people from across the country to celebrate the rich history and culture of the Scots who found a new home in the beautiful state of North Carolina.
Travelers who appreciate the Outlander series are naturally drawn to search for the location of Fraser’s Ridge. Novel Adventures has found the most similar match to what Diana Gabaldon has described in the Outlander series. The Mast Farm Inn, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, may be the closest possibility to discover what life on Fraser’s Ridge entailed. There is a large house built in the late 1700’s that is surrounded by smaller, slightly older cabins. You will find authentic floors and walls, making you feel more familiar to the literary descriptions of Jamie and Claire’s homes on the ridge. Each detail holds a story of necessity or survival, bringing you closer to the 18th century in heart, mind and spirit.
Experiencing Life Between the Time Continuums of the 18th Century and Present
Novel Adventures brings fans together to celebrate the Outlander series beyond written texts. Each year the Gathering at the Ridge is held to immerse guests in the chores and essential activities of daily life that may have been part of Jamie and Claire’s routines. Each day during the gathering, instructional classes are offered that highlight essential pieces of 18th century life based upon the interests of each guest. Past and current learning opportunities included paper making, creating hand made soaps, learning how to make bees wax candles, understanding medicinal usage of herbs, jewelry making, knitting cowls, making druid lanterns, Gaelic Language instruction with Dr. Jamie McDonald, even offering teachings from a Native American storyteller. These lessons allow travelers the opportunity to live the life the Frasers would have lived, and these personal and hands-on opportunities create lifelong memories that are cherished time and time again by Outlander fans.
If you think that is all this retreat offers, I must expand on the scheduled entertainment that often accompanies these events. Live music, even Outlander cast member presence, add to the lively atmosphere – fostering an intimate setting shared between individuals who have grown from fellow fans to life long friends. Nightly bonfires, whisky, moonshine, and a private concert held by the 7 Nations Celtic Rock Band only adds to this experience. We also cannot forget the variety of unique and individualized adventures that also await, including tubing, zip lining, horseback riding, hiking, and walking the Mile High Swinging Bridge. There is no shortage of ways travelers can participate in their own adventures along the way that fit their own personal comfort level.
Outlander Cast Members
A gathering between fellow Outlander devotees is always a memorable occasion. However, Novel Adventures is able to step forward and fulfill each fan’s dream of being able to be near beloved cast members of the series. Previous cast member attendees have included Graham McTavish and author Theresa Carle – Sanders of Outlander Kitchen. Gillebride MacMillin, the ‘Bard’ at Castle Leoch during The Gathering episode of Season 1, has also visited attendees on the Ridge. He will also be back on the Ridge in the summer of 2018 for the yearly Gathering.
This year participants were greeted by the presence of Cesar Domboy, who portrays the adult Fergus in Season 3. His uncanny resemblance to our imaginative form of this character is remarkable. As we all know, his loyalty to Jamie Fraser will play a significant role in Season 3 and beyond. Throughout his time at The Mast Farm Inn, his friendliness and ability to spend time with each fan throughout the weekend events was marveled by many. The Gathering at the Ridge creates priceless memories of supporting shared enthusiasm for the literary aspect of this series, while also bringing the characters to life by sponsoring the attendance of true cast members.
Our very own member of Sass3, Mela, traveled to North Carolina to attend one evening of this retreat and meet Cesar Domboy – an experience she has shared with all of our readers! Her blog describing her travels highlights her memorable time at this event. You can read all about it by clicking here. We can all live vicariously through her adventures as she explores The Mast Farm Inn, meets a beloved Outlander cast member, and completed a nature walk in Boone. It is a must read!
One Visit and You will Never be the Same
From the beginning, Andrea and Kim maintained their principles in faith and spirituality. They wanted to give praise and thanks for all of their blessings and the ability to live a life based on their passions for books and travel. Novel Adventures was built upon the premise of always having a heart filled with love for the bounty that God has provided, while also remaining community minded to help those in need through monetary donations. The charities they support include Compassion International, Clay Table, Lifeguards, World Child Cancer, and individual organizations within their own community. The plan and mission statement for Novel Adventures is unwavering and we admire their continuous contributions to support important causes across the globe.
We have been inspired by this story. Novel Adventures represents the possibilities of personal and spiritual growth that can be obtained through exploration and travel. Their level of professionalism and determination to use their success to give back to others is greatly admired by many. There is no doubt that the tours offered through this company are built on the foundations of supporting fan connections through positive experiences. We loved every moment engaging in our discussions, sharing an evening with the beloved Cesar Domboy, and discovering the possibilities that are available through this tour agency. Novel Adventures is truly a gift for fans of all book genres.
Thank you Kim and Andrea, for your dedication to your craft, bringing dreams to light, and creating an atmosphere of camaraderie in this fandom. We can not wait to return to experience The Gathering at the Ridge in 2018.
All photos from our blogs are owned by Timeless Sass3nach Journeys, unless noted or attributed. The use of our photos is not permitted unless consent is given.
Research obtained 7/10/2017: