37 Travel Experiences That Will Transform Your Life Gallery
37 Travel Experiences That Will Transform Your Life
Travel can be exciting, terrifying, stressful, and more. More than anything, the act of travel can be truly life-changing. There’s no better education than trotting the globe, and certain experiences are sure to change you forever.
Believe it or not, some of the most clichéd travel experiences you’ve ever heard of can be transformative in how you look at the world or even yourself. Just surviving a long flight can change your perspective on things, but how about trekking through far-flung forests or attending the celebrations of people from a completely different cultural outlook than yours? Push the boundaries with the food you eat, the physical activities you take on, or the places you stay, and you may go back home a different — and possibly better — person. So if you’re looking to take away more than just souvenirs from your next trip, consider these 37 travel experiences that will transform your life.
Attending Burning Man
Every year, there’s an entire temporary city by the name of Black Rock City constructed in northwestern Nevada for Burning Man, a late summer gathering that gets its name from the burning of a large wooden effigy, or “The Man” on the Saturday before Labor Day. The Burning Man organization calls the gathering an “experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” This openness to creativity often results in amazing visual and performance art, and it’s a great place to tap into your artistic side. Bond with strangers or bond with your friends in an entirely different way as you wake up in the desert and participate in spiritual and holistic workshops that may change the way you look at life entirely. Just make sure you stay well-hydrated and well-fed while you’re there, as it can get seriously hot even without the burning of the Man.
Bungee Jumping in New Zealand
Traveling is about taking risks, and what better way to take risks than adventure travel activities like bungee jumping? Bungee jumping was popularized in the 1980s in New Zealand, and in 1988 the country was home to the first ever organized bungee jump, consisting of 28 people. Discover your daring side, and find out just how far you’re willing to push yourself for a thrill. Queenstown in particular is an exciting destination where you can take a leap among the gorgeous scenery of the Southern Alps.
Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Over a decade after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is ready to celebrate its bounce-back, especially this year. Like Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans knows how to party before Lent with its famed Mardi Gras celebrations, held on every Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras as it’s known in French. The parade is a sight to behold and the live music and amazing cuisine that comes with the festivities showcases the best of Louisiana’s Creole and Cajun-influenced culture. Witness the comeback of a great city and learn how to stay resilient and carefree no matter what life throws at you.
Chilling With Penguins in Antarctica
It may sound a bit preposterous to suggest a vacation to the continent that holds 90 percent of the ice on Earth, but Antarctica has actually become much more accessible over the past decade or two, thanks to the first-ever commercial flights there, added in 2017, as well as multiple cruises headed for the continent from South America. One of the wildest spots on the planet, Antarctica offers the chance to experience truly unspoiled nature (although global warming seems to be doing the job of spoiling it fast). Despite its seeming barrenness, there’s plenty to do here, such as camping, sea kayaking, swimming in hot springs, and visiting the penguins and other indigenous creatures. A visit here is sure to inspire you to kick into action in order to save the planet and this vast, awe-inspiring continent. Hurry before it gets too popular; currently, fewer than 200,000 people visit every year.
Cruising Down the Nile River
Egypt is a bucket list destination for any serious traveler, especially this year, and a great way to see it is through a cruise down its famous Nile River. Witness the beautiful scenery of the Nile Valley and ancient Egyptian ruins, notably the iconic Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, as you relax on a felucca, a traditional wooden sailboat. Most trips will take you from the busy southern city of Aswan to Luxor, where you can visit the ancient city of Thebes. Such a trip will be sure to cause reflection on the passage of time and how far humans have come, as well as how much we were able to accomplish even without modern technology.
Día de los Muertos in Mexico
Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday held from October 31 to November 2, in which people gather together to remember their friends and family who have passed away. Whereas death is a mournful occasion in much of the rest of the Western world, in Mexico, it is seen as a more positive thing. Get a new outlook on life from the Day of the Dead celebrations, which will remind you that a life is meant to be celebrated, not mourned. Among the best destinations for the Day of the Dead are Cuernavaca, where they celebrate for eight days; Mixquic, which has a fantastic mock funeral procession; and Oaxaca, which hosts rollicking nighttime parades.
Eating Pizza in New York
There’s absolutely no pizza like New York pizza. New York City prides itself on this iconic slice, and the rest of the world loves it too. If you’re ever in any of the five boroughs, make sure to try a local hand-tossed pie, made with a large crust layered with light tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella. You’ll never look at pizza, or food, the same way again. We should note, however, that you don’t necessarily have to be in New York to get a taste; New York Times food critic Pete Wells declared that the best New York pizza can actually be found in New Jersey.
Experiencing Luxury in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates are known for their luxury, and as the country’s cities grow, so do its tourist numbers. For the first time ever, there’s a branch of the Louvre outside of Paris, and this past November, it opened its doors and its more than 700 exhibits in the safest city in the world, Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is also home to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world and meticulously kept, its bright white exterior and 82 domes positively sparkling. Take a ride on the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World on Yas Island, just off the coast, where you can also visit the water park and gigantic shopping mall. An even bigger mall, however, exists in Dubai, home to the largest in the world. This shopaholic’s paradise is a great place to purchase gold, textiles, and electronics, with the latter being particularly cheaper here than in most other places.
Exploring Japanese Culture in Tokyo
You can’t leave Tokyo without trying the best sushi in the world or exploring its shops full of funky fashions, anime paraphernalia, the latest electronics, and snacks in literally every flavor you can imagine. In addition to the city’s many quirky attractions, Tokyo also offers the best of traditional Japanese culture, full of Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and opportunities to participate in or observe tea ceremonies, martial arts, or calligraphy lessons. Tokyo is bound to open your eyes to aspects of food, art, music, and history that you never even considered before.
Exploring the Amazon
The Amazon rainforest lies mostly within Brazil, although there are smaller portions in Peru and Colombia, with even smaller parts in Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela. You can explore this vast, extremely biodiverse tropical rainforest in any of these countries and marvel at just how much we don’t know about life on Earth and how much we stand to lose from its destruction. Many tour companies will take you on an expedition to see the local flora and fauna, but a cruise is a pretty comfortable alternative as well.
Gazing at the Northern Lights
You can see the northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, from Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, the Yukon, or Scandinavia, but your odds of catching them are higher the closer you are to the Arctic Circle. Take along our guide to stalking this natural phenomenon and marvel at the bright green, red, blue, purple, and pink lights. It may be freezing out there, but the experience is absolutely worth it; just make sure to stay warm.
Going Back to Where You Came From in Ethiopia
Said to be the place of origin of modern man, Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent nation and the only one on the continent to have never been colonized. Ethiopia has an impressive history, both politically and religiously, as the second oldest officially Christian nation in the world and the destination of the First Hejira, the first flight of Muhammad's followers from Mecca. Start in the capital of Addis Ababa, a great shopping destination and home to a wonderful museum chronicling the nation’s ancient history and housing the skeleton of the famous early hominid, Lucy. But make sure you visit other places, too, such as the monasteries of Lake Tana, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the medieval castles of Gondar, and the ancient city of Aksum, which claims to be home to the Ark of the Covenant. The ancient walled city of Harar is also worth a stop; it's home to 82 mosques and some of the world's best coffee (and beer).
Going to Disney World
The Happiest Place on Earth is a great place to remember your childhood and to remember that it’s alright to connect with your inner child. A lot goes into the well-oiled machine that is Disney in order to make sure that your trip brings you hope and makes you feel as if your dreams can come true.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Trek through the bush of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park for a rewarding visit with the area’s gorillas. There are only approximately700 mountain gorillas left on Earth, and as a result there are only 10 groups in Rwanda that human visitors can meet with. You’ll go in a small group, which will afford you the ability to get pretty close to these magnificent creatures — which will, somehow, remind you of your own humanity.
Hiking Down the Grand Canyon
You can’t truly appreciate the vastness or the beauty of the Grand Canyon until you see it in person and up close. Hiking the canyon will lead you to come across all sorts of stunning rock formations, interesting creatures, and natural scenery. A trip here will remind you of the natural beauty of the United States and how much it has to offer outside of the city and suburbs. You can also enjoy the Grand Canyon from the top with a nice meal at Sa’ Nyu Wa restaurant, located next to the skywalk.
Hiking the Jordan Trail
While we do advise caution when traveling through the Middle East, that doesn’t mean travel is completely inadvisable in the region as a whole. Jordan, in particular, remains a stable nation with much to offer in the way of history and activity. The historical city of Petra, possibly established as early as the fourth century B.C., is a site to marvel at with its gorgeous, rock-cut architecture and impressive water conduit system. Jordan is also home to both the Dead Sea and Red Sea, as well as Wadi Rum, an impressive, Mars-like red desert, and many Bedouin camps, where you can experience true native Jordanian cuisine and culture. Hiking enthusiasts will love the new Jordan Trail, a route that runs 400 miles from north to south and takes you through most of these sites as well as some of Jordan’s most breathtaking nature. Lovers of religious history will revel in it too — Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed all supposedly walked this trail too.
Hiking to Machu Picchu
Peru is one of this year’s must-see destinations, and one of the reasons is the famed site of Machu Picchu. With over a million visitors every year, the 2,500-visitors-per-day limit set by UNESCO and the government has been far overrun, but it’s not hard to see why. Peru’s countryside is particularly beautiful, making the trek more than worth it — once you’re there, prepare to be amazed at the ingenuity of the Inca civilization.
Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia
The serene relaxation that comes with a hot air balloon ride combined with the amazing lunar-like landscape of the Cappadocia region makes for one of the most breathtaking experiences one can have in Turkey. You’ll see beautiful orchards and vineyards as well as all sorts of interesting rock formations and architecture such as cave churches and houses carved into rock from high above. The ride is sure to rekindle your awe at the natural wonders of the Earth.
Learning Ottoman History in Istanbul
This old capital of the former Ottoman Empire is home to gorgeous mosques, great Turkish cuisine and possibly even religious relics such as the staff of Moses and sword of David. Istanbul is a must-see Middle Eastern destination and a reminder that the region has had a long and varied history with many contributions to our modern world. Make sure you don’t leave without a visit to the Grand Bazaar, one of the planet’s oldest and largest markets, established shortly after the beginning of Ottoman rule.
Nature Travel in Ecuador
Quito is not only beautiful but absolutely fascinating. Ecuador is so named because of its location directly over the equator, and when you stand on Mitad del Mundo — a yellow line painted on the ground to designate the equator itself — on either the fall or spring equinox, you can watch your shadow disappear for three minutes. Quito also offers attractive colonial and Latin American architecture that echoes its fascinating history, and from here you can explore the rest of the country’s stunning natural environs, such as the Bellavista Cloud Forest, the snow-capped Cayambe volcano, and of course, the famous Galapagos Islands.
Partying in Ibiza
As chronicled in modern-day pop songs, Ibiza is a popular place to party, as it’s home to some fantastic nightlife and its accompanying electronic music. Famous DJs have been known to play weekly in Ibiza, many of them using the island as a place to try out some of their latest music. Cala Jondal, one of the best beaches in the world, is also located in Ibiza for the days when you’re looking for a bit of a break from the non-stop party.
Playing Holi in India
While big American cities with sizeable South Asian populations, like New York, have respectable festivities of their own, there’s simply no place like India to celebrate Holi, a spring festival observed by Hindus and Sikhs, as well as certain sects of Jains and Buddhists. On the night before Holi, festivities start with prayers and religious rituals, but it’s the next day’s festivities that are truly, and quite literally, colorful. People of all ages take to the streets with dry colors and water guns and balloons filled with colored water to throw on each other. Musicians and dancing fill the streets, and revelers fill their stomachs with many delicious local treats and soft drinks. The holiday is meant to be a reminder of love, forgiveness, and the triumph of good over evil.
Rebuilding in San Juan
Puerto Rico is officially open for business and tourists are needed more than ever to help the island get back on its feet. Witness the rebuilding and resilience of San Juan, where old and new coexist in the architecture as well as the city’s culture. Nightlife, beaches, and a growing arts scene have all helped San Juan earn its reputation as a strong tourist destination, but it’s the food here that’s really worth coming for.
Relaxing at a Wellness Resort
Some of the best resorts in the world are focused on rejuvenating and recalibrating your mind, body, and spirit through luxurious and natural spa treatments. Often based on ancient principles, the practices at wellness resorts are geared towards specific treatments, foods, supplements, and exercises that are meant to reinvigorate you and connect you with your body in a whole new way.
Riding an Elephant in Chiang Mai
The number of active and nature-centered things to do in Chiang Mai make it one of the most exciting travel destinations in the world. Among the most notable activities here are the elephant tours provided by many different tour companies, in which you can trek Chiang Mai’s hills and forests on the back of a pachyderm, appreciating the surrounding scenery and maybe even visiting with local hill tribes. Not all tours treat their elephants well, however, so make sure you find a responsible elephant tour company by asking other tourists or doing research online.
Safari in Zambia
Another destination for some truly unspoiled nature, Zambia is the place to go this year. While there’s much more to Africa as a continent than safaris, Zambia really does have fantastic opportunities that allow travelers to truly appreciate nature in all its glory. Experience a safari in the birthplace of the walking safari, with a guided tour company or through a safari lodge such as the King Lewanika Lodge which just opened up as the first permanent camp in Liuwa Plain National Park.
Seeing the Sistine Chapel
Absolutely worth the trip if you’re ever in Rome, the Vatican Museums in Vatican City have 54 galleries of some of the world’s greatest works of Western art by legends such as Da Vinci, Raphael, and Caravaggio. The most famous and most impressive work of art, however, is in the last gallery: the Sistine Chapel itself. The ceiling and the altar, the latter of which is covered with the famed “The Last Judgment,” were painted by Michelangelo in the sixteenth century. Most guided tours through the museums end with the Sistine Chapel, where you can take as long as you like to study the intricate and fascinating details of the many frescoes inside the room and marvel at the talent and tenacity it took to complete them.
Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef
Made up of over 2,900 reefs and 900 islands and located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. This World Heritage Site is not only biodiverse but truly amazing to see. Although one can see the reef from space, swimming among the turtles, dolphins, fish, and more as you scuba dive or snorkel is the best way to experience it. It’s a good reminder of what our world has to offer and how fragile it is, as global warming and carbon pollution may cause the Great Barrier Reef to disappear alarmingly soon.
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
Thousands of people visit England’s Stonehenge every year on the summer solstice to see the sunrise. Once daylight breaks and the sun is directly above Stonehenge’s “Heel Stone,” the festivities begin. Singing, dancing, and general revelry takes over all day as people celebrate it being the longest of the year, and it’s a great chance to get in touch with nature and reflect on the significance of the warmer months and the good they bring with them.
Tangoing in Buenos Aires
You need to visit Buenos Aires in 2018, and while you’re there you need to enjoy the marvel that is Argentine tango. Catch tango dancers in La Boca, a district famous for its artistic pedestrian street, or Boedo, where tango houses abound. Tango clubs are also quite popular here, and you can even take tango classes to get yourself up to speed. It’s a great chance to look at art in a way you hadn’t considered before, especially considering Buenos Aires was recently dubbed the first ever Art Basel City. Try some Argentinian cuisine while you’re there, too, as the locals sure know how to eat right.
A grim reminder of how far mankind can go when it forgets the humanity of others, a trip to Auschwitz isn’t inspiring in the way one typical thinks of when they consider transformative travel. Hearing the stories of what happened here during the Nazi Holocaust in World War II and seeing what was left behind is sure to change how you consider the effects of politics on our lives.
Visiting the Taj Mahal
Built in the seventeenth century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for the tomb of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is a world-famous 42-acre landmark that consists of not only the tomb, but a mosque, guest house, and gardens as well. The Indian monument is a testament to love and great architecture, as well as the legacy of the Mughal Empire.
Volcano Tours in Hawaii
Hawaii is an absolutely gorgeous place with plenty of great spots for stunning scenery. Get an especially spectacular view of the Aloha State with a Hawaii volcano tour which will take you by helicopter to see the state’s three active volcanoes: Lo’ihi, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea, the most active volcano on the planet. The experience is a thrilling one, and it’s sure to bring you a new perspective on the might of the Earth and how helpless one can be in comparison.
Walking the Great Wall of China
Built over 2,300 years ago, the Great Wall of China is finally starting to show signs of age and may disappear in as few as 20 years. That’s why we suggest heading out to see it as soon as you can. Given the fact that it’s made up of several massive walls, there are plenty of places you can walk this ancient structure, depending on the intensity of the hike you’re seeking. Wherever you do choose to explore it, however, the Great Wall gives one a lot of perspective on the vastness of both China’s land and history as well as an appreciation for mankind’s achievements before technology.
Watching the Sunset in Santorini
Santorini has become such a popular destination that Instagram photos of sunsets among the white and blue-domed buildings of the town of Oia have become a total cliché. There’s a reason for that cliché, however, as the views here really are stunning and the sunset only heightens that beauty as well as your appreciation for the feats of architecture and location that brought you here, as well as how wonderful nature can be.
Wine Tasting in the Napa Valley
Located in California’s Bay Area, Napa Valley is the premier winemaking region in the United States. Given recent fires that have been devastating for the area, tourism is more needed than ever. That suits any wine-loving traveler perfectly, as the wine tours here are wonderful for a laid-back, relaxing vacation amidst a beautiful countryside. They’re a great reminder of the United States’s overall strength as a wine destination, as well as what this country has to offer economically as well as culturally.
WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a federation of organizations that give you the opportunity to work on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. WWOOFers, as their volunteers are called, sign up for the national organization in the country they want to visit and pay an annual membership fee of around $30 per country. There are 99 countries that participate in WWOOF, so your options are extensive. Learn what goes into sustaining the destinations you visit as a tourist, and take a different perspective of the reality on the ground. WWOOFing is a great way to connect with both the land and the locals, as well as one of many ways you can save on a hotel room.