15 Adventures on Earth That Will Change Your Life
By Michael Lanza
“Change your life.” That’s a tall order, isn’t it? I mean, how many experiences have that magnitude of impact on you? I can think of several that overhauled my perspective on life, or at the least, expanded how I view the world and other people.
Looking at the highest mountains on the planet and walking through villages in Nepal where people live much as their ancestors have for centuries. Seeing the surreal landscapes of Iceland (photo above) and Patagonia. Immersing myself in the mountain culture on hut-to-hut treks through the vertiginous Swiss Alps. Paddling a kayak below jungle-clad cliffs rising 4,000 feet straight out of the sea in New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound, and hiking what’s reputedly the hardest hut trek in that adventure-addicted country, the Dusky Track. And seeing unforgettable mountain ranges like the Scottish Highlands, Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, and Italy’s Dolomites, and seals, brown bears, and sea lions in Alaska’s Glacier Bay through the unclouded eyes of my kids.
Our earliest and sometimes most inspirational experiences usually happen within our own national borders, and often close to where we grew up or live. (That was the case for me on a bicycle tour with two buddies in our home state when we were 19.) And without question, several U.S. national parks deserve a spot on any list of the world’s must-see destinations, among them the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, and the Everglades—not to mention several parks in Alaska, where you can see the breadth of wildlife that once existed all over the planet.
But there’s something about traveling abroad that puts everything you see, hear, and touch under a magnifying glass. Everything is exotic. People talk and think differently. Culture is alien, history an entirely and refreshingly new collection of stories.
Blend those elements into a hike through mountains you’ve never seen before, or paddling pristine waters, and you have the formula for an experience that does alter our perception of the world and our place in it. Take a child on a trip like that and you may actually reroute the trajectory of a young person’s life—very much for the better.
I’ve listed below 15 adventures, 14 international trips and one in Alaska, sea kayaking Glacier Bay—which is like visiting another world, or rather, stepping back in time to revisit the world as it was 10,000 years ago. And I’ve added a bonus 16th trip, backpacking in Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies, both because it’s within easier reach for many Americans and because it deserves a spot on any list of the most beautiful treks on Earth. Each destination on the list links to a story at The Big Outside that includes many images from those places and information for planning that trip yourself.
Setting off on a life-changing experience requires some planning and self-motivation, and there’s no better time to get started than right now.
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