Every trip has the purpose of changes in life. Traveling gets us out of our comfort zone, gives us a new perspective on the world and just lets us breathe a little deeper. Here are a few places that could change your life.
The secret to spending a great time in Bagan has nothing to do with getting there. All that takes is faith in a Burmese pilot and his ancient aircraft, or an unwavering belief that your 13-hour bus ride from Yangon will actually deliver you to the dusty plains before all your hair turns grey.
The secret is in finding a new way to look at the temples themselves, at just the right time of day, and in just the right light. Most of the visitors cluster together to climb one pagoda when the plains are littered with thousands of others that afford anyone willing to visit a wholly new perspective on an oft-visited place. This is the way we should look at every destination, whether new, old, untamed or untrammeled.
La Sagrada Familia – The Sacred Family is arguably one of Gaudi’s most famous and stunning works, even though it is still not completely finished. The building started in 1882 and continues to this day, so expect some scaffolding, and lots of other visitors, but don’t be dismayed: the site remains an incredible monument worth visiting. As with much of Gaudi’s work, the beauty lies in the almost hidden details, so keep your head on a swivel! Remember to admire the building from a distance as well. From across the lake the Natividad facade stares out at Barcelona in all its Gothic glory, and it makes a perfect picture.
3.Galapagos National Park
Technically, you don’t have to be a science geek to appreciate a cruise to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Basic knowledge of the archipelago as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution certainly won’t hurt. While marveling at blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, and some of the other species one only can find on these 21 islands, it becomes easier to appreciate the biology that has taken place on these islands for centuries; here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, science largely has been left to do its thing. Other types of science are prevalent, too—the islands have nearly a dozen active volcanoes, as well as acres upon acres of dry forest, all which can be explored as day trip excursions on your ship’s shore days.
4.Valle de Luna
San Pedro de Atacama is a delightful adobe-esque town on the edge of Atacama Desert in Chile, just west of the Bolivian border. I took this photo in near by Valle De Luna, while I was mountain biking through a virtual moonscape of natural geography. The air is so dry and clear here, you get these amazing colors from sunsets.
This wild cloud formation just formed before our eyes, and the setting sun painted this crimson red an amazing sight. You have to fly into Calama or you overland for a couple days from Uyuni, Bolivia and cross the border into San Pedro.
The evenings are full of festive small bars with fireplaces and good fun. Go hike or bike through Valle de Luna and get lost in time. You can trek, sand board, see flamingos at the nearby Las Flamencos national reserve, and hot springs; all very close to town.
5.Forte das Berlengas
Hire a boat out of Peniche, Portugal, when available, and travel six miles offshore to the pristine Berlenga Islands. Then hike, kayak, snorkel, and swim the day away. Pack a picnic lunch and feast on the beach. The perfect day in paradise.
6.Reserva Nacional Pacaya – Samiria
Piranha fishing, pink dolphin sightings, holding a caimen, beautiful day explorations by skiff and canoe along the Ucayali River and in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Add to jaw-dropping explorations, the 5-star comfort of the Aqua Amazon with large, comfortable and well-designed, air-conditioned staterooms with picture windows allowing the world to float by as you relax, showers big enough for two, great cuisine, and an amazing staff—as well as congenial company on board in an intimate, yet spacious, cruise. Just 12 cabins means no crowds, just fun at mealtimes and in the salon/bar. Excellent, knowledgeable river guides are from the Amazon—so they know it, and the wildlife, intimately.
7.Palacio de Bellas Artes
Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández is Mexico’s oldest, finest, and most celebrated dance company. Dancer and choreographer Hernández founded the company in 1952 to preserve Mexico’s dance traditions, dating all the way back to pre-Columbian civilizations. Today, the troupe, which is based in Mexico City, features a cast of 75 dancers and musicians who continue to perform the colorful, historic dances of Mexico. The ensemble performs three times weekly at the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes). Palacio de Bellas Artes is a small but beautiful art deco style building. If you go for a performance, arrive early so you can walk around and check out the famous murals, including one by Diego Rivera, in the building’s galleries.
The Antarctic weather was unpredictable and often inhospitable throughout our 1-week expedition cruise. Dramamine came in really handy the last day as we sailed the Gerlach Straight. I popped them like candy before cautiously eating dinner. Just a third of our 42 shipmates were at the tables; most took just one bite of their delicious Argentine steak before calling it an early night. But just the day before, the sun was beaming, water was glassy smooth, and I comfortably shed my upper layers down to a tank top during a hike to a viewpoint over Paradise Bay. Our captain joined us and mentioned that it was the most beautiful day he’d seen in at least 10 years. It was a beauty so vast and still, that the exuberant sense of joy of that moment felt deeply imprinted within me.
William and Kate’s wedding brought a 21st-century focus to this 700-year-old abbey, which is built on the same spot as a Benedictine monastery enlarged by Edward the Confessor in the 1040s. The site of every coronation since 1066, it boasts an ornate Gothic architecture that gives it a statuesque presence, dominating Parliament Square; it’s easy to combine with a visit to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament next door.
Zanzibar, an archipelago off the Tanzania coast, has long attracted travelers to its capital city, Stone Town. Visitors come to cap off a safari, dance to taarab music, and snorkel among dragon moray eels—all in the historic birthplace of the Swahili language. The cotton kanga (pictured above), worn as a wrap dress, skirt, or shawl, is the principal item of clothing for East African women. Named for the dappled feathers of the guinea fowl, the kanga is not complete without a Swahili maxim printed along its border. One favorite: Kupata na kukosa kwangu, wewe kunakuhusu nini, or “Whether I succeed or fail, it’s not your business.” This appeared in the May/June 2011 issue.