Updated May 29, 2020.
Travel in itself is life-changing. But some trips can make you think, make you feel, or make you understand yourself more than other types of trips. So in hopes of inspiring you, here are my top 10 picks for life-changing trips around the world. These trips should be humbling, leaving you with a sense of the “bigness” of the world and the “smallness” of your place in it, ultimately giving you the confidence to take the world head-on.
10. A Nature Appreciation Trip
This is an especially important trip if you’re a city-dweller, but even a girl who grew up on a farm learned a lot and developed a new appreciation when she spent time in nature so different from her family farm. My trip to the Galapagos was almost like living in a dream—animals unafraid of people, so close you can look them in the eye while they show off their babies to you; stunning lava landscapes where people have made their homes; unique species that have adapted to their surroundings to survive for hundreds of years.
Whether it’s the Galapagos, an African safari, or a few days spent exploring the jungle, spending quality time in nature will definitely change your life.
Read on: Our Favorite Animals in the Galapagos
9. A Long-haul Journey
I once read that technology is preventing people from being bored, and that’s not a good thing. But one thing is for sure… you will get bored on a true long-haul flight! Once you’ve been in the air 10 hours, knowing you have four or seven more hours to go can really be demoralizing, and honestly, I’ve been reduced to tears during a long-haul flight from lack of sleep and the inability to sleep sitting up!
That said, there’s a maturity that is developed from boredom (especially boredom you can’t get out of—like a moving plane at 40,000 feet). And that maturity influences other areas of your life. So plan a trip to somewhere faraway, then think of the flight as an opportunity. (And don’t think about the flight back!)
Read on: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Long-haul Travel
8. Somewhere You Never Expected
Some of my favorite trips have been to locations someone else chose, or an opportunity that seemed to just fall into my lap. My first trip abroad was to Japan, but it chose me! I met my husband on a trip to Prague with friends, and my friends chose it, not me! I recently took a life-changing trip to Qatar, but only because I knew someone going there to visit her family. When the opportunity for travel arises, take it. Don’t think about how you never thought of traveling there before—go there now!
Read on: 5 Habits of Flexible Travelers
7. A Dream Trip
It might seem odd to some, but my husband and I take a “Trip of a Lifetime” every year. The only requirements are that it’s some place neither of us has been, it’s somewhere we’ve dreamt of going, and it’s a place that might be too complicated to get to if we didn’t make a real effort. And it is always worth the effort. He whisked me off to Australia to see the Great Barrier Reef and go to an opera at the Sydney Opera House for our first Trip of a Lifetime because it was my life-long dream I never thought I’d attain. We’ve also been to Easter Island (the remotest inhabited place in all the world!), the Baltics, and this year we did an epic road trip around New Zealand’s South Island!
Don’t let the world be an unattainable dream. Go where your heart desires, and live it up while you’re there.
Read on: Top 10 Travel Experiences
6. Anywhere They Speak a Different Language
Why will this change your life? This is the quickest possible way to realize that your country is not the only country in the world. Your language is not universal (not even English!). You must rely on the kindness of others to try and help you. And in turn, hopefully this will make you a kinder person, too. My trip to Japan was humbling because I was a writer who couldn’t read anything—not even a road sign! I had to use hand motions to communicate and hope for the best! And what I found were incredibly kind people who went out of their way to help a 20-year-old girl from rural Tennessee. And I lived to tell the tale!
Traveling somewhere with a different language than your own will give you confidence you never knew was inside you all along.
Read on: Lost in Ise City
5. The Capital City of Your Own Country
Surprised? Yes, there is real, life-changing value in visiting places in your own country, particularly your country’s capital! I was so impressed after a weekend visit to Washington, D.C., that I chose to move here just two weeks later. The history, the ability to set foot in the building where laws are made and meet the individuals I helped elect, the profound events that happened here, I sometimes get choked up just standing around in Washington, D.C. They call them monuments because they are just that: monumental.
So no matter where you live, visit your country’s capital. Gain a better understanding of how your country operates, and you will not only be an informed citizen both at home and abroad, but also a more informed traveler when people abroad ask you about your country.
Get everything you need and more on my Washington, D.C. Page!
4. A Solo Trip
Ask anyone who’s traveled solo, and they’ll tell you (probably for hours at a time) that it’s the best thing they’ve ever done because it changed their life. Traveling by yourself will show you what you’re made of, give you reasons to love yourself and all you can do, and help you see just how kind the world is. Leave your expectations at home and enjoy the world the way only you can. No pleasing anyone else, no one to impress, no doing what everyone else wants to do, no schedule but your own. Solo travel will open up the world out there, but also the world inside of you.
Read on: 7 Things to Expect on Your First Solo Trip
3. A Lost Civilization
One of the more humbling experiences I’ve had on travel was walking around the ruins of a formerly prosperous people. There are many lost civilizations in the world, and all of them can teach us something about ourselves, our countries, and our world. Human nature really hasn’t changed in thousands of years, but our world has. My trip to Easter Island was fascinating because the island and its history is so mysterious. What are those big heads? Why are they different sizes? How did an island of over 200,000 people shrink down to a population of just 100? You might be surprised at the parallells with this lost civilization and life today.
Whether you choose to visit Easter Island, Mayan ruins in Mexico, Derinkuyu in Turkey, or the abandoned city of Cahokia near St. Louis, visiting a lost civilization will give you something to think about, and possibly inspire you to live differently.
Read on: Ruined: Beauty in the Broken Places
2. Ancient Ruins
Similarly, ancient ruins will make you pause and stand in wonder. Former civilizations are almost unbelieveable with what they accomplished. The Parthenon in Athens. The weight and precision of the pyramids in Egypt. The sheer massiveness of the Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia. They are all more impressive than anything man-made today because they did not have the benefit of machines or modern technology. A visit to ancient ruins will always leave you with a sense of awe with their detail, age, and ruined beauty.
Read on: 10 Reasons to Visit Siem Reap
1. A Religious Site
Whether it’s Mecca, the Holy Land, Angkor Wat, Ephesus, or the Naiku and Geku Shinto Shrines in Ise City, religious sites the world over should fill you will peace, sorrow, joy, excitement, or all of the above. When you learn the history, reasoning, and symbolism of a religious site, you can’t help but come away a wiser, more well-rounded person, and that inherently changes your life.
Read on: 10 Reasons to Visit Ephesus, Turkey
Are you ready to take on a life-changing trip of a lifetime? Tell me below! And get all the inspiration you need on my Travel Tips Page!
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