Life is about squeezing every human sense that we have, while traveling enhances every sense of the word – experience.
In the new year, we’re all finding ways to better ourselves, to make changes so that we can enjoy life to the fullest. On my Facebook feed, friends are sunken in regrets for not traveling enough. Traveling seems to be the one coveted item which remains truly accessible to all, yet not everyone makes enough time for it.
We’re here to tell you that you can and should do it in 2014. Take a week off! Go on a road trip! Make plans to enjoy everything that reenergizes some part in you, if not, all of you. A travel moment can change you when it shakes the core of your spirituality, when you challenge your body physically and mentally, when you’re breathtakingly moved by the natural beauty of Mother Earth.
Combining my personal travel experiences with a group of friends who have traveled the world extensively, we’ve come up with a list of experiences that ultimately shaped the way we view societies, cultures, people and ourselves. From a foodie’s dream in Denmark, to African safaris…the world is here to change you for the better, but only if you open yourself to these opportunities. If they don’t present themselves right in front of your eyes, then create magnificent and life-changing experiences yourself.
Traveling certainly does not necessarily equate to luxury. But the person you become after life-changing experiences will be worth more than any luxury you would ever care for. Go taste, create, see, touch, smell, think and feel. Here are the 8 travel moments that promise to change you in 2014. That is, if you let it.
1. Devour a meal at Noma in Copenhagen.
Yes, people in Europe travel not just for food, but for Noma food. When I lived in Paris, it wasn’t uncommon to hear that one of my friends was missing at a party. “Oh, he decided to take his wife to Copenhagen for the weekend, they wanted to try out some restaurant.” Casual. No big deal! Well, that “some restaurant” usually turned out to be Noma – the highly acclaimed two Michelin star foodies shrine that alters the way we perceive food.
The name Noma is a word play on two Danish words meaning: Nordic Food. Every dish is a reflection of the surrounding landscape, the history of each ingredient and honest preparation so that we can look at the fusion of not just flavors but science and art. The menu is a reinvention of Nordic cuisine, but it arrives to reinvent your palate. In this case, “reinvent” is simply a subdued word for: blow your mind.
2. Hike up to Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan.
If you haven’t heard of the country Bhutan, then you need to study up. It has been voted as one of the happiest countries on the planet. With a trip to Bhutan, you’ll see why. People are genuinely kind to one another, thanks to the country’s delayed acceptance to both television and internet. But its fame in tourism industry resides in Taktsang Palphug Monastery (or Paro Taktsang) – a Buddhist temple also known as Tiger’s Nest.
Besides its legend as a place meant to tame a tiger demon, the geography of the temple is awe-inspiring particularly during moments of clouds hovering over the monastery that hangs on a precipitous cliff at 10,240 feet. With rock slopes that are fearfully steep, the monastery is built into the rock face which from afar or at the bottom of the mountain, appears as a face of an actual tiger. Tiger’s Nest continues to inspire travelers, due to its unique geography. In addition, the sense of holiness and spirituality that lies within the temple is incomparable to any other temple you may encounter, the entire experience makes you look at life from a completely different perspective.
3. Safari-hopping in Kenya.
Confession: I never took global warming very seriously until Kenya. It wasn’t until witnessing a group of zebras chowing down patches of dried grass that I realized, our planet is in serious peril. Anderson Cooper wasn’t kidding around.
It’s common knowledge that tourism in Kenya has been based heavily on promoting its National Parks that cover lands of safaris. From Lake Nakuru National Park to Masai Mara National Reserve, every safari exists as a reminder of humans’ massive damages to nature. The beauty of animals in their natural habitat showcases a grand price of our ignorance, and frankly, it’s sickening. Kenya’s safaris will elevate you as an eco-friendly traveler and as a human being who finally understands what it means to care for our planet.
4. Snorkeling in Plaza Sur, Galapagos Islands.
Charles Darwin wasn’t here just for kicks. It wasn’t by accident that Galapagos triggered his theories on natural selection and evolution. Snorkeling in Plaza Sur is about putting yourself in the middle of sea circus, hosted by wild sea lions as clowns.
If I didn’t make it clear in #3 that Kenyan safaris may change the way you think about our eco-system, then watching a blue-footed booby, a Galapagos land iguana, Grapsus grapsus and Galapagos penguin coexist in the same environment further emphasizes that traveling changes the way we see our roles play out in nature. Moreover, if all these crazy looking species can work together as one, why do we continue to choose war over harmony? Girl who love cat fights, here’s something to think about!
5. Walk through the slums in India.
65 million people live in slums in India. Now, that’s not just a thought. It’s a fact. In 2007, when I visited India for the first time, seeing extreme poverty and walking through the slums gave me the idea of Jetset Times. It was simply a question at the time, “How do I make sure more people see exactly what I’m seeing now?”
Slums in India have grown due to economic depression, high unemployment and extreme poverty. Walking through alleys of inadequate housing, insufficient water sources, all shared by abundance of families with numerous children…it all makes our complaints of hour-long power outages seem like a complete joke. This experience guarantees to change you only if you don’t walk into it with judgement.
6. Camping in the Sahara Desert.
Unforgettable. This is one asterisk that still sits high on my travel checklist. Camping in the Sahara Desert can easily be done in Morocco. It requires a few hours of camel riding deep into the desert, then a guide will set up camp, with preparation for dinner and some live music. Sounds a bit touristy? Not really.
As the world’s hottest desert covering over 3,600,000 square miles, Sahara stretches from the Red Sea all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Camping in the desert comes with a great sense of peace. It’ll also be one of the coolest things you’ll ever do in life.
7. An artful day at State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
The Louvre will always remain high in the list of worldly museums, that is, if you don’t mind thousands of tourists rushing through its corridors on a daily basis. The atmosphere of walking through the Louvre has changed so much in the last decade that the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has risen as the ultimate art museum experience.
For any art feine, a trip to the State Hermitage is the cherry on top of a sundae that is of the beautiful St. Petersburg. The museum is one of the largest and oldest in the world, established by Catherine the Great in 1764. Its vast collections includes 3 million items, with the largest collections of paintings in the world. Just Winter Palace will make any fan of classical art go absolutely wild. Its collections span from: Egyptian and classical antiquities, Italian and Spanish fine art, Dutch Golden Age and Flemish Baroque, German/British/Swiss and French fine art, Russian art, Neoclassical/Impressionist and post-Impressionist art…and so much more!
8. A mini staycation at Burj al Arab in Dubai.
Luxury has never looked so…fab! The world’s first 7-star hotel is famously shaped like a sailboat, but a few nights at Burj al Arab in Dubai will undoubtedly change your life. A few months ago, I was in Budapest with my friend Andy and he told me he had saved up money to spend a night at Burj al Arab. To him, it was worth every penny. So one of the world’s most expensive hotels (approx $2,500/night, depending on season) isn’t always for the rich and famous. But certainly, it can be.
Upon arrival, every guest is treated like a queen and king with offerings of warm towels, dried fruits and drinks. Although the hotel is enormous in size, Burj al Arab only holds 202 two-story suites. Each suite with a personal butler. Windows inside the suites look out into the Arabian Sea, and bathroom tiles are patterned in magnificent mosaic tiles. Bring an extra suitcase, there are lots of complimentary goodies to take home, including Hermès toiletries. Yes, that’s Hermès with a giant orange box!
With an aquarium restaurant, Rolls Royce car service, views of islands shaped like a world map…you may ask: Why would a staycation of extravagance change your life? Well, who doesn’t want to be treated like royalty every once in awhile?