In this digital age, it’s easy to be an armchair traveler — browsing travel magazines on an iPad, scrolling through photos on social media, or reading a blog on the newest undiscovered destination. But nothing replaces actually being there and experiencing a new culture, landscape, or activity! An app can’t leave you breathless as the Northern Lights dance above your head or when the ground shakes as hundreds of wildebeest stampede past your vehicle. A website can’t replicate the peaceful feeling upon entering an ancient temple or hiking through olive groves.
Here are five ways to experience the world beyond the screen.
Local wine tasting
The term “terroir” is defined as both the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced (including the soil, topography, and climate) and as the characteristic flavor give to a wine by that said environment. This is why a sauvignon blanc produced in South Africa will taste different from one of New Zealand. Coffee and cheese also have their own terroir. Yes, you could just go out to your local wine store and buy a bunch of bottles to do your own tasting at home, but you’ll learn so much more and have a much more rewarding experience if you go to the place of origin. Aside from some of the most well-known wine countries such as New Zealand, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and Argentina, you can find many exceptional, though less well-known wines in Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia.
Exploring via a kayak
We love hiking, but there is something really special about floating along, enjoying the scenery without having to pay attention to your feet and the terrain beneath you. The sounds of water gently lapping at the kayak or shore, or dripping from the paddle can be quite meditative. And the 360-degree views from the middle of a fjord, lake, or lagoon will be just as memorable (although utterly different) as those from a hiking trail. Our favorite places to paddle through sparkling waters for a new perspective are Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Croatia, and Palau.
Hiking epic mountains
There is just no feeling like it in the world: reaching a peak or high pass with the landscape stretched out before you. It’ll feel as though you are on the top of the world. Not only will the views impress, but the physicality of the hikes are incredibly rewarding. Long, sometimes steep ascents give way to breathtaking vistas and the sense of accomplishment. And there’s really nothing better than refueling with hearty trailside picnics full of cheese, bread, and other regional specialties. And exploring remote mountain villages along the way gives an insight into the lifestyle and culture of those living in them. The Alps, Dolomites, and Himalayas are well-known spots, but check out Patagonia and Slovenia, as well.
You can’t fully experience a new culture without understanding a bit about the past of the region. And there are several historic routes around the world where you can literally follow in the footsteps of thousands who have come before. Whether it’s the gravity of purpose, the desire to connect to a more simpler time, or the landscape that draws you, walking or hiking on one of these routes is sure to leave you with memories for a lifetime and connect you with history. Try the Camino de Santiago, Japan’s ancient Nakasendo Trail, or the Incan Salkantay Trails.
Tracking wild animals
The thrill of being out in the rugged, untamed African bush, far from civilization where the wild things roam is only just tempered by the fact that you are with an experienced, trained guide. You turn the corner and suddenly something is there! Maybe it’s a sleepy hyena resting before the evening’s hunt, perhaps it’s a gazelle carefully scanning the long grass, maybe it’s a leopard in the tree. You never what you’ll see next. Ready your camera for the moment your guide spots the objective. our favorite safari spots are Botswana, Tanzania, and Rwanda. For more off the beaten path, try Zimbabwe!
Matt Holmes is the Founder & President of Boundless Journeys. Boundless Journeys is an award-winning tour operator that goes off the beaten path for immersive and authentic travel experiences.