If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s the importance of traveling. Getting out of your comfort zone, exploring new cities and eating different types of food can change everything. Don’t believe us? We’ve rounded up 28 totally transformative life changing trips, from visiting the Grand Canyon to gorilla trekking in Rwanda. So, if you’re daydreaming about the day you get to leave your pod and explore the rest of the world (or country), start here.

RELATED: 7 U.S. Trips That Will Reinvigorate Your Soul After a Very (Very) Long Year

a ryokan in japan
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1. GO ZEN AT A RYOKAN

Staying at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese guesthouse) is an immersive experience rooted in simplicity and heritage. Guests don yukata, relax in onsen, savor kaiseki meals and slumber in tatami-matted rooms. After such a serene overnight trip, you might start to question whether modern conveniences are actually necessary.

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the grand canyon
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2. WITNESS THE GRAND CANYON

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but seeing the Grand Canyon IRL will leave you speechless. The sheer enormity of this jaw-dropping natural wonder is incomprehensible at first glance. As you walk around the rim—stopping at various viewpoints—geological history will unfold before your eyes.

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a suspension bridge on the trail to everest base camp
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3. TREK TO MOUNT EVEREST BASECAMP

Unlike summiting Everest—which, yeah, we’re not planning on doing—hiking to basecamp requires no crampons, ropes or any technical equipment or skills. But this nearly two-week trek to the foot of the highest mountain in the world is still a feat in and of itself.

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sea lions hanging on a beach in the galapagos
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4. OBSERVE ENDEMIC SPECIES IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

In the eastern Pacific Ocean, 621 miles off the coast of Ecuador, lies a volcanic archipelago so incredible, it inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Today, the Galapagos Islands continue to draw scientists and wildlife enthusiasts. Where else can you glimpse endemic species like the marine iguana? And now that sea glamping’s an option, you can Galapagos in style. Just be sure you have your vax card or negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to travel.

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a zebra seen on an african safari
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5. GO ON AN AFRICAN SAFARI

A safari is the epitome of #travelgoals. Whether you choose the Serengeti or South Africa as the setting for your game drive, expect scenes straight out of National Geographic. Elephants will pause for a thirst-quenching drink at a watering hole while leopards chase gazelles across the savanna, all right before your eyes.

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life changing trips Tuscany
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6. WINE TASTE IN TUSCANY

We’re going to catch a lot of flak from French wine lovers, but there’s something extra special about Tuscany with its rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards and fairy-tale castles. The chance to sip Chianti straight from the source (aka barrel) will spoil you forever. Saluti!

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hot air balloons flying over cappadocia
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7. HOT-AIR BALLOON IN CAPPADOCIA

There are many sensational spots for a hot-air balloon ride, though few (if any) compare to Cappadocia. Imagine floating over fairy chimneys, pinnacles, hills, valleys and rock-cut churches. Sounds pretty magical, huh? Yep, this sort of aerial escapade is bound to shift your perspective on things.

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machu picchu
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8. HIKE MACHU PICCHU

With its famous agricultural terraces and mortar-free construction, it’s no wonder Machu Picchu is a must-see for travelers. Though it dates all the way back to the 15th century, the Lost City of the Incas remains intriguing as ever. A journey to this mountaintop archaeological site will take your breath away (and not because of the altitude).

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an active volcano in hawaii
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9. VISIT AN ACTIVE VOLCANO IN HAWAII

Waking up in the wee hours of the a.m. to watch the sunrise from atop a volcano is one of those distinctly Hawaiian experiences. Stack the deck that you’ll see lava by planning a guided trip to Kilauea on the Big Island. Not much of a morning person? Book an after-dark excursion!

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stargazing in the sahara
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10. STROLL THROUGH ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE

Envision lying on a blanket, surrounded by pristine sand dunes and gazing up at the midnight sky studded with twinkling cosmos. Just broach the topic of stargazing in the Sahara and we’re ready to buy a ticket to Morocco. Glamping at a luxury desert camp is an added bonus.

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the northern lights
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11. VIEW THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

Regardless of your penchant for astronomy (or lack thereof), it’s impossible not to nerd out over the swirling dance of magenta, violet and green. Your best bet for viewing the northern lights? Travel to the Arctic Circle or hop aboard Alaska Railroad’s Aurora Winter Train between late September and late March.

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someone selling food off a boat in bangkok
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12. EXPLORE THE OPULENCE OF BANGKOK

In Bangkok, culture and tradition come alive through cuisine, magnificent palaces and sacred temples. Visit the Reclining Buddha, Grand Palace or Wat Arun to get full sense of the grand architecture this beautiful city has to offer.While Thailand’s capital is world-renowned for its delicious street food, proceed with caution if you’re going to sample local cuisine. Some of the delicacies—like luu moo and larb leuat neua, both made with uncooked animal blood—could cause a bacterial infection if you aren't used to eating it.

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gorillas in rwanda
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13. GORILLA TREK IN RWANDA

A safari isn’t the only way to get your animal fix while in Africa. For a primate-centric expedition you’ll never forget, head to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Sure, it’s expensive (in the ballpark of $1,500 per person), but can you really put a price on peeping endangered apes?

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red rocks in sedona
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14. EXPLORE SEDONA’S RED ROCKS

Sedona is a deeply photogenic place. Its most distinguishing and dramatic feature? Stunning red rock formations. Of course, hiking (or, in some cases, scrambling) tops our list of must-do activities. We’d put traversing the rust-tinged trails in the category of a religious awakening.

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life changing trip Victoria Falls
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15. Visit the Victoria Falls

Located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, this majestic body of water is a sight to behold. Nicknamed “The Smoke that Thunders,” Victoria Falls is a UNESCO heritage site and it’s been cited as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

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life changing trips Table Mountain
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16. Soar to the Top of Table Mountain

Complete your southern Africa trip with a stop at Table Mountain. The most photographed attraction in South Africa, Table Mountain boasts a breathtaking view of Cape Town and is home to over 2,000 plants. And it’s not just another crag that you trek in order to get to the top. The most popular way to get to the peak is by cable car, courtesy of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company.

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the great wall of china
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17. WALK ALONG THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

Sure, you’ve seen photos of the 13,000-mile Great Wall, which protected dynasties more than 2,000 years ago. But there’s nothing quite like walking from watchtower to watchtower on your own two feet. To avoid the throngs of tourists, drive about 90 minutes from the city to the restored Mutianyu section.

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The Sphinx And Pyramid Of Chephren in Egypt
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18. VISIT EGYPT'S GREAT PYRAMIDS

Channel your inner Lawrence of Arabia and head into the desert on camelback to see the Great Pyramid of Giza. Built by a Fourth Dynasty pharaoh in 2560 B.C.E., this 481-foot structure is the oldest wonder of the ancient world. Let that settle in.

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the ring road in iceland
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19. DRIVE THE RING ROAD IN ICELAND

You’ll feel like you’re on another planet when you take the ten-day drive around Iceland’s Ring Road, passing thermal springs, volcanoes, waterfalls, fjords and glaciers. In the summer, the sun barely hits the horizon before rising again—and in the winter, well, we hope you like the dark.

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the salt flats in bolivia
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20. STROLL BOLIVIA'S SALT FLATS

You’re not walking on the clouds—although you will feel like it when you explore Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, where a desert of salt spans more than 4,500 miles. (While Bolivia has reopened its borders, some of its neighboring countries remain shut, so visiting in the near future might be difficult.)

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life changing trips Paris
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21. Saunter the Streets of Paris

Travel to this fashion capital of the world is open at the time of this writing. However, France, like many European countries has been stringent with COVID restrictions. Nonetheless, if you get the chance, put on your A-line skirt, rock a beret and gobble all the croissants as you tour the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Arc de Triomphe.

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life changing trips New York
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22. Explore the City That Never Sleeps

They say if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. And while you’re not moving to the city that never sleeps, even spending a week in this busy metropolis will make you feel on top of the world. Take in the dizzying lights of Times Square, hop a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and channel your inner Jay-Z with a visit to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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life changing trips Niagara Falls
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23. Savor the Serenity of Niagara Falls

Avoid the chaotic New York City crowds by escaping to Niagara Falls instead. A trip to the Niagara Falls Observation Tower will give you an unbeatable view of the cascading falls.

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life changing trips Rome
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24. Hit the Cobblestone Streets of Rome

Indulge your inner historian and take a trip to Rome. Explore all the ancient ruins-turned-beautiful-Insta-ops, like the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Trevi Foundation. Oh, and don’t forget to treat yourself to some pizza deliziosa and gelato decadente.

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life changing trips Bora Bora
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25. Take a Load Off in Beautiful Bora Bora

Don’t want to visit any of the wonderful attractions in this beautiful French Polynesian island? If you’d rather play hooky and skip Mount Otemanu, Leopard Rays Trench or Tupitipiti Point to spend the day lounging in your bungalow, we totally get it. After all the stress and anxiety of lockdown, you deserve it.

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life changing trips Santorini
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26. Get Your Sip on in Santorini

You’ve never really experienced the color blue until you’ve overlooked the Aegean Sea at sunset while taking in the gorgeousness that is Santorini. What makes the experience that much better is sipping on a glass of the most pristine Assyrtiko this renowned wine region of Greece can offer.

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life changing trips Amsterdam
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27. Bike Through Amsterdam

The Netherlands finally opened their boarders to tourists in June 2021, so if you always dreamt of biking through the dreamy streets of Amsterdam, now is the time. You can visit the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum or give your legs a rest on a canal cruise.

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life changing trips Tulum
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28. Let Loose in Tulum

Snorkeling in caves, archeological tours (hello, Chichen Itza) and boozy nights with friends blurred by tequila—if you had to cancel your girls’ trip to Mexico due to the pandemic, Tulum is the best place to (responsibly!) make up for lost time.

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RELATED: 12 Awesome Places to Go Glamping in the New York Area

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