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Travel has the power to change the way you see the world. Don’t believe us? We’ve rounded up 25 totally transformative trips, from visiting the Grand Canyon to gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Think: Eat, Pray, Love level sh*t (except, most of these epic adventures require less than a week off of work). Just further proof that broadening your horizons has major—dare we say?—life-altering rewards. 

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a ryokan in japan
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STAY 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 an authentic overnight, you might start to question whether modern conveniences are actually necessary.

the grand canyon
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WITNESS THE GRAND CANYON

A picture may be worth a thousand words, however 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—millennia of geological history unfold in front of your eyes.

a suspension bridge on the trail to everest base camp
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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.

sea lions hanging on a beach in the galapagos
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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.

a zebra seen on an african safari
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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 pause for a thirst-quenching drink at the watering holes, as leopards chase gazelles across the savanna.

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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!

a cruise on its way to antarctica
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CRUISE TO ANTARCTICA

Sometimes you have to venture really far from home to find yourself. Perhaps that should be the new tourism slogan for the southernmost continent. Sure, this icy expanse is inhospitable, but it’s also spellbinding. If glistening glaciers and playful penguins are the stuff of your vacation fantasies, consider a cruise to Antarctica.

the great barrier reef
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DIVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

Stretching 1,429 miles, the Great Barrier Reef holds the title of largest living thing on Earth. Though it’s what lurks below the surface—an abundance of coral, colorful fish, mollusks, whales, dolphins, sea snakes and turtles—that puts this awe-inspiring ecosystem on every diver's bucket list.

hot air balloons flying over cappadocia
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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.

machu picchu
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HIKE MACHU PICCHU

Famed for its agricultural terraces and mortar-free construction, Machu Picchu lures millions of people each year. Despite an influx of tourists, 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).

an active volcano in hawaii
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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!

stargazing in the sahara
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STARGAZE IN THE SAHARA

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.

woman floating in the dead sea
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FLOAT IN THE DEAD SEA

The lowest body of water on the planet, the Dead Sea possess many therapeutic benefits. Its mineral-rich black mud is used in all sorts of pampering products. However, it’s the act of floating in this hypersaline lake that’s so transformative. Did we mention you literally can’t sink?

woman walking through a bamboo grove in japan
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STROLL THROUGH ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE

On the outskirts of Kyoto, near Kameyama-kōen (the hilltop park that’s crawling with cute monkeys), sits an otherworldly landscape. You could spend hours at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Stroll along the peaceful pathway, admire the soaring stalks and snap pics you’ll treasure for eternity.

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the northern lights
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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.

someone selling food off a boat in bangkok
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TASTE LOCAL FLAVORS IN BANGKOK

In Bangkok, culture and tradition come alive through cuisine (plus opulent palaces and sacred temples). Thailand’s capital is bursting with flavor. Have a hankering for some local delicacies? Nothing beats a street food tour! Do you dig hon Mhai (silkworms)? There’s only one way to find out...

gorillas in rwanda
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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?

angkor wat
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UNCOVER THE MYSTERIES OF ANGKOR WAT

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with droves of day-trippers. Which brings us to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Skipping this UNESCO-listed temple complex—the largest religious monument ever constructed—would be an insanely big mistake. Go gawk at the Khmer architecture and ignore the tour groups.

red rocks in sedona
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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.

holi festival in india
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CELEBRATE AN INTERNTIONAL FESTIVAL

We don’t mean Lollapalooza—we’re referring to cultural festivities around the world that will blow your mind. Think: Holi, the festival of colors in India; La Tomatina, the festival of tomatoes in Spain; Up Helly Aa, the Viking fire festival in Scotland; Yi Peng, the festival of the sky lanterns in Thailand and so many more.

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the great wall of china
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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.

The Sphinx And Pyramid Of Chephren in Egypt
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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.

Ha Long bay  Quang Ninh  Vietnam
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Cruise in Ha Long Bay

These almost iridescent blue waters in northeastern Vietnam are home to floating villages, uninhabited islets and jutting limestone karsts. A trip to Ha Long Bay feels like stepping into another universe or bygone era—or, you know, the next Jurassic Park movie.

the ring road in iceland
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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. During summer, the sun barely hits the horizon before rising again—and during winter, well, we hope you like darkness.

the salt flats in bolivia
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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.

Additional reporting by Hannah Loewentheil

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