The Canada trip was my first time chronicling my experiences with a camera—I wish I still had the Fisher-Price Kodak model shown here.

WHEN I WAS FIVE years old, my mom, dad, and I drove from our home in New York City to Canada, with camping gear strapped to the roof of our Mercury Monarch. It was our first big outdoor trip. It was also my first trip out of the country.

As soon as we got to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, we set up camp. I remember the smell of our new tent, the reindeer pattern on the fabric that lined my tiny sleeping bag, and a night hike filled with the sounds of owls hooting in the trees. I also remember sitting wide-eyed in a canoe as we paddled past the dam of a beaver. This was completely different from life at home in the city.

At AFAR, we believe that travel can expand horizons. If we engage with a destination, every trip is full of incredible moments that will stick forever in our minds and change the way we see the world. After that walk with the owls, my five-year-old self never looked at hiking as a chore again.

For the 2014 Guide to Exceptional Travel Experiences, we tapped our editors and contributing writers to share stories from recent trips that somehow altered them in a fundamental way. It’s not a coincidence that all of their experiences—ranging from a family-friendly hike in New Mexico to a meal at what might be the most paradisiacal restaurant on earth—were also extremely enjoyable.

After you’ve read this issue, I hope you’re inspired to book a trip that just might change you.

This appeared in the August/September issue.