Travel to Remember

There’s no shortage of experiences to seek out while traveling. And the world certainly isn’t lacking in guidebooks and travel sites, which can make it tough to figure out which experience is right for you. Our take? It’s the stories that make the trip—and the stories that inspire them. Here, our favorite travel tales, from bedding down in a Swiss haystack to saddling up in Ecuador. Where will your next adventure take you?

Exceptional Experiences
Adventures that inspire us to travel deeper.
10 Ways to Make Your Travel Exceptional
What is exceptional travel? It means stretching a little as a traveler, pushing out of your comfort zone to find unforgettable experiences.
Lend a hand. Immerse yourself more deeply in a new culture by volunteering for an organization you’re passionate about. Intermediary sites like Go Overseas are a good resource for finding trips in nearly every country around the world, from Costa Rica to Ghana.
Farm like a local. Agritourism provides a window into farm life around the world. Opportunities range from simple, work-free stays—think of a B&B in a rural setting—to getting your hands dirty in exchange for room and board (try WWOOF if you’re into the latter).
Let the kids decide. Traveling with little ones requires creativity to find activities that keep everyone satisfied. When your schedule allows, let the kids run the show, from choosing the route on a road rip to picking the restaurant. It’s empowering, educational, and—bonus—just might cut down on travel-induced complaints.
Work up a sweat. Sign up for a local yoga class, even if you don’t speak the language. Walk from your hotel to a lookout point, or to that museum across town. Getting physical is a quick way to see more and experience more. And you don’t have to sign up for an Ironman; it can be as easy as skipping the train and renting a bike.
Travel unplugged. Sure, Instagram the breathtaking view and update your location on Facebook, but remember the most important memory card is your brain. For a least one day of your trip, try to suppress the urge to view every croissant through the Valencia filter—if it’s a struggle, put your phone on airplane mode.
Eat In. Eating is one of best ways in to a culture, and sometimes that means skipping the four-star restaurant. A home-cooked meal from a local may wind up as the highlight of your trip and, thanks to apps like Eat With or Eat With a Local, it’s now easier than ever to find a friendly host.
Learn a lesson. Snagging souvenirs for friends will always be a must but consider acquiring something less…tangible while traveling. Learn to strum a ukulele while in Hawaii or how to make washi paper in Japan—your friends will (probably) thank you.
Jump in! Observation is key when traveling (how else would we ever figure out how to take the metro in a new city?), but don’t hesitate to participate. Instead of sitting back and watching the locals dance to salsa music, get on your feet and join them.
Think small. Big, grand events can take your breath away, but don’t forget that the small and unknown can do the same. Attend a Mississippi radio show in a sea full of books, taste banana liqueur at the oldest distillery in Athens, or search for street art in a maze of Marrakech alleys. Take a step further into the little treasures of your destination.
Clear the calendar. Filling up every moment of every day with activities can add a lot of pressure to your trip. Make sure to save space for serendipity while exploring your destination. Ask locals about their favorite thinking spot, or find your own, completely free of looming reservations.
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I hereby nominate Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for Freakiest First Impression by a major metropolis. DAVID FARLEY
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We crossed a nearly dry creek by hopping hand in hand from one downed log to another and were back in time for lunch, before hunger, fatigue, or boredom could set in. It was a parent’s—and child’s—dream hike. JEREMY SAUM
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Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of being a cowgirl. Now, years later, I find myself living my childhood fantasy—in Ecuador. JEN MURPHY
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We happened to be at the farm during the October harvest and helped Vlado’s friendly crew rake the olives from the trees, taking frequent breaks for gemišt—white wine and sparkling water. DAVINA BAUM
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Jen Murphy, Exceptional Travel Experiences Curator

Jen is deputy editor at AFAR.
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Aislyn Greene, Exceptional Travel Experiences Curator

Aislyn is an associate editor at AFAR.