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6 Totally Transformative Trip Ideas

In celebration of the latest season of our podcast Travel Tales by AFAR and the new listener-submitted feature “Tiny Travel Tales,” let these concepts for your next getaway inspire a personal revolution in the form of a far-flung adventure.

6 Totally Transformative Trip Ideas

Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your current—and future—adventures.

What seemingly small travel moments have had the most profound impact on your life? In the newest season of Travel Tales by AFAR, we’re featuring “Tiny Travel Tales,” short stories from listeners like you that recount their most transformative experiences abroad. From discovering Iceland’s surreal nature to making personal connections with locals in Peru, these are the moments that challenge and change us—what makes travel so powerfully rewarding. Inspired by how these stories from everyday people embody our belief in the transformative impact of travel, we dreamed up some trip ideas to help plan your next life-changing journey. And subscribe to Travel Tales by AFAR now to hear even more stories that will inspire your own Tiny Travel Tale.

1. Shop Paris to discover your personal style

While shopping in France’s capitol, California native Maxine discovered how differently Parisians look at the appearance of things. “In Paris, nothing is too odd to be thought delightful,” she learned, which changed the way Maxine used her wardrobe to express herself. Her shopping experiences in the City of Light have been so transformative, she says most of what she’s learned in life she learned in a French shop, from yielding to temptation to “discovering her wow.” Hear more of her story in the Tiny Travel Tale below.

AFAR · Tiny Travel Tales - Maxine Schur
User 658762672 · Tiny Travel Tales - Maxine Schur
If you’re looking to find your own “wow” through French fashion, it’s Paris you need. Check into Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel, located steps from the Champs Elysees and its world-famous luxury boutiques. Open since 1929, this Art Deco hotel with its sweeping views of the iconic skyline will instantly inspire you to embrace your own French flair. After exploring the Champs Elysees, grab a croissant and enjoy the nearby Tuileries gardens where you’ll see Parisian street style on full display. Head back out to shop the rest of the Triangle d’Or, one of Paris’ most emblematic shopping districts, before it’s back to the hotel to enjoy a classic Gallic dinner, complete with French wine, at the hotel’s Bar 19.20.

2. Savor unexpected cuisine along Lake Maggiore, Italy

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One of the Borromean Islands in Lake Maggiore // Photo by Fabio Fistarol/Unsplash

Nigel and his wife got off the train from Milan to Lake Maggiore to discover pouring rain and not a taxi in sight. They struggled to communicate their need for a taxi to the owner of a restaurant before he ultimately insisted on giving them a ride. Cramming their luggage into his tiny car, he fed them bread torn straight off a loaf and prosciutto along the way. When he dropped them off, he asked for nothing in return—leaving Nigel and his wife in awe of the kind gesture and oddly delightful Italian meal. Get the complete tale in the player below.

AFAR · Tiny Travel Tales - Nigel Simpson
User 658762672 · Tiny Travel Tales - Nigel Simpson
To experience Lake Maggiore’s culinary delights and easygoing lifestyle for yourself, book a sun-filled room with a mountain view at the Giardino Ascona, a Member of Design Hotels™. The hotel’s Ecco restaurant boasts two Michelin stars and celebrates local, seasonal ingredients with an inspired, rotating menu of international plates. Start your day at Lake Maggiore by renting a boat or hopping aboard the ferry. Afterwards, take in the pastel buildings, 12th-century promenade, and Old Town of Locarno where you’ll find plenty of family-owned eateries in the nooks and crannies of its cobblestone streets. By early evening, hop on the funicular and cable car to Cimetta for panoramic views over the lake at sunset.

3. Explore Iceland’s otherworldly natural beauty

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Diamond Beach, Iceland // Photo by Agnieszka Mordaunt/Unsplash

Jacek Gancarz discovered a Jules Verne novel come-to-life during a summer trip to Iceland. He cruised past traditional farmhouses and diamond-like icebergs on black sand beaches. Sheep congregated by the roadside as the sun set but twilight lingered for hours after the tour buses disappeared. The landscape before him was one he’d longed to see for over 20 years and he was overcome by its enchanting mysteries–puffins, volcanos, and friendly horses all included. Listen to this Tiny Travel Tale below.

AFAR · Tiny Travel Tales - Jacek Gancarz
User 658762672 · Tiny Travel Tales - Jacek Photo
Even the most well-traveled person will feel like they’ve landed on a different planet after touching down in Iceland. The Reykjavik EDITION hotel located by the old Harbor Port makes for a comfortable base for setting out on boat excursions to watch the Northern Lights or to look for whales, depending on the season. In the heart of Iceland’s capital, it’s also only ten minutes away from the ethereal geothermal pools of Sky Lagoon. The best way to see the country’s natural beauty is to rent a car and head out to the Golden Circle, a well-traveled loop that takes you to the famous Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir geothermal area, and Thingvellir National Park. And for another side of nature here, make sure to stop for a tomato soup at Fridheimar Farm’s greenhouse.

4. Connect with locals and the outdoors in Peru

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Lake Titicaca // Photo by Sandro Ayalo/Unsplash

Brian took Caroline, a friend’s daughter, to Peru as a college graduation celebration and welcome distraction from the grief of her older brother Scotty’s death. At one point during their adventure, which included hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a guide pointed out a low-flying hawk and noted, “Surely, that is your brother here with us”. As they drove away and it began to rain, they turned around for one last glimpse to see a rainbow arching from a lake to a hilltop’s peak. Click play to hear the whole story.

AFAR · Tiny Travel Tales - Brian McCaffrey
User 658762672 · Tiny Travel Tales - Brian McCaffrey
To experience the profound peace of the Peruvian Andes, settle yourself in for a stay at the Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Leave in the morning from Tambo del Inka’s private train station to Machu Picchu and spend a day wandering the magical ruins of the ancient Incan civilization. Visit the hotel’s Hawa restaurant for a cozy dinner beside a fireplace, overlooking the Urubamba River over meals designed from organic, local ingredients. The next day, take a private tour through Chinchero, a rustic mountain town famous for its Peruvian weavings and to the salt ponds of Salineras.

5. Find yourself and coastal treasures on a solo trip to Wales

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Cardiff Bay // Photo by Nick Fewings/Unsplash

Louise Trotter didn’t choose solo travel. She stumbled into it when her 15-year marriage suddenly dissolved. When venturing on her own to Wales, she meticulously planned out an itinerary that left no room for downtime or down feelings. Yet, opting to chance a last-minute visit to Saint Govan’s Chapel at the end of a long day, Louise found herself on a cliffside looking back to the tiny home built by a 6th century hermit and realized she was alone, but not lonely in the least. Check out the full telling below.

AFAR · Tiny Travel Tales - Louise Trotter
User 658762672 · Tiny Travel Tales - Louise Trotter
Upon arriving at the Cardiff Marriott Hotel, you’ll find yourself in the heart of Cardiff City. After sampling some local specialties at the hotel’s Market Kitchen, head out to explore the city. First stop: Cardiff Castle, just steps from the hotel. In addition to more than 2,000 years of history, be sure to check out the current events calendar at the castle for outdoor concerts, movie screenings, and more. Next, climb aboard a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour with stops at Cardiff Bay and the National Museum of Wales. From Cardiff Bay, walk across the Barrage to Penarth, a charming seaside town with plenty of space to wander and discover.

6. A trip through Copenhagen’s history of Black American jazz

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Assistens Cemetery // Photo by Jonas Smith/Unsplash

Professor Ethelene Whitmire visited Copenhagen on a whim, falling so in love she went back 15 times since 2013. On one visit, while taking a shortcut through the cemetery, she noticed a very non-Danish name on a headstone: “Ben Webster.” Later that day (and for years to come), Professor Whitmire would discover how, beginning in the late 1950s, Webster and many more Black American jazz musicians sought out the tolerance, musical appreciation, and opportunities in Copenhagen. Learn more when you listen here.

AFAR · Tiny Travel Tales - Ethelene Whitmire
User 658762672 · Tiny Travel Tales - Whitmire
Today, to get a real sense for the jazz scene in the Danish capital, begin your journey by checking into the Nobis Hotel Copenhagen, a Member of Design Hotels™. The 75-room Nobis Hotel is housed in the former Royal Danish Conservatory of Music. You can visit Ben Webster’s grave for yourself at Assistens Cemetery, where Danes frequently stroll, picnic, or bike among its lush greenery. Only a few blocks away, you’ll hear jazz leaking out nightly from Blågård’s Apotek, one of many laidback jazz bars in Copenhagen. La Fontaine (the oldest in the city), Charlie Scott’s, and Jazzhus Montmartre, where Webster once played, are other must-visits while in town. For the ultimate musical experience here, plan your visit in July to experience the city’s Jazz Festival.

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