A World of Wonder

Now, more than ever, we want to deepen our appreciation of nature around the planet—but rather than just see and do, we want to serve and protect.

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Photo by Carsten Snejbjerg

I recently joined AFAR as editorial director. One of the things that attracted me to the company was its mission-driven approach: Instead of treating travel as a means to escape from the world, AFAR inspires travelers to engage with it more deeply. Travel allows us to pause, take in our exquisite planet, open ourselves up to new cultures, and better understand the perspectives of other people. It’s what we celebrate all year long, though especially so in our new Earth issue, out now.

Divided into three sections—Air, Land, and Water—this issue will help you discover and deepen your appreciation for nature around the globe. We soar through the skies above Verbier, Switzerland, with a prominent female paraglider; go camping on the East End of Long Island, New York; and journey to Greenland, where climate change means the icebergs are disappearing—along with the rich language to describe them. We debut new columns, including Unpacked, which navigates the complex dichotomy between wanting to experience the world and the need to protect it from further ecological devastation. You can find excerpts of it all below. Travel well. —Sarika Bansal, Editorial Director

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Photo by Federico Ciamei

AIR

Are Carbon Offsets Worth It?

Carbon offsets may not be the be-all and end-all to eliminating emissions generated by travel, but they are a first step.

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Birding Around the World: A Beginner’s Guide

Once you begin bird-watching, no street, sky, or forest ever looks the same: Birds are everywhere, and their comings and goings tell stories most humans aren’t attuned to. Hiring a guide or joining a birding group is worthwhile, whether to open your eyes to nature around a city or to lead you across pristine bird habitats on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition.

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Women in the Sky

Soaring Through the Swiss Alps With a Champion Paraglider
“We can do a little ‘hike and fly,’ what do you think?” Yael Margelisch holds two official world records in women’s paragliding—including the longest distance covered in a single flight. Read her amazing story.

The Helicopter Pilot Saving Lives in the Himalayas
The only woman helicopter pilot in Nepal, Priya Adhikari takes travelers on scenic flights and has performed more than 1,000 rescue missions on some of the world’s highest peaks. Read her amazing story.

A Highflier Leading Safaris by Hot Air Balloon
Joyce Beckwith, the first Black woman hot air balloon pilot, works between Amboseli and the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. “In ballooning we learn every day,” she says. “Because the balloon is guided by the wind, no two flights will be the same.” Read her amazing story.

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Photo by Yuri Andries

LAND

The Future of Safaris

“I’ve now experienced close to a dozen safaris across the African continent, from Zimbabwe to Tanzania, and I’ve come to believe that the safari industry’s colonial vestiges should remain firmly in the past,” says AFAR special correspondent Jennifer Flowers. “Luckily, change is coming—albeit slowly.” A growing number of repeat safarigoers want to get out of the vehicle and dive deeper into more remote landscapes. Thankfully, safaris are embracing a more sustainable, diverse future.

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Exploring the Otherworldly Beauty of Ladakh by Motorcycle

The Belgium-based photographer Yuri Andries visited Ladakh, India, in 2017. He spent five weeks traveling the region on a motorcycle without a fixed itinerary, photographing people and landscapes. He discovered extremes everywhere he turned: May temperatures ranged from 86 degrees during the day to 20 degrees at night; apricot trees bloomed pink against stark gray hills; and warm, generous people brightened the lonely, sometimes inaccessible roads.

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The Joy of Trees

Trees. They’re all around us, beneath us, and above us. They allow us to breathe, heat, build, and eat—and, for many of us during the pandemic, they offered peace. Through the following stories, we say thanks. You’ll meet the planet’s most astonishing trees, explore the flourishing world of rewilding, and learn how to take a deeper, richer walk through the forest.

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Photo by Carsten Snejbjerg

WATER

The Future of Cruising

Cruisers are back on the water: dancing on open decks to live music, joining guided expeditions for close-up views of glaciers and penguins, and stepping off river ships to amble around such cities as Luxor, Egypt. In other words, they’re safely traveling.

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Making Waves

On an absurdly picturesque Thursday evening at Encinitas’s Moonlight State Beach, a stretch of white sand on the coast of Southern California, 50 of us circled up under a 100-foot-tall palm tree. Bryan Mineo, an enthusiastic 37 year old with the abs of a Marine and sleeve tattoos that reflect his dual passions in life—the ocean and music—gave us our brief. Sprint to the ocean with buoys, swim for 500 yards, exit to pick up beach trash, dive back in the water for another 500 yards, and emerge to pick up more litter. Rest, then repeat.

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How Climate Change Is Affecting Greenland’s Language

Greenland has a rich vocabulary for ice and snow. But what happens to language when those natural phenomena start to disappear? Could language really be that sensitive? In late summer, just a couple of weeks before the first snow traditionally arrives, I went to Ilulissat, whose very name translates as “icebergs,” to find out.

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>>Next: Colorado Could Soon Be Home to the World’s Largest Dark Sky Reserve

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