10 Life-Changing Trips

We don’t subscribe to the idea of a bucket list. Every trip is life-changing, in some way or another. Whether it gets us out of our comfort zone, gives us a new perspective on the world, or just lets us breathe a little deeper—there’s just no need to be checking things off a list. Here are a few places that could change your life.

Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
The secret to having a good time in Bagan has nothing to do with getting there - all that takes is faith in a Burmese pilot and his ancient aircraft, or an unwavering belief that your 13-hour bus ride from Yangon will actually deliver you to the dusty plains before all your hair turns grey (update: travelers now have the options of new turboprop airplanes and the new highway means that drive time is now approximately seven hours). The secret is in finding a new way to look at the temples themselves, at just the right time of day, and in just the right light. I’ll never understand why most visitors cluster together to climb one pagoda when the plains are littered with thousands of others that afford anyone willing to visit a wholly new perspective on an oft-visited place. This is the way I look at every destination, whether new, old, untamed or untrammeled.
C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
The art nouveau buildings of Antoni Gaudí, the 19th-century architect whose works are some of Barcelona’s most iconic sights, can be seen throughout Catalonia, but Barcelona has the best examples of his genius at work. Former residences of upper-class families, the Casa Milà (or La Pedrera), at 261-265 Provença, and Casa Batlló, at 43 Passeig de Gràcia, have their fair share of intricate wrought iron balconies and striking mosaic work to catch the eye. They can’t compare, however, with Gaudí’s imposing, and to date unfinished, church, the Sagrada Família. At a minimum, take a tour of one of these buildings—we recommend making time for all three.
San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagasta, Chile
San Pedro de Atacama is a beautiful adobe-esque town on the edge of Atacama Desert in Chile, just west of the Bolivian border. I took this photo in near by Valle De Luna, while I was mountain biking through a virtual moonscape of natural geography. The air is so dry and clear here, you get these amazing colors from sunsets. This wild cloud formation just formed before our eyes, and the setting sun painted this crimson red.... an amazing sight. You have to fly into Calama, (90 min bus to San Pedro), or you overland for a couple days from Uyuni, Bolivia and cross the border into San Pedro. The evenings are full of festive small bars with fireplaces and good fun. Try Andes Traveller to rent bikes or horses (www.andestraveller.com.ar). Go hike or bike through Valle de Luna and get lost in time. You can trek, sandboard, see flamingos at the nearby Las Flamencos national reserve, and hot springs; all very close to town. Shot with velvia film and tripod. nikon f100 no filters or heavy processing, just natural magic light!
Calle PV. # 12 Tibilo Villa, Lagunas 16551, Peru
Piranha fishing...pink dolphin sightings...holding a caimen...beautiful day explorations by skiff and canoe along the Ucayali River and in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Add to jaw-dropping explorations, the 5-star comfort of the Aqua Amazon with large, comfortable and well-designed, air-conditioned staterooms with picture windows allowing the world to float by as you relax, showers big enough for two, great cuisine, and an amazing staff—as well as congenial company on board in an intimate, yet spacious, cruise. Just 12 cabins means no crowds, just fun at mealtimes and in the salon/bar. Excellent, knowledgeable river guides are from the Amazon—so they know it, and the wildlife, intimately.
Av. Juárez S/N, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The imposing, white-domed wedding cake now known as Palacio de Bellas Artes was originally planned as a national theater, and construction was begun in 1904. The Mexican Revolution, among other things, postponed its completion until 1934, which explains the stark contrast between its creamy art nouveau exterior (note amazing iron- and stonework with local motifs like serpents) and its art-deco-inspired interior, finished in black and red marbles, and with walls that feature dazzling murals by Rivera, Siqueiros, and other postrevolutionary masters. Today the beloved edifice is home to a concert hall, exhibition areas given over to blockbuster shows, and Mexico’s National Architecture Museum; take an auditorium tour—or better yet, see a performance—to lay eyes on the theater’s magnificent Tiffany glass “curtain,” a mosaic formed (they say) by more than 1 million separate glass components.
20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA, UK
William and Kate’s wedding brought a 21st-century focus to this 700-year-old abbey, which is built on the same spot as a Benedictine monastery enlarged by Edward the Confessor in the 1040s. The site of every coronation since 1066, it boasts an ornate Gothic architecture that gives it a statuesque presence, dominating Parliament Square; it’s easy to combine with a visit to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament next door.
Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania
As easy as it would be to spend an entire trip to Zanzibar lazing around on soft-sand beaches, it’s well worth skipping an hour or two of sunbathing to see Stone Town, the ancient district of Zanzibar. With its narrow cobblestoned streets, intricately carved front doors, and an array of alley cats slinking past your ankles, Stone Town has a charm that you’ll find in few places on earth. Historically, Stone Town was a flourishing capital for the spice and slave trades, which attracted businessmen from across the globe. They introduced different architectural styles as they built their homes and businesses, creating a unique blend of Arabic, Persian, Indian, European, and African buildings in the city. Explore the market where locals still shop and haggle for goods, and then settle at a table at one of the many rooftop bars to enjoy the sunset.
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