Transformational trips

Travel Destinations, Travel Perspectives — By on March 9, 2010 at 7:32 am

You have the time. You have the money. And you want to do something different: take a trip that will transform your life. Or at least give you the sense that you’ve had a life-changing adventure. Travel & Leisure and MSNBC recently published a story about what they called midlife crisis trips, but the journeys they outlined were really all about “challenging yourself with something new.”

Jane Goldstein, a Boston corporate attorney, was turning 40 when she decided she needed to scale Kilimanjaro. Climbing for eight days with a cast of characters that included a recent widower, her best friend, and four Texans, Goldstein grew fond of the Kilimanjaro-trekker’s mantra of pole-pole, Swahili for “slowly.” It was, she says, “a wonderful pace of life.” Closing in on the summit, she realized the purpose of her trip: it made her feel like she could do anything.

Goldstein’s tale is hardly unusual—midlife restlessness is so common it seems like a cliché. But psychologists say it’s real: a period of discontent that can produce feelings of boredom, doubt, anger, and unease. Traveling has always been a remedy, but more people are forgoing cars and tattoos these days in favor of real-world exploration.

Other than climbing Kilimanjaro, though, what sort of journeys are we talking about? Here is a sample:

Photographing the Tibetan Plateau, Tibet: Environmentalists say the Tibetan plateau, an elevated landmass that spans Tibet, China, and India, is in imminent danger of melting. Learning-based workshops lead caravan tours throughout some of the more remote regions of the diminishing plateau—home to the highest percentage of Tibetans anywhere in Tibet, and a place where Tibetan culture is at its best preserved—with hands-on instruction on bringing home the sort of photos that’ll undoubtedly top the neighbors’ snaps of the Grand Canyon.

Biking through Umbria, Italy: Pedaling through expansive vineyards, olive groves, and medieval hill towns is visually rewarding in itself, but at the end of a good, long haul, what’s better than a celebratory glass of Orvieto? Group cycling trips through the Italian countryside expose travelers to new friends and make accessible foreign ground not typically covered, while good food and wine minimize the boot-camp feel. The best part? Seeing Italy without concern for calories.

Check out the full story for other ideas, everything from surfing in Fiji to teaching English in Cambodia to spending some time at the Esalen Institute in California.

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