The festive season is upon us, and many stores around the globe are bracing themselves for frantic discounts and crazy sales. Did you know that in 2014 the average person spent $380 on Black Friday?! Did you also know that you could instead take a 10 day trip to Barcelona from London for around $250? While of course there are many wonderful reasons to buy gadgets and other material possessions around the holidays, we humbly offer a wanderlusty alternative. After all, even science says that experiences are better than things 😉 Whether you’re able to gallivant across the globe, or you’re better suited to explore your own country, here are 50 travel experiences that are WAY better than material things.
1. Discover a hidden bar
We’re ALL about the little secrets only the locals know about. Whether it’s a secret jazz speakeasy or a tucked away dessert and cocktail bar, if you do a little snooping, you can find a watering hole that will fill your travel diary with stories.
2. Stay up all night at a festival with friends
There are so many incredible festivals around the world these days, you’re bound to be able to find one that suits your budget and music taste. From those awesome, lesser-known festivals to the larger than life extravaganzas, festivals can be life-changing. FYI, Resident Advisor has some KILLER recommendations!
3. Go surfing – down a volcano!
Not your average funfair slide 😉 You seriously haven’t truly lived until you’ve gone Volcano boarding.
4. Get a travel tattoo
Taking into consideration the long term-ness of getting a tattoo, if you’re going to get one make sure it’s something you’re passionate about … like travel. Mark yourself with a symbol of your nomadic escapades, or to take it a step further and get a travelling tattoo somewhere far away or far from home. It will be a story that you can retell in the future with everyone you meet. For something a little different, read Will’s account of what it’s like to get inked by legendary tribal tattoo artist Whang Od .
5. Take an architecture tour…
Learning about the history and meaning behind a city’s buildings will really help you to embrace a new city as if it were your own.
6. …Or a graffiti tour
In many cities, even in the smaller ones, you can admire their street art. Even better, these days many big cities have professional graffiti and urban art tours that are dedicated to telling the history of this artistic movement and the works you see in context. The funny thing, street art can change from one day to another. London is a great showcase of urban art, a great place to do one of these tours.
7. Find a hidden waterfall
Oooo we love a bit of off-the-beaten-track goodness! Why trudge around all the touristy hotspots when so many countries around the world have less well-known gems just waiting for you. It’s hard to beat the feeling of finding a gorgeous waterfall that isn’t obscured by a forest of selfie-sticks.
8. Sleep in a capsule
You won’t wake up in space and it won’t be the most beautiful place to stay, but it will be one of the most interesting! Sleeping in a capsule hostel is like sleeping in a small cabin where you’ll have your own bed, bed light, locker, television, WiFi and USB ports. We assure you that nobody will be able to see what happens inside. You can be isolated AND have roommates!
9. Stargaze under a foreign sky
Stargazing is underrated. Too often we get a little wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of city life and need to escape for a while. Anyone who’s ever taken a little time out to ponder life’s mysteries while basking in the majesty of an unknown sky knows the feeling we’re talking about. Hint: you might wanna try the view from Skyewalker Hostel, Scotland 😉
10. Skinny dip with new mates
Not likely to find a crowd of budding skinny dippers at the local fancy hotel. But hostel crowds often don’t need very much convincing to try a little wild swimming and/or skinny dipping.
11. Get colourful at the Holi Festival
One of the most colourful, passionate and beautiful festivals in the world, the Holi festival is one for everyone’s bucket list. Seriously, go write it on yours. Now! If you can’t make it all the way to India, you can now experience some of the chaos and colour in loads of cities around the world.
12. Attend the biggest water battle in the world
Something you’ll never forget is spending New Year’s in Thailand – but theirs! (It takes place in April). Water is a purifying element and you’ll see people pouring water on Buddhas in the temples. The most animated part of the celebrations will be the water battle of the Songkran Festival, the largest in the world. Ready to soak?
13. Be amazed by the Northern Lights
Iceland. Canada. Alaska. Wherever you choose to see the Northern Lights, you won’t regret it. No Instagram filter or DSLR camera in the world can substitute for experiencing the real thing.
14. Don’t forget about the Southern Lights
The often overlooked but amazing Southern Lights are the polar reflection of their Northern counterpart. The lights can be seen in the Southern hemisphere, with New Zealand being a particularly popular viewing destination.
15. Walk on different coloured sands
16. Try a food you swore you’d never try
Scorpions on a stick? Fried Spider? Chicken Feet? Take your pick! #omnomnom
17. Keep a travel diary
Every day we talk with bloggers and Instagrammers who spend their time documenting their journeys. Travelling changes lives and the details of your adventures will provide inspiration for your future self as well as all those you wish to share them with.
18. Conquer that pesky fear of heights
It’s a phobia shared by millions around the world, but while you’re out adventuring, it’s the perfect time to stay out of your comfort zone and plunge back to earth from a terrifying height, be it through skydiving, bungee jumping or another method.
19. Learn a local traditional dance
Museums, cafes and hostels are all wonderful parts of a backpacking experience, but one way to really get to know the beauty of a new culture is to jump in with two feet. Where possible, look for classes or opportunities to learn a traditional dance of the people whose culture you’re experiencing.
20. Learn to cook a local traditional dish
📷: Ansy Dupiton
Along the same lines, almost nothing helps you get to the heart of a new culture like tasting it. Many hostels have open kitchens, which are perfect for crash courses in local cuisine. Enlist a local, a hostel-mate to teach you, and bond over your mutual taste bud explosion!
21. Practice outdoor yoga
📷: Adrina Bräm
Sometimes you just have to get away. Yoga, fitness and well being are high on most travellers’ priority list, but the experience of channelling some inner peace and solace while communing with nature is not only totally recommended, it’s unparalleled.
22. Sleep in a tree house
Should we really have to explain this one? DO IT. Book your stay at Kadir’s Tree House hostel now.
23. Start a postcard collection
Technology has made documenting one’s travels so much easier than it used to be. But sometimes the classics are the classics for a reason. Use your postcard collection can tell your story.
24. Take a mud bath
Let those pores spring back into life with a luxurious natural mud bath.
25. Treat yo self!
Travelling is no time to be calorie-counting! Sweeten your experience with new flavours such as Mexican churros, Belgian chocolates or treats from the streets of Tokyo!
26. Experience the carnival in Rio de Janerio
Every year is a new opportunity to enjoy the biggest party in Brazil, which goes on for 5 days without stopping! It’s very easy to pull together a costume with just some accessories and dance to the rhythm of the “carnival blocos”. You’ll find some street bands play samba as early as 8am throughout the city. Learn to say a few words in Brazilian and go live the carnival of Rio de Janeiro like a local.
27. Celebrate the Day of the Dead
If you’re lucky enough to visit Mexico in late October-early November, you’ll fall in love with this special celebration that pays homage to loved ones who have passed away. For Mexicans, death is nothing more than a step towards eternity – so instead of fearing it, they celebrate it! Join in the festivities and paint a skull on your face at the colourful parade of the Day of the Dead.
28. Enjoy the freedom of a road trip
Some countries feel like they were designed with road tripping in mind. The US and Canada are perfect examples, with their vast highways full of jaw-dropping scenery and thousands of miles of open roads.
29. Explore a new city by bike
London and Amsterdam are cities famous for their clever and easy to manage bike access, but many other cities around the globe are following suit. Of course be safe with your bike, but if you’re able to, exploring a new city by bike is an experience like no other.
30. Go somewhere new on your own
If you’ve never tried solo travel, it’s time to reconsider your life decisions! 😉 Jk but seriously, some of the best stories and experiences we hear about on a daily basis are from travellers who ventured off into the world on a solo adventure. As Bill Bryson once said: “I love the feeling of being anonymous in a city I’ve never been to before.” Agreed Bill.
31. Try a 24 hr social media detox
Being out in the world, especially while adventuring provides a blessed opportunity for one to disconnect from the frantic media consumption frenzy that is our everyday life. It brings a sense of peace and calm that is rarely felt in the digital age.
32. Spend the day helping others
Pretty much everywhere you go there will be opportunities to help and volunteer, especially in less developed countries. We like to think a good rule of thumb is for travellers to leave a location a little better than they found it, and that is certainly possible through all the different service programs out there. Check with your hostel and they’ll point you in the right direction.
33. Wake up next to the beach
Again, no explanation needed. Just make sure you do it sometime 😉 It’s unbelievable.
34. Chill out in a giant hammock
A giant hammock, people! GIANT. HAMMOCK. If you want this hammock in your life, book a stay at Casa Elemento hostel pronto.
35. New country, new coffee
Discovering new incredible coffee shops never gets old!
36. Take a surf lesson
Many hostels by the sea offer surf lessons. When in Rome etc…
37. See wild animals in their natural habitat
This just never gets old. We believe in being responsible travellers, and not supporting any attractions or businesses that profit off of cruelty to captive animals. But there are some phenomenal places around the globe that allow you to visit and experience animals in their own habitat. Breath-taking stuff.
38. Cheer for the local sports team
Anyone who’s ever travelled during a World Cup will know that one of the happiest experiences in the world is experiencing the euphoria of celebrating a local team’s victory with their local native fans. If you can get to the stadium, great. But sometimes the local viewing parties at bars and pubs can have a turbo-charged atmosphere that will leave a lasting impression on your soul.
39. Explore a forbidden place
You didn’t hear it from us, but some of the coolest places in the world are actually the abandoned ones 😉
40. See the midnight sun
This phenomenon occurs during the summer months in polar circles. If you visit countries in the north such as Greenland, Norway, Finland or Sweden, you will enjoy daylight 24 hours a day without interruption. For those who find winter gives them the slump when it gets dark too early, here is the perfect excuse to retire to bed when they want (or when they get kicked out of the bar!)
41. Flying in a hot air balloon
📷: Ouaffa Dk
Although you can fulfil this dream in various parts of the world, one of the best places to do it is in Cappadocia, in Turkey, while you watch the sunrise. Once you’re up floating in the air, it will amaze you to see how the sky fills with different coloured balloons, plus the unique rock formations of this area. On the other hand, the silence up there is only broken by the expressions of admiration by your companions. It’s not a cheap experience, but it is totally worth it because the memory will last longer than many of your material gifts.
42. Meditate on the heights
Meteora means “suspended in the air” in Greek and this is how you’ll find this group of monasteries in its province of Thessaly. The hermit monks here have the ideal place for prayer and retreat; far from the rest the world and up there, closer to God. Of the 24 monasteries that once existed, today there are just 6 and all can be visited. They are still active so you’ll have the chance to see some monks and nuns. In this area, in addition to enjoying the scenery, you can trek and explore the old paths used by the monks when there were no roads. There are also many amazing walls for climbing. Meditation and active tourism, what a combination!
43. Skiing with friends
At least once in your life, you deserve an adventure in the snow. But we’ll let you in on a secret: a ski getaway doesn’t have to be expensive. You can choose one of the cheapest European destinations and above all, sleep in a hostel. Wake up with your friends in a large room with laughter, and return exhausted to it, after a day of sports remembering all the anecdotes.
44. Give yourself a thermal bath in the city of spas
Swimming at night in a pool that’s 37ºC when it’s only 7ºC outside is a unique experience that you will not forget. The baths in Budapest were once very popular for curing diseases, but nowadays the most they can cure is your fatigue after a long day of sightseeing. The Széchenyi spa wins the hearts of many visitors with its opening hours (from six in the morning until ten at night). To take advantage of the spa at night, look out for the parties that are organised on weekends.
46. Test your luck at a casino
Sure, we don’t have to convince you to travel to Las Vegas: you can visit the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Venice .. everything in a single day is priceless. Marvel at the light shows and bet on roulette as if you were in a movie … You can even go to the casino early in the morning to play without anyone judging you! Of course, this is the city of sin but show no remorse, even for the amount of food you will eat. In Las Vegas, you can find everything, and for all budgets: sinful pancake towers, hamburgers bigger than your head, buffets from which you can roll out …
47. Take a selfie with a penguin
You don’t have to go to the frozen Antarctic coasts to look for penguins – African penguins like to sunbathe! Boulders Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand 90km from Cape Town, where a colony of penguins roam freely and interact with human visitors. An unforgettable experience for any animal lover looking for travelling inspiration.
48. Take a pilgrimage through the Camino de Santiago
How about a trip where you learn to live as a minimalist, detoxify from technology, find spiritual peace, get in touch with nature, get fit and just spend money? Oh, and of course, meet fellow travellers? What are you waiting for? The best thing about this adventure is that it’s available at any time of the year. This city receives pilgrims every day, with happy faces, ready to enjoy Galician gastronomy and recover the lost kilos from all that walking. Do you need more reasons to do the Camino de Santiago?
49. Read a book in one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores
In Buenos Aires make sure you visit Ateneo Grand Splendid, an old theatre from 1919 that has been converted into a bookstore. The stage behind the red velvet curtains, where ballets and operas were once performed (and the first sound films Buenos Aires shown), now functions as a bar where you can have a drink while you browse or read a book and listen to tango or classical music. This space still retains its former splendour, and its three floors full of books will make you spend a good time there, and take a couple of photos.
50. Visit one of the best Christmas markets in Europe
Experience Christmas in a special way in Europe at the Christmas markets. Dress up warm in a good coat, put on your hat and gloves and enjoy the decoration, the lights and the atmosphere … it will almost make you believe in Santa Claus again. Try some roasted chestnuts, drink a glass of mulled wine or even ice skate. And if in the end you can’t avoid buying a material gift for your loved ones (or yourself), what better place to buy it than here.
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