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Travel to these 13 places if you want more than just a vacation

You can learn a lot by traveling to these places.

Travel to these 13 places if you want more than just a vacation
[Photo: Fynn schmidt/Unsplash]

Certain travel destinations have the power to teach us something new and surprising and drastically alter our perspective on ourselves and the world. We may discover a spiritual connection to a certain culture, learn more about our roots, discover how to unplug and more deeply connect to the people we love, or find that a place inspires us creatively or professionally.

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We asked the Thrive Global community to share their most meaningful travel memories from the past year to inspire our 2019 wanderlust.

A “someday” trip to Paris

“My sister and I had been talking about going to Paris together since we were little girls, but had never took the time to plan things out. It was always a ‘someday’ conversation when we talked about it. So we finally scheduled the trip after serving as my father’s caretakers at the end of his life. We realized how precious family time is, and we didn’t want to put it off any longer. It not only brought us closer, but also was a meaningful way to honor my father’s memory and his love of travel. Those moments will stay with us for the rest of our lives–especially seeing the sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower.”

—Mim Senft, CEO, Blooming Grove, NY

A transformational climb in Switzerland

“I went to the Berner Oberland region in Switzerland. I’d never seen such breathtaking beauty up until that point. Cowbells rang in the distance as livestock grazed. The air was crisp and clear. We made it to the top of Birg, which was the hardest physical and mental effort I’ve experienced. But the climb was transformational–my emotions ranged from fear, to anger, to awe, and gratitude. This unforgettable moment will hold a place in my heart for the rest of my life. I will definitely return there.”

—Tracy LaPorte, health and wellness coach, Alexandria, VA

A connect-to-your-heritage trip to Europe

“Visiting Berlin, Prague, and Amsterdam this past August was unforgettable. While I’m not particularly religious, I felt deeply connected to my Jewish heritage while learning how the Holocaust began in Berlin and then spread throughout much of Europe. The memorials in each city were especially touching, like Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Terezin Concentration Camp Memorial near Prague, and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, where I sobbed openly. It was a meaningful, enlightening, and surprisingly uplifting experience.”

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—Shira Miller, chief communications officer, Atlanta

Strengthening generational bonds at “The Happiest Place on Earth”

“The most meaningful destination I went to this year was Walt Disney World, with my family. Although it was hectic, this was a special trip for my mother who had wanted to go for years, and finally got the chance to go with her children and grandchildren. It reminded me of the joy and love of family life, which is something that can get lost as we strive to do our best in all areas of life everyday.”

—Rob Whitcomb, director, Rochester, NY

A bucket list trip to South Africa

“I loved South Africa, which was the destination on my husband’s bucket list. My daughters and I gave him that trip as a gift for his 65th birthday. South Africa, from the safari, to Cape Town and the Cape Winelands, was all a giant surprise! I encourage everyone to visit!”

—Allyson Altit, leisure travel expert, Israel

Slowing down amid the natural beauty of Sedona

“My husband, parents, and I went to Sedona, AZ, in the late fall of 2018, and took in its natural beauty. It really gave us the opportunity to slow down, breathe, talk for hours while hiking, and focus on what’s important in life: family and health. We are planning more family vacations this year based on experiences–rather than just locations to eat and drink–including Spain, Mexico, and Chile.”

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—Eve Dawes, founder, Las Vegas

Connecting over food, art, and nature in Costa Rica

“When my mother (who happens to be 93 years young) agreed to go on a family reunion with my adult children and grandchildren, we traveled to beautiful Costa Rica. Four generations of us connected over cooked meals, swimming, creating art, watching toucans, and ‘living outdoors’ at Sunrise Sunset Retreat on the central Pacific coast.”

—Pennie Sempell, health advocate, San Francisco

A life-changing journey to Nepal

“In 2018, I traveled to Nepal to hike. When I came home, everything changed. I let go of the old habits that didn’t work for me, and realized that I had been living in a box with the hopes of playing it safe. After that trip, I decided to build on the inspiration that I found in Nepal. So in 2019, I am manifesting my dream and moving to L.A. I have so much gratitude for what Nepal has shown me, and I am beyond excited for this new year!”

—Aleks Slijepcevic, project coordinator, Newark, DE

Walking through Holocaust history in Dachau

“The city that most impacted me was Dachau, and the WWII concentration camp tucked inside it. As a 22-year-old Jewish girl living in America, I had found the Holocaust’s atrocities to be soul-shattering, yet intangible. There’s also a stark difference between reading about and experiencing places. As my dad and I walked through the camp, I began to feel the pain of all those who lost their lives during WWII, and I physically ached. That visit, though heartbreaking, taught me about the importance of educating future generations so that we can learn from our mistakes. Exiting the gates of Dachau was nauseating, and an act that so many of my people have never experienced. But as we walked away, I vowed to always remember that moment.”

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—Samantha Sontag, Thrive Global Campus editor-at-large from University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Finding inspiration in Egypt

“The pyramids, tombs, museums, and monuments . . . despite consuming scores of books, websites, BBC documentaries, and DVDs, I was still unprepared for the stunning grandeur of the art and architecture of ancient Egypt. It was simultaneously humbling and uplifting. I had trouble wrapping my mind around the artistic and technological accomplishments of these humans from thousands of years ago!

“Interacting with the modern-day Egyptians, however, was the absolute best part of the trip for me. They were so warm and welcoming! I will never forget the children who raced along the banks of the Nile, waving madly, smiling, and yelling greetings to us as we sailed past. Fishermen in traditional dress, kids in school uniforms, teenage girls wearing jeans, T-shirts, and headscarves, and matrons in full hijab would all wave at us with shy smiles. Egypt has beautiful people, delicious food, sunshine, and pyramids–it was unforgettable!”

—Sharon Watts, emotional freedom techniques practitioner, Austin

Indulging your inner adventurer in Greenland

“Sometimes you choose a destination, and other times it chooses you. I’m grateful that I acted on my urge to travel to Greenland. Remote and unblemished, Greenland has a lot of appeal to the adventurous traveler–icebergs, whales, and postcard-perfect villages–but it was my time spent at Camp Ice Cap that changed me. For 24 hours, we hiked and explored the vast ice sheet, and at times, it was overwhelming to be only one of nine people atop the expanse of white/blue ice. I felt like I’d been on a spiritual pilgrimage.”

—Zoe Macfarlane, freelance travel writer, Auckland, NZ

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Celebrating the old and the new in Pompeii

“My husband and I had the privilege of touring Pompeii last fall during our honeymoon. It was an enlightening reminder of how short life is, which is something that we all readily acknowledge. Seeing a civilization taken by surprise during the eruption of nearby the Mount Vesuvius volcano was significant to us as newlyweds. We were in awe of this ancient Roman city’s modern function and form: from running water, spas, and deliberate urban planning, to homes with mosaic tile, courtyards, and atriums. Everything in this city was so well thought out, much like our own lives. It was another wake-up call for us to live each day to the fullest, to count our blessings and to be grateful for every modern-day luxury and to not take anything for granted.”

—Jennifer Zar, marketing, New York City

Immersing yourself in paradise (and finding inner peace) on Terceira

This article originally appeared on Thrive Global and is reprinted with permission.

“The enchanting island of Terceira, part of the Portuguese Azores and one of many archipelago islands, is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s paradise–unassuming and genuine. For me, it was a great place to test myself. I learned Portuguese on YouTube beforehand, I ran, wrote, and recorded songs. But I also found inner peace and a renewed belief in myself that I’m able to take on anything, even by myself. I plan to head back there in 2019!”

—Craig Dubecki, singer/musician, speaker, author, Ontario, Canada


This article originally appeared on Thrive Global and is reprinted with permission. 

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