Get Lost… And Find Yourself
Fuel your wanderlust with restorative travel that nourishes your soul. From marvelling at the picturesque landscapes of Central Asia to getting your hands dirty at a local organic farm in New Zealand, here are some of the most life-changing experiences that you will never forget
More than merely posing for selfies at major tourist spots, an increasing number of us are opting for trips that give us more than photographic memories—but also experiences that expand our horizons. So whether you’re taking time off your daily routine to unwind and recharge, or going on a sabbatical to recalibrate your life goals, these transformational journeys will truly open your heart and mind.
Go Back To Basics
There is no denying the benefits of going green, which explains why more urbanites are making a conscious decision to adopt a healthier, cleaner lifestyle. Get a first-hand look at the ins and outs of an organic farm by volunteering with World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (WWOOF) in New Zealand. Simply sign up as a member (with a small fee) to get access to hundreds of organic or biodynamic farmers who own properties like vineyards and apiaries. During your stay with your WWOOF hosts, you’ll get to try out a variety of tasks, including harvesting, sowing seed and making wine. And since your hosts are extremely knowledgeable about sustainable farming practices, be sure to pick up tips on living a more environmentally-friendly life. Most stays are about one to two weeks long but you are free to make arrangements with your hosts directly. More importantly, make the most of your stay and participate actively in your host family’s daily activities for a taste of the local way of life. After all, what could be more personal and memorable than forging heartfelt connections with like-minded people? Find out more at www.newzealand.com/sg/feature/wwoof.
Explore The Real Winter Wonderland
Situated in the northernmost region of Finland, the remote Lapland is one of the best places to witness Aurora Borealis (also known as Northern Lights) as it gets dark enough to see the dancing lights for most part of the year from late August to April. Score yourself a front row ticket to Mother Nature’s most beautiful light show by sleeping in a glass igloo amidst all that vastness and wilderness. Check out the ones at Kakslauttanen, as they offer unforgettable views and come complete with private saunas, fireplaces and kitchenettes. Plus, you can also explore the snow-capped lands on husky sleds or go on a reindeer safari and interact with the local Sami people for an authentic Finnish experience. For more information, visit www.visitfinland.com/lapland.
Known as the “Yoga Capital of the World”, Rishikesh came into the spotlight after the Beatles visited in the late 60s. Since then, it has been the go-to destination for those seeking spiritual enlightenment. With its community of ashrams, many aspiring yogis have flocked here to learn from gurus. Take your time to learn about the different styles of yoga (including laughter yoga), and while you’re at it, immerse yourself with fellow pilgrims and take part in the river worship ceremony. You can also practice meditation, try your hand at crystal healing and treat yourself to ayurvedic massages for a holistic and restorative experience. In addition, thanks to its location on the rapids of the Ganges, it is also becoming a rafting and kayaking hotspot, and has several scenic hiking trails where you can reconnect with nature. A place that combines spiritual awakening with being at one with the elements? We can’t think of any other place more conducive for cleansing your mind and refocusing your energy.
Help Save Mother Earth
Whether it is rescuing sea turtles in Bali, cleaning up coral in Cuba or caring for baby animals at a wildlife orphanage in Zimbabwe, there’s nothing as exhilarating as being on the frontline of the action. Adrenalin junkies can try working with Great White sharks in Gansbaai, South Africa, where the world’s most awe-inspiring predators congregate. Through Go Eco, you will be linked with a Fair Trade Tourism and Blue Flag-certified research and eco-tourism organisation which promotes marine conservation, as well as education outreach. Expect to assist with daily dive operations like preparing wetsuits, or participating in shark cage diving — how exciting! Not only will you get the chance to observe marine wildlife up close in their natural habitat, you also get to learn from marine biologists. Volunteer periods range from one to twelve weeks, during which you can also opt to help out with whale conservation, or kill two birds with one stone and get your scuba certification. For more information on volunteer programmes, visit www.goeco.org.
Take The Road Less Travelled
Step outside of your comfort and push the limit of your imagination by exploring the charming cities that dot the ancient Silk Road. Spanning Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Silk Road was the heart of commercial and cultural exchange between the East and West for over 1000 years, spanning over the eras of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Yet, as many modern day Central Asian countries struggle with post-Soviet Union independence, the rate of development across the region is still unsteady and uneven. So don’t be surprised to see well-heeled women dressed head-to-toe in designer garb in urban Kazakhstan while others still lead a basic and nomadic lifestyle in Kyrgyzstan. Despite this, you’ll be in for a treat as you discover the rich, diverse and complex cultural influences in these city. Between taking in Uzbekistan’s exquisite Islamic architecture in Samarkand, Kazakhstan’s impressive skyscrapers in Astana and going trekking in Kyrgyzstan’s breath-taking Alay Valley while staying with local nomads, we dare you not to fall in love with the picturesque landscapes and the beauty in humanity’s diversity. For more activity recommendations and tour itineraries, visit www.lonelyplanet.com/central-asia.