There's the typical relaxing by the beach vacation, and then there's the kind of life changing travel experience that helps you understand the world just a little bit better. While we are huge advocates of visiting all seven continents, we know budget and time-wise it's not possible for everyone. Lucky for you, we already did the homework. There are a few countries and attractions that really embody the region and four corners of the Earth so if you only make it to one spot in Europe, Asia and the like, you can get a good sense of the overarching heritage and traditions.
If you only take 5 epic trips in your lifetime, make this your shortlist.
Romanticized throughout Hollywood, Paris is one of the few places that actually does live up to the hype. It may even exceed expectations given that most Americans have such a negative impression of the prim and proper French (freedom fries, anyone?). Fall in love with the dazzling lights of the Eiffel tower, indulge in crepes and macrons to your heart’s content, and marvel at the fabulous window displays on the Champs-Elysees as you're transported to a completely different place and time.
There are plenty of reasons to want to go down under from scuba diving in the Great Barrier reef to beautifully modern, urban Sydney. From the beaches to unique marsupials, life in Aussie-land is unlike anywhere else on the planet. A laid-back surfer lifestyle, explore the outback, experience aboriginal tribes, travel to the red center, and eat your heart out with world-class cuisine.
You haven't lived until you've gotten up close and personal with nature, seeing a giraffe, elephant or lion in the wild. For the iconic safari experience, head to Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya to catch the wildebeest migration, Kruger National Park in South Africa for a self-drive excursion or Serengeti National Park in Tanzania for the classic African landscape.
Quintessential Asia, Bangkok is chaotic, cheap and fabulous. With massage parlors and custom tailors on every corner, you'll live like a king and be amazed at how far your dollar stretches. Four star hotels like the Mandarin Oriental have a much higher standard of luxury with private butlers and multi-course meals. Wander the crowded and crazy Thai markets in search of clothes and trinkets, take a cooking class and cruise the ornate, gilded temples to pay respects to the guarded Buddha statues.
One of the new seven world wonders of the world, Machu Picchu is a journey as much as the destination. The epicenter of the Inca civilization that you can seen throughout Latin and South America, appreciate Mother Nature's power on the classic four-day hike, breathing in spellbinding landscapes and crisp mountain air while getting a healthy dose of history and mystery.