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UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES
Here is a list of mostly off the beaten path travel experiences to add to your bucket list.
1. Go on an African safari. Seeing lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants in their natural habitat is something amazing. I would prefer to go back without a guide and add the suspense of whether or not I will get eaten, to the mix. Sleep in the park for a truly magical experience with the vibrant night sky above you.
2. Get a tribal tattoo from Whang Od. Head to the Philippines village of Buscalan and receive a tattoo from the last and oldest mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist). Whang Od was born in 1917 and previously tattooed headhunters. To continue the tradition, she now spends her time tattooing tourists who make the trek to her village.
3. Get a magical Thai Sak Yant tattoo. A sak yant is traditionally tattooed by Buddhist monks and Ajarns (learned Masters) with a metal rod or bamboo sharpened to a point. They are believed to be magical, with sacred blessings and powers associated with each design. This has become more commercialized across Thailand, so I recommend finding someone who does it the traditional way. Check out Arjarn Pi Bangkrating, who I received mine from.
4. Live on a farm in Cambodia. Siem Reap s the perfect place to stay with a local family and get a sense of how it feels to live like a local. Sleep in a hut on the farm of Tola and his family to help support the education of local children.
5. Stay in a village with no cell service. We are so connected to our phones and everything on our phones, it is good to take a break from them every now and then. When you do this, you are forced to be in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you. It is such a magical and freeing feeling.
6. Smoke hash with babas in Goa. A baba is a ‘wise man’ who often lives in nature. In Goa, you will find a few living in the middle of the jungle, surviving solely off of nature and gifts of water, food, and marijuana brought to them by visitors. While they may not have many possessions, they are rich in their connection with the land. They are also more than happy to share a bowl of hash with you. Read about my experience here.
7. Swim with whale sharks in Mexico. Whale sharks are the elephants of the ocean. Despite their massive size, these are extremely gentle creatures. It is pretty awesome to swim with them with no land in site. There are many places you can do this that are not very ethical as they often feed the whale sharks to keep them around, disturbing their natural migration habits. Head to Holbox, Mexico for an ethical and unforgettable experience.
8. Take a solo trip. There is nothing like the confidence you gain from taking a trip by yourself. You learn things about yourself and encounter so many opportunities to grow. Traveling alone is also, ironically, the best way to meet new people. It is much easier for others to initiate conversation when you are sitting alone than when you are with someone.
9. Spend the night in the Sahara. Ride camels in the middle of the desert and fall asleep under the stars.
10. Learn how to surf in Bali. Bali is the perfect place for surfers of all levels. What better place to learn than in the middle of paradise? Contact UP2U Surf School for great rates and to receive guidance from outstanding instructors.
11. Ride a motorbike in Southeast Asia. Motorbike is the most convenient way to get around in most cities across Southeast Asia. What better place to learn how to ride? Motorbike rentals start around $3 USD per day depending on which city you are visiting. Don’t want to drive? There are plenty of ride share apps who will pick you up for a cheap price and take you to your destination via motorbike.
12. Ride on top of a jeepney in the Philippines.Why sit IN a jeepney when you can sit on top of it? There is no better way to see the countryside than from the top of a jeepney, sitting on top of a case of beer bottles. Head through the hills in the Mountain Province (about 10 hours north of Manila) along a winding road that hugs the side of the mountain. The view is something you will never forget. Not the most comfortable ride but definitely worth it.
13. Learn a new language.The more I travel, the more I realize that most people outside of the United States know more than one language. Learning a second language may come in handy while traveling, and more importantly, it will allow you to connect with a greater number of people.
14. Sleep in a house in the middle of the ocean. Take a break from being the land animal you are and spend the night out on the water. You can find over the water bungalows in places like the Maldives, or head to Borneo where you will find a house built on stilts in middle of the ocean with no land in sight.
15. Take the train from Kandy to Ella. Or vice versa. This roughly eight hour train ride is the best way to really experience the beauty of the hills in Sri Lanka. My jaw dropped at every turn and I ran around the train like a kid in a candy store. If you are heading from Kandy to Ella, sit on the left side (if you are standing in the train facing the direction it is heading). And sit on the right side if you are heading the opposite way (from Ella to Kandy).
16. Try arak in Indonesia. It is like an initiation into Indonesia. How much arak can you drink before you throw up. But really this local rice wine is commonly shared between friends and can really sneak up on you. Definitely not as sweet when you are laying on the bathroom floor. But then you wake up and do it again. Oh, arak.
17. Ride on a train in India. Riding a train in India is sort of a rite of passage in this crazy, chaotic country. It is the best way to see the countryside and surround yourself with locals. Plus, there is a guy selling hot chai tea who walks past you every five minutes for only about 10 cents a pop.
18. The the train from Bangkok to Cambodia. This eight hour train ride costs around $1 USD and is an excellent way to surround yourself with local culture. You ride through the Thailand countryside and see a side of the country you don’t get when in the more popular backpacker destinations. A great place to take photos as well.
19. Sing karaoke in Asia. I was never one for karaoke as I have a horrendous voice, but across Asia you start to feel as if it is part of you. Your calling, if you will. You are surrounded by people singing Ed Sheeran from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. I even heard it in my dreams as one of the hostels I stayed in was right next to a karaoke bar. They even have karaoke booths in public places (like airports and hotels) for one person to go in and sing by themselves. It really showed me how much people enjoy singing and I highly recommend sitting down at a bar, grabbing the mic, and singing with everything you got. Best part is, if you suck, you can just fly back home to your country.
20. Take a bucket bath. I have really come to appreciate the luxury of a warm shower. But also have realized the evolution of showers as I was reunited with their original purpose. To get you clean. I think cleaning yourself from a bucket filled with cold water is something everyone should experience to see how others live, and appreciate every warm shower you are able to take.
21. Go skinny dipping. There is no feeling more free than being naked in nature. Whether in a secluded pool or out in the ocean, skinny dipping is a good way to forget about your insecurities and just have fun..
22. See the world from above the clouds. Climb a mountain or volcano, look down on the clouds below you, and watch the sunrise above them. There are hikes like this all over the world. Just google ‘best hikes above the clouds.’
23. Ride in a tuk-tuk. While this seems like an easy one to check off the bucket list for experienced travelers or anyone who has been to Southeast Asia, I realized how many people actually haven’t ridden in one. No trip to Southeast Asia is complete without one or many tuk-tuk rides.
24. Watch the sunset go down over the ocean. Whether in California or Bali, there is nothing else like seeing the sun disappear over the edge of the Earth. And the colors reflecting in the water just adds to the beauty.
25. See the bioluminescence. I still believe this to be one of the most magical phenomenons to exist in nature. During certain times of year, you can see the ocean light up neon blue as plankton fill the water. Mission Bay in San Diego, Reethi Beach in the Maldives, and Koh Rong in Cambodia are just a few places to witness this amazing scene. For a list of other top places in the world to see sparkling blue ocean, check out this list.
26. Take a spontaneous weekend trip with nothing planned. When you have nothing planned, you never know where the day will take you. Relax, unwind, and see what opportunities are presented to you.
27. Stay in a hostel. There is no better way to meet people from all over the world than to share a living space with them. No matter what age you are, a hostel is something everyone should experience t least once.
28. Hang out with elephants.Elephants are one of my favorite animals and until I hung out with them, I never realized how gentle they are. Spend the day with them in one of the many elephant sanctuaries across Thailand. Be sure to steer clear of any place where you can ride on them. Some ethical places to simply hang out with elephants are Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary, Into the Wild Elephant Camp, Maeklang Elephant Conservation Community, and Happy Elephant Home.
29. Go island hopping. What is better than taking a trip to a beautiful island surrounded by crystal clear blue ocean? How about taking a boat to multiple remote islands in one day. Why visit one island when you can visit many? Life is good.
30. Fly in a small airplane. If you want to really feel the exhilaration of flying, try taking a trip in a small airplane the holds less than twelve passengers. The pilot in the front simply turns his/her head around to tell you the safety instructions. And believe me, you can feel every dip the plane takes. Brace yourself. If you find yourself in Dar es Salaam, you can fly over to the island of Zanzibar in one of these bad boys.
31. Hang out on a sandbank in the middle of the ocean. Don’t we all dream of getting lost at sea, only to find a small island that is completely surrounded by water? Or is that just me. Nakupenda Beach is a small sand bank about 30 minutes away from Dar es Salaam. The sand bank is a small strip of sand with nothing else on it and you are completely surrounded by the Indian Ocean (my favorite ocean). The exciting part is that as the tide comes in during the day, the sand bank gets smaller and smaller until it is completely covered by ocean! It doesn’t get much more off the beaten path than that!
32. Swim in the crystal clear turquoise blue ocean. One thing I will never get tired of seeing is crystal clear turquoise blue ocean water. My mouth drops open every single time. Some might say I am now an ocean snob. But in my opinion, there is nothing more beautiful. This is something every single human being should experience.
33. Take the local bus in a foreign country. I always try to do this at least once as it is the best way to feel like a local and you tend to see some pretty interesting things happen on the bus. You may even be seated next to a chicken.
34. Stand at the base of a waterfall, letting the water hit you. A free massage from nature.
35. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I am scared of heights and didn’t really think about it before making the trek to the start of this bridge. Walking across it is truly a thrilling experience (especially since I was terrified). The bridge is higher in person than it looks from a distance and the railing only comes to your waist or slightly below. As you walk across, you can feel a strong wind with every car or truck that passes, making you question if you will suddenly be swept off your feet and over the railing.
36. Pull an all nighter in Las Vegas. A rite of passage in America.
37. Go to a Reggaeton dance party. Feel the music and passion, and just dance. Definitely my happiest place.
38. Spin fire. We play in Earth’s other elements, why not feel the power of fire. Make sure to bring your camera.
39. Bathe in Holy water. Cleanse yourself and be mindfully in the moment as you feel the water pour down on your head.
40. Get your fortune told by a Chinese fortune teller. These guys are good. You can usually find them sitting at a table outside of Chinese temples. One guy read my palm and told me all about my life and correctly predicted my future. It probably didn’t hurt that I believed him and therefore worked to manifest everything he said.
41. See the Gardens in the Bay light show. A touristy attraction in Singapore, but well worth it. Make sure to grab a spot on the ground and lie down on your back for the best experience.
42. Try Mexican street corn (Elote). Elote is a Mexican street corn roasted over an open grill and coated with salt, chile powder, butter, cotija, lime juice, and mayonnaise or crema fresca. A delicious treat that you will find all over the streets in Mexico.
43. Sleep in the middle of the rainforest. Monkeys, huge snakes and spiders, and leeches. But also magnificent greenery and often the sound of rainfall on the leaves as you drift off into dreamland.
44. Try Kaya toast. I love Kaya toast so I had to include it on this list. Kaya is a type of coconut jam made from coconut milk, eggs, and sugar. It is popular in Southeast Asia, especially in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
45. Spend the day eating street food in Penang.Everyone must go to Penang for the simple purpose of eating as much food as they can. There is food on every corner and I can honestly say it is some of the best food I have ever tasted.. A tip: follow the lines. This is a good sign the food is top notch. I once waited for 1.5 hours for a bowl of Char Koay Teow. Let me just say, it was well worth the wait.
46. Find a hidden bar or speakeasy in a new city. Nothing makes you feel cooler than walking into a hidden bar in the city that many locals don’t even know about. Before you go to a city, do a google search for hidden bars or speakeasies in that city. If you are in Singapore, check out 28 Hong Kong Street. (The name is also the address.)
47.Take a shower under the stars. If I ever settle down in one place, there are only a few deal breakers for me. It must be near the ocean, warm year round, a smaller city, and my house must have an outdoor shower. Stepping inside your bathroom, closing the door, and looking up to see the stars is something that is truly magical. You can find many outdoor showers in Indonesia around Bali or Lombok.
48. Go to the Pushkar Camel Fair. Every November during the full moon, around 400,000 people come to Pushkar, India every year to experience the Pushkar Camel Fair. This fair lasts about fourteen days and is one of India’s most highly-rated travel experiences.
49. See Ankgor Wat at sunrise. A very touristy experience crowded with people, but still incredibly beautiful. And since you are awake at 4am, you still have the entire day ahead of you to explore the rest of Siem Reap.
50. See Wat Arun at sunrise. A way to experience the quiet side of Bangkok. Not only do you get to see a magnificent temple, you also get to witness locals as they wake up and step outside to begin their day.
51. Eat gelato in Italy (for breakfast). An excuse to eat gelato.
52. Go topless at a topless beach. This one is obviously for the ladies. If you haven’t noticed by now, I love being naked in nature. There are topless beaches all over the world. If you are in Spain, try going topless in Malaga.
53. Explore your hometown like you are visiting. We can get so used to living somewhere that we fail to appreciate it’s beauty. Research your own city like you would somewhere you are traveling. Look for hidden gems and off the beaten path experiences and plan yourself a one full day itinerary.
54. Try a banana pancake in Thailand. My first trip abroad was to Thailand and I think I ate one of these every single day. I highly recommend Nutella and banana as toppings.
55. Go to a full moon party. Nothing says party like neon body paint, jumping into double dutch swinging jump ropes lit on fire, or dancing until the sun comes up with a bunch of strangers. Head to Ko Phangan for one of the most famous full moon parties of all time. A tip for not getting lost; have everyone in your party wear flashing pink cat ears. An excellent way to make sure you all stay together or to locate someone who has wandered away from your group.
56. Experience Diwali in India. Diwali is one of the biggest and most colorful festivals in India and is known as the ‘Festival of Lights.’ Come and see the country light up for five days as they celebrate the power of good over evil.
57. Drink coconut water out of a coconut. Simple but essential rite of passage that everyone secretly wants to do.
58. Go to a trance party in Goa. Goa is known for its psychedelic trance parties and is the sole reason many people travel there. What I loved most about these is that the parties draw all kinds of people, local and foreigners alike. All jumping up and down, together, to the same beat over and over. But really it is pretty fun.
59. Get a Thai massage. For about $3 USD, you can get an hour long Thai massage.
60. Go on a road trip. Traveling across the United States by car is a pretty cool experience. You get to drive through remote areas as you see the landscapes slowly change from state to state.
61. Camp out at Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua trees are known to grow only two places on Earth; the Mojave Desert (California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah) and in Israel. These cactus like trees look like they are dancing and the stars in this National Park are incredibly vibrant. You can camp out or rent one of the many houses you can AirBnB around the outside of the park. I was told it is also a good place to bring your psychedelics.;)
62. Host travelers from another country. You don’t even need to leave your house to get first hand experience of a foreign land. You can join Couchsurfing and let travelers from all over the world stay in your home. This really helps them out as it is a free exchange, and it is a great chance to show them the hidden gems in your home town.
63. Try a Chai tea in India. It was immediately apparent to me they are not too worried about lawsuits in India. They serve their coffee and tea extremely hot. Like too hot for me to even hold the cup most times. But the Chai is sweet and delicious. Plus it only costs around 10 cents per pop for a tiny little cup. I found it rather amusing to walk around and see grown men in suits standing around talking with each other while holding these small cups. Like a real life tea party
64. Experience the Northern Lights. Something I have not yet done but definitely need to and will. The colors found in nature are one of my favorite things to think about, speak about, and spend my time looking at.
65. Sleep on a sailboat. Fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing as the water gently rocks you back and forth like a mom holding her baby. I have seen boats offered on Airbnb and have even stayed in one while Couchsurfing in Brighton, England.
66. Play Indian Bingo in Dar es Salaam. Every Friday night in Dar es Salaam, the Upanga Club hosts “Indian” bingo where you can order excellent Indian food and play bingo for cash prizes! A unique and fun way to start your evening.
67. Take a steam bath at a Buddhist garden. Slightly on the outskirts of Georgetown, Penang, you will find the Bodhi Heart Sanctuary. Right before the entrance, is an aromatherapy steam bath. In exchange for a small donation of around 10 ringgits ($2.50 USD), you will receive unlimited time in the steam bath, along with bottomless tea and water. A steam bath in hot ass weather might not sound too intriguing, but believe me, it somehow makes the weather more bearable. Treat yourself.
68. Visit the hills in the Northern Philippines. About ten hours north of Manila, you will enter the hills of the Philippines, where all of the rice fields are located. These mountains are covered in green with a river running between them at their base. Along the river you will find numerous small villages such as Buscalan. Best to plan on spending more than one day here. You can even stay with a local family!
69. Watch the sunrise at Borobudur. You will find this 113 foot high Buddhist pyramid located a an hour and a half away from the city of Yogyakarta. Each level contains buddhas sitting enclosed in stones carved into a bell shape. With the volcano in the background, this is the perfect place to watch the sun come up. I am not usually one for touristy destinations but this was one of the most beautiful sites I have seen in Indonesia.
70. Ring in the New Year in another country. While most New Year celebrations include partying with family and friends no matter where you are, every country has slightly unique traditions surrounding this day. I spent my last New Year’s Eve in Fort Cochin, India where at midnight the entire city gathers to watch a giant Santa Clause be lit on fire and burn to the ground.
71. Visit a new country.If you have ever left you home country, make it a goal to at least visit one new country. You have no idea how much it will open your mind. For the frequent travelers, try picking a country you know nothing about.
72. Smoke a joint in Amsterdam. Obviously.
73. Fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing. Book a house, hotel, or hostel that is located directly on the sand where you can hear the waves crashing out of your window. When I did this, it made me feel like I was in my room back at home listening to the waves crashing on a Spotify soundtrack of sleep noises. And that was good because I was really homesick. 😉
74. Learn how to haggle.I feel pretty much like a badass because I am both a nice girl and a damn good negotiator. I am all about fairness and paying people who are trying to make a living. But, tourists are totally ripped off at times. Not me. I have perfected the price naming game as well as the walk away, come back dance that happens with it. Learn to play the game or pay the price. 😉
75. Experience a spa in another country. Spa culture and how it varies from country to country is pretty interesting to me. Not sure why. Anyways, check out these unique sauna and spa experiences from around the world.
76. Eat a home cooked meal in someone else’s home in a different country. The food someone prepares for you to share with you always tastes better. And I am a huge believer in bonding over a meal.
77. Eat tacos from a street vendor in Mexico. One where the menu is only in Spanish.
78. Drink a shot of tequila in Mexico. Do I even need to explain this one. How about doing this in the city of Tequila, Meixco at the foot on the Tequila Volcano.
79. Drink a shot of limoncello in Sorrento. This city in Italia literally smells like lemons. You can’t leave without trying their famous limoncello.
80. Volunteer in a foreign country. Spend time at an orphanage or local school or go out and save the environment. When you are working with locals to create a better world, it tends to really leave a mark on your heart and see the passion that is infused in the culture.
81. Visit an indigenous tribe. There are many unethical ways to do this but you can also find ways to visit without turning the village into a tourist trap (which takes away the natural flow of the community and changes things). Check out this list for some of the more ethical ways to visit.
82. Fall in love abroad. Connections while you are traveling just seem to happen more quickly than at home. Everything is an adventure, more intense and exciting. A great way to have fun and really connect with someone who is not from your hometown. To do this, I highly recommend NOT actually searching for this one and instead, letting it find you.
83. Become friends with a local. I love making friends with locals in any city I am traveling. This is the best way to discover hidden gems and really understand what the local community is like. Plus the locals are usually really freaking cool.
84. Book a one way ticket. Knowing where you are headed but having on clue where you will end up leaves the door open and gives you endless possibilities. The thing I love most about a one way ticket is that you can meet people and decide to travel with them for a bit or keep your options open in case you see an amazing flight deal on Skyscanner.
85. See the Petronas Twin Towers at night. It was love at first sight the first time I laid eyes on these gorgeous pieces of steel. While they are still pretty during the day, they are even more magnificent at night when they twinkle amongst the stars! Head to Sky Bar for some happy hour drinks and stay for the sunset for an amazing view of these beauties and the rest of the Kuala Lumpur city skyline.
86. Go to an Indian wedding. Indian weddings are possibly the best and coolest weddings to witness or be involved in. Prepare yourself to spend three to seven days eating, dancing, and celebrating while surrounding yourself with true Indian culture and traditions.
87. Attend a wedding in another country. If you can’t get yourself invited to an Indian wedding or meet the Indian man or woman of your dreams, a wedding in any other country will suffice. A cool way to experience togetherness and see local traditions and customs.
88. Listen to the thunder. Both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have the absolute loudest thunder and most vivid lightning I have ever witnessed. Even when I know the thunder is coming, I never expect to hear such a loud boom. It sounds like the world is coming to an end. Coming from Los Angeles, where it never rains, this was a delightful treat for my senses.
89. Learn to play the harmonica. An instrument that is fun to learn and easy to bring everywhere. What song doesn’t sound better with the added melody of a harmonica? If you are good, people will appreciate you jamming with them.
90. Bathe in relaxing sounds. A sound bath is a deeply relaxing and meditative experience. Experience the healing energy of Tibetan Singing Bowls, Gongs, drums, chimes, and more. A must for those on a spiritual journey.
91. Wander through the maze in Stone Town. Stone Town is the main city on the island of Zanzibar. Here you will find a labyrinth of alleyways, bustling markets, and cobblestone streets. Get lost in the maze and take in the beautiful architecture and even more amazing doors. Some of the doors were even imported from India!
92. Go to a local brewery in another country. I love beer and always try to find a good local craft brewery. It is always pretty interesting to see what types of styles are popular and how creative the brewmasters can get.
93. Live in another country. Why travel to paradise for a few weeks when you can stay there? Living in another country is the absolute best way to really experience it. I guarantee it will open your mind and also teach you a lot about yourself.
94. Walk across the border.I feel like it is another rite of passage as a traveler to cross country lines on foot.
95. Spend two nights in an ashram. Head to an ashram in India and get in touch with your inner self.
96. Race a rickshaw through India. Race 2,000 km across India in a rickshaw! See here for more info.
97. See the great migration. Every year, millions of zebra, wildebeest, and antelope migrate across the plains of East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). This is a once in a lifetime experience for animal and safari lovers.
98. Go to a rooftop bar in Bangkok. I am not a fan of big cities but I still love to experience them from above, looking down. Bangkok has some top notch rooftops (many of which have a dress code, so keep that in mind) that allow you to get a glimpse of the entire city.
99. See the railroad tracks in Hanoi. Twice a day, a high speed train passes through a residential neighborhood, only inches away from local homes. What is even more interesting is the life that happens around these tracks when the train is not there. If you get there early enough, you will witness locals starting their day, brushing their teeth along the tracks. In the evening, kids are playing and women are cooking along them (even on them). Definitely a must see when in Hanoi.
100. Travel along the PCH in California. I had to end this list with a piece of home. The Pacific Coast Highway goes all the way from San Diego up past San Francisco. Along this stretch, you can drive along the ocean and see some breathtaking views of nature. You can even pull over and camp along the road if you are’t on a tight schedule. I highly recommend this road trip and taking your time when you do it. You just might understand exactly why I fell in love with California.