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There’s no app for this…

In this digital age, it’s easy to be an armchair traveler — browsing travel magazines on an iPad, scrolling through photos on social media, or reading a blog on the newest undiscovered destination. But nothing replaces actually being there and experiencing a new culture, landscape, or activity! An app can’t leave you breathless as the Northern Lights dance above your head or when the ground shakes as hundreds of wildebeest stampede past your vehicle. A website can’t replicate the peaceful feeling upon entering an ancient temple or hiking through olive groves. Here are five ways to experience the world beyond the screen. Local wine tasting The term “terroir” is defined as both the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced (including the soil, topography, and climate) and as the characteristic flavor give to a wine by that said environment. This is why a sauvignon blanc produced in South Africa will taste different from one of New Zealand. Coffee and cheese also have their own terroir. Yes, you could just go out to your local wine store and buy a bunch of bottles to do your own tasting at home, but you’ll learn so much more and have a much more rewarding experience if you go to the place of origin. Aside from some of the most well-known wine countries such as New Zealand, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and Argentina, you can find many exceptional, though less well-known wines in Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia. Exploring via a kayak We love hiking, but there is something really special about floating along, enjoying the scenery without having to pay attention to your feet and the terrain beneath you. The sounds of water gently lapping at the kayak or shore, or dripping from the paddle can be quite meditative. And the 360-degree views from the middle of a fjord, lake, or lagoon will be just as memorable (although utterly different) as those from a hiking trail. Our favorite places to paddle through sparkling waters for a new perspective are Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Croatia, and Palau. Hiking epic mountains There is just no feeling like it in the world: reaching a peak or high pass with the landscape stretched out before you. It’ll feel as though you are on the top of the world. Not only will the views impress, but the physicality of the hikes are incredibly rewarding. Long, sometimes steep ascents give way to breathtaking vistas and the sense of accomplishment. And there’s really nothing better than refueling with hearty trailside picnics full of cheese, bread, and other regional specialties. And exploring remote mountain villages along the way gives an insight into the lifestyle and culture of those living in them. The Alps, Dolomites, and Himalayas are well-known spots, but check out Patagonia and Slovenia, as well. Walking history You can’t fully experience a new culture without understanding a bit about the past of the region. And there are several historic routes around the world where you can literally follow in the footsteps of thousands who have come before. Whether it’s the gravity of purpose, the desire to connect to a more simpler time, or the landscape that draws you, walking or hiking on one of these routes is sure to leave you with memories for a lifetime and connect you with history. Try the Camino de Santiago, Japan’s ancient Nakasendo Trail, or the Incan Salkantay Trails.

Tracking wild animals

The thrill of being out in the rugged, untamed African bush, far from civilization where the wild things roam is only just tempered by the fact that you are with an experienced, trained guide. You turn the corner and suddenly something is there! Maybe it’s a sleepy hyena resting before the evening’s hunt, perhaps it’s a gazelle carefully scanning the long grass, maybe it’s a leopard in the tree. You never what you’ll see next. Ready your camera for the moment your guide spots the objective. our favorite safari spots are Botswana, Tanzania, and Rwanda. For more off the beaten path, try Zimbabwe! Matt Holmes is the Founder & President of Boundless Journeys. Boundless Journeys is an award-winning tour operator that goes off the beaten path for immersive and authentic travel experiences. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Matt Holmes

Matt Holmes is the President and Founder of Boundless Journeys, an award-winning, adventure tour operator that goes off the beaten path for immersive travel experiences. Long distance hiking in the Alps, snorkeling around remote Pacific islands, and chatting with Buddhist monks at hilltop monasteries are some of the experiences Boundless Journeys offers on over 35 small-group itineraries. Their journeys bring active, culturally curious travelers together to share authentic experiences away from tourist crowds. Prior to starting Boundless Journeys, Matt worked as a tour manager for many years and a rafting guide before that.

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  1. This article certainly has a lot of very inspiring information! I really enjoyed the suggestions for alternative places that don’t typically come to mind right away. It’s nice to know that if you think outside the box a little bit, you can find some extraordinary places. Like kayaking in Palau, hiking in Slovenia or going on a safari in Zimbabwe. I’ve got some new travel plans to consider!

    1. Glad you were inspired! We at Boundless Journeys are definitely fans of more off the beaten path destinations :)

  2. Actually there are plenty of apps for wine tasting. You scan the label of a bottle and you get tasting notes. If you do a Google search you’ll even get recommendations on the Top 10 wine tasting apps but I get your point.

    There’s a lot of local gems, wines that few people know about, which wouldn’t be covered. Then there’s the excitement of discovering some of these great wines which are hidden treasures.

    1. Slovenia, in particular, has award-winning wines, but exports so little of it that most people don’t know about it. They even claim to have the oldest continuous producing vine in the world!

  3. Completely agree about the thrill of tracking a wild animal. A few years ago I went tracking with a tribe member of the Khomani San in South Africa. He was wearing just a loin cloth and equipped with a bow and arrow. It had taken him two days to carve the bow from an acacia tree branch and the string was a tendon from a gazelle. Although that was all he had in his hands he did have the benefit of 20 millennia of experience of the terrain from his ancestors. He was so in tune with the landscape, even the tiniest detail meant something to him. Although we picked up some tracks the only wildlife we came across were some giraffes but it was an amazing experience for someone who spends their working life hot desking and playing about with spreadsheets.

    1. Sounds like it was a really immersive experience, all the way down to the authenticity and craftsmanship of the bow.

  4. You’re right, seeing photos and looking at maps and such only goes so far. Nothing can replace the in person experience. But, I do find the online world incredibly helpful for discovering new places and getting tips on where to go and what to do and planning a holiday.

    Must admit I’m not a fan of wine but I’ve done local wine tasting and thoroughly enjoyed it. I did it as part of a winery’s ‘festival’ tasting session so it was quite informal, really down to earth and we did plenty of tasting and learned a lot without it feeling too information heavy either. I certainly wouldn’t have ever tried the sorts of things I did that day otherwise and I met some nice people too so it’s something I’d do again. Likewise with kayaking. Only done that once in my 20s but I’d be up for round two. I love walking to explore wherever I go, probably more so than going by water. Again, the Internet is pretty useful for helping you find the best trails and places to explore but you can’t beat the feel of doing it for yourself and the achievement of a long hike.

    1. Absolutely, the internet is wonderfully useful – after all, you’re reading this on the internet! But reading about an experience and actually doing it, as you pointed out, are very different. If you like long hikes, have you considered the Tour du Mont Blanc or Alpa Adria?

    2. Ooo no I haven’t but those are great suggestions. I actually read about the Tour Du Mont Blanc not too long ago (on the Internet, again!) I think it was listed as one of the top 10 hikes and one of the oldest, going through France and Switzerland, and I guess Italy, around Mont Blanc (is that right?) No idea how long you might expect it taking but I do love the idea of all the stop offs you could make along the way. You must be able to discover so much that you likely wouldn’t do if you’d just taken a week’s holiday somewhere near Mont Blanc to begin with. Have you been there or attempted any of the trail at all? I don’t know anyone who has actually. Maybe I will be the first in my circle!

    3. Yep! The TMB circumnavigates the Mont Blanc massif. You typically start in Chamonix, France, and head to Italy, then Switzerland, and back to you Chamonix – a charming Alpine town. Doing every single mile would take about 2 weeks. We offer a guided trip that is 8 days and covers the most beautiful hikes scenery with luggage transportation, so you don’t have to hike with big, heavy pack. If you’d like more information, Michelle in our office has done the trip herself – michelle@boundlessjourneys.com


  5. I’d second the mountain hikes. There’s nothing quite like it when you’re doing it for yourself and the sense of achievement you get when you conquer it. Of course there’s the obligatory selfie shot at the top so you can celebrate the win over and over again. I get a bit of vacay envy any time I see friends showing off their ‘look what mountain I’ve just climbed’ photos. I think you get the bug after you’ve done one, even if it’s a little one, because you want to go back for more. I’d really like to try one of the one in a lifetime kind of ones like you’ve mentioned here, the Alps maybe.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head about catching the “bug!” Once you’ve done one active, hiking trip, you want to do more. The Alps are a fantastic hiking destination, not only is the hiking diverse, challenging, and rewarding, but you’ve got incredible food and wine to fuel each day AND outstanding views. I’d definitely recommend the Tour du Mont Blanc.

  6. I’d like to keep my feet on the ground, preferably on level ground (afraid of heights) so wine tasting is my jam among all the activities in this list. Though I would like to try maybe an Australian or European wine trail tour. I’ve been through Napa, so I want to try something new. I’ve never thought about New Zealand and this made me think if I need to consider a wine tour in the country as well.

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