“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
So said the American author and political activist Helen Keller – and after two weeks of mainlining mince pies and mulled wine, we couldn’t agree more.
It’s time to shake off the festive hangover and look towards the new year – hopefully one bursting with incredible experiences and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Last year we attempted to get inspired by writing a list of New Year’s resolutions but we remembered we do that every year and never meet any of them. So, instead, this January we’ve nailed down our adventure mottos. These are the sentiments we live by and take with us on every escapade. Who’s with us?
Wander where the wifi is weak
It’s near impossible to travel through a country without hearing the ping of WhatsApp or someone twittering away on their smartphone but you can find plenty of places where wifi is patchy – and therefore achieve a quieter life.
Not sure where that might be? How about sleeping in Bedouin tents on the edge of Oman’s atmospheric Nomadic Desert Camp in Wahiba Sands. No electricity, no wifi and no light pollution means you’ll be free to stargaze uninterrupted.
Or what about off-grid camping on a secluded beach on the Bacuit Archipelago in the Philippines, where you’ll only hear the chatter of your mates and private chef?
And then there’s Borneo’s Semadang River: one of the world’s most tranquil places, where the only noises you’ll hear will be the water lapping your boat and the exotic jungle chorus.
For that true feeling of switching off in a remote and distant land, there’s no better experience than ploughing through Sweden’s icy tundra aboard a snowmobile, and taking a twilight walk to see the spectacular Northern Lights.
Climb that goddamn mountain
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn.”
Author Jack Kerouac’s sage advice is well worth listening to if you want to get the most out of your travels. How else are you going to rally yourself to wake at 2am to reach the summit of Bali’s live volcano Mount Batur and watch sunrise? The magical experience of fiery morning skies is made even better with what awaits after your efforts: a prosecco breakfast in the comfort of your hotel.
Channel that Kerouac spirit, and you also might just end up rising before dawn for a sunrise hot air ballon ride over India’s beautiful Rajasthani countryside. After witnessing the burning sky at dizzying heights, you’ll then float back down for breakfast at the magnificent Amber Fort.
And if you’re really embracing life above the clouds, follow in the footsteps of mountain legends and hike the Everest Trail, just like these Flashpackers did:
Epic experiences continue offshore, too. Imagine trekking deep into Thailand’s jungle to the fast-flowing Mae Taeng River, and then white-water rafting 10 kilometres downstream through a series of hair-raising rapids. It might seem daunting to start with, but after two hours you’ll be drenched, buzzing with adrenaline and wanting to do it all over again.
Eat like a local
A country’s foodie scene is the key to unlocking its culture, history and traditions – and if you want to truly get under the skin of a place, you need to dine like a local. What that looks like depends on where you are in the world. In Vietnam, it means scouring street food stalls in Hanoi, and hiking the majestic hills of Sapa to lunch with local Giay families.
For an authentic foodie experience in Brazil, you should seek out a bowl of steaming moqueca baiana (seafood stew) and wash it down with a caipirinha (they taste a helluva lot more potent in Brazil, trust us).
In Mexico, make a beeline for the capital’s street food markets to eat garnachas and chipotles, and knock back a few shots of tequila and mezcal while attempting to avoid a hangover.
The best way to understand a nation’s food and people, is to dine with the locals – like in Egypt, where a Nubian family will welcome you into their home and cook you a traditional meal.
Escape the ordinary
A country’s biggest tourist attractions are just that for a reason – but that doesn’t mean you have to visit them in the same way as everyone else. And you never need a selfie stick. If you want to experience a star attraction but without the conveyor belt feel, you just need to think outside the box.
Take the Great Wall of China: a place that’s heaving during the day but when witnessing it at sunrise from your own private viewpoint, it feels like one of the most peaceful places on earth.
In Zimbabwe, you can bypass the tourist hordes at Victoria Falls by jumping in a helicopter and flying over the tumbling, gushing waters instead.
Canada’s showstopping Athabasca Glacier is a firm favourite with tour buses but there’s a way to experience it without the company: park at the bottom and hike three incredible hours across the Columbia Icefields to the glacier instead.
And in Jordan’s Lost City of Petra, you can avoid the crowds in one clever move by taking the secret back route, which means you start off in the quietest part, hiking the usual tourist trail in reverse.
Images: Shutterstock, Flash Pack, James Hall