Updated: Apr 7, 2019
How do we know our travel experiences are exceptional or not? When you travel, you are presented with various situations. Some are expected and some are unexpected. The ones that you think are exceptional are the ones that cause heart rate speed up, an incredible experience blow your mind and some will forever change view about the world. It doesn't always have to be adventurous or thrilling, it can be as simple as having a chat with a stranger at the cafe.
1. Close Encounter with a Black Bear
My vacation to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, close to Tennessee - North Carolina boarder in Southern United States, went beyond my imagination which I will not forget as long as I live.
My husband and I were started our trek for a few miles on famous Appalachian trail and completely immersed ourselves in nature. Enjoyment of the mountain breeze and quietness of the walk trough woods was disrupted by an unexpected movement and a noise in the woods. We slow down to take a closer look. And my heart jumped into my mouth. A few yards away, there was a Black Bear which was starring at us.
Even in this adrenaline charged seconds my husband was a reaching to camera to take few pictures. We got so excited to see a bear that we forget these creatures can and will kill if they feel threatened. Once we realized that we are in danger, we quietly started walking in different direction to get back to the main trail.
2. Morning coffee looking out at the peak of Mt.Everest
We were in the Tibetan plateau at the Everest Base Camp on my recent trip. We stayed at the guest house, Rongbuk Monastery. The room offered a stunning view of Mt.Everest. We were up early, it was still dark and the room was cold due to no heating. I can hear the howling sound of the Himalayan wind. Cuddle up in my blankets and with steaming cup of coffee in my hand and patiently waited with my heart pounding for the first rays of sunlight to fall on earth.
Soon enough the sun rays started reflecting on the Himalayan Glaciers and the guest house window seemed to transform into a window that opened to paradise. The world's highest mountain showing off its infinite beauty with untouchable power. The coffee in my hand seemed to have assumed an exotic flavour as I sipped. Is it because of the breath taking view of this magnificent beauty?
3. The Spectacular Niagara Falls in Winter
One of the world’s natural wonders is located in Ontario, Canada. The Niagara River flows over Niagara Falls at this location creating a natural spectacle.
Last winter, January, 2018 in Canada we had a sub zero temperature with wind chill minus 45 degrees Celsius, which transformed the natural wonder into a frozen landscape. Word of the country’s spectacle has spread across the globe.
I decided to venture myself into this unique experience of the Niagara Falls in winter. Bundled up in a few layers of clothes and in my warmest coat, off I drove to the falls. Walked only 250 yards from the parking lot , haven’t even reached to the falls, but with temperature in negative forties and with wind gusting over 60 km/hr, I needed a warming break before I ventured to water’s edge.
The mist and spray from the falls combined with the ice cold wind of winter spray the nearby ornamental walls, trees, and buildings and lamp posts creating lovely frozen ice sculptures. It doesn’t matter which time of the year you visit, the falls never change and are always majestic.
4. Stairs of Death, Huayna Picchu
They are not any ordinary stairs and they don’t lead to any ordinary temple. It was an extremely intimidating and exhilarating experience which I had on the stairs in Huayna Picchu. To reach the Temple of Moon at the top of the mountain we climbed about 180 rock steps which were sculpted over 500 years ago. They are very narrow to even to fit my tiny feet and there was no support on the sides which caused a nauseous feeling. One false step will take me down to the Urubamba River 700 meters down below.
If there is anything worse than climbing the stairs of death, it is to climb back down. I don’t know how long it took me to get down the stairs, but I died a hundred deaths and sweat profusely.
But it is quite impossible to see the world without facing some risks. The view from up above was unrivaled and worth the effort. The sweat and the anxiousness I went through was worth this unforgettable moment. If you prepare well enough, you will be able to handle it.
5. Encountered with the Sadhus (Holy men) in Varanasi
Varanasi is the most holy city in Hinduism and the spiritual home of India’s Sadhus, or holy men who have renounced the worldly life. They are revered by Hindus as representatives of the Gods and sometimes worshiped as Gods themselves. They are ascetics and wanderers and are often displayed as private, dignified, selfless people, respected for their holiness and feared for their curses. When we visited their ashram in Varanasi, I had lots of mixed emotions. These ascetics occupy a peculiar position in Indian society. They are deeply revered and looked up to for guidance and blessings. Yet, having neither means of income, nor any possessions including a place to stay, they live in absolute poverty and depend entirely on the kindness and donations of strangers to get by.