Life-Changing Travel Experiences | Unique Travel Experiences
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Life-Changing Travel Experiences

By GeoEx Staff | August 3, 2021

Boats on the Ganges River in the early morning, Varanasi, India

For many of us, a compelling feature of travel is the simple fact that we come away from it with inspiring new knowledge and perspectives. We experience cultures with values different from our own, see divergent models of conservation, community ingenuity, urban and ecosystems that are thriving. With a bit of luck, these treasures carried home in our hearts and minds guide us towards a life that is more fulfilling and perhaps even influence change on a larger scale.

At GeoEx, we’ve had guests who have switched careers, funded community projects, or packed up and moved based on impactful journeys to far-flung places.

As that inveterate traveler Anthony Bourdain said, “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.”

We asked some of our well-traveled staff at GeoEx to share their most memorable experiences, the “aha!” moments that changed the way they thought about the world. Here are their stories.

Mongolia & Land Rights

Steppe landscape with green grass and water, Mongolia

“Driving through gorgeous, wide-open country in Mongolia, with grassy steppes backed by rocky plateaus, my husband asked our guide who owns the land. ‘No one owns it,’ he replied. We marveled at that and wondered, ‘Do the nomads worry about their grazing locations being taken over?’ Our guide replied that everyone respects established land use, and it all works. What an exciting model for cooperative land use!”—Pat Arce, Office Manager

A Moment to Reflect in Bhutan

Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger's Nest) temple outside of Paro, Bhutan

“It was literally decades after I began my career at GeoEx that I finally made it to Bhutan. I kept waiting to go with a group of friends and colleagues and the timing had never been quite right. Over the years I had seen so many glowing guest reviews, and I had heard rave reviews from our colleagues. I think a little part of me doubted that any place could be as magical as Bhutan was portrayed.
 
“That part of me was wrong. Bhutan was everything I had heard or read, and more. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the country, the spectacular monasteries and the wonderful Bhutanese people. The experience of hiking up to Tiger’s Nest “Paro Taktsang” was incredibly impactful for me. When I did the hike I was no-longer-young, and not in the best shape. It was an arduous hike for me. Near the top, our guide had turned around with another member of our group to take them back down, so I reached the top and descended to the monastery alone. It was late afternoon and there were few visitors. I had an amazingly peaceful and quiet time in the monastery. It felt quite profound. I have never forgotten that time.” —Scott Montgomery, Chief Operating Officer

Universal Truths in Iran

Smiling Iranian girls outside of Saadi teahouse, Iran

“Travelers tend to have such deep-rooted pre-conceived ideas about Iran (and the Middle East in general) that they inevitably come home with changed minds. I traveled there in 2004, and was struck by the genuineness and curiosity of the people. They were plainly interested in meeting and speaking with me, and had no agenda—a rare experience.

Arriving at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport, I was greeted by a sea of men and women, young and old, on the opposite side of the entry, all awaiting loved ones, pushing against the doorways, crying, laughing, smiling, clutching enormous and unusual bouquets of flowers, throwing their arms around weary passengers. This spirited scene of reunion was my first encounter with Iran and a reminder that people are the same no matter where you are, living life and leaving politics to the politicians.

While the sights in Iran are spectacular—prehistoric archaeological ruins, old caravanserais, hammams (bathhouses), bustling bazaars, beautiful tilework, enormous mosques and shrines—at the end of the day it is the unimaginable warmth and hospitality of everyday Iranians, an unexpected gift, that I will treasure the most.” —Kristina Tuohey, Product Development Manager

A Different Role for Tourism in Japan

View from a funaya home on Ine Bay, Japan

“Exploring the western end of Japan‘s Honshu Island, I visited a remote working fishing village in Kyoto Prefecture where the people live and work essentially as they have for centuries, depending on the sea—a tradition that was beginning to fade. These traditions are now flourishing, saved by the villagers opening their boat-house homes to travelers and sharing the bounty of their trade in fresh seafood and other local fare. Staying with them gave me a truly unique window into their lives, and I saw how small-scale, sustainable forms of tourism can play a crucial role in maintaining traditional lifestyles.” —Glenn Ringer, Purchasing & Partnerships Director

Arctic Silence

Blue glacial ice at sea in Svalbard, Norway

“On a cruise into the Arctic Circle I expected to be wowed by polar bears and walruses. I saw them both, and they were incredible, but what caught me off guard was the complete absence of sound when the boat anchored and shut off its engines: no cars, no planes, just the quiet of the snow and ice. As a city-dweller, I came home with a different perspective on noise pollution.” —Katie Stoyka, Content Specialist

Magic Captured in India

Varanasi ghats seen from a boat on the Ganges River, India

India was life-changing for me—so intensely alive, colorful, poor, wealthy, rich in history and tradition, with pungent smells, delicious foods, and amazing archaeological sites. I remember, as we were driving there, our guide telling us that Varanasi vibrates at a different frequencyand I have to say, it totally did. There is something otherworldly and magical about the place. I carried some of that magic back with me, and named my son River, after the Ganges.” —Carey Johnston, Operations & Purchasing Manager

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Has your life shifted because of an eye-opening or soul-lifting journey? We’d love to hear your story! Tell us about it in the Comments section below.

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