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Fall 2008 | Ten Trips that will Change Your Life

Fall 2008 | Ten Trips that will Change Your Life

The transformative nature of journeys can be subtle or profound, but these ten adventures may change the way you feel about travel altogether, with itineraries that provoke, challenge, and dare you to come back a different person.

Take part in a shaman ritual amid the towering ruins of Machu Picchu

DETAILS: Machu Picchu is one of the truly great spiritual sites in the world. The ?Lost City of the Incas,? which sits atop a peak in the verdant Andes, is such a popular tourist destination that there is talk of limiting the throngs who overwhelm the ruins of this once-thriving city. The best way to connect to the sacred energy of the spot is via an authentic blessing performed by an Incan shaman. In the remains of a temple or in an overhang cave with a crystal wall, the holy man, through a ritual that mixes herbs, plants, and objects, prophesies and gives you strength for your journey.

FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT: ?The Inca shaman ceremony can bring up pretty strong emotions in different people. During our last ceremony a couple decided to have the shaman perform a commitment ceremony, and during their ceremony I really started tearing up. I looked around and discovered I was not alone. Throughout their history and culture, the Incan people had no issue with homosexuality. They saw homosexuality in nature, and so it never was looked upon as bad or wrong. When an Inca shaman blesses your union, you know that not only he but also his culture is specifically celebrating your relationship.? --Bryan Herb, Zoom Vacations

SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT TRIP: Chicago-based Zoom Vacations (866-966-6822) organizes shaman ceremonies at Machu Picchu in conjunction with its weeklong Peruvian gay group trip that includes Lima and the ancient Incan capital of Cusco; November 22?29, 2008.

Kayak amid icebergs, glaciers, and whales

DETAILS: Tourism to this wild and unpopulated landmass has exploded of late, in spite of ongoing battles erupting between whalers and environmental activists in the untamed waters circling the seventh continent. Although tourist ships leave from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, hop aboard instead at the southern Argentine outpost of Ushuaia. Here, you can join a bona fide Russian ice vessel (complete with Slavic crew) that carries 100 passengers to the relatively nearby Antarctic Peninsula. In addition to Zodiac dinghy tours exploring iceberg- and whale-choked bays and remote scientific stations, you can opt for guided kayak tours along the icy coastline. Donning a waterproof dry suit (yes, it will be cold!), you?ll paddle amid sharp-toothed leopard seals, thriving penguin colonies, and calving glaciers in this frozen wonderland at the end of the earth.

FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT: ?The incessant, golden Antarctic summer light penetrates your being, messes with your internal clock, and contributes massively to the sense that you?re visiting another planet. Of course, squawking penguins, endless glaciers, and freakishly clean air have something to do with this too. Surrounded by ice, sky, and sea, the concerns of life back on the inhabited continents feel insignificant, impossibly remote.?--Andrew Broan, Alyson Adventures

SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT TRIP: Key West, Fla.?based Alyson Adventures (800-825-9766) runs gay group tours aboard a Russian ice vessel, with the next departure set for Dec. 28, 2008?Jan. 7, 2009.

Walk atop the Great Wall of China

DETAILS: Appropriately called the ?very long wall? in Mandarin, one of the world?s greatest structures is actually a series of buttresses built, rebuilt, and reinforced over the course of different dynasties from the 5th century B.C. to the 16th century. Nowadays, portions of the Wall are easily accessible on a day trip from Beijing?too accessible actually, as the I CLIMBED THE GREAT WALL T-shirt stands and the KFC at Badaling, the most visited section, will prove. Instead, opt for the ?Wild Wall? at Jinshanling, a remote section with unusual circular towers and elaborate defensive walls. Jinshanling is also the site of Ming Tombs, where buried treasures have yet to be unearthed.

FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT: ?No tourist photos or television shows you have ever seen can prepare you for your first glimpse of the Wall winding endlessly off into the horizon. To fully appreciate the proportions of this achievement, put on a sturdy pair of walking shoes and head to the Wild Wall, where you will have the place practically to yourself. Except for the wind, it is silent here and easy to imagine the tens of thousands of people who lived along the length of the Wall with their primitive weapons, open fires, livestock, and camp followers, waiting vigilantly.? ?Douglas Thompson, Purple Dragon

SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT TRIP: Bangkok-based gay Asian travel experts Purple Dragon (011-662-238-3227) can guide you to the Great Wall at Jinshanling in conjunction with their five-day Imperial Beijing tours, year-round.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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