We travel to admire world class architecture, the pulse of the cities, and the immense beauty of the natural world. We learn along the way and make lifelong memories. But once in a while something extraordinary happens – we get deeply moved. These are those moments when our whole bodies are taken over by the experience. Our minds are liberated, our senses go into a high gear, and our hearts soar into another zone. Moments so overpowering that nothing else matters. We feel small and insignificant and we love it.
Travelers are looking for new experiences. With different kinds and levels of sensitivity, some of us can get lost in music, many are moved by art, daredevils fall for intense adventure, and others worship natural beauty.
Nature was always my highest stimulator during my travels, but to my surprise on many occasions there was music, architecture, or a piece of art that moved me deeply. I guess, you will never know what speaks to you until you try.
Here is the list of my most intense travel experiences, so overpowering that they made me feel insignificant in such a wonderful way.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona
The Navajo Indians believe that everything on earth is alive and that spiritual and physical world blend together. They worship the winds, sun, and watercourses. For me, Monument Valley delivered just that. With the light of a setting sun, the red rocks came alive and magnified their presence with variety of shadows. I was pulled into this scene not just by valley’s visual splendor but also by an overwhelming spiritual vibe. The peacefulness, the gentle breeze, and the blue sky took me to another place. I could almost hear the Indian music coming from behind the rocks. The feeling was so liberating, I forgot who I was and why I was there.
Sagrada Família Basílica designed by Antoni Gaudi – Barcelona
I am not a very religious person. I am also not very artistic. Still, during my 12 hours in Barcelona I went to see Sagrada Familia just to cross it off from my list of famous world’s attractions. But when I walked in, I felt like I crossed a gate to heaven and the angels were singing. I could not get my eyes off the ceiling. It was heavily ornamented but somehow falling together perfectly into one incredible piece of art. There was a lot natural light coming through making it feel like the rays of heaven were shining on me. I felt the presence of angels. I felt eyes following me. I was waiting for the sky to open up and for something unearthly to happen. I felt incredibly small, like I was in a presence of God. It was truly a divine experience triggered by the power of art.
Blue Cypress Lake, Florida
It was a cold March morning on Blue Cypress Lake, an easy day trip from Orlando. It was still dark when the boat tour began. Our goal was to reach major photo opportunities spots before sunrise. Once we reached our first desired location, we quietly waited for the spectacular to begin. And what a show it was! Beautiful trees emerged from the dark and came alive with a gentile glaze of the morning sun. The birds greeted us with their beautiful singing. They were everywhere around us. Each way we turned, there was another amazing image. It was a privilege to witness this glorious awakening of the lake. I felt completely remote from my earthy worries and become one with nature.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
My first encounter with the Bryce Canyon took place well over twenty years ago. I will never forget the moment when I looked down into the canyon. The image was out of this world. I felt my heart beating faster. I felt a warm sensation in my legs. Without realizing, I started to cry. The experience was so overpowering, I just set down and kept looking. It was like a magical dream and I did not want to wake up from – mesmerizing experience induced by a masterpiece of nature.
Sequoia National Park, California
There is no other place on Earth like Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, home to half of the Earth’s tallest trees. When I visited, there was a little mist in the air adding to overpowering mystery vibe of the area. I felt like a little girl in a story book wandering around in the magical forest. I could feel the age and power of these trees. Sequoia trees are not only massive but they are survivors and have scars to prove it. This is certainly a place that makes you feel small and insignificant.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California
This is another magnificent place that tells the story of survival. Bristlecone pines are a millennium older than the Giant Sequoia trees in the nearby Sierra, many are well over 2,000 years old and the “Methuselah” tree in Schulman Grove is dated at more than 4,773 years old. For centuries, these pines were fighting against harsh elements of high elevation – dry soil, extreme temperatures, and winds. Take a close look at their shapes and you will see what a fierce battle it was to stay alive. They are twisted and injured but at the same time remained beautiful, especially at sunset. Each one tells its own dramatic story that can certainly put your own life into perspective.
The Dali Museum – St. Petersburg, Florida
Dali in known for striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work and this is what you will find in the museum. You will feel the atmosphere of his twisted mind as soon as you start looking at his art but to “get it” take a curated tour, otherwise you might miss important elements of his creations. In each painting, there so many layers that you need to be guided on how and where to look for them. There is love and passion, his wounded soul, childhood memories, religion, drugs, sexual experiences, history and nature – all mixing together into sweet poison that sneaks upon you and pulls you into his paintings. When you walk out of the museum, you need to snap out of his world into your own.
Schonbrunn Palace Evening Concert in Vienna
When in Vienna, you need to experience its music. I chose Strauss and Mozart 2-hour concert in one of the world’s most renowned music venues, Vienna’s Orangery at Schonbrunn Palace. Accompanied by singers, musicians and ballet dancers, the concert comprises virtuosos from top conservatories. It was an incredible evening. The combination of rich royal interior and beautiful music put me into tears. I felt incredibly humble and lucky to be able to witness this spectacular event.
Royal Rush Skycoaster over Royal Gorge, Colorado (named the world’s scariest skycoaster by Skycoaster Inc.)
My son was eager to do this ride but wanted someone to share it with. His father was not up for a new adventure after their scary morning rafting trip so it was my turn. My thought was that I would close my eyes and somehow survive. But I kept my eyes open. Imagine a free-fall sweeping you 50 mph to hang momentarily over 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River. I felt like a little bird flying over the Earth. I was screaming all the time but it was an incredible experience magnified by the fact that I was sharing it with my son.
Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania – waiting for the moon
I participated in a group night paddle organized by the park to see the blue moon. After a storm, with the setting sun and dramatic sky, the scenery became extraordinary. There was overwhelming calmness in the air. When we started paddling, it felt like gliding. After a while we all spread apart and it became my solo experience.
Next, the sun was down and the park was falling into shades of gray. In the dark, with other kayaks far away, I felt like was the only person in the universe. I could hear the silence. Then I saw the light showing at the horizon and I stopped and waited. And then it was! Beautiful perfect yellow circle (blue is just a term) emerged form the darkness and the moon’s reflection appeared on the lake.
My eyes were focuses on the moon. There was darkness all around me. It felt like my body disintegrated and blended into surrounding. I though this is how dying should look like, in peace with yourself and the world, your existence softly disappearing into the air.