How These 10 Trips Changed Our Lives Forever

By Yahoo Travel Explorers

Most vacations shake up your life for a week, maybe two. They bring relaxation and rejuvenation for as long as you can steal away from the office but are then reduced to a few photos and funny anecdotes once you’re back, mired in all the emails you were foolish enough to ignore while you were away. But every once in a while, on some very rare and special occasions, you take a trip that lasts. A trip that just changes your life. Forever. We love hearing about those types of travel experiences, because that’s what we hope happens to every one of you. Here are ten inspirational stories about the trips that changed the lives of our Yahoo Travel Explorers, a group of regular people who were so affected by that special trip that they now make travel the center of their lives. What was your life-changing travel experience?

Backpacking Solo Through Europe


Paragliding in Germany will definitely teach you to rely on yourself, one of many valuable lessons learned from solo travel. (Photo: Christine Amorose / C'est Christine)

After I graduated college in 2009, I backpacked by myself through Europe for five weeks. Not only did I fall in love with travel, but the trip forced me to be so much more self-sufficient, flexible, and open to new ideas and new people. I learned how to live with just what I could carry on my back — and discovered that I’d rather spend my time and money on memorable experiences instead of shopping for material things. And of course, it inspired me to start taking photos of, and writing about, the places I discovered! — Christine Amorose / C'est Christine

Re-evaluating Work Over Labor Day Weekend 


(Photo: Adam Groffman / Travels of Adam)

With no spare vacation time in my 9-to-5 job in Boston, I booked a weekend to Iceland with a friend — leaving Friday after work and returning Monday evening. Even on such a short trip we met so many interesting travelers, it inspired me to make a new life plan — one that would involve more travel. After returning, I started saving my money to travel more while trying to get an internal job transfer abroad. After nine months of applications, despite being *so* close, I eventually decided to quit and use my savings for a 15-month trip around the world. — Adam Groffman / Travels of Adam 

Related: My First Solo Trip as a Single Mom Changed My Life

Volunteering with Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand


Volunteering with Thai elephants made me an activist. (Photo: Diana Edelman, d travels ‘round)

Before arriving to Thailand, I had no idea what elephants were put through in the name of tourism. For a week, I volunteered at Elephant Nature Park, where I — along with about 20 other volunteers — scooped poo, cut grass, and prepared food for these giant animals. Seeing them rescued and living in peace had such an impact on me that I returned to Chiang Mai six months later and spent more than two years working under the founder of ENP, Lek Chailert, and helping raise awareness about the plight of elephants in SE Asia and the world. — Diana Edelman, d travels 'round

Road Tripping with my Workaholic Husband

Before my 30th birthday, I gave my husband an ultimatum. I love him dearly, but he was working 60+ hours a week in a retail job and I never saw him. I told him that it was our marriage or his job. Instead of granting me a divorce, he returned my ultimatum. He said we should take 30 days to reconnect for my 30th birthday. We set out on a 30-day road trip from Florida to California and back, with our two dogs in tow. Needless to say, when we arrived home, work seemed so much less important than our love and commitment to each other. We started out on a new journey together. We started our travel blog and have been happily traveling side by side since I turned 30. — Lauren Bassart / The Constant Rambler 

Related: Wanderlust Bust! Pro Travelers Spill Their Most Embarrassing Moments On the Road

Getting a Charge out of Culture Shock in Russia

Although I’ve been to many places that have rocked my world, I vote for Russia as most life-changing. It is most memorable — not necessarily due to the aspects of the destination (although St. Petersburg was stunning and shopping for fur hats was fun), but for the thrill of being 19 and in a completely different culture and navigating challenges on my own, for the first time. I credit that journey for infecting me with incurable, interminable wanderlust which led to my career as a full-time travel writer. I cannot cпасибо (thank you) enough, Russia! — Lanee Lee, Voyage Vixens

Failing at Construction in Santa Cruz, Bolivia


Swapping tourist centers for a community-service opportunity changed the reason I travel. (Photo: Angie Orth / Angie Away)

I signed up for a mission trip with my church when I was fresh out of college. The plan was to build homes in an impoverished area. Turns out, I’m not that great at construction, so I spent time getting to know the women’s stories, playing futbol with the neighborhood kids and providing medical care to abandoned teens living in the sewers. It was my first experience traveling outside of traditional tourist destinations, and I fell in love with the people. To this day, I sponsor a child there and consider it the experience that ignited my passion to volunteer and travel concurrently. — Angie Orth / Angie Away 

Scaling South America Solo


My first solo trip inspired me to keep challenging my comfort zone. (Photo: Nora Walsh, Patchwork Compass)

After graduating college I embarked on a solo journey across South America. For a year I lugged an overstuffed backpack on long-haul bus rides to watch the dawn mist lift over Machu Picchu, hike glaciers in Patagonia, chew coca leaves in La Paz, dance samba down the streets of Rio during Carnival, and watch Boca Juniors play in La Bombonera. More than the lifelong memories and friends I made on that trip, the experience serves as a personal reminder to keep challenging my comfort zone and know that deep down I have the courage to take the road less traveled. — Nora Walsh, Patchwork Compass

Getting Cured of Asthma by a Chinese Doctor in Malaysia


An island retreat literally made me breathe easier. (Photo: Johnny Jet)

I’ve had several life-changing trips but the first one that comes to mind is when I went to Pangkor Laut Island in Malaysia in 2006. I visited their award-winning spa to learn more about traditional Chinese healing, which sees the body as a “harmonious whole.” Some of Pangkor Laut’s traditional Chinese healing sessions are rarely practiced anymore. I learned this in my meeting with Dr. Jok-Keng Lee, a then 43-year-old doctor who had been practicing medicine since he was 12 (!), and holds a master of arts in Eastern philosophy from the University of Iowa.

Speaking better English than I did, Dr. Jok-Keng Lee began asking me questions like how I was sleeping, and did I have pain anywhere? He then took my wrist, and used three fingers to take my pulse. It got eerily quiet for about a minute (it felt like 20). With those three fingers on my pulse, he was checking my liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. He said everything was strong, but my lungs were cold. “Cold?” I wondered. He asked me if I use my asthma inhaler a lot. I nodded yes (I used it up to seven times a day). He told me I need to get off it as it and cold air were not good for my lungs. He said I should cover up whenever I’m in the cold (including exposure to air conditioning). He recommended I use natural remedies to in place of my inhaler. He suggested that whenever I have the urge to hit my inhaler, I should drink ginseng tea or strong coffee, or eat chocolate. I thought he was crazy, but I liked his alternatives and kept an open mind.

Before I left, he recommended I arrange for a Tuina-Anmo massage, and moxabustion. I had no idea what they were, but I took his advice. It’s a long story but I wrote in detail about the treatments on my website, and stopped using my inhaler. When I returned home I went to my asthma doctor just to make sure my lungs were clear and the first thing he said was that my lungs sounded better than ever! He then asked “Have you been working out? I said, "No, I just went to Malaysia." Johnny Jet

Related: 5 Things You’re Doing Right When You Travel

Finding Spirituality While Stargazing in Spiti, India

Far up in the Himalayas, away from the tourists and humans in general, is a lake called Chandrataal, known by few, visited by fewer. The hues of the lake change with the position of the sun during the day and the moon during the night. On a moonless night, a look up into the night sky regaled us with the sight of the Milky Way in its full glory, swirling with its entourage of stars. Such a rare view brought with it feelings of awe, wonder, and some self-introspection about how insignificant our worldly problems are and how lucky we were to be here seeing this. — Rishabh & Nirali, Gypsy Couple 

Learning What Really Mattered While Studying Abroad in Italy

When I was 19 years old, I moved to Florence, Italy, for study abroad. Up until that point, I had hardly done any overseas travel, save for family trips to the Bahamas. I did not know anyone and I was pretty terrified, but it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Because of that trip, I went on to live in four more countries and travel through my current total of 34; make friends with people from other cultures and countries; and experience some of the most beautiful and challenging adventures all around the globe. — Alexandra E. Petri, The Write Way Around  

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