Traveling on the Edge: 7 Dangerous (but Awesome) Adventures You Should Actually Consider
By Paula Froelich
When my mother first found out I was traveling to Iraq, she flipped out.
“What? Iraq? Are you nuts?” she said. “What the (expletive) do you want to go there for? Can’t you just go to a nice beach somewhere?!”
This reaction became a common refrain among my family and friends, but I went anyway. And, frankly, I had a lovely time.
Three years later, my taste for adventure and travels in places rife with civil unrest has become old hat, and my family, for the most part, is inured to my announcements of “Guess where I just booked a ticket to?”
A lot of people don’t understand why I love the far-flung corners of the Earth that typically have not yet adopted indoor plumbing.
I don’t do it for any sort of rush, although I’ll admit having a bomb go off in the distance definitely gets your pulse racing. But not in a good way. I do it to explore. I do it to learn. I do it because it is interesting. I do it because I find archaeological digs fascinating and I’d rather go by camel than car. And I do it because it makes me come alive. But I also do it because often times the people you meet on the ground are not what you expected or what you see in the news, and they will change your life for the better, forever.
I’m not alone. Over $89 billion was spent globally on adventure travel in 2010, according to Vital Wave Consulting, and the number continues to grow every year.
And so, I present to you some trips I’ve been on—and some that I haven’t—that you will never believe are actually available, let alone worth the trek.
Temple near Mosul. (Photo: James Gordon)
1. Iraq – South of Kurdistan
Why go? Because, if Saddam Hussein had been a smart man, Iraq would have been bigger than Egypt for historical monument travel. The country is the cradle of civilization and home to everything you read about in the Old Testament: Babylon, the Garden of Eden, the Ziggurat of Ur, Abraham’s birth place, and the (supposed) site where Noah built the Ark. Beyond the Bible, there’s the archaeological digs of Ashur and Nineveh, as well as the jaw-droppingly awesome site of the Nimrud Palace, some of which was hauled off to adorn the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of New York. And bonus: there’s the ultimate real estate porn experience of being able to prance around Saddam Hussein’s palaces like the opulent wonder in Babylon:
Drawbacks: Iraq doesn’t give out single visas, so you must go with a tour group. Due to the long distances between archaeological sites, you can be stuck in tight quarters on a bus with people for 10 hours at a stretch. Bring some headphones and a meditational tape. It will help. Most of the time.