Travel

24 Trips That Actually Changed People’s Lives

The power of a transformative trip.

1. We asked the BuzzFeed Community for the best vacation spots that helped them figure out their lives — and their answers reinforced the fact that travel can totally, completely change you as a person.

Annie Daly

As these 25 readers show, taking a trip when you’re at a crossroads, or struggling to figure out your next move, can absolutely help you *see the light* in a different way— and come home a new and more focused version of yourself. Here’s all of the convincing you’ll ever need that travel can shape you, inspire you, and transform you so much that it may just be the best therapy of all.

2. 1. “My first solo trip to New York helped me think of myself as an actual adult.”

“I went to New York City during the winter, which was magical because of the lights — but mostly because it was the first trip I paid for and went on entirely by myself. The fact that I was able to go, have a wonderful time, and come home in one piece was enough proof that I was on the right path, and doing better as an adult than I imagined.

I also got more confident about my financial decisions, and my capability to be independent — so much so that I just booked another solo trip, this one to Paris!”

—Taylor Wallace, Facebook

3. 2. “Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro taught me to trust that I can overcome whatever comes my way.”

“I went to Tanzania, Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I made it within 3,000 feet of the summit. It was the most intense and difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I was proud of the fact that I’d made it further than I’d anticipated. Part of the trip also included raising funds for a children’s clinic in Kenya, which we then got to visit.

To say this trip changed my life would be an understatement. It reinforced my desire to work in helping others, and made me step out of my comfort zone. Now, whenever I have a problem, I compare it to that mountain — and I am reminded that I can overcome whatever comes my way.”

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4. 3. “Haiti is where I realized I wanted to become a nurse.”

“When I was a senior in high school, I went to Haiti with my basketball team. One evening, we were at an orphanage, and I was holding a little girl named Diesulande in my arms. I began to sing to her, and moments later, she was asleep in my arms.

That night is when I learned how to truly love and care wholeheartedly for another human being. Haiti is where my love for humanity truly began. It’s the place where I realized I wanted to become a nurse, and today, I’m a registered nurse in Nebraska. Because of that trip, I have a whole new perspective on life. I truly take the time to appreciate the smallest of things. I am forever changed.”

—Alex Giles, Facebook

5. 4. “My trip to Ecuador inspired me to volunteer with children when I got back to school.”

“The summer after my first year of university, I went to Ecuador as part of a volunteer/adventure program. I worked 30+ hours a week on top of full-time university to afford my trip, and it was worth every penny.

I saw children and families living with almost nothing. There were countless houses that were simply wooden boards with cloths hanging as a door. I got to volunteer with children there, and it inspired me to continue on my volunteering when I returned back to school.”

—Zoe Elpitha, Facebook

6. 5. “Going to Berlin made me realize I’m a city person at heart.”

“I grew up in a small town, but after I turned 18, I went to Berlin for the summer. Living in a city where everything was fast-paced, new, and exciting made me question the way I lived my own life in my small hometown. Since this trip, I can’t imagine myself living anywhere but a city — and Berlin will always hold a special place in my heart.”

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7. 6. “Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain taught me that I really can do anything, as long as I take it one step at a time.”

“I hiked 545 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I learned that taking one step, one day at a time, actually does add up to something amazing. And now I never question wether or not I can do anything; I know I can. It also made moving cross-country right after very easy: If I couldn’t carry it on my back, I knew I didn’t really need it!”

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8. 7. “My solo trip to Russia helped me process my father’s death.”

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“Six months after my dad died really suddenly, I decided to go to Russia by myself on a whim. I spent three weeks staying in hostels and traveling. About 10 days into my trip, I was standing in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and had this amazing realization that I was standing in a place that had seen so much history. That really helped me put life and death in perspective. Not having anyone to talk to in English and being pretty much cut off from the world also aided in my ability to process everything for the first time since my father passed.”

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9. 8. “Visiting my sister in Washington made me realize how important family ties are.”

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“I live in Malaysia, and last year, I visited my sister, who lives in Washington, for the first time ever. I’d put off the trip over the years because I was always worrying about money, but when I got there, I realized how important family ties are. I hadn’t seen my sister in years, and in the two weeks I spent with her, it felt like a piece of me was made whole again — a piece that I never realized was gone.

My trip also gave me new perspective on money and purpose. All this while, I’ve blindly pursued a career, trying to save for some undefined future. But during this trip, aside from reconnecting with my sis, I also managed to visit my best friend in New York — and I returned home with a renewed purpose to try to build a business that gives me both the financial and schedule flexibility to visit those whom I love around the world.”

—Soon Min, Facebook

10. 9. “My solo trip to Peru prepared me for parenthood.”

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“When I was 20, I worked two jobs for a year so I could afford to go to Peru. I went for three weeks by myself and volunteered in an orphanage. It was my first solo trip out of the U.S., and I gained an incredible amount of independence and perspective. Shortly after I returned home, I got pregnant with a guy I’d been seeing on and off who wasn’t the best for me. We broke up after I got pregnant, and three years later, I have a son who’s the best thing in my life. The trip prepared me and gave me the perspective I needed to make difficult choices and become the parent I am today.”

—Zoe Hogue, Facebook

11. 10. “Spending time in rural Kenya boosted my self-esteem.”

“I spent a semester abroad in rural Kenya, where we didn’t have internet access. I had to write a 40-page research paper using a card catalog. We went hiking almost every day, and I heard hyenas, zebras, lions, and water buffalo at night. I was even chased by an angry elephant! I came home in the best shape of my life.

All the adventures and experiences made my self-esteem so much higher — so much so that now I actually live in Japan. The world is an amazing place.”

—Miriam Grundman, Facebook

12. 11. “Traveling through China by myself helped me see the inherent good in mankind.”

“I studied abroad in China, and instead of going home on my break, I decided to travel alone through the countryside for six weeks. It took a while to convince my parents to let me go on my own, and longer to convince myself that I’d be okay on the road. As it turns out, it was one of the most eye-opening trips of my life.

I got to see the beautiful mountains and humbling village life. I was challenged, and pushed my physical and mental limits by hiking many mountains. Along the way, I was afraid to lose my things, but in fact, I gained friends. On that first solo trip, I truly realized the good nature within most people.”

—Nandra Galang Anissa, Facebook

13. 12. “Going to Vegas with my family helped me see my dad in a new light.”

“During my senior year of high school, I went to Las Vegas with my mom and my dad, who was dying. My dad owned a bar so I didn’t see him that much, but on this trip, I got to see him in a whole new light. We stayed on the strip and we went to fancy dinners and we saw family and friends we hadn’t seen in ages. I saw the man that everyone else got to see — I saw him laugh and smile and be carefree.

I realized on that trip that this would be the first and last time that I would get to see him like this. I learned then that I need to cherish the moments that I am given, because they don’t come back. I learned at 17 what it sometimes takes people a lifetime to learn: You only get a moment once before it’s gone.”

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14. 13. “Studying in Ireland taught me about the beauty of true, deep friendship.”

“I spent three months living and studying in Ireland, where I met three people who I became closer to than any other friend I’d ever made. I didn’t think people could be that close, so that trip changed my whole outlook on relationships after that.”

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15. 14. “Witnessing the sex trafficking in Cambodia inspired me to come home and get my master’s in social work.”

“I went on a trip to Cambodia. While I was there I worked with Daughters of Cambodia, an organization that helps women and children leave the sex trade. It opened my eyes in a whole new way to the horrors of trafficking and how it happens all over the world. I came home and decided I needed to do something. I’m now pursuing my masters in social work with the goal of starting my own organization like Daughters.”

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16. 15. “Spending time alone in Europe helped me through the end of my marriage.”

“I took a largely-solo trip to Stockholm and London, just as my marriage was dying. It was a perfect reminder that I really enjoy being with myself. This past year has been tough, but not lonely at all.”

—Julie Arlinghaus Charles, Facebook

17. 16. “Camping with my husband strengthened our relationship.”

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“My husband and I set out on a three-week road trip through the U.S. to Canada. We saw the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone. We went rafting down the Colorado River, and finished it all in Waterton National Park in Canada. After three weeks of sleeping in a tent and 1,700 miles together, our relationship really grew. Lesson: Once you strip away all of the extra stuff in life, you can really see what it’s actually all about!

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18. 17. “Backpacking solo through Europe helped me move on after my father died.”

“My dad and I always loved to travel together, so after he died, I went on a solo backpacking trip through Europe [to honor him]. It was an amazing experience that reminded me how strong and independent I am — and that I have so many things to be grateful for. It also convinced me of the fact that I want to make long-term traveling a key part of my life, and I may not want the typical ‘American dream’ lifestyle — but that’s okay. And possible!”

—Erin Miller, Facebook

19. 18. “Road tripping around Israel after a breakup helped me find my sense of self again.”

“After my boyfriend of nearly six years and I split up, I left North America for the first time. I had become completely dependent on him, and had lost my entire sense of self. I traveled to Israel to meet an old friend, and we road tripped around the country, and then went to Jordan, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden together. After that, I traveled to France, England, Ireland, and Scotland on my own. It was empowering to learn that I can rely on myself and that I am not as useless as I felt for so long.

Now, two years later, I’m living in Thailand, and planning to backpack through Southeast Asia alone. I’ve worked hard to become someone that I can be proud of, and for the first time in a long time, I’m living for me — and I’m truly happy.”

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20. 19. “Riding my bike across America healed my broken heart.”

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“My fiance’s (then boyfriend) father passed away from cancer, and I was seriously depressed; it felt like my own father had died, too. I saw a sign for a bike ride from Texas to Alaska to raise money for cancer research, and signed up. I had both anxiety and depression, so each step in the application process was a minor miracle: filling out the application, submitting it, asking to leave work early for the interview, and not running away from the interview building when my name was called.

The summer I spent on that bike ride was simultaneously the most difficult, happiest, saddest, prettiest, most rewarding and transformative ten weeks of my life. My heart ached for the people who hosted us when I heard of their personal heartaches and losses, and my soul was healed when I witnessed the care and love that we were shown each and every day.”

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21. 20. “Visiting the Ice Hotel in Sweden gave me the confidence to operate outside my comfort zone.”

“I studied abroad in Gothenburg, Sweden, and I took my first solo trip to check out the famous Ice Hotel that had been on my bucket list for years. Since that trip, I’ve lived with a host family in Spain, worked at a hotel in Costa Rica, spent multiple weekends traveling around Europe, and more.

That first trip to the Ice Hotel in Sweden helped me see that once you get over the initial fear of going somewhere alone to a destination you’ve never been, you’ll learn so much from doing something outside of your comfort zone — and will gain confidence to plan your next adventures!”

—Katherine Larson, Facebook

22. 21. “Eat/Pray/Loving for a year in Spain actually helped me meet the love of my life.”

Grosescu Alberto Mihai / Getty Images

“After a devastating breakup from a seven-year relationship, I decided to go do an eat/pray/love year. I moved to Madrid, and traveled all over Europe the year I was there. I challenged myself to be okay being alone.

By the end of the year, I went out to eat alone, went to the movies alone, and even traveled alone. I learned to truly love myself for the first time in my life, and came back to the states a whole new person — I even met the love of my life. So without my year in Spain, I don’t think I truly could have found what had been missing all along.”

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23. 22. “Spending time at a monastery in France taught me that we don’t need technology as much as we think we do.”

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“I stayed at the Taizé monastery in Taizé, France, for one week in August. Although it was extremely hot and crowded, it was so unbelievably inspiring when I joined people from all over the world for prayer three times a day. We spent at least six hours a day praying and singing in multiple languages, surrounded by beautiful French landscapes.

I was away from technology for seven whole days and felt uncomfortable afterward checking my emails and Facebook to see what I’d missed. I would give anything to be back at the monastery and to live a simple lifestyle again!”

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24. 23. “Traveling to Korea to find my birth mother gave me a whole new family.”

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“I traveled to Korea in 2015 as a part of an adoptee group. This trip focused on the highly-emotional journey of the birth family search. I was there for 10 days and experienced every emotion I think a human can possibly experience; the red tape and hypocrisy of adoption is incredible.

After nine days of looking for answers to empty questions had passed, I resigned myself to the fate of returning home with no further information. But the day before I left, I got a call saying the police had found my birth mother — and she wanted to meet me immediately. Turns out, I have two biological, full siblings whom I had no idea existed. I now have a whole new family and a whole new reality. This trip changed my life forever.”

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25. 24. “Simply being in Norway helped me come out of my deep depression.”

“I went to Tromsø, Norway for spring break when I was in college. I was in the deepest part of my depression at that point, and was convinced that my life wasn’t important — but being in Norway changed all that. We spent most of our time outside in the fresh air, which, even in February, was pleasant. To this day, Norway is my safe happy place.”

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26. In the end, it’s important to remember that “running away from your problems” entirely won’t actually help you solve them.

Annie Daly

But, as these beautiful stories show, intentionally getting out of your comfort zone for a bit can be just what you need to get back on track — or change it up for the better.

27. Want to be featured on BuzzFeed? Follow the BuzzFeed Community on Facebook and Twitter!

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