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9 People Describe The Indescribable Beauties Seen While Traveling

We asked jet-setters to put into words that which cannot be put into words.

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Moyan Brenn (CC BY 2.0) / Via

I quit my job and went to Iceland in January 2012. I'm a little obsessed with the country but tried not to have any expectations going in because I didn't want to be disappointed. It turned out to be the most amazing trip I've ever taken. I saw the northern lights after hanging out in a geothermal outdoor spa and eating dinner at a private restaurant. But those lights... It was like watching glitter dance in the sky. It was as if some crazy angels were blowing Fun-Dipped, colored clouds throughout the night. I've never seen anything so magical. I cried. A lot.

—Ashley C.

Swiss Alps

Leaning out the window of our chalet, singing in the soft morning sun that leaks from behind jagged evergreen peaks so impossibly tall and yet so near. A church bell chimes and echoes off the mile-high cliffs, and then the echo echoes. If I squint, I can differentiate between the white snowcaps on the mountaintops and the bright white of the cloudless morning behind it. I see red-brown shingles on a hundred rooftops below me that make up this ancient town now spotted with designer shops. Our vantage point is the highest in the valley, and through the rift in the mountains I can see other towns far in the distance, little clusters of homes connected by a pale gray ribbon of road. In the corner café, one cup of hot chocolate costs 11 American dollars, but goddamn is it delicious. Everything is fantasy here in the cracks between the crown of the world.

—James L.

Scottish Highlands

Gary Crawford (CC BY 2.0) / Via

While staying in Scotland, I took a bus tour of the Highlands. I didn't know anyone and started the tour scrunched down in my seat, avoiding my fellow tourgoers. But as we started to leave the city and enter the hills, I couldn't help but sit up. Outside the window was a wide, never-ending sea of green. When the bus stopped, and we all got out, we were in the midst of the Highlands with green below and green above. It was breathtaking. Immediately we all started talking to each other — nobody could contain themselves in the face of all that beauty.

—Jana P.


Venice is a place I have been weirdly fascinated with my entire life, for reasons unknown. It just seemed so unique and unlike any place I'd ever been to. I recently traveled to Italy for the first time with my sister, and our first stop was Venice. We got in late at night, so we couldn't see much or do much except walk directly to our rental. I was so giddy with excitement — it felt like Christmas Eve, and I was suddenly 7 years old again.

In the morning, we showered, grabbed a bite and our maps, and hit the cobblestone streets. It was a glorious sunny day, and we were staying off the beaten path, away from the crowded parts of San Marco. We took all of 10 steps outside, rounded a corner, and there we were, standing on an adorable pedestrian bridge which led over one of the zillions of canals Venice has to offer. The open ocean was to our left, and I immediately started crying. I was so taken aback and overwhelmed with joy from being in Italy — finally seeing this place in broad daylight — that it truly felt like a dream. My eyes couldn't believe what they were seeing, and my heart felt weak. My sister laughed at me and gave me a minute. Once I caught my breath, we spent the rest of the day romping and taking hundreds of pictures. Our one day there was absolutely brilliant, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life.

—Tara P.


Rob Glover (CC BY-SA 2.0) / Via

"Hitchhiking." "Contest." I'd never heard the two words together before I signed up for one, but the woman who picked us up in Amsterdam didn't seem surprised. "Ah yes, the students do them all the time," she said as she helped us into the back of her car. "I'll drive you as far as I can." She smiled and shut the door behind us. I curled my knees into my chest, hoping we would win.

Eight hours later, a different guy — a pilot on his way to Luxembourg — dropped us off at a small cottage in La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium, and we discovered that we hadn't won. We'd come in second. As bittersweet as that almost-medal was, it meant we got to see the sun set over the Belgian hills all by ourselves.

Our group — consisting of my partner, the team that had somehow beaten us, and me — walked down a path until it stopped being a path and became just grass, and then we walked some more. White fog sat in the sky, but besides that, the world had never looked that green. It made me think of when goth kids said certain types of black didn't match, except this view was all green, and these greens did match. The sunset was, as any great sunset is, a series of pastels and watercolors blended into neons. And it did what great sunsets always do: It got really damn good, and then it went away.

—Jen W.

The Badlands

Standing from a certain spot in the Badlands, you could look out before you to the horizon, and it was all untouched earth — land that contained no evidence that humans had ever been there. It was mostly scrub and land and a bunch of bison (which were amazing, even though they were just dotted clusters here and there), and it was so, so peaceful.

It's really interesting. All the man-made noise (and it wasn't silent; you could always hear the wind blowing through the trees, which is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world) was absent. All the buildings, all the lives, you couldn't see it in this land that's been untouched for...maybe all of time?

"Badlands"? No, I'd call it "Goodlands."

—Kirk D.


Trish Hartmann (CC BY 2.0) / Via

Snorkeling in the waters of the gorgeous and serene island of Eleuthera was amazing. I had never seen so many strange and beautiful types of fish swimming in such volume and so close to me before in the warm, turquoise waters. I felt like a popular mermaid (I was 12). I was dazzled by these super-long, skinny little white fish with black stripes and big snouts; they looked like adorable little claymation demons, and it was so cool watching them swim around me, swim among other fish, and just go about their weird fishy lives.

—Mandy C.


Being from California, it's pretty hard to impress me with a view. But when I went hiking in El Chaltén in Argentina's Patagonia, I learned a whole new definition of beauty. The hike to Laguna Torre was just unreal. The lagoon and glacier at the end of the hike were breathtaking and enchanting, but, really, just the ever-changing landscapes on the actual hike itself were enough to keep me in awe. I honestly just couldn't believe so many different and unreal views could be packed into any single six-hour hike. It probably would've been shorter had I not stopped so many times to just look and stare and breathe and take excessive pictures with my phone. And, no, you really didn't need a better camera than that because it's near-impossible to take a bad photo in such beautiful surroundings.

—Emily C.

Quinta da Regaleira

liljc716 (CC BY-ND 2.0) / Via

As children, we see images of fairy-tale castles, enchanted forests, and lands steeped in majesty and wonder. But, for most of us, those lands only exist in books and movies. When I saw the Quinta da Regaleira estate in the historic center of Sintra, Portugal, I was in awe of its beauty and this magnetic majesty the land held. Paths moved and caressed along hillsides overflowing with vines and vivid green vegetation. Castles towered above my head, boasting ornate architecture and detail, making me question if it was created by the hands of men. Waterfalls cascaded into ponds and under lily pads and stones walkways. Around every corner, awe and splendor burst from the earth. I took hundreds of photos, but none of them can capture the utter sense of wonder the land created.

—Clark M.

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