By Michael Lanza

Can travel “change your life?” How many experiences have such an enormous impact? I can name several that shifted my perspective on adventure or expanded how I view the world and other people. Exploring the surreal landscapes of Iceland and Patagonia. Walking among Earth’s highest mountains in Nepal, through remote villages where people live much as their ancestors did for centuries. Immersing myself in the mountain culture on hut treks in the Alps like the Tour du Mont Blanc (photo above). And seeing unforgettable places like Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, Italy’s Dolomites, and Alaska’s Glacier Bay through the unclouded eyes of my kids.

Our earliest and sometimes most inspirational experiences usually happen within our own national borders, and often close to where we grew up or live. (That was the case for me on a bicycle tour with two buddies in our home state when we were 19.) And without question, several U.S. national parks deserve a spot on any list of the world’s must-see destinations, among them the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, and the Everglades—not to mention several parks in Alaska, where you can see the breadth of wildlife that once existed all over the planet.

But there’s something about traveling abroad that puts everything you see, hear, and touch under a magnifying glass. Everything is exotic. People talk and think differently. Culture is alien, history a refreshingly new collection of stories.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A mother and daughter hiking in the Pale di San Martino, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
” data-image-caption=”My wife, Penny, and daughter, Alex, on a trek through the Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
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