Life-changing travel: Bloggers share their magical moments – USA TODAY

7 months ago Comments Off on Life-changing travel: Bloggers share their magical moments – USA TODAY

Sometimes a trip is more than just enjoying the hotel pool or the local attractions. In fact, the experiences we have on the road can often impact our lives. To help inspire your next journey, we asked top travel bloggers to share their most life-changing moments from exploring the globe and how they’ve grown from them.

Matt Long of LandLopers ( In 2010 I won a sweepstakes to join Alex Trebek and the Jeopardy! team on a private tour of the Galapagos. There is nothing quite like walking through a field dotted with giant tortoises, or swimming practically nose-to-nose with playful sea lions. When I returned home a new spirit of wanderlust was reawakened, and I realized how much I enjoyed adventure travel and wanted to share my experiences with as many people as I could. A few months later I started my blog and I firmly believe that trip to the Galapagos was the intellectual impetus for LandLopers. Without it, I still might be stuck in a cubicle not living the life I was meant to live.

Sucheta Rawal of Go Eat Give! ( My most life-changing travel moment happened when I started volunteer vacationing. In 2010, I went to Morocco for three weeks to teach English at a women’s empowerment center. Instead, my students taught me the true meaning of travel. I discovered that people were the same everywhere, had the same desires and were generally good. Now when I travel I look at each country as a chapter in a book that I want to learn, rather than a place I want to have a nice holiday at.

Bret Love of Green Global Travel ( My life was forever changed by a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where I first learned about the concept of ecotourism back in 2000. Our trackers/guides were all locals, and spoke with great passion about the importance of conserving South Africa’s wildlife for future generations. The power of their words was matched by the emotional intensity of our experiences: A massive bull elephant walked over to us from 70 yards away, stopping so close that we could almost feel his breath; three young male lions tried to take down a baby buffalo, only to have the herd turn and try to impale them; and a pack of endangered wild dogs — which are often shot by local farmers for killing livestock — frantically dug their way under a fence back into the park. Getting a chance to go on safari, learn about apartheid in the townships of Durban, and spend time in a traditional Zulu village opened my eyes to a type of travel I’d never experienced before, and forever changed the way I wanted to explore and experience our incredible world.

Nicole Melancon of Third Eye Mom ( In 2000, my dad and I took a life-changing trip together to hike the Annapurna Trek in Nepal. At 39 and 69, we were both approaching milestone birthdays and as a mother of two young children, I was needing to rediscover my wanderlust soul again. The trek proved to be a trip of a lifetime which opened my eyes to the immense struggle and poverty in the world. I fell in love with the beauty and people of Nepal and promised I would make a difference with my life.  A year after the trek, I was able to raise enough money to build a reading center and school in rural Nepal. I also started my blog “Third Eye Mom” where I use my voice to raise awareness about global issues and promote change.

Paul & Karen Farrugia of GlobalHelpSwap ( One of our first trips was to Vietnam. We were in Mui Ne and got chatting with a group of kitesurfers who traveled to Mui Ne every winter to make the most of the kite surfing season. We discovered that out of our eight new friends, none of them held a typical 9-5 job. One worked on short-term IT projects, another was a ski instructor and another was a waiter who went traveling when the restaurant he worked in closed for the winter. Discovering all these different ways to make a living was a real light bulb moment for us. We realized we could carve a career that allowed us to travel for extended periods of time if we wanted. That’s when we started scheming and dreaming up the kind of life we’re living today.

Lance Longwell of Travel Addicts ( My most significant life-changing moment took place as a young traveler studying abroad in Nepal.  I was there as the Maoist insurgency turned into a civil war.  In retrospect, I probably should have returned home. I was able to see a resilient people going on with their daily lives in the face of tremendous adversity. Seeing the struggles of the Nepalese people has forever changed me and made me more grateful and appreciative of my life.

Stefanie Parks of The Stave Diaries ( Sleeping in the Amazon jungle is by far the most life-changing travel experience we’ve had. We spent one night camping in the jungle, with literally only a mosquito net to cover us and then another night in a fully open family home with no walls and two sides to the house — the bigger of which we slept in — and the smaller of which a family of about 10 slept in all together. This experience really opened our eyes to how little so many people live with. After an experience like this, it’s hard to complain about pretty much anything, especially any accommodation that we stay in.

Susan Portnoy of The Insatiable Traveler ( After friends bailed on a trip to Machu Picchu, I decided to go on my own. It was scary at first, but two great things happened that can be traced back to that fateful trip. For one, I fell in love with solo travel and have made that my predominate form of travel ever since. Two, it was in Peru that I first discovered my love for photography. Together, the solo travel and the photography prompted me to create a travel blog after friends and family, and a little unexpected press coverage, suggested it might be a good idea. Now I split my time between my PR consulting work and my blog and photography. Without my trip to Machu Picchu, it’s highly likely that my life would have taken a completely different turn.

Tracy Memoli of Suite & Savory ( I planned four nights in Paris to a T; however, on the second night my ankle starting hurting and I couldn’t walk as much as I would have liked. We missed a couple of the museums on my list, but we experienced much more staying local and really getting to know the area we were staying in. We did some shopping, eating, drinking and even had the opportunity to meet some of the locals. I learned that doing things that I didn’t plan for are sometimes the best discoveries.

Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler ( In 2009, about eight months after starting my travel blog, I went walking/hiking in the Lake District of England. Having only lived in major cities all my life this was a new experience. I was committed to four days of walking, which was good because it was at the end of the third day that I sat down, smiled, and realized that I really loved the day. That I love hiking. I now incorporate hiking into most of my trips and, when at home, I go out and connect with nature whenever I can.

Life-changing travel: Bloggers share their magical moments – USA TODAY

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