There are many places that I have been and thought wow, this is incredible. Obviously, travelers can find beauty in just about any thing, place, are attraction. This is only a brief list of the amazing places I have stood before, or inside or near and thought to myself “wow, this is incredible.” These places, for me, evoke a type of emotion that you cannot explain unless it is to someone who has had a similar moment in time, that they also cannot describe because any word just doesn’t seem to do a particular place and time justice.
#1 The sunrise at Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, United States
In Maui, if you wake up around two in the morning and pile in car that has been stocked with blankets and coats and hats and a thermos of coffee of hot chocolate, you are guaranteed to witness the most beautiful sunrise you may have ever witnessed. At the top of Haleakala, which is just over 10,000 feet above sea level there is an observatory where hundreds of people flock every morning, just to watch the sunrise above Hawaii and even above the clouds. You have to leave this early in order to beat the crowds, because the highest parking lot fills up early and then you can only gain access to the lower observatory. Why the blankets and coats you might ask? Because at two am it might still be 80 degrees down by the ocean, but as soon as you step out of your car at 10,000 plus feet above sea level it can be anywhere from 20 – 30 degrees and at certain times of year there is even snow on the ground. I have seen a few sunrises in my day, but this one definitely tops the charts. The clouds are below you as the sun begins to peak over the horizon and there are not enough words to describe it. Even the pictures do not do it justice.
#2 The line on which the Berlin Wall stood, Berlin, Germany
This is one of those places that is amazing, but in a different way. It doesn’t evoke a warm fuzzy feeling. Instead when I was standing where the Berlin wall had stood, and when I saw the few pieces of it that still exist, I mentally froze for a moment. I obviously knew at least the US version of the history of this horrific time in Berlin and in the world, but there is no way of actually understanding something, even a tiny bit until you are there. Clearly I will never be able to understand any of the emotions that the people in Berlin feel, but I was at least able to listen and have conversations with people who do live there and who do have very strong emotions regarding this wall and the day it officially came down.
#3 Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom
I love stone circles. I am borderline obsessed with stone circles. When I had the opportunity to stand and marvel at Stonehenge, I could have died happy, but thank goodness I didn’t. I would have missed so much since then. To stand in a spot, that has such a giant history and that no one can really truly explain is another moment that there are no words. All I really wanted to do was run through the center of the stones and hope that maybe somehow I could truly time travel, or that perhaps something even slightly magical might happen. I would have definitely run through the center if it were not roped off just far enough away to allow for the perfect picture, but to also allow the security guards to catch you just before you get to the center. Too bad I didn’t see it at sunset.
#4 The Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
About 45 minutes outside of Prague, there is the most amazing chapel. The Kutna Hora is a small chapel completely decorated with human bones. It sounds extremely macabre, and though it should be, it is actually stunning and beautiful. When the monks were excavating the land to build the chapel, they discovered piles and piles of human bones buried in the ground. They believed that these bones were from the victims of a plague that had swept over the land years before they arrived. So the monks took all of the bones and decorated the inside of the chapel. Some of them they even dipped in silver because the surrounding land around the chapel is rich with silver mines. Besides the skulls and crossbones that decorate the inside of the church, there are also simply piles of bones covering the corners of the building. It could be a bit creepy, but instead it is full of stories. Amazing and wonderful stories.
#5 The Road to Hana Maui, Hawaii, United States
On Maui, there is also another amazing Marvel. The Road to Hana. When you arrive in the town of Hana, you will quickly realize that Hana is a tiny spot and in this case the journey is actually the destination. The road to Hana is a 64.4 mile trip through some of the most amazing scenery I have seen. There are approximately 620 around the winding mountain through the lush and vibrant rain forest. The road is filled with the most beautiful over looks and scenic moments. There are waterfalls and black sand beaches and red sand beaches and streams and pools and bamboo trees and the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. At the end of the highway is the ʻOheʻo Gulch, also known as the seven sacred pools. These are pools that you can swim in and even cliff dive in. There is also a camp ground where of course you can stay the night before waking up in the morning to hike to the Wailua Falls which is tall and massive. There is even a tiny sanctuary that you can drive through and take pictures while holding up too five parrots.
#6 The Sonoran Desert, Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico
When I was 24 I went to Mexico with some friends. I had never seen a desert before. I had never seen a cactus growing in its natural environment. We were driving from Phoenix to Puerto Penasco and I practically begged the man driving to pull over just so I could get a photo of my first time seeing a real honest cactus. I was in complete awe. While we were in Mexico I actually had the opportunity to ride for wheelers with my friends through the Sonoran Desert and I saw the place where the desert meets the ocean. Beauty in one of its finest forms.
#7 The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
It was 1998, I was 14 and I took my first airplane ride on my first trip and it was to London and Paris. Upon arriving in Paris we headed almost immediately to the Eiffel Tower. WOW! If you can’t remember the first moment you saw something that you had heard about your whole life then I feel sorry for you. The Eiffel Tower! There was a count down on the front, counting down the days, hours and minutes to the millennium. I stood under the center and took a picture looking up into the tower. I took the elevator to the top and had a coffee at the tiny café. I bought my grandmother a copper plate with a 3D scene of the tower. I looked out over Paris and I knew at that moment that I was destined to travel. I had felt this before, but not until this moment did I understand how traveling actually changes your life. Then I walked down the 1,710 steps to the bottom before taking a sunset cruise on the Seine River.
#8 The Sacre-Coeur, Paris, France
I walked into this church and was immediately overcome with this emotion. I’m not sure what it was, because I feel it very rarely, but anyone who has felt it will understand. It is this beautiful white chapel on top of a hill with a beautiful green lawn in front and a balcony over looking Paris with an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower. Inside is as close as I have ever felt to the face of God. The chapel was finished in 1914 and was consecrated in 1919 after the end of World War One. This is accessible by walking up a large amount of steps or a funicular car that takes you from the bottom of the hill to the chapel. It is stark white and the grounds are covered with street artists and buskers. I had my portrait painted and I didn’t have enough money to buy it so my sweet friend on the trip with me made up the difference. What an amazing day.
#9 A Sea Turtle, The Pacific Ocean, Off the coast of Maui, Hawaii, United States
This may not seem like anything to be amazed at, but if you think that, then you clearly don’t know me. When I moved to Hawaii for the year I was there, I was literally terrified of the ocean. I couldn’t swim and I had never even been in the ocean above my knees. While I was living there I did things that I honestly didn’t know if I was capable of. I am pretty brave and have at least always considered myself to be, but something about the majestic ocean has always tackled me. While I was living there I finally got brave enough to go into the depths of the ocean (all 25-30 feet of it). While I was down there I saw a sea turtle. I Petted him and honestly forgot about my fear of the ocean and death by shark and death by drowning and I actually enjoyed myself. Then I realized how far down I was, which to me was like clearly 500 hundred feet and I almost panicked. However, I did it. I went scuba diving, I saw a turtle in the Pacific Ocean while scuba diving and by god, I will never forget it.
#10 The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
I have said it before and I am sure I will say it again. The Cliffs of Moher was an experience that I will never forget and that I truly hope happens again in my life time. To stand on top of something that is naturally so high above sea level with nothing between you and the edge is completely and utterly breath taking. To stand and look out at the vast world around me and to realize for a moment how small I actually and that I am just this tiny molecule trying to see as much of this giant world as I can possibly can. It is these moments in life when we realize that perhaps our paths would be greater if we only took a giant leap of faith. Perhaps if we actually did stop working in a job that we hate, or if we did up and move to that city that has been haunting fro what ever reason, even though we have never been there, or if we just simply did that thing that for some reason we can’t or won’t or are scared to do. This was the Cliffs of Moher.