We spent our days like this, Ernest and I. His job was to shuttle around a group of grad students from Harvard-in the morning, to the government ministries where they interned, and at night, back to a gated, barb-wired compound where they slept. When one of the interns urged her little sister to come join-just pitch an article and come research it-Ernest was saddled with a 25-year-old white American who had places to be only if she could arrange interviews, and zero grasp of what "post-conflict" means for travel.
I had struck up a conversation with Ernest when I sat next to him in my hotel lobby, waiting for my room to be cleaned so I could check in. Before I could ponder why he'd compare Vancouver to, say, Ciudad Juarez in Mexico or Cairo, he added, "Now China, there's a place I wanted to go. But Berta here" -- he nodded over to his wife -- "she put the eighty-six on that one."
I had spent three months in India the year before, three months during which I fell hopelessly in love with the country while also becoming intimately familiar with the ailment that most often befalls its visitors.
And now, the sun was going down. Sunset ends a hitchhiker's day. Drivers want to see the goods. They want to see the battered cardboard sign -- ours said PATRAS -- and the backpacks with the unraveling seams. Drivers want to see your face. Once you've turned into a cut-out shadow, the day is over. There would be no rides and, to the dismay of my increasingly noisy stomach, no dinner.
The margaritas flowed as we left land behind and the Solmar V scuba-diving boat morphed into a party cruise for the 18-hour crossing from Baja, California. There was a lot to celebrate: we were heading out to the land of great white sharks and planned to dive with the ocean's most feared predator. It was something I'd long wanted to scratch off my bucket list, and, after talking to the other passengers, I learned I was hardly the only one.
But in the morning, when Guadalupe Island finally appeared through gauzy layers of marine fog hovering above the horizon, I felt the hollow in my stomach outgrowing my courage. The mood among my fellow passengers had changed, too. The previous night's party vibe had stilled into something more reverent and wary as we all quietly took in the striking scenery and let our minds settle on what was lurking below the water's surface.
For some people, vacations are meant for chillin' out, relaxing on beachy verandas and maximizing the pampering. But if you have spring fever and have bigger goals of counteracting your hedonism with a big physical challenge, it might be time for a trip you need to train for. Whether you're an ardent runner or an occasional plodder, we've found ten events worth every heartbeat you'll spend on said vacation. Here's to your health.
With all due respect to the virtues of a trashy paperback and poolside cocktail service, warm-weather vacations are no longer just about sloth and frothy drinks. The best way to recharge your batteries is by burning them out on new adventures in a new place.
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Fly Round-Trip to France, Spain, Italy & More this Winter
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