Inspire me!
December 13, 2012 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Vacation filter: somewhere awe-inspiring. (+ book recommendation also, if you could.)

I've come upon a (planned) transition point in my life, and luckily I have the time and resources to take a week-long vacation and do some thinking right before. Please help me find a good place to go! Some relevant details, summarized in list form below...

- Looking for some place awe-inspiring, broadly taken. (So natural and manmade both count, and I would love to hear your experience.) It's a little bit hard to explain, but I'm looking for something humbling as well as that gives me some hope.
- Somewhere I haven't been before. (Have been to Yosemite, Yellow Stone, Grand Canyon, and most of the tourist attractions on the west coast.)
- Does not require strenuous physical exertion. I am in ok shape healthwise, and I've only ever done moderate daily exercise and nothing extreme.
- Somewhere accessible to a permanent resident of the U.S. (Not really looking to deal with the visa hassle unless a really good case can be made with regard to the first point.)
- Ideally will take around a week in length.
- Suited for contemplation. I'm going by myself, and I hope to do some thinking about the future, etc. (Cheesy I know...) I don't think I'm looking for too much interaction with other people...?

About me: mid 20's female, currently living on the east coast, been pretty sheltered most my life. Not a lot of travel experience, and I think a bit on the naive side.

Oh, and a book recommendation for the trip would be nice. Something conductive to a young person learning more about herself or just do a bit of general contemplation. (Not really looking for self help books. This is a transition point, but by no means a sad one. Open to all other genres.)

Open to all suggestions, thanks in advance!
posted by dragonfruit to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give us a price range for guidance?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:36 PM on December 13, 2012

I would be comfortable with spending up to $1500 for this, everything included. (I have access to a car if your suggestion is local.)
posted by dragonfruit at 8:46 PM on December 13, 2012

Machu Picchu, Peru was the most awe inspiring thing I've ever seen. I did the 3 day hike on the inca trail which would put you over budget and break your rule about physical exertion but the day trip from the town below is probably almost as magical. Also Cuzco and the lesser known but still amazing ruins around is very, very cool. No idea how much a RT flight from Lima is these days, but you can sleep, eat and travel/be guided in Peru very inexpensively.
posted by youthenrage at 9:43 PM on December 13, 2012

The list of UNESCO World Heritage sites is a good source of inspiration. From that list I will suggest Tikal in Guatemala - ideally at dawn for maximum awe inspiration. You could combine it with a visit to some other Mayan sites - and there are plenty of books on that subject to take along.
posted by rongorongo at 1:02 AM on December 14, 2012

Book? The Myth of Sisyphus, by Camus. Very much marked a transition in my approach to existence and what I wanted to do about it.

And if you want to get the heck away from everyone and everything associated with modern life, I can't think of many places better than Moloka'i in Hawaii.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:06 AM on December 14, 2012

Fly to Vegas. Drive up to Southern Utah. Do a loop around the area south of I70.
posted by notsnot at 5:41 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by mdonley at 6:59 AM on December 14, 2012

awe-inspiring is so subjective. but that being said, I am also in the midst of a major life transition (moving to Europe for work in the next few months), and two weeks ago I spent a week in England for work. I had a week free after the business trip before I had to fly back to the states - ostensibly to 'scope out places to live' - and was working so much that I didn't really have time to plan much in advance. the day before my meetings in England ended, I booked an overnight ferry to Holland, thinking I could stay in Amsterdam for a day or two to figure out where to go next - Berlin was looking cheap on AirBnB, but I've always wanted to visit Copenhagen - but as it turned out, I had four hours to kill at the ferry terminal waiting to leave England, and during that time I managed to find a crazy good deal on a hotel in Amsterdam for the entire week I had free. When I got to it, the hotel turned out to be one of the traditional canal houses right on Prinsengracht (the fourth canal on the ring). I spent the week exploring the canals, eating stroopwafels, and generally adjusting to the idea that I was leaving my old life behind very soon. I probably could have gone somewhere not as visually stimulating and gotten the same general effect, but honestly, I will remember drunkenly walking down Herengracht in the snow and realizing that I was about to achieve a decades-long goal, and the giddy elation that brought, for the rest of my life.

total damage was approximately:
$250 for the round trip ferry
$360 for the hotel
$500 for spending money

...I didn't have to pay for the airfare because I was working part of the time, but depending where you are flying from and if you don't get so excessive with the spending money (I didn't really need that much, I just got a bit flagrant near the end of the week, and did a few too many nice dinners out), you could likely do a week in Europe* for ~$1500 even with the flight.

have fun and good luck on your new life!

*: but not the UK, because the exchange rate is appalling.
posted by par court at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2012

Have you been to Zion National Park? If not, I strongly recommend it!

Other ideas: the Badlands of North Dakota, cenotes on the east coast of Mexico, redwoods in California.
posted by spindrifter at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2012

Well, the Smithsonian comes to mind to see what humans can do. Maybe Cape Canaveral/Houston space center tour for what can be accomplished by Humans working together on a grand project building something real that won't really have a payoff for generations. Saint Peters in New York(i think that is the name of the great church in New York City that has taken generations to build)or any of the great cathedrals in Europe(I would put Machu Pichu in this category and several great mosques and so on). An in depth tour of New York or Chicago Skyscrapers would also fit this bill for something awesome (although the inspirational aspect is tainted for me as they were built either as acts of hubris or commercial making ventures). Bridges have always had a profound way of shaping society and tying us together (the title of pope dates back to chief bridge builder being the highest official of ancient Rome before the empire) so maybe the golden gate and then see the redwoods (for both nature and mans greatest works).

Truth is there is inspiration and wonder to be found everywhere in all our backyards it is just a matter of looking for it.
posted by bartonlong at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2012

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