USA TODAY 10best: Clear your mind in these open spaces made for exploring
Get out there
Traveling by van in Mongolia
For eleven days, I traveled by van in Mongolia. Two hours outside of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, there were no more roads, street lamps or electricity poles.
One camel in the distance
When they told me I was going to the vast expanse of nothingness in Mongolia, I asked, “How will I know when I get there?”
They said, “You will know.”
The Gobi Desert
The goal of our van trek was to walk in the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert.
Sleeping in gers
Each night we stayed in different gers (you may also know them as yurts) along the route to the Gobi Desert.
Bayanzag, the Flaming Cliffs
This area in the Gobi is called the Flaming Cliffs, Bayanzag, Bain-Dzak or in Mongolian, Улаан Эрэг, and it’s where many dinosaur fossils have been found. An America paleontologist, Roy Chapman Andrews, discovered dinosaur eggs here in the 1920s.
Walk with polar bears
If you’re interested in wildlife, perhaps travel to the northern reaches of the planet where you’ll be outnumbered by animals. At Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge near Hudson Bay, I walked with polar bears with Churchill Wild. It was one of the best bucket list adventures I’ve ever experienced.
Touch the Arctic
I took four planes to arrive at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. There was nothing else around for miles and miles.
Polar Bear at Hudson Bay
Ride the Arctic Rhino (a lunar rover-like vehicle), spot a polar bear and walk with wild animals.
Wolves walked with us, too
During my time at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, we saw over a dozen wolves.
As we drove in the Arctic Rhino and walked in single file to see the polar bears, the landscape seemed surreal.
Over the river and across the bridge
If the Arctic isn’t your scene, perhaps traveling by rail through the Canadian Rockies will be more your speed. You’ll feel like you could stare out the giant train windows all day.
Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer
Welcome to Hell’s Gate
We traveled along British Columbia’s Fraser River and were able to see Hell’s Gate in southern Fraser Canyon.
Reflections on the lake
During the day, we saw bears, eagles, osprey and the reflections of the clouds in the calm, blue-green waters.
Sunset from the train
In addition to spectacular views, we saw the historic Spiral Tunnels and Craigellachie, where in 1885, the “last spike” united the East and West of Canadian railway track.
Snow in the peaks of the Rocky Mountains
See the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies and the remote vistas of Canada’s West.
Watching zebras in Tanzania
For wide-open spaces in warmer climes, a trip to Tanzania and Kenya might be in order. I saw these zebras on the first day of my African safari in Tarangire National Park with Abercrombie and Kent.
Hippo pool at sunset
It was a treat to be allowed out of the safari vehicle to walk around high above the hippos. As the light faded, we went back to our mobile tent camp, Sanctuary Kichakani, and heard lions roaring around us during the night.
Lions in the Serengeti
Early in the morning, we saw these four lions. Soon after, one of the lionesses killed an antelope.
A family of giraffes in Maasai Mara
After visiting the children at Enkereri Primary School, we passed by this family of giraffes. The Chief of the village near Sanctuary Olonana, Richard, invited me to teach his warriors in the Maasai Mara how to hula hoop.
A parade of elephants
We spent hours watching elephants in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. Some of them were practicing fighting, some were eating and all were moving along towards the water.
Watch my videos
From my 1st African Safari:
From Churchill Wild:
From Rocky Mountaineer: