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The adrenaline junkie’s guide to travel

By Lucy Graves

It was in the middle of a Serengeti safari that Dr. Carolyn Chang knew her life had changed. Surrounded by wildlife from cheetahs to elephants to giraffes in the dead of night, Chang felt vulnerable yet inspired. The trip would forever alter the way she chose to see the rest of the world.’
“Everyone said before we left that it would be a life-changing experience — I thought that was a
melodramatic way to put it, but it was,” recalls the San Francisco plastic surgeon. “There was nobody around, just animals, and you’re there in the middle of untamed nature. The sheer rawness of it made it a whole different experience than seeing an elephant in a zoo.”
As improved transportation and infrastructure open up parts of the globe that used to be way out of reach, the idea of what defines a far-flung land has been completely transformed.
Scuba diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef? Been there. Sailing around the coast of Capri? Done that.

It’s a world where the next big tourism frontier won’t even be on this planet — hello, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Dr. Carolyn Chang
Yet, until the day comes when flight attendants say, “You are now welcome to use your larger electronics and tray tables, we have now entered the mesosphere,” a growing group of travelers is looking Organization reported a “remarkable” 7 percent leap in international travelers to more than 1.3 billion — the highest ever recorded. However, while those trips had previously focused on the typical Paris, New York City or Costa Rica destinations, new data shows travelers are becoming increasingly brazen in where they choose to use their vacation days. Some of the budding hotspots include Palestine, Egypt, the Mariana Islands, Tunisia and Uruguay, underscoring the newfound confidence tourists have acquired as they set off to explore parts of the world that had traditionally been written off or unaccessible.
So trade in the poolside cocktails, wine tastings and spa treatments, because the new class
of adrenaline travel has officially kicked those relaxing getaways to the curb.

A new kind of packing list 

There’s a standard checklist jet-setters have in preparing to leave the country. There’s digging up
the passport, calling the credit card company and double checking that the dream you had about
forgetting all your underwear was, in fact, just a figment of your subconscious.
For Alden Mills, it also entails weeks of high intensity interval training and long walks laden with heavy packs. Since roughly a decade ago, the Perfect Fitness founder and Navy SEAL started climbing a mountain per year with his two friends: Brett Bush and Chip Pyfer.
What started as a way to mark their 40th birthdays has since taken them around the world to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Elbrus in Russia.
“We were all getting ready to hit this milestone, and we wanted to do something different,” says Pyfer, a Private Ocean principal by day. “Originally it started with trips that we could do in five days, since we’re all parents and have professional responsibilities that didn’t allow for long excursions.”
Shortly before climbing up Elbrus, however, that changed. Mills was preparing to move to
Barcelona for a few years, and Bush was itching for a new challenge.
“I have always been an adventure traveler with that adventure bug,” proclaims Bush, a COO at Greywolf Capital, of his desire to venture beyond the 47 countries he’s already seen. “I want to go to exotic locations and see interesting people, and have always had that interest in climbing.”
And so, like any novice climber, he decided to dive right in by ascending Kilimanjaro. “I just realized that, spiritually, it’s a very focused goal,” he says. “You wake up every
day and just try to stay warm as you put one foot in front of the other.”
Eventually, the three men created their ultimate goal: Scale Earth’s seven summits.

In doing so, the trio also tacked on a philanthropic mission in raising money to support The Guardsmen, a Bay

Alden Mills, Brett Bush and Chip Pyfer.

Area-based group dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth, where all three originally met.

According to Mills, “The beauty of these climbs, with a few exceptions, is that the large majority of it is simply taking it one step at a time.
There’s a level of joy in looking at each other with 10 days of facial hair and bloodshot eyes and realizing that, even though there’s a great deal of joint suffering going on, we’re all having a ton of fun. When you encounter something unknown to you and that’s outside of your comfort zone, you have to embrace it with humor.
That element of unknown fear is part of what makes it so satisfying when you reach the top.”
It’s what will bring them to Mount Everest in four years. While it’s a milestone many before have dreamed of reaching, Pyfer and company are determined to turn a dream into reality.
“You hit your limits physically and mentally in pursuit of that goal,” he says. “And pushing yourself to that limit and breaking through those physical and mental barriers is what’s awesome about it.”

A new discovery

The reasons for travel used to orbit around seeing something new externally. But for that expanding class of adrenaline junkies, it is more about discovering something new inside themselves.
Whether it’s bungee jumping off the Macau Tower in China, looking down at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls from a hot air balloon, or even cliff diving off the Rick’s Cafe bluff in Jamaica, that rush of excitement and fear combines to form something else entirely: the confidence in knowing you’ve conquered something you didn’t think you had the guts to do.
“If you let yourself be challenged, whether it’s eating a different food or stepping into a new adventure, once you let yourself push those limits and experience things on the ground, it enriches your own life,” says Dr. Chang, adding that after her upcoming trip to Iceland, Morocco or Cambodia are next on the list. “Happiness comes from experiences and social interactions. That’s what’s valuable about opening your mind and seeing new things, because those experiences are forever.”
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