3 Breathtaking Explorations Everyone Must Take Before Turning 40

The ultimate luxury is youth. All the gold in the world can’t buy the spirit, optimism and plain old freedom of our younger years. But, as they say it, youth is wasted on the young.

Yep, the cruelest joke ever played on mankind was to combine curious energy and a lithe frame with cultural naiveté and an immature palate, which is exactly what makes our late 20s and 30s so interesting and fun.

It’s the sweet spot in life when we develop tastes, yet the appetite for newness is high, careers are ascending and wallet demands are relatively few.

The worldview is sage, yet knees are in working order. Basically, we're badasses — legends in the making — and what does a legend in the making do for travel?

Well, if you spent your college and early 20s in hostels and backpacking, and if you plan on spending your sunset years on beaches and golf courses, then take a different tack for those badass years for the in-between.

Before it’s too late, take these three epic, totally mind-expanding, completely game-changing trips by the time you turn 40:

1. Learn to sail with a fleet in the Mediterranean

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of one’s late 20s and 30s is the opportunity to vacation with friends to do something vaguely athletic.

You’re out of the woods with respect to school, careers are on cruise control, the body’s feeling good and the realities of raising a family are off in the distance.

There’s no better time to learn how to sail, no better place in which to do it than the Mediterranean and no better way than via fleet.

A clever little company called YACHTLEGEND is one purveyor of the “flotilla yachting” experience, and frankly, their concept feels like summer camp for grownups.

Several small, 50-foot sailing yachts, each berthing about 10 people, travel together as a fleet from location to location on a pre-determined route for seven days and seven nights, adventuring by day and celebrating by night.

With a professional skipper guiding each yacht and a dedicated hostess mixing drinks every day, guests learn to sail with old friends while invariably making new ones. It’s a fleet of like-minded individuals who make these trips mind-blowingly fun. You will never look at travel or vacationing the same way.

A week on the open water, breathing in freedom, curiosity and audacity with every single breath — now that’s something to write home about.

2. Go to the demilitarized zone in North Korea

For any self-described world observer, the geopolitical implications of a trip like this are reason enough to place it high on the travel priority list. It’s not the kind of place you take kids, to say the least. It’s perfect for this margin of time in your life.

Getting to the 38th parallel is no easy feat, involving half-day planes to Seoul and lengthy bus rides north to the border.

It requires a monitored tour that American armed forces stationed at the border sponsor, with seemingly endless security checks and mandatory training on how to behave inside the zone.

The experience includes two incredibly close brushes with the notoriously closed nation: a brief trip technically into North Korea via one of the three eerily sky-blue-painted diplomatic meeting rooms that straddle the demarcation line at Panmunjom and a journey 240 feet underground into the infamous Third Tunnel of Aggression, which is one of several tunnels clandestinely dug by the North Koreans to invade Seoul.

The experience is more like outer space than any place you’ve ever been, and it’s something any serious travel pro must check off before the opportunity becomes unavailable.

3. Take a guided tour through West Africa

This part of the world is not for the faint of heart. The roads alone are enough to send most travel enthusiasts packing, not to mention the region is soaked with the sad history of the slave trade.

But, this is exactly why it’s a must-see for the truly intellectually curious, who have the means to do it right and are free from the worries of parenthood or upper management or both (I hear they’re kind of the same thing).

With a personal guide-driver and vehicle, you can get through Ghana, Togo and Benin – and back again – in about 12 days, covering the most important “slave castles” along the Atlantic coast, as well as sites of incredible local religious significance, like the python temple in Ouida, the 500-year-old lake village on stilts in Ganvie and the voodoo market in Lomé.

You’ll experience the richness of an often overlooked part of the world and come to understand the American concept of “modern” in a way you would have never thought possible.

It’s certainly not cheap to travel this way, but it’s a cultural lens through which not many in this world will ever have the opportunity (nor courage) to look – and it will never leave you.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It