Follow in the footsteps of these adventurers

Throw on your hiking boots, it’s time for an adventure!

Image credit: blyjak/iStock
Get out and explore some challenging areas. Image credit: blyjak/iStock

Booking a holiday is easy, but setting yourself a physical challenge, learning a new skill, or simply getting out of your comfort zone can often be a more rewarding way to spend your vacation time. Let these explorers, trailblazers, and world-record-setters be a source of inspiration for you to embark on an adventure you’ll never forget.

Run the Pikes Peak Marathon, Rocky Mountains, U.S.

When American athlete Arlene Piper applied to run the Boston Marathon back in 1959, she was denied entry. The event didn’t accept female competitors, which forced Arlene to seek out a marathon course that wouldn’t discriminate based on her gender.

In August that same year, the 29-year-old mother of three was accepted into, and ran, the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado. In doing so, she became the first woman to complete an official marathon in the U.S., which she ran in tennis shoes purchased from her local dime-store. At the time, Piper had no inkling of her trailblazer status and was just looking for a way to promote the health studio which she owned in Colorado with her husband. Piper only learned of her official “first” after she was tracked down by a historian some decades later, who was working on behalf of the event organizers looking to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her achievement.

The Pikes Peak Marathon isn’t for the faint-hearted. During the grueling 26 miles (42 kilometer) course, competitors run to the peak’s summit, climbing more than 7,815 feet (2,382 meters) before running the sleep decline back to the mountain’s base. The event is held every August, and applicants must prove they are up to the challenge by qualifying.

Go ice diving in Tasiilaq, Greenland

Not only did Danish freediver Stig Åvall Severinsen achieve the terrifying task of swimming a distance of 152.4 meters under a 100-centimeter thick ice cover in frigid Arctic waters, but he also did it wearing just a pair of swim trunks. 

This superhuman feat in 2013 earned Severinsen a world record for the “longest breath hold swim under ice” and was considered a remarkable achievement, even considering the freediver’s lifelong affinity with water and watersports.

A national swim champion from the age of 9 until 11, Severinsen spent his free time as a child practicing holding his breath at the bottom of his parent’s pool. As a result of a strict training regimen, Severinsen now boasts a lung capacity of 14 liters, more than double the 6-liter average.

While few possess the extraordinary abilities required to perform a similar feat, it’s possible to don diving gear and experience the ice-cold depths of Greenland’s arctic waters first-hand. Book an excursion with an experienced PADI certified cold-water diver, to explore underwater ice caves, icebergs, shipwrecks. Divers will have the chance to see the region’s astonishing flora and fauna, which includes bioluminescent species of jellyfish, sea anemone, and coral.

Hike the Appalachian Trail, U.S.

Recently crowned one of National Geographic’s “Adventurers of the Year”, American hiker Heather Anderson, who goes by the name Anish in honor of her Native American ancestors, has walked further and faster than any other recorded human on earth. 

Anish embarked on her record-setting journey back in 2013, walking an incredible 2,655 miles (4,272 kilometers) in just 60 days, passing through many of the U.S.’s most famous hikes, including the grueling and physically challenging Appalachian Trail. 

This trail, which follows the Appalachian Mountains, spans 14 states of East Coast wilderness from Georgia to Maine. While hiking the entire Appalachian Trail takes the average hiker between five and seven months to complete (ouch), there are stretches that can be accessed and walked in just a few short days.

Check out this summary by The Wilderness Society, which offers a few of the best options, including a four-day hike through the Smoky Mountains, and a single day excursion which crosses the Hudson River and delivers a view of the New York City skyline.

Surf giant waves in Nazaré, Portugal

Those looking to surf some of the world’s biggest waves might consider heading to Praia Do Norte, in Nazaré, Portugal, where Brazillian Rodrigo Koxa set the world record for the “largest wave surfed”. Considering 38-year-old Koxa almost died in Nazaré during a previous surf session in 2014, his decision to return to the beach in November of 2018, where he beat out the previous record-holder by two feet, was an exceptionally courageous one.

Whether you’re a grommet, an established surfer, or simply a fan of the film “Point Break”, there’s sure to be some allure to the idea of surfing a big kahuna. However, the massive waves found within this particular stretch of the Portuguese coast, such as the 80 foot (24.5 meter) high monster surfed by Koxa, can spark fear in the minds of even the most confident of pro-surfers.

Considering the extreme surf conditions of Praia Do Norte, the beach is best suited to those who’ve surfed before. However, there are calmer stretches of ocean along the Nazaré region with surf schools that offer single lessons, as well as multi-day learn-to-surf courses for beginners. 

Climb Huascarán, Peru

In 1908, at the age of 58, trailblazing U.S. mountaineer Annie Smith Peck climbed Peru’s highest mountain, Huascarán, to become the first American woman to reach it’s north peak at a time when mountaineering was not considered a suitable occupation for women.

However, public opinion did little to curb her passion for adventure, or her dedication to feminism. In 1902, she helped found the American Alpine Club, the first of it’s kind to accept female members, and in 1911 she planted a “votes for women” sign at the peak of Mt Coropuna, another of Peru’s great mountains.

Huascarán National Park. Image credit: Carlos Viola/iStock
Huascarán National Park. Image credit: Carlos Viola/iStock

Experienced mountaineers can attempt the grueling 21-day climb up Huascarán’s crevasse-ridden slopes at high altitude and in freezing cold conditions. Or, for those looking for a more achievable climb, head to the Peruvian town of Huaraz to hike the trail known as “Laguna 69”. You can still enjoy incredible vistas and get a taste of life at high altitude, but the trail can be completed in a single day.

Go sailing in Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Polish sailor Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz faced many perils in her quest to become the first woman to sail around the world solo. She survived fierce storms in the South Pacific Ocean and spent several weeks hospitalized in Australia, recovering from an acute liver ailment. When she finally docked her boat in The Canary Islands in 1978, she had been sailing for 401 days, covering an incredible 31,166 nautical miles (57,719 kilometers). 

Few have the grit, passion, and determination to undertake such a daring voyage, but The Canary Islands are a great spot for anyone looking to simply dip their toes into the sailing world. Plenty of companies offer sailing courses, where you can become certified to skipper your own boat, or, those who prefer to sit back and relax on deck can charter a yacht for a period of their choosing. The three islands, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife, are blessed with gorgeous beaches, idyllic swimming spots, and charming seaside villages, all of which are best explored by boat.


Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.