Superlatives are the bane of travel publishing.
Magazines tend to shout their hot pink sans serif headlines, boasting the highest, remotest, southernmost, fanciest, nicest, cheapest, most sophisticated, most beautiful, and most wonderful; in short—the best.
But who decides these things, and what exactly constitutes the very best travel experience? Playing with pandas in China? Riding ostriches? Setting foot on the Antarctic continent? I really can’t say—travel is so very personal and we all enjoy such different things.
What I do know is that traveling for the past three weeks aboard our private jet has ruined me for life. First-class floating about the globe is not my usual modus operandi, but for National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary, it was just the thing to explore some of the rarest corners of Earth.
Given that it’s impossible to accurately caption the full breadth of extreme wonder that comes from such exotic travel, I shall merely show you the final, full-length film of our incredible voyage from Washington, DC to London and beyond.
In just 24 days, we visited 12 different countries, flying more than 20,000 miles on four different continents. We stared into the eyes of elephants, lions, and swam with jellyfish. We heard firsthand from some of National Geographic’s greatest experts (some of whom are quoted in this film), and we all returned home far more inspired and knowledgeable than when we left.
Isn’t this the real gift of exploration?—To return to the familiarity of home but to never forget the tremendous and the newly discovered charms of the open road; to call something “the best”—not because you have completed some exhaustive survey of every possible trip and destination, but because at that moment, when the color and dazzle of that unique place encircles you, it is the best.
. . . until tomorrow, when you arrive at the next place, and it is even more spectacular and strangely beautiful and mind blowing so that you say to yourself—no, this place is the best.
And the cycle goes on, mimicking my relationship with National Geographic magazine, where every month, for the past 125 years, readers pick up a new issue, flip through it, and think, “This is the best!”
As a writer who travels for a living, I am not shy to prolong that endless cycle of superlatives, because they honestly reflect the true excitement of traveling with National Geographic Expeditions. Looking back at the life-changing journey that we have just made, I can smile contentedly, thrilled with fresh memories of the coral in Palau or the campfires in the Kalahari—and I can say, without any exaggeration, that this trip, above all others, was the best expedition I have ever been on.