We all have routines, whether it’s a morning jog followed by coffee and oatmeal or how we schedule our workday or a detailed five-step process to get ready for bed. Routines can be good—they show discipline and commitment and often help us focus on things we’ve deemed important—but they can also introduce a yawn-inducing predictability to our lives.

When I was in college, I feared the impending monotony of adulthood. And so, at 20 years old, after returning from studying abroad in Perth, Australia, I made a promise to myself: I would counteract the tedium of my future desk-job life by visiting one new place every year. I didn’t put restraints on or attach caveats to this pledge; the destinations could be anywhere and didn’t necessarily have to be exotic, far-flung, or expensive. They simply needed to take me away from the familiar.

I have kept that promise to myself by visiting new-to-me locales, such as Spain in 2010 and Greece the following year. These days, though, the realities of work and bills and, well, life have prevented me from making some bucket-list treks—Thailand and Victoria Falls and Iceland are still patiently waiting for me. But I’ve kept my vow by remembering that even if the destination is a bit closer to home, it’s still travel. Some years, that’s meant driving four hours south to ski the powder at Wolf Creek Ski Area for the first time or hopping a flight from DIA for a long weekend in Nashville, Tennessee, with friends. And last July, I set sail on a cruise to southeastern Alaska, during which I hiked on the Mendenhall Glacier, caught my first salmon in Ketchikan, and watched the sun set well after 11 p.m.

What I’ve learned—from stand-up paddleboarding on the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs to exploring the wineries of Napa in California to walking through art galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico—is that it doesn’t matter where you go. What’s important is that you get out there and explore. When we gift ourselves a novel experience, we grow, we become more adaptable, we discover that people are basically good (thank you to anyone who has helped this lost tourist!), and we realize the importance of living in the moment rather than being preoccupied with to-do lists and digital gadgets.

I see plenty of travel in my future, but the places I’ve already crossed off my list have impacted me in innumerable ways. They’ve added excitement and a sense of adventure to life—feelings I can draw on during the days I’m tied to my desk (which, let’s be honest, really aren’t all that bad). As you flip through the pages in our fourth edition of 5280 Traveler—a compilation of the best of the best of 5280’s regional travel coverage—I hope you find a new place or activity that will let you test your limits, expand your mind, and inflate your desire for adventure. There’s no better time to experience something new than right now.

This article was originally published in 5280 Traveler 2015.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.