SITTING SEQUESTERED in rooms, in neighborhoods, in big cities can make you feel small and insignificant…but it’s a claustrophobic smallness. A feeling that human-made mechanisms beyond your control are ‘closing in on you.’

Then you pack a bag and get out. To the forest, the mountains, the open plains. Walls and fences recede, and suddenly you realize how small and insignificant city life is. Out here in the world you get a taste of true distance, a hint of the reality of your existence as a speck of nothing in an incomprehensibly vast and beautiful universe.

And if you’re lucky, when you’re back in your little room, typing it out on your computer…maybe you’ve brought a slice of that reality back with you.

This post is sponsored by the Nature Project, from Nature Valley.

1

Diving with whale sharks

The whale shark is the world's largest fish species and can grow to be longer than 40 feet. This shot was taken off Christmas Island, Australia, in January of 2005.
Photo: Rob Hughes

2

Preikestolen, Norway

The rock formation of "Preacher's Pulpit" sits almost 2,000 feet above the waters of Lysefjorden, in southwestern Norway.
Photo: Thomas Frost Jensen

3

Redwood country, California

Taken in Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, this picture shows me (in red) straining my neck next to the Stout Tree.
Photo: Aya Padron

Intermission
35

18 natural wonders of the US that will inspire your next road trip

by Hal Amen
20

California’s giant redwoods, the tallest living things on our planet

by Hal Amen
5

Photo essay: 2 weeks in Glacier National Park

by Jorge Santiago
4

Great Ocean Road, Australia

The coast along one of the world's most spectacular roads is also good for a walk.
Photo: Andrew Ferrier

5

Cotopaxi summit, Ecuador

This volcano just south of Quito reaches an elevation of 5,897m (19,347ft) -- often higher than the clouds.
Photo: david_rombaut

6

Spelunking in Ponoras Cave, Romania

Things can get large underground too. Here, spelunkers from CSA explore Mammoth Hall in Romania's Transylvania region. The light trail was produced by a fast-moving caver with a headlamp.
Photo: Bela Nagy

7

Sea kayaking, solo

Big water, small boat. Shot taken walking the Southwest Coast Path from Land's End to Plymouth, England.
Photo: nixwilliams

8

Desert near Ica, southern Peru

Sand accumulates into massive dunes in one of the driest deserts on Earth. Notice the city of Ica in the distance -- also dwarfed.
Photo: guilherme cecílio

9

Uyuni, Bolivia

The Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat and traps rainwater during wet winter months, creating a tripped-out sky mirror.
Photo: Carlos Díaz

10

Summer snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains

This is no photoshop. It's Matador senior editor David Miller getting in some late-season turns in Rocky Mountain National Park. Read about it in The Dharma Shack Chronicles.
Photo: David Miller

11

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

That's me again, this time feeling very small at the top of Half Dome.
Photo: Aya Padron

This post was originally published on August 30, 2010.