Kids getting high / Photo: xav

Who needs the illegal stuff when you’ve got the whole world open for adventure?

Highs. They’re good. Much, much better than lows. It certainly can be easy to turn that frown upside down with a little bit of chemical motivation. But what about the natural highs we can experience during our travels?

This doesn’t have to be about hitting every pub in town or scoring a bag of something that is hopefully-more-than-weeds from the seedy park downtown.

In fact, this type of behavior doesn’t make for good long-term travel; you’re just exhausted after a few days.

So in the great tradition of counting down what is best in life, here are five of the best ways to get high while traveling without worrying about ending up in a foreign prison.

1. Soak in the city life.

Don’t get me wrong; the countryside is always beautiful. But whenever I step into a new city, whether Rome, Italy or Raleigh, North Carolina, I immediately begin to soak in the culture of the people that inhabit that place. The cafes, the bars, the shops – maybe even happening upon a pig-pickin’ in a park (definitely a possibility in Raleigh) – all make my head spin with delight.

2. Randomly run into someone halfway across the world that you haven’t seen in years.

Photo: J.J. Verhoef

When I had some time to kill before meeting my parents in Germany, I knew I couldn’t afford to kill that time in London. So I hopped on over to Amsterdam, where the minute I got off the train, lo and behold, I see a girl walking by that I went to high school with – in eastern North Carolina, for chrissakes.

Yes, us Rocky Mount folk like to think we are special and represent worldwide, but the reality is, this can happen to anyone. And when it does, you can’t help but think, “Man, Universe, you-are-good.”

3. Participate in extreme sports with people you don’t know.

What better way to make a best friend for life than to have your lives be put in danger together?

Whether you decide to go jump off a mountain in Interlaken, Switzerland as a part of a group outing, or you participate in a white-water-rafting trip on the Class Five rapids on the Zambezi River, there is rarely a lack of conversation over beers after said life-threatening adventure.

You can end up talking all damn night, and maybe for weeks to come.

4. Have a spiritual epiphany.

This can mean different things for different people. It can also come in different forms – for some by sitting in a pew of the oldest known church in the world, for others by meditating for two weeks at a 19th century mansion in Poland.

A few people have been known to reach enlightenment through a few shots of absinthe in Prague (OK, not exactly a “natural” high).

But for most people who go beyond vacationing into the whole other world of being a traveler, there is usually some in-depth discovery about the self, the world, and all that is stirred up in between the two.

And it doesn’t always have to include a hangover. Really.

5. Sink your teeth into that thick, juicy burger.

The first time I went to Prague was after I had been studying in Florence for five months. Our weekend in the Czech Republic consisted of these four highlights: eating at TGI Friday’s, Hard Rock Cafe, Pizza Hut, and Subway.

Yep, I ain’t afraid to say it. These are all places I never eat in the US. And yet, ten years later, that weekend still sticks out in my mind above most of the others.

I’ve been back since, and eaten the requisite Czech food of pork and dumplings (and some fish with the head still on).

But there is something about eating food from home, especially the first time you go on a long traveling adventure, that is well, kinda orgasmic. Most certainly if it includes a TGI Friday’s bottle-mixed margarita.

Darn, there I go with the whole alcohol-thing again.

What are some other natural highs from travel? Share your thoughts below.