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.


Diving with whale sharks

The whale shark is the world's largest fish species and can grow to be longer than 40 feet.
Photo: Shutterstock/Krzysztof Odziomek


Uluru, Australia

The massive rock is climbed by 250 every day (despite pleas from local indigenous groups to refrain from doing so).
Photo: Shutterstock/eo Tang


Preikestolen, Norway

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


Great Ocean Road, Australia

The Twelve Apostles, pictured above, mark the end of the Great Ocean Walk, a hiking route through the most impressive landscapes of the Australian coastline. Photo: Shutterstock/Kamala Sakornmaneesup


Cotopaxi summit, Ecuador

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


Sea kayaking, solo

Big water, small boat. Shot taken at the Ligurian Sea in Italy.
Photo: Shutterstock/Mikhail Varentsov


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: Shutterstock/tr3gin


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: Shutterstock/K321


Redwood country, California

Taken Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, this picture shows the impressive size of California redwoods.
Photo: Shutterstock/Mike Ver Sprill


Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

The Half Dome looking as impressive as usual under the evening light with the Merced River in the foreground.
Photo: Shutterstock/Sarah Fields Photography
This post was originally published on August 30, 2010.