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: Steve


Uluru, Australia

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


Preikestolen, Norway

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


Great Ocean Road, Australia

Photo: Kévin Lèvre


Cotopaxi summit, Ecuador

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


Sea kayaking, solo

Big water, small boat. Shot taken at Cat Island, Bahamas.
Photo: Trish Hartmann


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: Christopher Crouzet


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: quiquefepe


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


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


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.