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The festive season is upon us, and many stores around the globe are bracing themselves for frantic discounts and crazy sales. Did you know that in 2014 the average person spent $380 on Black Friday?! Did you also know that you could instead take a 10 day trip to Barcelona from London for around $250? While of course there are many wonderful reasons to buy gadgets and other material possessions around the holidays, we humbly offer a wanderlusty alternative. After all, even science says that experiences are better than things 😉 Whether you’re able to gallivant across the globe, or you’re better suited to explore your own country, here are 50 travel experiences that are WAY better than material things.

1. Discover a hidden bar

We’re ALL about the little secrets only the locals know about. Whether it’s a secret jazz speakeasy or a tucked away dessert and cocktail bar, if you do a little snooping, you can find a watering hole that will fill your travel diary with stories.

2. Stay up all night at a festival with friends

There are so many incredible festivals around the world these days, you’re bound to be able to find one that suits your budget and music taste. From those awesome, lesser-known festivals to the larger than life extravaganzas, festivals can be life-changing. FYI, Resident Advisor has some KILLER recommendations!

3. Go surfing – down a volcano!

Not your average funfair slide 😉 You seriously haven’t truly lived until you’ve gone Volcano boarding.

4. Get a travel tattoo

Taking into consideration the long term-ness of getting a tattoo, if you’re going to get one make sure it’s something you’re passionate about … like travel. Mark yourself with a symbol of your nomadic escapades, or to take it a step further and get a travelling tattoo somewhere far away or far from home. It will be a story that you can retell in the future with everyone you meet. For something a little different, read Will’s account of what it’s like to get inked by legendary tribal tattoo artist Whang Od .

5. Take an architecture tour…

Learning about the history and meaning behind a city’s buildings will really help you to embrace a new city as if it were your own.

6. …Or a graffiti tour

In many cities, even in the smaller ones, you can admire their street art. Even better, these days many big cities have professional graffiti and urban art tours that are dedicated to telling the history of this artistic movement and the works you see in context. The funny thing, street art can change from one day to another. London is a great showcase of urban art, a great place to do one of these tours.

7. Find a hidden waterfall

Oooo we love a bit of off-the-beaten-track goodness! Why trudge around all the touristy hotspots when so many countries around the world have less well-known gems just waiting for you. It’s hard to beat the feeling of finding a gorgeous waterfall that isn’t obscured by a forest of selfie-sticks.

8. Sleep in a capsule

You won’t wake up in space and it won’t be the most beautiful place to stay, but it will be one of the most interesting! Sleeping in a capsule hostel is like sleeping in a small cabin where you’ll have your own bed, bed light, locker, television, WiFi and USB ports. We assure you that nobody will be able to see what happens inside. You can be isolated AND have roommates!

9. Stargaze under a foreign sky

Stargazing is underrated. Too often we get a little wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of city life and need to escape for a while. Anyone who’s ever taken a little time out to ponder life’s mysteries while basking in the majesty of an unknown sky knows the feeling we’re talking about. Hint: you might wanna try the view from Skyewalker Hostel, Scotland 😉

10. Skinny dip with new mates

Not likely to find a crowd of budding skinny dippers at the local fancy hotel. But hostel crowds often don’t need very much convincing to try a little wild swimming and/or skinny dipping.

11. Get colourful at the Holi Festival

One of the most colourful, passionate and beautiful festivals in the world, the Holi festival is one for everyone’s bucket list. Seriously, go write it on yours. Now! If you can’t make it all the way to India, you can now experience some of the chaos and colour in loads of cities around the world.

12. Attend the biggest water battle in the world

Something you’ll never forget is spending New Year’s in Thailand – but theirs! (It takes place in April). Water is a purifying element and you’ll see people pouring water on Buddhas in the temples. The most animated part of the celebrations will be the water battle of the Songkran Festival, the largest in the world. Ready to soak?

13. Be amazed by the Northern Lights

Iceland. Canada. Alaska. Wherever you choose to see the Northern Lights, you won’t regret it. No Instagram filter or DSLR camera in the world can substitute for experiencing the real thing.

14. Don’t forget about the Southern Lights

The often overlooked but amazing Southern Lights are the polar reflection of their Northern counterpart. The lights can be seen in the Southern hemisphere, with New Zealand being a particularly popular viewing destination.

15. Walk on different coloured sands

Everyone loves a good beach holiday, but why not sink your toes into the luscious pink sand of the Bahamas or the black beaches of Iceland? Your Instagram followers will thank you.

16. Try a food you swore you’d never try

Scorpions on a stick? Fried Spider? Chicken Feet? Take your pick! #omnomnom

17. Keep a travel diary

Every day we talk with bloggers and Instagrammers who spend their time documenting their journeys. Travelling changes lives and the details of your adventures will provide inspiration for your future self as well as all those you wish to share them with.

18. Conquer that pesky fear of heights

It’s a phobia shared by millions around the world, but while you’re out adventuring, it’s the perfect time to stay out of your comfort zone and plunge back to earth from a terrifying height, be it through skydiving, bungee jumping or another method.

19. Learn a local traditional dance

Museums, cafes and hostels are all wonderful parts of a backpacking experience, but one way to really get to know the beauty of a new culture is to jump in with two feet. Where possible, look for classes or opportunities to learn a traditional dance of the people whose culture you’re experiencing.

20. Learn to cook a local traditional dish

Along the same lines, almost nothing helps you get to the heart of a new culture like tasting it. Many hostels have open kitchens, which are perfect for crash courses in local cuisine. Enlist a local, a hostel-mate to teach you, and bond over your mutual taste bud explosion!