I recently had the honor and pleasure of hosting an onstage conversation with author Cheryl Strayed at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. The ensuing evening resounded with rich and layered lessons, but here are three that have continued to reverberate within me ever since.

In the course of researching where I wanted to go in Colombia, the place I looked forward to visiting most was the Guajira Peninsula, a vast, arid desert that juts out into the Caribbean Sea like a fisted forearm.

I have been traveling to Belize every year for more than a decade and am already planning my next trip. Why? This small Central American nation delivers cultural and natural heritage in spades. Here’s a prescription for the perfect week in this small but mighty wonderland.

All signs point to the imminent death of this iconic form of correspondence. Postcard stamp sales are way down, fewer stores are selling them, and more and more travelers are turning to digital methods to share stories from the road. But who doesn’t smile when they receive a postcard in the mail, especially in this day and age? I’m resolving here and now to rekindle the childlike joy in sending and receiving postcards by paying it forward myself. Who’s with me?

National Geographic explorers-in-residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert have spent the past three decades captivating audiences with their rare footage and photographs of Africa’s big cats. Now, they’re taking aim at a different kind of challenge: conservation tourism.

We can thank President Theodore Roosevelt for establishing what became the nation’s first national wildlife refuge—Florida’s Pelican Island—in 1903. Today, more than 560 refuges throw a lifeline to some of America’s most vulnerable species, and to the millions of visitors who spend time there drinking in the great outdoors. Here are six national wildlife refuges that provide idyllic alternatives to urban life.

It’s the last night of my tenth trip to Hawaii. This time I’ve come to visit my daughter, Jenny, who is planning to move back to California this month after living on Oahu for more than two years. My wife, son, and I have gathered for one final family fling. And we’ve had a wonderful…

More travelers are going DIY, opting to—as the buzzy phrase goes—“travel like a local.” This usually means skipping expert advice and typical attractions, and following recommendations found on crowdsourced review sites.

The results of going this route are often great. But the trend begs some questions. Do travel experts have a future? Are they even necessary anymore? Can I say, yes?

Looking for some travel inspiration? Our travel writing guru Don George sounds off on the latest and greatest #TripLit titles that will transport you from Montana to Tibet.

For travelers looking to immerse themselves in a destination’s traditions and ways of life, homestays are a perfect entry point. They are the very definition of local travel, getting visitors on the ground as soon as possible and plunging them into the deep end of a new place.

Planning a roots travel trip can yield rewarding, and surprising, results. “For some people, the thrill of just being there is enough,” says Marion Hager, owner of genealogy travel company Hager’s Journeys. Here’s how she says you can get the most out of a trip.

The Wolves of Yellowstone

If you’re looking for wolves, Yellowstone is a good place. And winter provides the best odds of seeing them.

“No matter how successful you are or what you have seen, you can’t be jaded when you walk in your ancestors’ footsteps,” says genealogy expert Megan Smolenyak. “Getting there requires a great deal of patience and detective work, but I can assure you, it’s well worth it.” Here are eight steps to get you started from National Geographic’s new book “Journeys Home.”

For writers who despair when a story doesn’t start smoothly or when the words don’t flow, I thought it might be helpful to relate the journey of my most recent story, which was about a one-week stay in Cambodia, and which ended up taking me a month to write.

Not all volunteerism projects are created equal. But giving back when gallivanting around the globe can be one of the most rewarding experiences a traveler can hope for. If you’ve been kicking around the idea of joining the growing ranks of travelers volunteering around the world, here are five steps to help get you started.…

As a six-time volunteer, I’ve asked many of the questions raised by critics—Does voluntourism create dependency? What qualifies unskilled first-world travelers to work in developing countries?—and I want to weigh in on the debate. Here’s a look at five common stereotypes about voluntourism, and why it’s time for a refresh.

Conservation photographer and National Geographic Explorer Carlton Ward, Jr., has been captivated by Florida’s Everglades National Park since he was a child, so much so that he’s made protecting it—and the amazing wildlife that lives there—his life’s work. Here’s a look at the ecological wonderland through his unique lens.

Chris Guillebeau achieved something most people only dream of: visiting every country in the world. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he managed to complete this remarkable feat before his 35th birthday. When he’s not traveling, Chris can be found writing (he’s the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness of Pursuit and The $100 Startup) and hosting the World Dominations Summit, an annual gathering of creative people from across the globe. Here’s a look at the world through Chris’s unique lens.

Impassable but not impossible: National Geographic contributing writer Mark Jenkins takes us on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through northwestern China’s Altay Mountains.

Saving the planet, one scat sample at a time—that’s not the slogan for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, but it could be. Founded by Gregg Treinish as a way to benefit the environment through adventure sports, the organization plays matchmaker between information collectors and thrill-seekers and guides groups through the backcountry. Here the Nat Geo emerging explorer shares some of his latest highlights, from Montana to Mongolia.

Postcard From Penang

There’s no finer end to a day in Penang, Malaysia, than to watch the tropic sun drop into the Strait of Malacca. Drink to the dusk with a cold Tiger beer, a reward for exploring the tightly packed and steamy streets of the city’s preserved inner core—a 640-acre UNESCO World Heritage site known by its English colonial name, George Town.

Travelers have largely overlooked the Balkan region, which has long been shrouded by a troubled past. But its enigmatic nature may prove to be its most potent drawing card.

I spend a lot of time exploring big, dynamic cities. But these isolated islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador grew on me in such a way that when I left, I felt as though I was taking some of the characteristics of the landscape and animals—fearlessness, energy, equilibrium—home with me. Here are a few other things I learned about the Galápagos along the way.

Uninhabited Québec

I peer out of the lighthouse window, watching the wide, murky Saint Lawrence River easing past on its journey to the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of sea birds squawk and shriek on the rocks below. I think about the men who spent years cooped up alone on this little island in the remote wilds of Québec, illuminating the way for the weary mariners who sailed by in the darkness of night.

It is my first day in the tropical rain forests of northeast Colombia and, along with about a dozen other hikers, I am on the trail to La Ciudad Perdida, or the Lost City. The pre-Colombian city was built around 800 A.D., making it some 650 years older than its Inca Empire counterpart, Machu Picchu, in Peru.