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.

The peaks of Grand Teton National Park, regal and imposing as they stand nearly 7,000 feet above the valley floor, make one of the boldest geologic statements in the Rocky Mountains. Here’s an insider’s guide to this natural wonderland.

Notorious as the vicinity from which Amelia Earhart made her final distress calls, the equatorial Pacific between Hawaii and Fiji is becoming a little safer—at least for marine life.

I recently returned from the Nat Geo Expeditions journey “Inside Japan.” In my role as an expert, I was to prepare several lectures to deliver to my fellow travelers. The idea of encapsulating everything I know and love about Japan into discrete talks was daunting. But one day near the end of the trip, reality brought home just how important these kinds of discussions can be.

Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872, leading the British diplomat James Bryce to declare national parks “the best idea America ever had.” Indeed, it was, and is. But celebrations and plaudits aside, look at what we have done to our national treasures. As we prepare to celebrate the National Park Service centennial in 2016, here’s a birthday wish for the future.

In 1864, the French novelist Jules Verne published one of his most ambitious works—”Journey to the Center of the Earth.” Though Verne was widely regarded for the meticulous scientific research that informed his writing, what he posited in “Journey” has been rejected: namely, that volcanic tubes lead to the Earth’s core. This, of course, hasn’t stopped curious travelers from exploring the book’s geological protagonist: Iceland’s Snæfellsjökull.

This year marks a quarter century since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Berlin continues to boom amid the reminders of its extraordinary past—a complex, sometimes dark, history it is intent on neither forgetting nor denying.

Numbers add up—just ask the Inion Eleven. Backed by a bounty of votes, this fearless family of global nomads takes the top spot in our 2014 People’s Choice Traveler of the Year contest.

There are more ways than ever to make money writing about travel—from writing for third-party outlets (publications, websites) to working with travel-related companies such as luggage and clothing manufacturers, hotels, airlines, and tourism boards. The issue this ever-broadening spectrum has raised for me is a thorny one that has been around for a long time in one guise or another, but that seems even more central now. Namely: Who controls the content?

Colombia’s vibrant capital emerges from a sketchy past to paint a bold new future.