Conservation photographer and National Geographic Emerging 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’ 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 as well as guiding 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.

In the 1950s, Peru’s Cabo Blanco Fishing Club was a famous rod-and-reel outpost—the world record black marlin, weighing 1,560 pounds, was caught here. Ernest Hemingway visited, along with other celebs. Now the classic coastal village and some 2,500 square miles of ocean around it could become part of a new ecotourism project—or be turned over to more oil drilling platforms.

“Llama trekking seemed a perfect fit,” explains Stuart Wilde, who came to the New Mexico backcountry outside of Taos more than two decades ago. “As an outdoor educator and conservation advocate, they help me teach about minimal-impact backcountry ethics and sustainable tourism.”

Make no mistake: National Geographic lead geographer Juan José Valdés’s curiosity about “the world and all that’s in it” (a phrase Alexander Graham Bell, one of the Society’s founding members, used to describe the scope of the organization’s mission) isn’t purely cartographic or limited to his desk. Here’s a look at the planet through his unique lens.

A few weeks ago, I challenged myself to embrace a different kind of travel. Despite having spent two decades traversing more than 100 countries in all manner of ways, I had never been in an RV. And yet, hitting the road in one of these self-contained mobile domiciles is exactly how thousands of fellow travelers see the world. What was I missing?

It’s difficult to be entirely dispassionate about something that has been in my family for centuries. So, full disclosure: ​Throughout the do-we-go, do-we-stay debate on Scottish independence, I’ve been on the side of staying the course with the U.K. and I am relieved that Scottish pride and the knee-jerk, up-yours attitude that once resulted in moors sodden with ill-spent blood spilled by the English gave way to what the Scottish are born to—a calculating practicality that eventually wins the day.

The taxi driver hoisted my suitcase on his shoulder, stepped gingerly around the puddles and slopped through the mud on the earthen path to my homestay family’s stilt house. He had just driven me three and a half hours north of Siem Reap, into the bucolic rice-fields-and-palm-trees wilds of northern Cambodia, a half hour from the Thai border.

We are about five miles off the mainland of northern Ontario, camping on the rocky, forested islets that make up the Slate Islands archipelago on Lake Superior. Currently one of Ontario’s unmanaged provincial parks, there’s very little infrastructure on the islands other than remnants of mining and fishing activities, an old lighthouse, and a herd of endangered woodland caribou.