My travel philosophy is simple: a trip is defined by the extent you’re able to absolve your fears. The beaten path has been heavily treaded for a reason – the world’s top tourist destinations are often enlightening, rich in history and culture, and they emanate timeless beauty, whether it’s in the architecture or just the earth’s natural allure. But there’s something to be offered when you veer astray and go where few have been before. It’s important to relinquish fears for this reason. The unknown is an obscure territory that can manifest itself in travel to places that are dramatically disparate from your home – home here can mean your town, city, country, continent, comfort zone, or even political categorizations like ‘first’, ‘second’, and ‘third’ world. Once you step into the unknown, unprotected by the dreaded and naivete-promoting touristic bubble that envelops the treaded paths, and brace yourself for whatever fortunes and misfortunes may fall upon you, the ending result will be different and illuminating each time, and you’ll never be the same. You can make lifelong, unexpected friendships. You can become a world-class story-teller. You may find that you’re capable of much more than you thought. The possibilities are boundless in these frontiers, and thus, as are the gains.

I am embarking on such an adventure this summer, with two great friends. The plan is to get from St. Petersburg to Nepal via Mongolia and China in less than three months. We’ll have nothing but our backpacks, our cameras, and each other, while we try to make our way through some of the wildest, most beautiful places on earth. Thank God the unknown happens to be my kind of thing.

While thinking about this trip, we put together a bucket list. This list includes but is not limited to:

Sleep in a Monastery, Sip tea with Monks, Listen to traditional throat music, Learn a traditional dance, Participate in a festival, Eat something really fucked up, Drink something that will make you gag, Make an unexpected friend, Take the most amazing picture you’ve ever taken, Ride horseback with tribesman, Learn a local custom/job, Get dirty, Eat a total of 57 dumplings or more, Go to a lagoon in a forest, Drive a mo-ped, Eat with locals, Learn to say a random phrase in 5 languages, Go against the dumb American stereotype, Have a random dance party in the middle of nowhere, Teach locals the Soulja Boy Dance, Climb part of Mt. Everest, Use paracord in an awesome way, Point to something on a menu in another language and order it without knowing what it is (more than once), Get a massage in some really cool place, and GET LOST.