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Extreme Wellness: The Intersection of Adventure and All-Around Well-Being

10/9/17 by Emma Walker

Extreme sports are physically tough for the body and challenging for the psyche, which means you’re fully immersed in whatever it is you’re doing. In other words, whether you’re ripping huge ski lines, jumping out of a plane, or sending an epic pitch, mind and body have to work together to make it back to the ground or to the top of the summit. These days, more adrenaline seekers than ever are drawn to such challenges—as well as the sense of accomplishment that goes with them. Here, 9 incredible adventures in extreme wellness, which will leave you physically invigorated and mentally refreshed.

1. Volcano Boarding

This niche activity takes the concept of snowboarding to a whole new (extreme) level. Replace fluffy snow with jagged volcanic rocks, the friction-less board with a slab of wood and formica (which burns off every run or two), and the standard mountain base with an active volcano, and you’ve got volcano boarding, which is drawing an increasing number of adrenaline-seekers. A popular destination for the emerging sport is Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro, which has erupted 23 times since 1850, where local guides will hike you up the 2,388-foot peak and send you careening back down the slope. When safety is this far outside your control—after all, visitors don’t have a say in when the volcano erupts—it’s best to take a deep breath and just enjoy the ride.

2. Antarctic Excursions

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In the early 19th century, adrenaline junkies tested their mettle by signing on for Antarctic excursions with the likes of Sir Ernest Shackleton; an exploratory mission to the continent might last for a couple of years—or result in death. But today, Antarctica isn’t just for explorers and scientists: Tourists are visiting in record numbers–and have a much lower risk of being trapped for an entire winter in the sea ice.

Once you’ve made the long journey, more adventure awaits: With the help of a guide, skiers can carve a line down the South Pole and climbers can make their way up Mount Vinson. For something a little less ambitious, there are also tons of sightseeing tours for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers. Whether you’re skiing, sea kayaking, or taking photos, it’s impossible not to zone out into the vast, stark landscapes.

3. Extreme Surfing in Scandinavia

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A surfing trip above the Arctic Circle bears little resemblance to catching big waves in the tropics. Trade in board shorts for a full-body wetsuit, though, and you can surf among the icebergs for a rewarding, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Advances in wetsuit technology have made it possible to surf in places it would otherwise be prohibitively cold to do so, including Alaska, Greenland, Newfoundland, Russia, and Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden. Constantly changing weather adds an extra challenge for hardy souls willing to try cold-water surfing, but if you’re lucky enough to catch a wave under the Northern Lights, it’s well worth it.

4. Skiing Down Mount Everest

In addition to big mountains and sick lines, there’s a common thread to most ski films: the flow state. Professional athletes like skiers, who shred dangerous runs for a living, are often able to block out all the distractions and pinpoint focus. Think you’re ready to achieve flow state? Try it from above 8,000 meters. Climbing Mount Everest—with or without supplementary oxygen—requires serious physical strength and mental fortitude, and the descent is, statistically speaking, the most dangerous part. But it’s possible: A handful of hardy mountaineers have achieved successful Everest ski descents.

5. Spelunking in the World’s Largest Cave

Exploring Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the largest known cave in the world, means making a 262-foot rappel. But that’s not its only extreme feature: Certain passages in the cave could fit entire city blocks filled with 40-story skyscrapers. You’ll have plenty of time for reflection on the way to Hang Son Doong; getting there is a journey in itself, requiring a two-day trek through dense jungle. Once you arrive and set up camp at the cave’s colossal mouth, explore the delicate ecosystem, which includes a forest and rare cave pearls. This geological journey will have you contemplating what can happen in five or six million years.

6. Scuba Diving in the Great Blue Hole

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Check out aerial images of the Great Blue Hole, just off the coast of Belize, and it’s not hard to see why Jacques Cousteau declared it among the best scuba diving destinations on earth. The circular submarine sinkhole is nearly 1,000 feet across and more than 350 feet deep, and its crystal-clear water is home to tropical fish like the Midnight Parrotfish. Start training now, because the Great Blue Hole isn’t for beginners—you’ll need to log at least 24 dives before you qualify to scuba here. Once you descend into the cavernous hole, be prepared for an otherworldly experience.

7. Skydiving onto Fox Glacier, New Zealand

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There are countless incredible skydiving destinations around the globe, but New Zealand’s Fox Glacier might just take the cake (especially since there are plenty of other extreme adventures to be had there once you’re done with your jump). As you fall toward the eight-mile-long glacier, zone out on views of the Tasman Sea and its rugged coastline and Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

8. Rafting the Zambezi River

With fast-moving action and serious consequences, whitewater rafting is one of the biggest adrenaline rushes available—and a trip down the Zambezi River is an exercise in the extreme. A day trip down the Zambezi, which serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe near Victoria Falls, is considered one of the best rafting excursions in the world, and there’s no shortage of Class V rapids. At Victoria Falls, the river plummets nearly 400 feet into a basalt gorge and narrows from more than a mile to about 130 feet wide, resulting in some of the biggest commercially run rapids in the world. When your adrenaline’s pumping this hard nonstop, you’re practically guaranteed a life-changing experience.

9. Yoga in Extreme Places

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Ready to take your practice to a whole new level? Rather than heading to a classic destination like Hawaii or the Caribbean for your next retreat, consider doing sun salutations at the top of a volcano like Cotopaxi in Ecuador or while on a safari in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Several outfitters have begun offering yoga retreats and workshops in more off-the-beaten-path, less traditional destinations. The benefits are twofold: Not only will you get to experience something like, say, a remote village in Colombia or Yosemite National Park at sunrise—but instead of snapping constant selfies, you’ll be truly present to absorb these magnificent landscapes.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.