Ancient traditions among varying philosophical systems including Greek, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Alchemy hold that our souls are connected to the elements, and among most of these systems are included the most well known Four: fire, earth, water and air. One may hold particular sway over our soul than the others, or a combination of such. Each is said to impart distinctive qualities to our character and abilities that determine how we interact with the world and respond to life’s challenges. Whether or not you believe that this personality type classification, of sorts, holds some element of truth, you may agree that people are preferentially drawn to particular locations, scenery or activities that are related to one of these elements in some way. Perhaps you are a man of the mountains, or a siren of the seas. Or an air-devil, jumping out of planes as fast as you can say “Wingsuit!”. Or Danaerys Targaryen.
This guide aims to inspire travel planning according to the elements. You may find one particular element seems to strike you as just your type of adventure, or perhaps you are keen on a mix of more than one. At any rate, these awe-inspiring journeys are sure to help you get in touch with the very foundations of your ticking clock.
This element is associated with change, intuition, emotion, intelligence and imagination. Considered a life source, it is very powerful, and water personalities are very deep. It is also associated with health, purity and cleansing. The sound of water can instill a vast array of sensations, from intensely thrilling to cheerful bubbling to deeply calming.
Water can also be very relaxing and loads of fun! You might love nothing better than the ocean spray in your face and the steady crashing of waves against the shore. A trickling stream, a fountain, rushing rapids of a river or the full, deep crash of a waterfall are all welcomed by a water-lover. If this element tends to style your ideal travels, or you feel you are in need of some change or cleansing in your life, set off on a watery adventure in these watery havens of waterfalls, rivers and oceans.
Li River, China
Serenity and mysticism flow in the form of the Li River in China, which has inspired art and poetry for centuries. Bamboo groves, terraced rice paddies and limestone peaks are dramatic adornments of the river’s calm, graceful yet powerful ever-onward flow. The surface is gently broken by fishermen’s canoes or ripples from the life teaming beneath the surface. Mists sometimes overwhelm the surrounding mountains, adding to the magic and mystery of this Chinese gem that begs exploration.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe-Zambia
This thundering, massive waterfall of the Zambezi River is most impressive in the rainy season of November to April, but the 5,578-foot (1,700 meter) wide, 328 foot (100 meter) drop never fails to inspire awe. These falls are an epitome of nature’s majesty and power.
The southern Mediterranean is a deep, wild sapphire blue that sinks right to the heart of a water lover, particularly when it crashes against the rocky cliffs of idyllic Malta. Malta’s island of Gozo is home to the Azure Window, an ocean-lovers dream setting which is often used in films due to its dramatic and picturesque aesthetics (for instance, it was used for the filming of the wedding of Danaerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo in the Game of Thrones HBO series). This place and its surroundings are popular for scuba diving.
If you want all three together, Costa Rica is an excellent watery, tropical paradise with mystical cloud forests, glowing glacial rivers and waterfalls and bordered by the Pacific to the west and the Caribbean to the east.
If you like being completely surrounded by water, abandon land for a sleek vessel – yacht charters will allow you to surround yourself with sky and ocean, only seeking trips ashore at your leisure.
Earth is, not surprisingly, associated with groundedness, reliability, responsibility, wisdom and balance. It represents knowledge, growth, strength, fertility and prosperity and is the central foundation for life, as well as the home and recipient of the other elements. Earth characters are thoughtful, practical, productive and stable; they are excellent at establishing and maintaining peace and exhibit both attention to detail as well as an understanding of the whole.You are excellent communicators and business strategists.
While you deeply appreciate nature, this would also include those of you who are extremely sense-oriented, seeking pleasurable experiences of taste, sight, touch, smell and sound. So while mountainous, richly forest-laden terrain may indeed be an ideal travel landscape for you, you might also equally enjoy an indulgent wine and dine or a distinctive cultural experience.
For your earth fix, try a dose of these earthly elixirs.
The kind of snow-capped-mountains-meet-rich-forest-meet-lake-river-and-ocean-meet-grassy-fields-meet-rocky-expanses landscapes you set as your desktop images and don’t believe they actually exist. Climb every mountain and hug every tree and cross every stream, earth people. Giant bonus: This place is literally Middle Earth on Earth. As the filming playground for the Lord of the Rings, there are many structures left in place, including the whole of the Shire. Because New Zealand is a geothermal area, steam often escapes from cracks in the mountains and earth. It’s actually one of the ‘youngest’ landmasses on earth, and as such has not been subject to weathering and erosion as older masses, therefore granting it a raw feel. A fellow traveler has shared that in this earthy haven, ‘everything feels alive’. Avatar, anyone?
If New Zealand is too far, try Canada for equally jaw-dropping landscapes that are under-radar. Lakeside cabins are available, but there is plenty of space to go around in Canada, so you can feel wonderfully immersed in forested, mountainous privacy.
If you’re ears perked up at the ‘wine and dine’ orientation of earthly interests, Italy would be an excellent location. Try the rolling, rustic hills of Tuscany and indulge in friendly, hospitable attitudes and the rich, aromatic mosaic of world-renowned wine and cuisine. Sorrento on the coast of South Italy would also be an ideal choice, with its colorful, lemon-dropped and bougainvillea-draped mountainous seaside villages.
You guessed it – spontaneity, passion, enthusiasm, motivation, drive and sensuality. This element possesses qualities of strength, persistence and dynamism but is also associate with restlessness and impulsive behavior. Fire can be both creative and destructive, powerful when controlled without smothering but dangerous when its temperament is in full force. Authority and leadership, adventure and enthusiasm are a fiery individual’s specialties, the latter two making for an excellent traveler. Your energetic spirit is contagious and you turn ideas into action. You have a very can-do, talk-is-cheap, quit-talking-and-start-doing attitude, and as an out-going socializer the effects of this are influential on the people around you.
How best to indulge your fiery soul? Seek intense sun and adventure as well as colorful and stimulating environments, and a bonfire or two won’t hurt!
This large group of islands in the South Pacific includes such familiar names as Bora Bora, Tahiti and Hawaii, and is home to an explosion of culture, color, adventure and, well, fire. Often referred to by western explorers as a heavenly paradise on earth, this archipelago is dripping in colorful, exotic flora and fauna and rich landscapes that beg exploration by sport vehicle, cycle, boat, horse or foot. The region has its own distinctive native histories and mythologies, with ruins and markings strewn across sandy beaches and cave walls. So where’s the fire? Originating in American Samoa but spreading as a distinguishing cultural practice to all of Polynesia is the art of fire dancing – torch-blazing, fire-spinning, drum-beating performances are often performed nightly at larger hotels, resorts or dining establishments. These spectacles are truly unforgettable, and are complimented by equally unique and colorful food. And more? Most of the larger islands are volcanic, and black sand and lava rock formations are common features of the landscape. Yet still, the islands are gorgeously filled with lagoons and waterfalls. Many of the smaller islands are reached primarily by catamaran, adding to the sense of swashbuckling adventure.
Air can very much affect our mood and our health. In the ebb and flow of its breezes, it carries to us the scent of freshly mowed grass in the summer, bonfires and spices in autumn, evergreens in the winter and the light scent of blossoms or thick promise of rains in the spring. It provides us life-sustaining oxygen and, as earth’s counterpart, surrounds every inch of us. Though not one of the Chinese traditional elements, it essentially represents the Chinese concept of Qi (Chi), which, translated as air, breath or energy flow, is the spiritual energy that flows through all of existence. It is a source of life and balance and connection to the universe.
Air is associated with flexibility, perception and power of the mind. If you find yourself most drawn to the elemental concept of air, you are likely an analytical person who encounters life primarily through your mind. You analyze situations often to an extreme, which grants incredible insight and perception (but can also lead to over-thinking). You’re likely kind, communicative and social though at first you may appear introverted. You’re curious and like to explore concepts and places – which leads to great storytelling and communication (so you probably like writing or meaningful conversation).
The following wonders are excellent destinations for catching air.
Mount Sanqingshan National Park, China
This is where clouds are born. Granite peaks and pillars shoot upwards into unique meteorological conditions that create misty, creamy white clouds 200 days out of the year, the likes of which you would think are only graphically created for movies. Not shockingly, this was a filming site for the movie Avatar. Lush flora in curious shapes and rock formations even curiouser enrich the deeply mystical and transcendental landscape of this mountainous park, complemented by pristine lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Mount Sanqingshan is a Taoist sacred place, referred to as the “Garden of the Gods.”
Serra da Estrela Mountain Range, Portugal
Adventurous air seekers can participate in a variety of air sports in this stunning landscape of, you guessed it, really tall mountains. Of course you don’t have to throw yourself off the side of them is that’s not exactly your style of air – you can do some more contained mountaineering and hiking, park yourself on a particularly pensive looking rock and allow yourself to sink into your mind palace for some quality pondering of life.
Clearly, many of these places have more than one elemental appeal, which is fabulous, considering many of us find ourselves exhibiting a combination of qualities or preferences. Each destination does, however, carry at least some dominance towards one element that at least serves the purpose of pleasing those dominant in that element.
Which elemental travel category seems to best capture your interests?