10 Unique Travel Experiences That Will Make You Unrelatable At Dinner Parties

Photo: Courtesy of Chateau Saint-Maur.
Like most professional travelers, I've found that mastering the art of appropriate dinner party conversation can be difficult. It’s not that I’m overly prone to discussing gruesome or controversial topics; rather, I’ve had to learn which of my travel stories will induce cricket-chirping silences, and which will keep the conversation going. It turns out, there’s a fine line between describing my most epic adventures, and being completely unrelatable (cue the crickets). Bringing up the time I spent a glorious afternoon people-watching at a park in Paris? Most people can chime in with a similar experience. But, talking about the time I was serenaded by birds at dawn, as I pedaled through the cloud forests of Ecuador in a sky bike? Highly unrelatable.

Sure, there's a certain beauty to iconic travel experiences, and I treasure the moments I've spent lounging at a Parisian bistro table for hours or hoping my birthdate will bring me luck at the craps tables in Vegas. But, travel isn’t always about staying on the beaten path. For me, the experiences that have changed who I am and shaped the way I see the world have mainly fallen into the conversation-killer category — and they’ve been well worth every moment of awkward silence.

From stomping grapes in Romania’s Transylvania wine region to a sunrise skydive over the Outback in Australia’s Northern Territory, here are 10 unreal experiences that are refreshingly rare. But, you've been warned: They may not make for great dinner-party anecdotes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Mashpi Lodge.
Go Sky-Biking In Ecuador
Whether or not you’re a morning person, you can’t miss the opportunity to venture out into the misty milieu of Ecuador’s lush rainforest for an early morning sky-bike ride through the clouds at Mashpi Lodge. When your journey on the two-person sky-bike begins, the only sound is the gentle drone of the pedals propelling you forward along a cable stretched through the forest’s canopy; as dawn breaks, the birds and creatures awake, serenading you for the rest of the ride. Nowhere else in the world can you pedal your way through a cloud to find yourself suspended above a rainforest as it comes to life. Surreal.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cremele Recas Winery.
Stomp Grapes At A Romanian Vineyard
There’s something so enthralling about stomping grapes in Romania’s Cramele Recas Winery, located outside Transylvania. This is only offered three months out of the year, during the period when Recas Winery selects the finest grapes to create its lush wines — like Bat's Blood Merlot and Fetească Neagră Selene (picked only at night). Remember the feel of the raw-cut wood from the oversized barrel as you crawl in, smell and taste the lightly sweet aromas of earth and grapes, and savor the sensation of the cool, dark liquid as it swirls around your ankles, the grape skins swimming between your toes. The experience is open to any visitors brave enough to make the trek out to this legendarily bloodthirsty portion of the Romanian wine route.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Helicopters.
Have A Sunset Picnic At The Bottom Of The Grand Canyon
Although this ritzy tour falls into the ever-so-abundant category of "Las Vegas experiences," it’s not what you'd expect. The journey starts with a stretch limousine pickup from your Vegas hotel, and it takes you to new heights in a gold-and-silver-clad EC130T2 helicopter. You may actually find yourself putting your camera down so you can fully soak in the views as you fly over the Mojave Desert, Lake Mead, and the Hoover Dam, before descending 3,200 feet into the Canyon to Sundance Helicopter’s private landing pad. There, you'll embark on your intimate Champagne picnic while the sun sets beyond the canyon walls. The cost of the tour is around $500, but the rare aerial perspective of the color-changing canyon and the glittering lights of the city are so spectacular, you won't regret it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kristy Alpert.
Feed A Vineyard Camel In Morocco
Oh, you’ve never heard of a vineyard camel before? That’s because it’s not a thing yet. In fact, there’s only one in existence, and he lives in a part of the world not typically associated with wine. Just 30 minutes outside the small, surf-side village of Essaouira, off the coast of Morocco, you’ll find Goliath, who is quite possibly the most adorable, hard-working, and wholeheartedly loved camel in the country. He plows every day at the Val d'Argan vineyard and winery, where renowned winemaker Charles Melia (famous for his Chateauneuf Du Pape winery in France) planted his first vines more than 20 years ago. Melia’s goal was to start a vineyard in terrain that had never known a grapevine, and today, Val d’Argan is the southernmost vineyard in North Africa and the only organic vineyard in Morocco. A visit to the boutique winery starts with a decadent lunch with wine pairings. If you play your cards right, you can join Melia’s lovely partner on her daily walk through the vineyards to hand-feed sweet Goliath from a bag of fresh-cut carrots.
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Photo: Courtesy of Camus Cognac.
Blend Your Own Cognac In Cognac
Sure, rare booze purchased abroad can help you build a sweet home-bar collection. But, it doesn’t get much cooler than being able to serve your friends a one-of-a-kind spirit that you personally created. Travel to the medieval-looking town of Cognac in France and pay a visit to the Camus Cognac visitor’s center, where you can take part in the exclusive Master Blender Workshop. The experience immerses you into the world of the largest Cognac house to remain family-owned and independent since 1863. The workshop concludes in the house’s ancient barrel room, where a certified master blender walks you through the art of tasting, introduces you to the best AOC-protected eau-de-vie, and finally sets you free to blend your own unique Cognac to suit your tastes. The experience lasts two hours and, for 160€, includes a personalized 50-cl. bottle of blended XO Cognac. Don’t forget to write down your unique recipe in the house’s massive leather book, in case you need to order refills.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Northern Territory.
Go Skydiving Over Uluru At Sunrise
There’s a big difference between saying, “I went skydiving in Arizona,” and saying, “There was this one time I jumped out of a plane in Australia and, right as I was plunging my way toward a massive sacred rock used for aboriginal ceremonies, the sun began to rise, my chute opened, and I watched as the morning sun shed light on more than a dozen shades of red as the rock came closer into view.” For the latter story, just give Ayers Rock Skydiving a call. Not only is it one of the most rare experiences one can have in the Northern Territory, but, considering how Paul Simon called Oprah personally to tell her she had to make the trip to Uluru while filming in Australia, it’s safe to say the experience will easily rank among your most memorable of all time.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Party With The Glitterati In Monte Carlo
Only a handful of people in the world will ever be able to say they spent a night sipping cocktails on a yacht in Monte Carlo’s sparkling harbor, or enjoyed a private Champagne and dessert reception in the Grand Casino. Fortunately, luck isn’t required to be a part of this glitzy evening — you just need a large budget and a cabin number. This red-carpet experience is limited to passengers on board the Windstar Star Breeze, and it includes a cocktail party on deck, followed by a French degustation menu served on the yacht, plus the main event: private transport to a reception at one of the world’s most legendary casinos.
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Photo: Courtesy of Chateau Saint-Maur.
Sip Wine With A Guggenheim Artist In Provence
Photographer Emmanuel Cayere’s work has been featured in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, but some of his best pieces can only be found at the Chateau Saint-Maur in Provence, France, where he is the artist in residence. From June 1 to July 31, you can visit the winery to taste the delicious cru classé wines as the famous photographer walks visitors through his gorgeous art exposition at the vineyard. It’s rare enough to sit with an artist and discuss his work in a private setting; it’s even more rare to do so with one of the great photographers of our age while soaking in the magnificent landscapes of a Provence vineyard and sipping wine beneath the summer breeze.
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Photo: Courtesy of Six Senses Yao Ni.
Get A Private Massage Lesson in Thailand
Not only does the Six Senses Resort in Yao Noi sit in the motherland of massage; it also employs one of the most educationally qualified massage therapists in the world. Dr. Ranjan Kapoor, director of wellness at the spa, travels the globe training massage therapists. With a little notice, he’ll gladly arrange a private lesson for any guest wanting to learn a few basics. What makes the experience so unique is that, since there are no massage "dummies" on the island, Dr. Ranjan enlists local men and women as massage models for the session. Try explaining to the folks back home what it’s like to give a Thai massage to a Thai person who’s never been touched by a Westerner before. Not easy to describe in words, but it makes a great life-skill souvenir!
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Photo: Courtesy of JW Marriott El Convento Cusco.
Dig For Dinner In Cusco
Most people visiting Peru focus solely on walking like an Inca to the sacred site of Machu Picchu. Of course, you need to do that while in the area, but for a truly immersive encounter with the Inca culture, book a cooking class in the Sacred Valley to learn the traditional way to make an authentic Inca dish. Pachamanca (which literally translates to “earth oven”) consists of digging a hole in the ground before filling it with firewood to cook a meal of potatoes and meats. The tradition has been followed for thousands of years, and the culinary team at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco offers quite an experience. Students head out with the executive chef and his sous chefs to dig a hole in the earth, place down the hot stones and ingredients, and patiently pass the time by swapping stories while the meal slowly cooks to perfection. There’s something inherently sacred about cooking outdoors; doing it in the Sacred Valley surrounded by centuries of ancient tradition and mythical folklore takes it to a whole other level.

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