Last Chance Travel: Visiting the World's Most Endangered Sites, Before They're Gone

The Great Barrier Reef is disappearing. But by flying to see it, are you contributing to its demise?

"Last chance travel," has been trending since 2016 when the Great Barrier Reef experienced its first profound bleaching, but it wasn't until this year that Forbes named it the spiking phenomenon of the year.

"From millennials visiting pristine countries like New Zealand to spending time in the Arctic, visiting endangered destinations will continue to thrive in 2018," the magazine declared.

It's the see-it-before-it's-gone approach to travel. Some call it the climate change effect, while others are quick to point out it's as culturally relevant as it is environmental. As globalization homogenizes culture, intrepid travelers want to experience a place before the next McDonald's arrives.

Which spots top the list? We rounded up some of the most in-demand and endangered destinations across the globe.

Great Barrier Reef

Off the eastern coast of Australia, the 1,400-mile long Great Barrier Reef is the longest and largest coral reef in the world. But it has become a lot less vivid in the last two years. Since 2016, half of the coral in the the Great Barrier Reef has died, the Atlantic reported.

The cause of the reef's devastation is clear: rising global temperatures have cranked up the temperatures on our oceans, making them inhospitable to fragile corals.

In 2016, a survey of visitors to the Great Barrier Reef found that nearly 70 percent said their desire "to see the reef before it's gone" was the primary reason for their journey.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of America's largest, oldest, and most-visited national parks, and yet it may soon suffer from a branding issue. The number of glaciers in the park has dwindled from 150 in 1910 to 26, reports the New York Times. And according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, rising temperatures mean the park's largest glaciers could be gone by 2030, while all are in danger of vanishing within the next few decades.

The Maldives

The Maldives, the Indian Ocean honeymoon paradise famous for white beaches and pristine waters, have seen a 68 percent spike in tourism due to the last-chance trend. While the United Nations predicted the low-lying islands could be underwater by 2100, some think the increased tourism could be what delays disaster. "Tourism and resorts may be the saviour of the Maldives," Shiham Adam, director of the government's Marine Research Centre, told the Guardian. "The Maldives needs money to survive. Resorts are very positive for the environment. They offer better protection than community islands because they must protect at least 700m all around them. They become mini marine reserves," he said.


"Venice is not sinking," writes James Taylor-Foster on ArchDaily of the Italian city erected on more than 100 islands connected by a network of bridges and canals. "It's flooding." Venice is prone to flooding—in 1966 the city was under six feet of water—but Venice has indeed sunk five inches over the last century, reports PBS NewsHour. Couple that with a rising sea level brought on by climate change, the World Unesco Heritage site is it trouble. "Scientists are hard at work trying find ways to stop Venice from going down," writes Brad Cohen at USA Today, "but if they don't figure it out soon, San Marco Square and Saint Mark's Basilica might become a modern-day Atlantis.

Myanmar & Mongolia

Mongolia is home to one of the world's last surviving nomadic cultures, and Myanmar is one of the largest, most-diverse, and least known countries in Southeast Asia, after only recently reopening to tourists. But even in these traditional cultures, signs of modernity are creeping in. Companies like Overseas Adventure Travel arrange "Day in the Life" excursions that include making yogurt tea in a yurt and collecting dung for fuel and weaving. But travelers who seek out these experiences want to do more than merely see a way of life, they want to connect with it by meeting and meaningfully interacting with local people. In Mongolia, it is possible to travel to the steppes and stay with local families in a ger, their traditional tent dwelling.

Dead Sea

Bordering Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, the Dead Sea—in fact, a lake—has long held spiritual significance to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The water itself seems transcendent. With a salt content nearly 10 times greater than the sea water, swimmers are held aloft on the water's surface. But the Dead Sea's shoreline is receding at a rate of about 3 feet per year. As the water recedes more than 1,000 sinkholes have appeared in the past 15 years. It's not all doom and gloom, though. An Israeli government study thinks the rate of evaporation will slow and the Dead Sea will reach equilibrium again in a couple of decades—but not before losing another third of its present volume.

White Cliffs of Dover

The stunning White Cliffs of Dover along the southern coast of Britain are in peril. The cliffs, which get their arresting color from a chalk made from the shells of a rare species of algae, have been eroding 10 times faster in the last 150 years than they did over the previous 7,000 years, researchers say. The reason? A thinning of the beachfront that separates the 90-million-year-old mineral bluffs from the sea. Powerful storms and human mismanagement of the shoreline are now coupled with climate change, which is bringing elevated sea levels and stronger waves, all of which will increase erosion.

But if you're looking to prioritize, this destination can move to the backburner and you don't need to clamor to the cliffs just yet. "We've probably got tens of thousands of years left," U.K. National Trust environmentalist Steven Judd told the The Washington Post in 2001.


The vast, millenias-old Amazon Rainforest in Brazil has been called "the earth's lungs." But our breathing capacity being severely hampered by destruction of the ecosystem for mining, industrial agriculture and illegal logging. Over the past four decades, 40 percent of the Amazon Rainforest has been lost.

And it's not just in Brazil. All across the tropical regions of the globe, about 45 million acres of rainforest are lost each year, razed for palm oil trees and rubber plantations, cattle, and soybean farming. At current rates rainforests are expected to vanish entirely within 100 years, reports the Guardian.

The Last Chance Paradox

Researchers point out "last chance travel" presents a disturbing paradox. Those so eager to rush to see a disappearing place are, in fact, contributing to its destruction.

"Tourists are travelling greater distances to view the destination that is in danger, contributing higher levels of emissions and thus exacerbating the impacts of climate change," write Annah Piggott-McKellar and Karen McNamara from the University of Queensland (Australia) the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

But it becomes a vicious circle when the peril is indeed part of the appeal, writes Greg Dickinson at The Telegraph, "a kind of apocalypse...deathbed wanderlust…the irony being that the bucketloads of carbon it takes to travel to these sights is perpetuating the very climate change that is causing their demise."

For the thoughtful traveler, questions abound about the ethics of travel that may be in danger of exploiting—and ultimately eradicating—unique cultures. For the nomadic tribes of Mongolian reindeer herders, is this sustainable tourism or a sideshow alley, asks Paula McInerney at the Contented Traveler. "Will we lose this valuable tribe with inherent knowledge of the environment and the ways of the reindeers, of a self contained and functioning community if we don't assist with sustainable tourism? Is this responsible tourism?" Others question the ethics of visiting countries like Myanmar, where violence has forced 600,000 Rohingya refugees to flee the country in what the UN has called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

So on the other hand, if you really care, you could just stay home.

Subscribe now

Related Posts

It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).


You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker