Wading in chest-high water that’s an eye-opening 60 degrees. Sleeping in a mosquito-netted hammock in the humid jungle. Scraping my hands while scaling ragged karst. Hoping I don’t lose my footing on a small, uneven rock ledge many feet above the valley floor below. The occasional bat flying past my face. This hardly sounds like a luxury vacation.
And by most definitions, exploring the Phong Nha caves in Vietnam is not a luxury vacation. But as more of us are chasing the new luxuries of one-of-a-kind experiences, nudging our boundaries so we learn we’re capable of more than we thought, going places few others go and just generally feeling like a badass, the experience fits the bill. (I like to joke that everything fun requires a waiver. This expedition reminded me that many fun things also require a helmet.)