There are many experiences in life that change your perspective about life, and therefore makes you a better person. Sometimes you plan for them, and sometimes they are thrust upon you, but these occurrences are significant, enlightening, and occasionally life-altering. Listed below are a few experiences that you must experience before you die.
1. Mardi Gras/Carnaval – Catholicism is the base of this celebration. Since, people give up one of their vices for Lent in repentance, the preceding two weeks are spent indulging in everything that they will miss. Carnaval is the original celebration of Fat Tuesday (the last day before Lent) that takes place in Brazil. It is a huge party with parades of dancing women, alcohol, and a raw sexuality in the air. But, because of the price tag, most people can not afford to take that trip on a whim and Brazil can be dangerous. So, there is a healthy alternative that every American can afford, Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Once you step into the French Quarter, you realize that New Orleans is a different type of place. Your first few steps are a myriad of light bulbs flashing, women flashing, and drunken debauchery. There is live music, great food, and people that just want to have fun everywhere.
2. A Nigerian Wedding – Weddings, in general, are beautiful and extravagant, but Nigerian weddings are a sight to behold. The women come in beautifully patterned clothing with large intricate hats and ornate bracelets and necklaces. The men wear dashikis and are often adorned in as much expensive jewelry as the women. There is drum-heavy ethnic music playing throughout the ceremony and everyone is encouraged to dance. The bride’s mother dances into the procession with her loved ones following close behind. Then the mother of the groom dances into the room with her entourage. Well-wishers walk up to each member of the wedding party and shower them with money as they enter the ceremony. The groom enters next followed by his groomsmen, and then finally the bride with her bridesmaids. Each ensemble gets their own special music and they are cheered by all their invited guests. There are speeches made by the fathers of the bride and groom and ceremonial traditions held in Ibo. Because of the energy in these weddings, every person that attends the wedding seems joyous and and engaged rather than reserved and reverent. A Nigerian wedding is one of the most beautiful exclamations of love that has ever been celebrated.
3. Second Line – New Orleans is ripe with tradition, but none are as unique as a second line. Funerals can be a bit of a downer in any place. You have lost someone who is dear to you. The realization and the finality of death can difficult for anyone to bear, but in New Orleans they handle death differently. They participate in the normal funeral proceedings where everyone mourns the loss of their loved one while eulogizing them. However, at the end of the service, the people from New Orleans stop mourning, hire a band to play, and celebrate their loved ones passing into the afterlife. There is a party after every funeral in New Orleans, not a glum get together. Families and friends follow live music through the neighborhood and dance in streets to celebrate the life of someone that they loved, then fellowship together over great food. The Cajuns have it right.
4. Go Camping – Surviving in the elements of your local forest gets you in touch with who we once were as people. You have to “rough it” at least once in your life just for the experience. Get some of your closest friends together, bring some food, water, and a survival guide so that you do not eat any poisonous berries. You will get to see the appeal, the aesthetic, natural beauty, the complete grandiosity of nature firsthand. There will birds that you never seen, animals that you will observe in their own habitats, and who knows, you may even see a bear (hopefully from a distance).
5. Visit Iceland – Yes, it will be freezing cold when you get there, but it will be worth the trip. Iceland has volcanoes, glaciers, ice-fishing, and you can even see the Northern Lights, nature’s fireworks display. Iceland is one place that everyone should visit before they expire.