You’ve seen the meme: “Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.” A relationship can lose its lustre when real life gets in the way: work deadlines, bill payments, clogged toilets. Keeping the enchantment alive requires a conscious effort, and one of the most satisfying, sure-fire ways to do that is to star together in your own action film.
Imagine hauling your partner up off the edge of a crumbling cliff, or sharing your last morsel of beef jerky with three days left in the Outback. Relying on one another in the face of danger can be a powerful, euphoric experience that reinforces your emotional bond. If you’ve walked through the fire and lived to tell the tale, you can create unique and personal memories. You will fill your lives with a secret code of knowing glances and shorthand lingo unrecognizable to anyone else on the planet. Seeing how you both react in a crisis also provides a chance to learn something new about each other. It puts your relationship in a new light and builds mutual respect and admiration. Plus, all the energy from the adrenaline rush will need to be expended somehow!
Lara Croft and James Bond like to go it alone, but imagine if their worlds collided. They’d make an unstoppable pair. Here are 20 missions that—should you choose to accept—will make you and your S.O. just as formidable. So read on. From here on out, it's two against the world!
20 Start Simple - Rent A Vespa
If you’re not quite ready to tackle a dream list of death wishes, start with something simple. Rent a Vespa and cruise your ‘hood with your tesoro like it’s the streets of Rome. Go vintage or go fire engine red—either one will turn heads as you zip around on your holiday wheels. Throw on a wool coppola flat cap (under your safety helmet, of course). Wear it slightly askew, hinting to your underground affiliations. That discarded armchair sitting on your neighbour’s curb? It’s the ruins of a primitive civilization. And those multitude of potholes are merely the cobbled streets of the ancient city.
The Vespa is an Italian-made scooter that's been around since 1946. The name means "wasp," and the classic style has remained largely unaltered since its inception. This perennial vintage look and compact form factor makes it the go-to vehicle for fashionable daytrippers headed to the Amalfi Coast.
Once you've hit your groove, take a detour through a different neighbourhood and soak in the sights and sounds of a foreign territory, all the while pressing your bodies together and feeling the hum and buzz as they course through you from head to toe. Top off your mini adventure with a stop at a DQ, and gaze at your partner with the secret knowledge that you’re actually sharing a limoncello gelato.
19 Feel Like A Kid - Saariselka Toboggan Run, Finland
Relive a favourite childhood memory with your sweetheart by charging down one of the longest toboggan runs in the world. Saariselkä lies in the far north of Finnish Lapland and measures 1.2 kilometres long with a vertical drop of 130 metres. There’s a relaxing ski lift that takes you to the summit of Kaunispää fell (a barren hill), so there’s no long, boring slog through knee-deep snow to get to the action. It’s a fast and furious descent from there, with 360 views of gorgeous winter scenery along the way.
Saariselkä is a resort village 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, and it's the northernmost travel destination in the European Union. The area is filled with national parks, lakes, rivers and highlands. In winter, the northern lights flicker across the sky 200 days a year. In summer, the midnight sun shines for two whole months.
The longest toboggan run in the world is actually found in Grindelwald, Switzerland. It takes a 25-minute gondola ride and a 2-hour hike to reach the start of the run. Then it’s all downhill for the next 15 km. Give it a try if you don’t mind the subzero wind blasting in your face for a full hour. After the 2-hour uphill hike through snow, it may actually be refreshing.
18 Slimy, Steamy Food Fight - La Tomatina, Spain
Lean in for a sloppy, wet kiss at La Tomatina, the world’s biggest, messiest food fight festival. It’s held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Buñol in Spain. 50,000 people make their way from all corners of the world to get down and dirty, flinging more than 100 tons of over-ripe tomatoes at scantily clad strangers. The result is a chaotic gathering of writhing flesh and harmless aggression.
It's said that in August of 1945, some young boys decided to crash a town parade. A melee ensued, and someone had fallen into a tomato stall. The victim was so enraged that he began whipping tomatoes at bystanders. They retaliated, and others soon joined in, everyone using the innocent tomatoes as ammunition.
Today, the weeklong festival features music, parades, dancing and fireworks. At around 11 a.m. the next day, a ham is hoisted up a large, greased pole. People scramble on top of each other to be the one to bring it down. When it does hit the ground, a cannon is fired, and the fight begins. The carnage lasts for up to two hours. When it's over, fire trucks hose down the streets, and participants slither to the local river to wash up.
17 Floating Glass Bridges - Hunan Province, China
When you’re in love, you walk around like you’re floating on air. The reverse also applies. If you’re floating hundreds of metres over a canyon, there’s a good chance you’ll grab the person next to you and plant an epic kiss. So make sure that person is your partner!
Hunan Province in China boasts two glass suspension bridges. The first is in Shiniuzhai National Park. It’s 300 metres long with a 180-metre vertical drop over a jagged canyon. And because that wasn’t intimidating enough, 300 kilometres northwest is the Zhangjiajie glass bridge. Opened in 2016, the 488-metre long, 260-metre high walkway has the longest and tallest span in the world, making it the most frightening and spectacular one of its kind. The view of granite mountains and a carpet of lush trees beneath your feet add to the romantic illusion. The bridge narrows at the centre to just 4 metres wide, and it’s made from 1,077 tempered glass panels that are each 4 cm thick, layered in threes. The bridge can accommodate up to 2,000 people, but only 500 to 600 visitors are allowed to walk on it at the same time. Staff are also stationed along the way to keep the fainthearted (or lovestruck) moving along.
16 Harvesting Liquid Gold - Beekeeping Tour, California
Ouch! To most people, bees are tiny, weaponized creatures that you need to flee from. The fear is primordial, usually stemming from a childhood experience, even quite possibly from a wasp. The memory of a sting is seared into one’s brain well into adulthood. Confronting that fear and surrounding yourself with a swarm of these flying needles can be terrifying, which makes it the perfect little adventure to get you and your partner's hearts racing.
To learn the ancient art of beekeeping, take a tour or a class where you’ll learn about hive science and the local flora that the bees utilize. You’ll get the honest truth about bee stings (yes, they hurt) and how to avoid them. Then everyone will suit up in protective gear and head into the apiary where you’ll interact with hive installations and view first-hand the relationships between plants, pollen and pollinators. There will be plenty of opportunities to spy on the queen bees, drone bees and observe all the dynamics of a living hive. Visitors will also have the chance to bring in panels and use an extractor to gather the tiny drops of golden honey embedded in the comb. The final reward for your bravery and hard work is a sampling of the delicious liquid gold.
15 Fright Night - Alton Towers, UK
Are you afraid of the dark? Even if you said no, the real answer is yes. Stay overnight in a bona fide haunted house in Staffordshire, UK, to get your hearts thumping. Enjoy the charm of the English countryside and the grandeur of the castle’s Victorian décor, but prepare yourselves for the eerie, abnormal sights and sounds of Alton Towers’ wandering lost souls.
Charles Talbot was the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1821, he refused help to an old beggar woman. She pointed to an oak tree and told Talbot that for every branch that falls, a member of the Talbot family will die. As the curse began to come to fruition, Charles ordered the tree be chained up to prevent more branches from falling. The chains remain around the tree to this day.
Today, the castle is a state-of-the-art haunted house attraction with chilling illusions and effects during the daytime. Guests who choose to stay overnight are warned by an Alton Towers spokesman: “We strongly recommend to those that may be affected by paranormal occurrences, be it physically, mentally or spiritually, to consider this warning before attending.” In all seriousness, guests are required to sign a waiver that stipulates the very real possibility they will face supernatural encounters and could even be possessed by demons.
14 Cold Cuddles - Ice Hotel, Quebec City
There are countless photos of glimmering ice hotels with happy, smiling tourists. Those were probably all taken within the first few minutes of arrival. After you've settled in to your frozen bed of ice, reality sinks in—it's cold! At below-freezing temperatures, the experience can quickly turn your fingers and toes into icicles.
The Hôtel de Glace is 4 km north of Québec City on the first slopes of the Laurentian Mountains. It's likely the largest ice hotel in the world with a bar, dance floor, chapel and body slides. It has 51 double beds, all made of ice with a solid wood base and topped with a mattress. When the time comes, an Arctic sleeping bag, bed sheets and pillows are delivered to the rooms. Only the bathrooms are heated and located in a separate insulated structure.
Hôtel de Glace used to require overnight guests to also book a room at a nearby hotel where transfers took regular trips back and forth to ferry those who had given up. These days, many guests just head back to the ice bar and sleep near the fireplace. In reality, very few actually make it through the night. If you're one of those truly committed to the experience and to each other, consider yourselves among the elite.
13 Feel The Freedom - Route 66, USA
Throw on some leather and mount a hog. Dash headlong into the wide expanse of the iconic Route 66 with your SO in tow. There’s a certain freedom that comes with hitting the open road, without a plan, without direction. That is the pearl of wisdom Jack Kerouac bestowed onto the millions of Beat youth who worshipped his novel, On the Road. The purpose of the journey is to simply keep moving, unencumbered by the shackles of civilized life.
U.S. Route 66 was one of the country’s original highways. Established in November 11, 1926, it linked Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, covering a total of 3,940 km. It served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. When the Interstate Highway System was introduced to replace it, portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona was designated a National Scenic Byway and renamed "Historic Route 66". Today, millions of easy riders travel what remains of 66 to enjoy the many classic motels, old-school diners and gas stations to experience a slice of Americana and life on the road.
12 Raw-ing Good Time - Mistura Food Festival, Peru
Yum? Food adventures require psychological stamina. Not only will you be ingesting unfamiliar (or too familiar) animals, the fear of getting sick is very real. The best way to avoid food poisoning is by watching what the locals eat and choosing stalls with the longest lines for faster turnover. With this in mind, dive into the whirlwind of South America's largest food festival, Mistura.
The highlight of the Peruvian celebration is ceviche. It traditionally consists of raw seafood tossed with an acidic marinade of citrus juice or vinegar that “cooks” the fish. If you can get over the mental hurdle of downing a plate of slimy flesh from creatures that were squirming just minutes earlier, your tastebuds will be in for an incredible treat of lime, mint and chillies. Other "delights" at the renowned festival include anticuchos (grilled cow's heart served on a stick), rachi (cow's belly) and cuy or guinea pig. The cute rodent comes roasted whole, head and feet on, so you never quite forget that it once lived and breathed.
The event is expected to draw more than 400,000 visitors from around the world, and it features acclaimed chefs, humble street cart vendors and established restaurateurs alike. The shared benches, friendly locals, lively music and scent of sweet spices wafting through the air is the perfect romantic getaway for courageous foodies.
11 Lion Encounters Of The Third Kind - Zimbabwe
On a typical safari, you’re safely elevated and encased in the metal barrier of your jeep. When lions approach, their only motive is to simply lie in the cool shadow of your vehicle. It’s fun but hardly a heart-thumping experience.
Lion Encounter is part of a conservation site in Zimbabwe that offers actual encounters with these majestic beasts. With the African lion species in rapid decline, falling 80% to 90% in the past three decades, the program’s main purpose is to ethically re-introduce the offspring of captive-bred African lions back into the wild. Trained handlers take the cubs into the bush for daily walks, allowing them to grow accustomed to their natural environment in preparation for release. Often, they come across other wildlife and game during their walks, which provide opportunities for them to practice hunting and stalking.
Accompanied by guides and handlers, visitors meet young cubs in the bush and watch as they explore and play. It provides a unique opportunity to learn about the species from first-hand, up-close observation. The young cubs view their human companions as older members of their pride, which makes the walks relatively safe and natural, unencumbered by leads or chains. This is as close to a natural experience with young cubs in captivity as most people will ever get.
10 A Lead Of Faith - Lead Climbing, Oregon
It’s a sport that requires teamwork and unwavering faith in your partner to hold the line. Lead climbing is essentially a safety measure that binds two people together with just a rope between them. In the event of a fall, anchors absorb the shock and cut it short, preventing a total plunge down the side of a cliff. During an ascent, the climber at the front attaches quickdraws (or clips) to anchors that are fastened to a rock wall. The climbing rope is fed through the quickdraw, which is also secured around the lead climber. Down below, a belayer holds the other end of the rope and feeds the slack. The result is a safe ascension route for the rest of your team that’s anchored along the way.
Lead climbing is an exhilarating and utterly addictive pastime that invigorates you with every new length you’ve accomplished. To try it out, there are numerous climbing schools around the world that offer stunning views and safe practice routes, like Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. They’ll teach you all the fundamentals, ensure you’ve got the right equipment, and help you prepare mentally for the challenge. Most importantly, you’ll learn to take controlled falls which will boost confidence in yourself and in your partner.
9 Shark Encounters - Hawaii
Since Jaws, sharks have terrorized the human psyche and invaded our dreams. Common terms in the English language now include the words “sharknado” and “sharktivity” to underscore the legendary status of these intimidating creatures. Now our fascination has reached new levels with recreational cage diving. This is where human beings are dangled like bait at swarms of hungry sharks. To heighten the fun, tour organizers lace the waters with chum (raw, oozing fish remains) to lure sharks and ensure enough gnashing jaws come charging at full speed. While safely contained within a solid iron cage, tourists are able to plant their faces against Plexiglas windows to simulate actual contact with the razor-sharp teeth of these apex predators. The shark cage itself was said to have been invented by Rodney Winston Fox, himself a survivor of a shark attack which resulted in 450 stitches and part of a shark tooth still embedded in his wrist.
There are numerous reputable tour operators in Australia, Bahamas, South Africa and Hawaii. Divers are provided with weight belts that allow you to stand comfortably on the bottom of the cage with your heads just below the surface. Oxygen is fed through hookah systems, where the source of air is located at the surface. Though the boat remains nearby, there is a sense of complete exposure and isolation—just you and your partner fending for yourselves in the open water.
8 Fly Like A Bird - Zipline Flight, Whistler
A flying bird represents freedom in its purest form. If you long to shed your skin for feathers and soar to freedom with your partner, try a zipline flight. Actually, a zipline consists of a stainless steel pulley suspended on a cable, mounted on a slope. It’s designed to propel a user by gravity alone from the top of an incline to the bottom. The passenger sits in a harness attached to a freely moving pulley. A braking system brings you to a stop with gentle deceleration. There are lots of ziplines available all over the world, usually over rainforest canopies and across rocky canyons that provide magnificent views. Strapped into state-of-the-art safety equipment, it’s the closest you can get to experiencing the thrill of skydiving without fearing the crunch on impact.
One of the most renowned outdoor ziplines is found in Whistler, BC. It’s over 1 kilometre long and 180 metres high, reaching speeds of over 100 kph. For an urban experience, XLine in Dubai is the world's longest city zipline, measuring an entire kilometre in length. Fit for adrenaline junkies, it boasts an incline of 16 degrees, travelling at an average of 80 kph. The takeoff point is located at one of the tallest buildings in Dubai at 170 metres above ground level. Nighttime views are eerily evocative of flying in a hovercraft through a sci-fi techno landscape of neon city lights. Like most ziplines, multiple lines allow couples to plunge side by side in a fear-induced high.
7 A Canopy Of Stars - Namibia, Africa
If you find candlelight to be romantic, imagine sitting under the glimmering streak of the Milky Way. Nowhere on earth is it more intensely radiant than in Africa where there is zero light pollution and rarely any clouds to mar the view. Envision yourself lying under a sparkling canopy of stars while falling asleep to the lullaby of the African bush. In the morning, sunrise fills your tent with a warm glow, and faraway elephants trumpet to signal a new day. When you poke your head out of your tent, you spy majestic giraffes casually munching on breakfast treetops just a few feet from your door.
Camping in Africa can be done in a variety of different ways to suit any budget or level of comfort. For couples wanting to rough it, you can pitch your own tent or sleep on the roof of a 4x4. Wild campsites are available in the bush, often shared with locals in rural villages. For those who want a more tame adventure, there are designated campsites located in national parks and private game reserves that offer modern conveniences such as bucket showers. There are even flushing toilets, if that’s what helps you sleep at night.
6 Paragliding In Paradise - Ölüdeniz, Turkey
Imagine sitting on your sweetheart’s lap as the sights and sounds of paradise envelope you. Modern paragliding harnesses are designed to be as comfortable as a lounge chair, but they’re actually sturdy glider aircraft that are highly manoeuvrable. You can gently float to the ground, skimming across grassy fields, then quickly race to the clouds as high as 1,000 metres. Launches are by foot, so be prepared to leap off a cliff to get the air and your juices flowing.
One of the best places in the world to go paragliding is Ölüdeniz in southwest Turkey, right where the Aegean and Mediterranean seas meet. Over the past few decades, this small village has transformed into a popular beach resort. There’s a long, crescent-shaped beach that’s big enough to accommodate all the vacationers who come to Ölüdeniz in droves. Next to the beach is a lagoon that’s a designated nature reserve where construction is prohibited. This, along with a mountainous enclosure, helps the area retain a sense of being in an unspoiled paradise. Not only does it offer panoramic views, the area’s eternally calm waters and Mount Babadağ's exceptional height make tandem paragliding a thrilling and romantic experience every time.
5 Footsteps Of The Ancients - Inca Trail, Peru
People change, and couples fear growing apart. Sharing transformative experiences together can help two people evolve in the same direction. One such journey is the famed Inca Trail—a four-day trek on the last dramatic stretch towards the emerald peaks and terraced ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru. Following the footsteps of the ancients, the trail leads travellers from the floor of the Sacred Valley up high mountain passes and through misty forests and dense jungles, testing the limits of mind, body and spirit.
Experienced guides steer you from any true danger, and brawny porters help lighten the load, but you and your partner must nonetheless endure heat, cold, muscle strain and mental exhaustion along the way. While it is physically demanding, the 40-kilometre hike remains within reach of most reasonably fit travellers. At the end, the appropriately nicknamed “Sun Gate” reveals mist-shrouded views of Machu Picchu, proving to all who succeed that the climb was undeniably worth it.
The best time to go is during dry season (June to August). To acclimatize to the altitude, spend a few days in beautiful and historical Cusco. Most tour companies include a cook who provides meals and porters who set up camping gear, allowing you and your partner to enjoy the downtime, the views and each other.
4 Free Fall Out Into Nothin' - Skydiving
Tom Petty declared in his escapist’s ode that he was, "Gonna leave this world for a while." Though you're actually rushing towards the earth, there is liberation in leaving the confines of common sense and stepping off solid ground to freefall through the air. Like skydiving, relinquishing yourself to love is illogical and absolutely exhilarating.
Here’s what to expect at a tandem dive: After signing a waiver (yes, you could break a limb or worse), you and your partner are given 5 minutes of skydiving training. Cross your arms, keep your head back, knees bent, then jump. One tap on the shoulder to open your arms, the second to bring your arms to your chest as the parachute opens. Bend your knees upon landing. In the plane, keep your eyes open and enjoy the momentary distraction of the spectacular aerial views. Shut off your brain to prevent common sense from taking over and flooding your body with resistance. Just remember that the fear is healthy. Look into your partner’s eyes and relish in your commiseration. When you jump, in between all the screaming, remember to breathe. Don’t fight the wind. Relax your body and relish the temporary loss of control.
When you land, the first thing that comes to minds is, “We are alive.” Looking back up at the clouds, it doesn't seem real. This is when you hold on tight to your loved one and remind yourself that it absolutely is.
3 Belly Of The Beast - Slovenia
If you’re looking to go through hell and back with your partner, Slovenia’s subterranean caves will provide the right scenery. It’s a frightening cluster of limestone caverns full of jagged stalactites, deep emerald rivers, blind slithering water dragons and, of course, pitch black darkness. The Skocjan Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site in southwestern Slovenia, covering 413 hectares and boring 223 metres underground with the Reka, Rak, and Pivka rivers.
There are a total of roughly 8,000 caves around 100,000 years old, the best-known being Postojna with décor that resembles the decayed bones of a massive alien beast. Over 24,000 metres long, it has graffiti inside dating back to 1213. This popular attraction is a wonder of nature and modern engineering where numerous tourists are safely transported by train along an illuminated path.
For a tour by kayak, expect to enter the cave system into complete darkness, illuminated only by your own headlamp through deep, dark tunnels. The journey begins at an abandoned mine where you board a genuine mining train and ride through a 3.5-km long tunnel to a slope mine. From here you descend 95 metres by stairs or by rappelling down to the water. Then you enter a flooded shaft by kayak until you reach the underground lakes almost 700 metres below the surface. Travellers can then explore the peaceful and pristine waters of the underground labyrinth. The journey ends by paddling through some minor rapids and arriving back at the starting point.
2 Try To Hold Down Your Lunch - Mount Buffalo, Australia
Sometimes you need to go to extremes for a bit of peace and quiet. And when you’ve also got the munchies while rappelling down a cliff, you may as well set up a portaledge and tuck in. That, and an amazing selfie, was the premise for inventing the cliff picnic. It’s become a popular goal for thrill-seeking couples looking to outdo their Instagram rivals.
Perched 300 metres in midair, the Bright Adventure Company in Australia offers couples a chance for a private lunch off a rocky ledge on Mount Buffalo in the Australian Alps, three hours north of Melbourne. Overlooking the Oven Valley and the river below, the dining ledge is suspended by just a few ropes, some webbing and some bolt anchors. To kickstart the adventure, couples must prove their worth by rappelling down the majestic cliff to reach the camping ledge. The ledge, a protruding outcrop, is comfortable enough to sleep or dine in as long as the vertigo doesn’t cause you to lose your mind. The perks of this on-the-edge, nerve-wracking adventure includes a nicely prepared meal using locally sourced ingredients and, of course, soaking in the majestic alpine views.
1 Burnin' Love - Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
Yes, that volcano—the one that shot smoke and ash 9,100 metres into the air causing hundreds of terrified Hawaiians to evacuate the Big Island throughout May 2018. The erupting lava destroyed dozens of buildings in the subdivisions of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, and local residents likened the frightening sounds of lava flow to "huge grenades going off." Near the mountain, fissures in the ground opened up, releasing hot, toxic gas. The normally lush green jungle wilted into putrid yellow vegetation amongst rivers of black molten rock, establishing the deadly, destructive power of this volcano.
Prior to this event, Kīlauea had been erupting nearly continuously since 1983. In 2016, this daring newlywed couple took a perilous journey up the volcano to snap some sizzling photos, and the results are astonishing. In order to replicate such an audacious portrait like this, be prepared to hike 5 km uphill on uneven terrain, stand barefoot on sharp rocks and pose alongside 2,000-degree molten lava for the shots, not to mention putting up with the acid vapor and steam clouds that arise from the lava interacting with sea water. And to capture just the right pre-dawn light, expect a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call. If none of this deters you and your partner, then go for it. What doesn't kill you, makes your love stronger.