Blake Snow

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5 sensations every human should experience (updated with video)

Controlling a human body is an awesome experience.

Unlike other animals, we talk and live long after we stop reproducing. We wear dapper clothing, are remarkably brave and dexterous (which allows us to do amazing things like this), and we can even make fire. Like Remy says, “Humans don’t just survive—they discover, they create!”

In addition to the things we create, numerous sensations define our experience. Turning a pillow to the cold side, for instance. Quickly taking shelter to avoid pelting rain or peeling protective plastic off new electronics.

But there are deeper, if not more universal, feelings than those. Excluding the obvious (i.e. sex), here are five physical sensations every human should experience, many of which are facilitated by travel. 

Going too fast. Something frightful happens the moment we realize we’re traveling too fast for our own good. Usually the blood drains from our face. Maybe our palms sweat. When this happens, “Now I’ve done it” is often the first thing we say to ourselves. Obviously, this feeling happens at varying speeds. For my buddy John, it’s downhill skiing over 75 miles per hour on a snowboard. For my neighbor Roman, it’s needling 150 mph on his Honda CBR1100. Whatever your tolerance, there’s something invigorating about speeding.

Testing your might. Also called “setting a lofty goal and achieving it,” this euphoric feeling can only happen after overcoming a physically or mentally grueling challenge. And it usually requires some level of mastery, practice or conditioning. This could be finishing a marathon, backpacking Southeast Asia, or even turning in a really good workout. Or it could be overcoming a sketchy situation or communication breakdown while traveling abroad. Whatever it is, testing your might takes guts. Feeling those guts is ineffable.

Brushing with danger. Similar to going too fast, there are also times you say to yourself, “Now I’ve really done it.” Or, “If I don’t die from this, at least I’ll have a really great story to tell.” For people like my wife, it’s standing on the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff she just hiked, knowing that a sudden gust of wind could send her to her demise. For others, it’s overcoming heat exhaustion, hypothermia, or an extended period of time without food or shelter. For the most extreme among us, it’s wingsuit jumping at 200 miles an hour through a freaking crevasse that’s only 20 feet wide. Whatever it is, few things make us feel more alive (and grateful for life) than a brush with death.

Defying gravity. This is often defined as “going big,” or “getting air,” but it also includes the weightlessness of scuba diving or lift-off sensation of flying. Other notable examples include skydiving, clearing a gap, floating on powdered snow, slacklining, or even something as simple as a basic skateboard ollie. As land creatures, we don’t get to do this often. But for the few moments we can, it’s exhilarating.

Completely getting someone. Since humans are social creatures, this may be the most lasting of all sensations. Think non-stop laughter, learning that the person you love loves you back, or empathizing with someone without stealing their spotlight. It’s feeling goosebumps from the most moving music, movies or games. Doing a good turn to someone in need. Being on the same page with another without saying a word. Or sharing an empathetic smile with someone from a very different culture who doesn’t speak your language.

The story by Blake Snow was first published in Paste Magazine on June 9, 2016