A century ago, a majority of the planet's residents never managed to make it further than a few hundred miles from their birthplaces. Now, with one billion international arrivals a year, travelers are spreading into the last unexplored corners of the globe. The demand for bigger, better, and more adventurous experiences is skyrocketing. "There's an accessibility that there never was before, and people can do things that were once unimaginable," says Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. "If you can think of it and Google it, there's probably someone who can take you."
Here are nine of the most extreme trips on the planet - and the outfitters that take adventurers over the edge and back again.
Incredible Adventures MiG Trips
There are only a few ways a person can get a ride in a fighter jet. One is to join the air force. Another is to save up about $20,000 and travel to the Sokol Airbase in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, for one of the only commercial fighter jet rides on the planet.
"Riding a motorcycle at 145 miles per hour is like riding a tricycle compared to this," says Paul Cusma, a financial adviser from Tampa who flew in 2009 on a trip arranged by Florida-based outfitter Incredible Adventures, which has organized flights for well-heeled adrenaline addicts since 1993.
On flight day, you'll need to pass a medical test. Once everyone is sure you're not going to have a heart attack, you'll be handed a pressure suit, a helmet, and a custom-fitted oxygen mask. A briefing on safety procedures – what not to touch, what to do in case of ejection – follows. Then comes the fun part. Climb into a MiG-29, and hold on while the pilot loops and rolls up to 18,000 feet. Withstand as much as 7 G's of force, travel faster than the speed of sound, and, if you have a pilot's license, consider taking the controls for a few moments. Another option: Have the pilot tilt the nose up and ascend to nearly 70,000 feet to see the curvature of the earth and the eerie blackness of space beyond.
More Information: Incredible Adventures' five-day MiG Over Moscow trip to Russia, including luxury hotels, breakfasts, and one flight in a MiG-29 starts at $21,000. Zero-gravity flights and extra aerobatic flights are optional additions.
Credit: Max Dereta / Incredible Adventures