He’s hitchhiked alongside eccentric filmmaker John Waters, spent time with the men who cremate bodies on the Ganges, and eaten a still-beating snake heart in Vietnam. Veteran travel writer David Farley shares how anyone can come back from a trip with a tale to tell.

I once went hitchhiking with American film director John Waters. After we were picked up down the street from his Baltimore home, he looked back at me from the front seat and smiled and gave me a quick nod, as if to say, See, isn’t this fun? And then, perhaps to justify his fondness for hitching rides, he said, “I think it’s dangerous to stay home. Never going out and seeing the world and meeting new and interesting people? Now that’s dangerous.”

I couldn’t have agreed more. I’ve done some things that might appear crazy to people who don’t get out much. I’ve hiked across small European countries. I spent two weeks hanging with men who cremate bodies on the banks of India’s holy Ganges River in Varanasi hoping to glean some secrets about life and death. I’ve eaten a still-beating snake heart in Vietnam. I’ve gone in search for a strange holy relic in Italy, placing me face-to-face with not-so-thrilled Vatican officials.

And I did these things under the guise of ‘travel writing,’ but really, I do it simply because it gets me out of the house, onto an airplane, and to parts of a place I’d never normally wander. As a result, I’ve been transformed by every trip.