Since the 1950s, Western science has known the two key ingredients for any psychedelic trip: set and setting. Popularized by American psychonaut Timothy Leary, the phrase “set and setting” refers to one’s mindset and environment during your trip. “Set” refers to how you’re feeling during the trip, what you’re thinking, et cetera. “Setting” refers not only to where your journey physically takes place but also the music, weather, other humans, and factors that influence how comfortable you feel. For the most part, unpleasant experiences—commonly and perhaps reductively known as “bad trips”—can be avoided by ensuring one’s set and setting are as comfortable as possible. On the flip side, someone whose “set” feels relatively solid might seek to multiply the potential of their trip by choosing a setting that’s a little more… unfamiliar. Here are five of the craziest places we can imagine taking your preferred medicinal compound.
1. Joshua Tree National Park, Southern California
In general, deserts are wild places to trip. Humans have long visited them in search of quiet, perspective, and spiritual revelation. What makes Joshua Tree unique is its namesake vegetation (not actually a tree, but a type of yucca plant). Even without anything special in your brain, it looks like a Dr. Seuss fantasy. Inside the National Park are several campgrounds situated within walking distance to long, flat hiking trails, where you can spend hours feeling like you’re on Mars. Climb the boulders or enjoy their shade until the sun goes down, at which point the desert landscape treats you to nature’s most incredible light show: a clear, open view of the night sky.
2. The Museum of Fluorescent Art, Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a classic psychedelic destination: “magic truffles” containing psilocybin can be purchased at special shops, as can marijuana, which the Netherlands decriminalized long before it was cool. The city itself is a wonderland of canals, bridges, parks, and museums, but if the Van Goghs just aren’t hitting, try the Museum of Fluorescent Art. The museum—also called “Electric Ladyland,” after a song by Jimi Hendrix, whose psychedelic 60’s rock plays inside—features a variety of art, crystals, and objects that glow under UV lights. The colorful environment is, for lack of a better word—trippy. Book in advance, as museum creator Nick Padalino likes to tour visitors around the small, cozy space. Afterward, relax with a joint at Original Dampkring Coffeeshop.
3. An Old-Growth Forest, Anywhere
It doesn’t matter which one—any forest undisturbed enough to be called “old-growth” is sure to dazzle and immerse intrepid trippers. The longer a forest grows without being logged or developed, the richer and more harmonious its ecosystem becomes. You can almost feel the relationships between the trees, shrubs, vines, and fungi that have spent centuries finding just the right places to exist for collective equilibrium. Old-growth forests typically have multi-layered canopies with open gaps (so everyone can get a little sun) and tall trees covered in luminous moss. Many of these special places are still under threat of logging. Still, pockets exist around the world: try the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the famous Białowieża Forest of Poland, or Jedediah Smith State Park in California (where scenes set on Endor, the Ewoks’ home moon, were filmed for Star Wars).
4. The High Line, NYC
Some people prefer tripping in nature. Others delight in the chaos of cities. On the High Line, a revitalized stretch of what was once an elevated railroad in Manhattan, you get a little bit of both. After growing wild for 25 years, the 1.5 mile–long park’s landscape has been cultivated into several gardens with hundreds of species of plants, including artificial wetlands overlooking the Hudson River. There’s an open lawn, a sundeck, and multiple skywalks with stunning views of the surrounding city. It usually only takes 45 minutes to walk, but given the bounty of plant life and ever-changing art installations, someone in the right state of mind could easily wander it for hours. I guess that’s why they call it the “High” Line…
5. Cat Island, Tashirojima, Japan
If you somehow find yourself in Ishinomaki, a small city on the east coast of Japan, take the hour-long ferry to Tashirojima, popularly known as “Cat Island,” where felines outnumber humans four to one. And if you somehow find yourself with psychedelics (which are highly illegal in Japan), you can spend the day getting extra-warmly acquainted with the cats and kittens, who really are everywhere—see if you can count all the cat-themed shrines. The island is quiet, covered in lush vegetation, and surrounded by open sea. Plan ahead, and you can even stay in one of five quirky cat-shaped cabins inspired by Japanese manga.