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Forests are downright magical.

They're where some of our favorite fables take a twist, where Mother Nature hides her most fascinating creatures, where we go to escape the manmade chaos that consumes far too much of our time.

Forests are the lungs of our world, absorbing carbon and keeping our climates stable, and the protectors of some of our most precious resources. They safeguard habitats and wildlife that allow life to move onward and even make us healthier, too; trees clean our air, lower our stress, and can actually make us happier just by being nearby. They're spectacular.


But some forests, you might argue, are just a bit more spectacular than others.

Here are 11 otherworldly forests to remind you just how incredible life on Earth really is:

1. Bamboo Forest, Japan

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

The Sagano Bamboo Forest on the outskirts of bustling Kyoto is famous for its towering green stalks that make enchanting rustling noises in the breeze you really can't hear anywhere else. Japan's Ministry of Environment included the destination on its "100 Soundscapes of Japan" list, encouraging visitors to find some much needed tranquility by listening to the natural sound effects.

2. Otzarreta Forest, Spain

Photo via iStock.

Foggy and tucked away, the Otzarreta Forest in Basque Country flaunts some of the quirkiest trees and branches you'll see on Earth (not to mention the most gorgeous fall colors, if you time it right). Northern Spain never looked so enticing.

3.  The Blue Forest, Belgium

Photo by John Thys/AFP/Getty Images.

Hallerbos, dubbed "The Blue Forest," covers hundreds of acres in Halle. Come mid-April, the entire region blossoms with a bright underbelly of bluebells, so the forest certainly lives up to its name. See the bluebells quick, though — they die in early summer, and the forest fades back into shades of greens and browns.

4. Redwood National Park, United States

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Redwood National Park stretches alongside the northern coast of California and boasts some of the tallest, most massive trees on the planet. Its trees can live to be — get this — some 2,000 years old, sprouting from seeds that are about the same size as one from a tomato.

5. The Black Forest, Germany

Photo by Arne Dedert/AFP/Getty Images.

In the hilly southwest corner of Germany, the sprawling Black Forest covers an area nearly 100 miles north to south. Its landscapes shift hues depending on the season — Germans know the frustration and beauty that come with a bitter, dreary winter better than anyone, after all — and its pines can be so dense in certain areas that sunlight can't break through to reach the forest floor. (Which is how it got its name. Get it?)

6. Amazon rainforest, Brazil

Photo by Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images.

News flash: The Amazon Rainforest is massive. Stretching nearly from coast to coast along the northern half of South America, the Amazon holds an abundance of life like no other place. It has 390 billion trees and 2.5 million various insects, which is one of the many reasons why it's so crucial we protect it from deforestation.

7. Jiuzhaigou, China

Image via iStock.

The Jiuzhaigou takes over a vast region of Sichuan province and boasts everything from towering alpine mountains and waterfalls to pools of purplish, teal waters and coniferous trees. Maybe shoot the next "Avatar" here? (See No. 11.)

8. The Daintree Rainforest, Australia

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images.

The Daintree Rainforest off the coast of Queensland is an incredible example of why biodiversity is so important. As many species Down Under have been isolated from other mainlands, plants and animals have adapted over time to the geography's landscapes and features in unique ways. This is incredibly helpful for scientists who want to study how and why evolution works the way it does.

9. Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Photo by Aline Ranaivoson/AFP/Getty Images.

These "upside-down trees" in Madagascar are hundreds of years old and upwards of 98 feet. The avenue thankfully gained protective status in 2007, becoming the country's first national monument in an attempt to keep the area pristine for generations to come. One might argue it's not technically a forest, per se, but it's one cluster of trees too impressive to keep off the list.

10. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica

Image via iStock.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve — located in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world — has a whopping 755 known species of trees. A wet and tropical climate means weather there stays relatively consistent throughout the year, and committed conservation efforts means sustainability stays a big priority.

11. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images.

Zhangjiajie National Forest's natural beauty and ecological importance to Asia earned its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it's very protected by conservation efforts. Famous in large part due to its towering, bare-rock formations, the forest was the inspiration behind some of the scenery in "Avatar."

Those were just 11 of the world's most magical forests. But really, this list could go on and on ... and on.

In fact, chances are, there's an amazing forest waiting to be explored not too far from your own front door. Safe adventuring.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Dan Fischer takes people's lost loved ones out surfing for "one last wave."

Dan Fischer understands grief. He also has some idea of how to cope with it—and how to help others through it as well.

Fischer has experienced tremendous loss in the past few years, losing both his father and his best friend. As a surfer, he's a believer in what he calls "the transformative power of the ocean." Originally from Montreal, Canada, Fischer has found healing riding the waves off Newport, Rhode Island, where he's lived for the past seven years.

Now he wants to share that healing power of the waves with others.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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