5 The Steppe
The steppe is a term used to describe an area of wide, open land – mostly flat – that receives too little rain for real forests to grow, but more rainfall than a desert. Thus, as you can imagine, life on the steppe is consistently pretty tough stuff. Steppe covers much of Russia, Central Asia, and swaths of North America. Plains Indians called the steppe their home in centuries past, and right up to this day nomadic herders still eke out an existence ranging back and forth across the Eurasian steppe. It ain’t the desert, but it’s not exactly Boca Raton, either.
4 The Base of Mt. Everest
The reason people climb Mt. Everest is because it is a huge challenge. In fact, even getting to the foot of the world’s tallest mountain is a feat in and of itself, as the base of Mt. Everest is nearly 14,000 feet high up in the Himalaya. But nonetheless, the Sherpa people have for hundreds of years spent their lives at elevations higher than most of us will experience in our lifetimes, not counting air travel.
3 Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest is a great place to get killed by panthers, caimans, or poisonous frogs and/or snakes. Also it can be hot as hell and obviously rather wet. Yet for more than 10,000 years, people have lived in this, the world’s largest forest. And in fact, the Amazon rainforest is believed to be the last place where “uncontacted” humans exist.
2 The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is no place most of us would ever dream of calling home. In fact, most of us would likely die within a day or two of being lost there. Less than an inch of rain falls in any given year in most of the Sahara. Yet myriad groups of humans have called the world’s largest desert (OK, largest hot desert – technically Antarctica is a desert, too) for tens of thousands of years. Today Berbers, Arabs, and other peoples keep alive the ancient traditions of the nomadic herders who came before them.
1 The Arctic
Across the northernmost swaths of Russia, Greenland, and North America, a small, hearty group of human beings have made their home in the icy Arctic for centuries. This is a region where the simple act of standing around outside will leave you dead in minutes when the temperature drops low enough, which it does all the time. This is a place where there is no sunshine for months, followed by months of endless sunlight. There is almost nothing to eat that you don’t first have to hunt and kill. This is the Arctic, the most extreme place people call home.