One way that we could get to another planet 500 light-years away without warp drive is a interstellar ram-scoop ship. This would allow us to reach an exoplanet in 12 years ship time. But 500 years would pass on Earth. This could be used to reach the center of the Milky Way Galaxy in 21 years ship time. But 50,000 years would have passed by on Earth. So we would get back home and 100,000 years would have passed by. But if you do not want to return to Earth, this could work very well. There is an explanation of this technology here: http://www.itsf.org/brochure/ramscoop.html. This is a possible technological solution; but radiation shielding is critical to the survival of the crew. And hitting a small particle of dust would be devastating as you would reach 0.9999999992489014 percent of the speed of light. You would need an electromagnetic shield to deflect interstellar dust and particles, this is why the Starship Enterprise D has a deflector array. The planned NASA warp drive ship claims to reach Alpha Centauri in two weeks even though it is 4.5 light-years away. This is 4.25723778 × 1013 kilometers, a massive distance indeed.
But this is nothing compared to a recently discovered exoplanet that is 500 light-years away. That is a distance of 4.7302642 × 1015 kilometers. This one could harbor life like ours: http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1404/17kepler/#.U6BL67HufDc. But who would want to travel to a far away planet when it is a trip that would last 12 years. A tolerable time compared to travelling in a rocket at slow speed. The Voyager probe is traveling at 36,000 miles per hour and it would take 75,000 years for this craft to reach Alpha Centauri if it had been aimed at this star in the first place. That is a massive amount of time. But the warp drive could make this trip faster if it comes to fruition. The new movie Interstellar showcases a warp drive engine that could get us to our nearest star in 2 weeks. This is the best option for a long space journey across the depths of deep space.
Traveling from one solar system to another is quite an undertaking; this would require a crew that could get along well crammed into a small space together for a long period. That is similar to the challenges faced by the Mars One crew. The atmosphere on Mars is equivalent to our atmosphere at 100,000 feet altitude and it is mostly carbon dioxide. That is not really conducive to life. Here is a photograph of a Martian sunset captured by one of our rovers: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20050610a/sunset_a489_gamma_2sub_800.jpg. This is a beautiful scene though. Will we see something like this on another world if we find a habitable planet during our exploration of space? Only time will tell, life can exist anywhere.
There are amazing sights out in deep space, this is something that we should see for ourselves close up. A Neutron Star is a very dangerous object, but to see one up close would be quite a sight to behold, I am not sure though how close you can actually get before you were destroyed by the massive gravity field. Still something like a brown dwarf star would be safer, they are not very hot and would be safer to approach.