I'm an indoor girl but I do love to get in touch with nature when I travel. Here's why!
I can’t claim to be an outdoorsy girl. I’d much rather read Jane Austen and sip wine than brave the bugs, sun, sleet, and dirt of the great outdoors. I’m a bit of a chicken (we all remember the Segway and ziplining anti-adventure), but one way or another, I’ve always managed to find myself outside, SPF 110 and bug spray in hand, ready to try something new. Here are some of my favourite travel activities in the great outdoors.
National Parks are famous for their ambitious outdoor challenges but there are plenty of fun activities for the less daring. I’ve been to National Parks across North America, in Ireland, Malawi, and Zambia and I always enjoyed the unique plants and wildlife, the natural wonders, and learning from the park rangers.
I’ve seen the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets in the world, watched historic ruins come to life, and observed wild animals from just a few feet away. Park rangers are passionate about their work and offer unique programs and presentations for every interest. Best of all, admission fees – if they even exist –supports amazing preservation and environmental protection work.
Portaging a canoe uphill with a pack on my back, setting up a rustic lean-to shelter, and cooking freshly caught fish and re-hydrated rations – I’ve done none of these things. I’m a frequent camper, but of the car camping variety. I rely on my air-conditioned, leather-seated vehicle to take me, my iPad, and my bottles of Fiji water, red wine, and Starbucks Frappuccinos directly to the campsite. The tent’s the real deal, but my inflatable Queen bed is a little less authentic. I’ve had neither fresh caught fish nor mountaineering rations – but melted brie, chicken tikka masala, gourmet S’mores, and Boston cream pie have all made an appearance. And while I dearly miss my wi-fi and deep bathtubs, I enjoy the chance to see the stars at night, spend time by the lakeshore, and relax by the campfire.
Sure, I can rock a long hike if the occasion calls for it, but I’m much more of a nature walk kind of girl. Maybe all my running around in airports makes me crave a more relaxing walking experience! When camping or visiting a National Park, I always try to seek out a short trail and enjoy a nature walk.
In Maui’s Haleakala National Park, I enjoyed the 30 minute Hosmer trail, which contains a curious selection of non-native trees mingling with Hawaiian sandalwood. The 3.5 km Lookout Point Trail at Kilbear Provincial Park in Ontario takes you through different forests and rock formations and is one of my favourite walks.
I recently had the opportunity to take part in an hour long nature walk at the Albion Hills Conservation Area as part of TBEX press trip with Central Counties Tourism. Our guide MacKenzie was approachable, convivial, and very knowledgeable. The woodland trail was very easy to walk, with just a few areas posing a mild challenge. MacKenzie explained about the diverse animals that visit the area and about the year round activities and I appreciated the value in having such a pretty area to visit, just over an hour from Toronto. It was a great chance to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city and get in touch with nature.
Safaris and Zoos
While roosters, jelly fish, and a whole host of insects top my list of personal enemies, I absolutely love the rest of the animal kingdom. A favourite travel treat of mine is to go on safari and visit animal sanctuaries and well managed zoos.
I think many of us originally imagined that traveling meant going on a Roosevelt style safari mission, and I love to indulge both my childhood fantasies with a more adult appreciation for nature. I’m fascinated by animals big and small and, when I was on safari in Zambia, I was just as excited to see a mongoose as a lion. I appreciate the conservation efforts made by these organizations and I want to contribute to their ongoing work.
Next up on my wildlife dream list? Panama, Costa Rica, and Madagascar.
Sometimes it feels like I go on vacation to avoid my own gardening disasters! If only you could see the weeds in my community garden plot! While weeding and planting here at home doesn’t offer me much in the way of relaxation, I feel the opposite when I visit botanical gardens when I travel. While many botanical gardens can have steep admission fees, I’ve never had a problem finding those that are free for the public – those associate with universities or government agencies are usually free of charge and are just as beautiful, interesting, and informative.
Sometimes, I’m happy to have the great outdoors visit me in the city! I love to see and sample the best of what nature has to offer by visiting a farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets are a great way to support local producers and enjoy the very best food a region has to offer – they’re affordable, fun, and friendly experiences. During my first trip backpacking through Europe, I visited markets every day, never once making it inside a restaurant. Some, such as Paris’ Rue Mouffetard, were legendary, while many others were nothing more than tiny roadside stalls. No matter the size, farmer's markets have a special place in my heart (and my stomach!)
Exploring the great outdoors and appreciating nature doesn't mean you have to go bungee jumping, glacier climbing, or cave exploring. It can be something as simple as picking up a local, organic lunch from a community farmers' market and taking it with you to enjoy a short walk in a National Park or botanical garden. I hope even the city folks among you are inspired to spend some time outside today!
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Are you an outdoor enthusiast or a city slicker?
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