Researchers have determined that just looking at online photos of nature can have a positive effect on our well-being. That’s a good start, but those benefits spread like grand vistas when we get off the internet and on a path into nature. This is especially true when it comes to travel. There are at least half a dozen reasons to put nature at the top of your travel list.
Sunshine on Your Shoulders
If you’re a typical American, the EPA figures you spend only about 10% of your life outdoors. That other 90 percent has you over-exposing yourself to indoor air pollution while depriving yourself of sunlight that’s essential for good health. Travel destinations that include nature provide healthier air quality. With proper protection against sunburn, you reap the significant benefits of sunlight, including better bone health, a more robust immune system, and lower blood pressure.
Let's Get Physical
Who needs a hotel gym when you’re on the road? Think of nature as a personal fitness trainer with no need to keep badgering you for ten more reps. Hiking, kayaking, biking, casting a fly rod; they all keep you moving with steady, low impact exercise. You may not think you’re working hard on a leisurely stroll through the woods, but those steps burn calories. If you’re carrying a pack filled with water, snacks, and outdoor weather gear, you’re burning even more calories and improving muscle tone.
Let’s face it. Our brains could use a break. Every day we’re bombarded with so much...stuff, we lose our ability to concentrate on any one thing. The endless stream of information we see and hear through exposure to urban living and technology erodes our attention span. Nature helps our brains recover, restoring cognitive abilities by providing a much-needed mental break from processing all the information modern life demands. A University of Kansas study even finds that extended time in nature can increase creativity by as much as 50 percent.
Travel used to be synonymous with adventure, exploration, and discovery. Today we put so much effort into planning the perfect trip, there’s not much to discover once we get there. Everything has been arranged over the internet, scripted from beginning to end. Nature doesn’t work that way. Even in the busiest national parks, nature is a doorway to discovery. With a short walk from a parking lot, you enter a world of spontaneous experiences; the sight of a bald eagle soaring overhead, the sound of aspen leaves rustling in the wind, the scent of fresh air scrubbed by soft rain. Some discoveries are less welcome than others, so be sure your travels include protection against the creepy-crawly kind.
When you were a kid, you probably didn’t think of it as getting in touch with nature but playing in the dirt was a great introduction to the world surrounding you. An introduction to nature is a great gift you can give to your own children, and to yourself. When kids are exposed to natural environments, they connect to the wider world they’re part of, developing an appreciation for the resources that sustain their lives. As young people become ever more immersed in technology, nature provides a way to unplug, at least for a while, as well as an opportunity for you to bond with your children in a setting that stimulates their curiosity and fires their sense of wonder.
A Slower Pace
The last place you want to feel like you’re constantly on the run is when you’re on vacation. Nature travel destinations don’t require you to be somewhere when the doors open because there are no doors. You get there when you want, stay as long as you want, and move at a pace that’s not determined by a clock or a schedule. Nature almost forces you to slow down, pay attention, and notice things that would get lost in the muddled mindset of a modern lifestyle. You may find that the more time you spend in nature on your next trip, the harder it is to leave. And you’ll probably find yourself repeating after John Muir; “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”