How to enjoy your summer outside
About five years ago, Nature Valley put out a television commercial that quickly went viral. The message was powerful: “Nature has always been a part of childhood. Let’s make sure it doesn’t stop with us.” It finished with the tagline, “Rediscover the joy of nature.”
In a world where we’re increasingly “plugged-in” to devices that do almost anything we could possibly imagine, people spend significantly less time outside. Multiple studies, like this one conducted by a pair of social psychologists and this one from the Outdoor Foundation, indicate that about half the population doesn’t participate in outdoor recreation at all in a typical year.
When you think back to your own childhood, nature likely served as the backdrop to some of your fondest memories – especially when it comes to summer activities. Maybe it was camping with your family, taking a beach vacation, swimming in a creek, or even simply climbing a tree.
Making new memories like that each year doesn’t have to stop just because you’re an adult. In fact, there has never been a better time to try some new outside activities with your loved ones (or even by yourself!) to reconnect with nature. Summer vacation may look a little different this year, but fortunately there are still many ways to get out and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer.
Time outdoors is time well-spent
Spending time in the great outdoors allows you to “unplug” from the responsibilities, stress, and constant stimulation of daily life. Aside from providing a much-needed break, it also has a number of physical and mental health benefits.
For the most part, every time you head outdoors you’re getting a decent amount of physical activity. Whether your outside summer ideas involve going for a walk, swimming, riding a bike, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, or climbing a mountain, you’re challenging yourself physically, which we know is essential to overall well-being.
Another key benefit of being outdoors is slightly less obvious. Have you ever heard the term, “Nature is the best medicine?” Scientific evidence shows that it’s actually true. Spending time in nature increases the body’s production of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals linked to feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and optimism. These higher levels can reduce anxiety and depression and improve productivity and memory function.
The benefits of spending time doing outside activities don’t stop there. Connecting with nature fosters a deeper appreciation and concern for Mother Earth, as well as some innate human characteristics: curiosity, creativity, and exploration. It can also boost mindfulness and self-confidence, as being unplugged allows you to be fully present – whether that means with others or just yourself.
How to incorporate outside summer ideas
No matter where you live, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy the benefits of spending time outdoors this summer. Thankfully, nature is all around us. Whether you’re the type who prefers to hike solo or your idea of the perfect summer vacation is outdoor adventures with friends, there are numerous ways to connect with your natural surroundings.
Ditch the gym
We all know the extensive benefits of exercising. Exercising outside, though, is even better for you. Not only are you physically working out your entire body when you’re doing something like hiking or biking, but you’re benefiting mentally and psychologically, as well. Plus, the fresh air gives your heart and lungs an extra boost. The change doesn’t have to be drastic. Consider swapping your treadmill for a trail run or doing your usual yoga session in a park.
Hit the road for a vacation destination
Taking a road trip is a fantastic way to see many different landscapes. Consider planning a route that takes you to a provincial, state, or national park and take your time, stopping frequently along the way. Pack a book, a picnic blanket, or a hammock so you can fully immerse yourself in nature anywhere you stop.
If at all possible, give yourself a few more days than you’ll actually need to travel. This will allow you to stop as often and for as long as you want, perhaps even incorporating one or more unplanned overnight stays. Coast Hotels has nearly 40 locations throughout the United States and Canada, many of which are located near national parks and other must-see natural landmarks. As an idea, you could head to Santa Barbara, California for a leisurely beach trip or go to Canmore, Alberta for a whitewater rafting adventure or a number of other outside activities in Banff National Park.
Gas up the grill
Connecting with nature doesn’t have to mean traveling far from home. On the contrary, one of the most classic and beloved summer activities is an excellent way to spend time outdoors.
Invite the close friends in your social distance bubble and family over for a backyard barbecue or better yet, choose a park or recreational area. Many of them have barbecue grills or fire pits, making for a perfect location where your group can meet and enjoy natural surroundings together. Ask a few people to bring a favorite outdoor game or consider having a late dinner and then stargazing. Bring some blankets or chairs and snacks, then settle in to enjoy one of nature’s most spectacular shows after the sun goes down.
Bring the kids and Fido, too!
One of the best outside summer ideas may be closer and far more affordable than you realize. Spend some time during your summer vacation checking out new parks, playgrounds, or splash pads in your area. Many feature family- and pet-friendly summer events such as “Movies in the Park” and food festivals, and best of all, they’re typically free.
If you prefer a slightly less urban setting, pay a visit to wildlife sanctuaries or nature preserves in your area. As an added bonus, these places present educational opportunities the whole family will find interesting.However you choose to spend time outdoors this summer, enjoy it. Be open to new experiences and a (literal) change of scenery, and luxuriate in the quieter, unhurried surroundings. To help you plan your trip, check out our over 150 travel posts on the No Place Like Coast blog for all your trip-planning needs. Travel safe!