Add Some Adventure to Your Weekend

Exploring the outdoors will help you lift your spirits, connect with loved ones and boost your energy.

Two women climbing rocks near a waterfall

by NEA Member Benefits

We’re all busy—we’re constantly connected and life often feels like constant chaos. “It’s taking away our ability to maintain balance and live with intention and purpose,” says Jake Haupert, president and founder EverGreen Escapes. “This chaos keeps pulling us away from what is truly important: family, friends, life purpose, travel and the call to adventure.” 

One way to combat the mental chaos: Nature. No matter where you live, we’re all surrounded by nature in some shape or form—it’s just a matter of seeking it out and connecting with it, says Haupert. Debra Schwartz, owner of Tam Hiking Tours, agrees: “Adventure brings many things—it transports us out of the ordinary, brings perspective and appreciation, punctuates moments in our life, reinforces our sense of possibility and inspires and refines us.”

Easier said than done, however, when that relaxing couch and a movie come calling. “The irony is getting out actually increases energy,” explains Schwartz. “You don’t need to feel energetic to qualify for outdoor activity—energy comes with the action and lasts long after it’s over.”

When you feel like you’re dragging yourself out the door, keep in mind that you can start small. Says Haupert: “It starts with getting a few nature-based experiences under your belt and building a deeper connection with Mother Nature. Once that connection is made, the outdoors will call to you, even when a movie sounds pretty darn appealing.”

It helps to write down a few goals and build up to being a weekend warrior. “Start small and get out at least once per quarter, then make it once a month, then every other weekend.” Remember, “you can watch a movie on your couch anytime you like. But you can’t always spend a sunny day outdoors on your bike, or hike to a great view point to watch an amazing sunset, or ski on a blanket of fresh snow; you have to take advantage of those moments when they happen,” says Gregg Marston, president of VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or extreme, assures Schwartz. Hikes in nearby open space, bike rides and beach walks, sun, moon and stargazing, sighting wildlife, exploring new neighborhoods—“this is the kind of mental adjustment that enriches one’s life and inspires everyday.”

It’s not about eliminating relaxation at home, rather it’s about striking the right balance. And “that movie can be that much sweeter after an exhilarating adventure outside,” says Haupert. So take a page from these four adventure experts’ books and build more adventure into your weekend:

  • Take a walk. Walking anywhere—a city park, a trail along a waterway or even your neighborhood—can be food for the soul, assures Haupert. Schwartz, who recommends researching local open spaces, checking online sites like Meetup for hiking groups or outdoor shops for outdoor events, seconds that notion: “There is adventure in every single outing, no walk is the same.” The light, weather, leaves, trees and people change. You can always find something new. “Even something as simple as forgoing a taxi or subway ride in order to walk to where you are going allows you to be so much more in tune with what’s going on in your neighborhood; and you’ll burn some extra calories in the process,” says Marston. Consider following in Schwartz’s footsteps and creating a photo album filled with shots from your daily walk to help you appreciate the experience even more.
  • Go hiking. “There’s something just awesome about hiking to a scenic outlook, peak or waterfall,” admits Sara DeLucia, program manager at Appalachian Mountain Club. “Often times the scenery on the way to the destination is just as impressive as the actual destination.”
  • Try water sports. “Canoeing reminds you how quiet it can be outdoors, and brings you closer to the sounds and sights of nature,” says DeLucia, citing wildlife as an added benefit. Likewise, “feeling the water flow beneath you adds another natural connection to the experience,” says Haupert, who recommends kayaking.
  • Take a bike ride. Tons of cities, like Portland, Boston and Denver, have great bike-share programs, says Marston. “A bike ride can magnify the sights, sounds and smells of your surroundings, you’re able to go at your own pace, stop to take a photo, explore a historical site in more detail, even look around a locally-owned shop and strike up a conversation with its proprietor.”
  • Find a reputable adventure travel expert to help plan a vacation, recommends Haupert. “A professional will help you cultivate the reasons you’re seeking out a travel experience, what you are hoping to accomplish and why a specific destination is calling to you.” If you can’t afford a travel professional, commit to being outside in a destination. “Those experiences are part of the fabric of a destination and will enrich your life, both in the community you visit and the one at home.”
  • Try something new. “To me, adventure isn’t only defined by being physically active, it’s defined by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, like eating or cooking new foods, going to a cultural performance or simply taking a drive around where you live and checking out different towns,” says Marston.
  • Honor big life events outside, says Schwartz. Birthday hikes, graduation picnics, al fresco anniversary dinners—“all these celebrations take on additional significance when celebrated outside—nature is a highlighter that underscores and makes bolder the life celebrations stored in a family’s collective memory.”

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