We Don’t Have to Go Far to Relax Deeply
by April Thompson
Carving out time from crammed calendars for a week or more away from home can pose such a hurdle that more than half of all American workers forfeit hard-earned vacation days every year. Sometimes a long weekend in an inspired locale is all we need to recharge our batteries.
Short vacations invite welcome rest and relaxation and are often more sustainable, according to Gary Diedrichs, publisher of the online Green Traveler Guides (GreenTravelerGuides.com). “Airplanes pollute more than any other form of travel. When you take shorter trips by other means, whether bicycle or a hybrid rental car, you’re way ahead environmentally,” says Diedrichs, whose family enjoys road-tripping in an old Mercedes converted to run on recycled vegetable oil.
For families, short, sweet trips are also easier to do with the kids in tow. “It’s also an opportunity for parents to reinforce that living sustainably isn’t just something you do at home,” notes Diedrichs.
We can prescribe—and reward—ourselves with one of the following mini-vacations, whether a trip to a green spa if we’re stressed or a hike in a park or the woods if we’ve been sedentary.
Travel on tracks to trails. Leave behind stressful traffic and uninspiring highway views by hopping a train to a nearby state or national park. Riders can venture through a variety of terrain without leaving their seats. Amtrak reaches more than 237 national parks and monuments (AmtrakToParks.com), many of which offer stunning backdrops for outdoor music festivals.
A rail-to-park adventure can rekindle old friendships with faraway, but not forgotten friends. Draw a circle encompassing everyone’s location and pick a park within the radius as the meet-up spot, distributing the travel burden equally. Agree beforehand which friends bring which essential camping equipment, food and other provisions so that everyone travels light. Traversing trails is a fun, bonding experience.
Go farm to fork. Escape city crowds, live bucolic fantasies and learn about sustainable agriculture during a farm stay. Organic family farms across the country offer overnight stays to supplement farming incomes and connect with local consumers.
Farm life is about simple pleasures, like waking to a rooster’s call and then digging into a farm-fresh breakfast of free-range eggs, accompanied by homemade bread, cheese, jam and honey. Afterwards, stroll an apple orchard or fragrant field of lavender. Most farms allow guests to pitch in with the chores, maybe feeding chickens, milking cows, picking cherries or making yogurt. Find a place nearby at FarmStayUS.com.
Renew your spirit. Reconnect with your faith or explore a new spiritual calling with a short stay at a retreat center. Some furnish structured guided retreats, such as vipassanā Buddhism’s silent retreats, where participants sit in meditation eight hours a day without access to media or other distractions. Other centers assist guests in creating self-directed retreats tailored to personal goals. Grounds often feature sacred spaces like labyrinths or meditation gardens, providing an inspired environment to contemplate one’s spiritual journey.
RetreatFinder.com supplies a comprehensive listing of retreats conducive to every spiritual persuasion, from Anglican to Zen, across the country and worldwide.
Taste the terroir. A long weekend amidst vineyards can be a refreshing way to simultaneously explore the countryside and refine our wine palate. Along with tastings, some vintners provide tours of their vineyards and cellars, including insights into the characteristics of local terroirs that give each vintage its distinctive taste. Some also have bed and breakfast inns onsite, eliminating the need for a designated driver.
Pamper your body. Time at a green destination spa is a soothing way to detox from stress while indulging in corporeal treats like a hot stone massage, aromatherapy treatment or rose petal bath. Green spas use natural products such as unbleached organic linens and botanically derived oils, which are gentler on skin. Most practice sustainability in other areas as well, such as water management, energy use and waste reduction. Search for the perfect getaway treat at GreenSpaNetwork.org.
Numerous farms, spas, parks and vineyards are waiting to be explored; many nearby that we may overlook draw visitors from around the world. “Local travel gives us a chance to dig more deeply into the places that surround us,” says Diedrichs. “We can have fun playing tourists in our own backyards and support sustainable, local businesses we discover along the way.”
Connect with freelance writer April Thompson at AprilWrites.com.