I may have grown up in the suburbs, but I’ve always been more comfortable with the anonymity of cities over the wide open spaces. But my grandparents moved to the country when I was young and regular visits to see them started to make me comfortable with that environment. In my travels, I try to incorporate some sort of nature encounter during the trip to fully understand the place, not just in its skyscrapers. Here are a few of my favorites from over the years and the blog posts that describe them in further detail.
Après Ski in the Austrian Alps
Can it still be après ski if you never go skiing? I spent a few days in between jaunts to Munich in the sleepy town of Fulpmes, located a tram ride away from Innsbruck. Once I got off the tram, I walked through the town with its quintessential Alpine architecture and up to Doug’s Getaway, my home for the next few nights. I skipped much of the outdoors activities, like hiking, but did take the gondola to the top of the glacier. I could easily have spent more time here, despite the fact that there wasn’t much to do in the traditional sense.
Volunteering in Northern Thailand
The mountains north of Chiang Mai are a magical place that I’ve somehow spent a lot of time. During my first volunteer stint in 2010, I had to get used to sleeping on the floor with bugs and walking down to the only restaurant in town for my daily bowl of noodles. This time around, I felt prepared to sweat my ass off, smack mosquitoes and generally stay as dirty as possible. The week spent at the Elephant Nature Park let me embrace the small part of me that’s comfortable in the country. Whenever we weren’t shoveling, cutting or caring for the elephants, we played card games and read under the shade.
Swimming in Australia’s Kakadu National Park
My week traveling around the Outback seemed a bit too long for me. I’m comfortable camping for a long weekend, but not much more. So this time around in Australia, we picked a shorter tour, three nights in Kakadu and Litchfield. Instead of sleeping in swags like I did on the last trip, we slept in permanent tents in caravan parks. My favorite part of the entire tour was swimming in the croc-free rock pools that dot the national parks.
Hanging with Horses on Vieques
Our time in San Juan was much more city oriented, but once we landed on the island of Vieques, we were on island time. The week was spent driving down dirt roads in a rented jeep, chowing on Puerto Rican pastries and getting to know our neighbor’s horses. We were staying in a rented house at the top of the hill, so I went on a morning run and was followed by all the neighborhood dogs.
Meeting the Locals at Annah Rais Longhouse
While we didn’t get to stay overnight at Annah Rais Longhouse village as originally planned, but we spent a few hours there sipping rice wine and exploring the labyrinth of bamboo and corrugated tin. It reminded me of where a city kid would go to spend the weekend with their grandparents. Families still live here, but visitors can stay overnight or come up for the day.
Communing with Nature at the Shaker Village
The last day of my trip to Kentucky was spent at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a community where a group of the religious order once lived. The property is lined with original buildings, fenced off areas for animals and fields where they still grow vegetables. I attended a yoga class on a riverboat and learned to live simply.