Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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This post is part of a Free Unit Studies series and this week’s theme is Road Trips. Road trips are an amazing way to visit a place with your family. Get in the car with luggage and kids and you’re ready to go. The last road trip that we took was in Iceland this spring and we drove 3,800km or 2,360 miles in 8 days around the island. It was long! On such long trips, road trip planning is essential. Kids can’t sit during hours in the back seat without getting antsy or cranky and neither can I! From a driving safety point of view, stopping every couple of hours is recommended and you’ll be more alert behind the wheel if you stop to “recharge your batteries” in a fun way. Outdoor breaks really help get a feeling that you are exploring a place because they force you to slow down and get moving on your feet to breathe some fresh air. Here are 5 trusted outdoor breaks for road trips around the world.
Say you’re cruising down Highway 1 in California from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Classic road trip on the West coast. There are lots of wonderful state parks where you stop along the way to get out of the car, get the blood flowing and take short hikes. Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP on the picture is a mere 0.6 mile roundtrip walk rom the parking lot on accessible trails and you get to see the most popular waterfall on the coast. Include parking the car and taking pictures and you have an amazing 30 minutes under the sun by the Pacific Ocean with unforgettable views and the smell of the sea.
To find a hike to break your road trip, several options.
In terms of hikes, look for
Any of the above is bound to offer an hour of sanity in the great outdoors where everybody can stretch their legs, eat a snack and jump around.
Looks rather perfect, doesn’t it? Picnics are so much more fun than eating junk food on the go at a gas station. Even if your picnic food is not picture perfect, even if it’s just a loaf of bread with cheese and veggies bought at a local general store, it’s an opportunity to sit down on the ground and enjoy your surroundings. The best picnics we’ve had were impromptu picnics with local produce bought at road stands and whatever crackers, chips or cookies we still had in the car. The fact that you can get out and walk a bit or lie down in the grass, climb a boulder, makes a world of difference in your physical well-being. For kids, a picnic can be a great opportunity to climb a tree, play hide and seek, dip their toes in a river or run around.
If your road trip is in the summer, chances are that you already have everything you need to make a splash:
When my girls were preschoolers, we planned to visit a covered bridge in Nevada. It crossed a gorgeous river and from the bridge, we noticed people swimming in the river. We’d been driving a couple of hours and the air was hot, we felt tired and needed to cool own. Swimming! Minutes later, we went down a dirt trail to the rocky banks of the river and had a ball splashing in the crystal clear waters during half an hour. It was the best road trip break ever–refreshing, cool and relaxing. Kids love to get in the water. Always make sure that you have swimming gear accessible near the top of the trunk.
My friend Alex is a yoga teacher and works with kids in schools. In the picture, she was demonstrating a yoga pose at the top of a waterfall in the Mercantour. Granted, she may have more reasons than you or I to strike a yoga pose but I’ve seen the effect of yoga on kids and how it relaxes them when out in nature. Being outside can intensify the yoga experience in many ways, since nature helps focusing awareness, breathing deeply, and practicing stillness. Even 10 minutes will make you feel better.
For kids, Kids Yoga Stories is a great resource and features stories that demonstrate poses and offer self-calming techniques. On the website, you can find yoga cards to buy or yoga pose images to download. Keep them handy in the glove compartment of the car and take them out on your outdoor break.
All over the world, there’s a growing trend to create fitness trails or outdoor gyms to get people moving outside. They’re a fantastic opportunity to get out of the car and run around while exercising your upper and lower body, a unique way to break the boredom and physical fatigue of driving long hours. The forest fitness trail in this picture is in Zermatt (Switzerland) and each station came complete with illustrated instructions and wooden fitness equipment under the trees. It was so cool! I’ve never seen my girls so excited to engage into fitness activities. For them, it was all play, jump, hop, push up and stretch. They loved it.
Technically, fitness trails consist of seven dual-purpose exercise stations with 1/4 mile jogging paths (that you can walk or jog) and signs that describe and illustrate each exercise. Pretty cool, right? You’ll find such trails literally all over the world. Wikipedia has a short list of fitness trails that you can refer to for inspiration but it’s incomplete and outdated. Your best bet is to contact local tourism offices or to google “fitness trail”, “outdoor gym” or “parcourse” with the name of the area you’re visiting.