Green travel and adventure travel often go hand in hand. The reasons are obvious: While Mother Nature can be beautiful and relaxing (think sunsets, green meadows and starry skies), she can also be rugged, dangerous and challenging (think roaring rapids, jagged cliffs and wild animals).
When I choose travel destinations, I almost always forego the idyllic, relaxing vacations in favor of something more adventurous. For some people, lolling about on a chaise lounge for a week sounds like paradise. For me, torture.
This penchant for adventure has allowed me to see the world in some unusual ways. I’ve gone surfing in Fiji and kite-surfing in Morocco, scuba diving in Egypt and cliff diving in Maui. I’ve gone mountain climbing in Peru and cave spelunking in Mexico. And I loved every minute of it.
Adventure travel may not be for everyone, but there are some good reasons to consider it:
1. We don’t need to rest our bodies. While our grandparents needed to take vacations to rest their bodies from the physical labor of work, our modern high-tech workplaces are far more sedentary. We are experiencing an epidemic of sitting, and when we go on vacation, we need to use our bodies more than we need to relax them.
2. We do need an escape from technology. While we don’t need to rest our bodies, we do need to rest our minds. Thanks to modern technology, we are connected 24/7 and processing more information than ever before. We need places to go to get away from that. I’m always amazed at how few places in the world are left where you can get away from a cellphone signal. But there is no cell service in the bottom of the Grand Canyon or on the smaller islands of the Fijian archipelago. Your phone usually won’t work if you are 100 feet under the ocean or 12,000 feet above it. Nor would you want it to.
3. Adventure brings us together. There is a famous study where female researchers interviewed male participants in the middle of a bridge. Some of the interviews took place on a sturdy bridge over a peaceful stream. Others took place on a wobbly suspension bridge 250 feet above a dizzying ravine. The psychological arousal of being on the high bridge led to more of the participants asking the researcher out on a date!
According to psychologist Todd Kashdan, novel experiences, even those characterized by uncertainty or anxiety (such as rushing down the rapids of the Zambezi or bungee jumping off of Victoria Falls) often lead to the most intensely positive experiences of our lives. When these are shared, they bond us to whomever we are with at the time. And even when they are not shared, they push us to learn and grow and give us seared-in memories that will last a lifetime.
On your next vacation, consider peeling yourself off the lounge chair. Trade in your magazines and your laptop for a scuba tank or a surfboard. Avoid the “must see” tourist destinations and beat your own path into unknown neighborhoods. Alternate days of rest and rejuvenation with days of heart-thumping risk and adrenaline that take you over the edge of your comfort zone.
Granted, this kind of trip might not be as relaxing as what you are accustomed to. But the experiences, memories and learning opportunities will make it worth every adrenaline-filled moment.
JEREMY McCARTHY is director of global spa development and operations for Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Read more of his writing at psychologyofwellbeing.com.