Fountain of Youth: The Restorative Power of RVing

Here are the top 10 health benefits you can expect from RV travel

The Fountain of Youth possesses the power to restore the youth of anyone who drinks from or bathes in its waters… or at least that’s what legend would have you believe. Is there any truth to it? Perhaps, if you travel in an RV!

But one thing’s for sure: For thousands of years, people have searched in vain for a way to recapture their glory days.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote about mythical restorative water in Ethiopia in the 5th century B.C., the modern legend of the Fountain of Youth stems from stories told by the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean about the mythical land of Bimini. According to these old stories, the waters in Bimini had magical restorative powers. Some believe it was Bimini and the Fountain of Youth that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was searching for when he made his way to what is now Florida in 1513.

Even though Ponce de León was one of the first Europeans to set foot in what would become America, he never did find the Fountain of Youth. Nevertheless, modern-day St. Augustine, Florida—where some believe Ponce de León came ashore—is the home of the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park.

Lake County, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to the park regularly drink the water that flows from the natural spring located there but there is no evidence that it has any restorative effects.

Today, Florida is known as a popular retirement spot for seniors. Many Florida retirees experience a rejuvenation of sorts when they RV to Florida although their newfound energy is most likely the result of less stress, more rest, and good weather—not magic water.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Health benefits of RV travel

RVing is more than just something you do—it’s a lifestyle. RVing is a lifestyle that benefits your health and well-being in many ways. RVers are out on the open road, often in nature, and checking off things on their bucket list. Together, these acts contribute to overall happiness which also positively impacts your health.

Related article: 7 Simple Tips to Live Longer and Healthier

RV travel not only provides great memories but provides great health benefits as well. While all kinds of travel can benefit your well-being there are specific perks that come from traveling in an RV. Here are 10 health benefits you can expect from RV travel.

Bourbon Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV travel lowers your stress levels

Chronic stress makes you irritable, and anxious and decreases your decision-making abilities. RV travel distracts you from real-life stresses. Visiting new places helps you switch off from the daily stresses. It allows you to focus on your new travel experiences and the challenges that go with travel— instead of the things in your life stressing you out. There’s nothing sweeter than RV travel for taking a break from the daily grind.

A whopping 80 percent of vacationing people report they felt a significant reduction of stress after just two days of vacation. Vacation time is linked to happiness and general well-being.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re hitting the open road on your timeline and schedule for a vacation, you’re cutting some of those additional, travel-related stressors out entirely. You aren’t rushing to make a flight and in an RV have everything you need.

Traveling in an RV can be a cost-saving experience that helps reduce finance-related stress. For a fraction of the cost of plane tickets, hotels, and destination prices, you can vacation wherever you go with your RV.

Hyannis Harbor Cruise, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. RV travel beats flying

Everyone should experience traveling the country in an RV. There is no other way of travel that compares. You can enjoy the scenic wonders of nature without compromising on comfort no matter where you travel.

There’s no way around it—traveling by air takes a lot out of you, especially long-haul flights. Planes are cramped and uncomfortable and sitting for hours while traveling across multiple time zones can leave you feeling lethargic for days afterward.

Sandhill cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You never look back on your RV trip and say “oh yeah I remember when we were stuck waiting to take off for three and a half hours.”

Getting out the door before you leave in your RV can certainly feel stressful. You worry about whether you’ve packed everything you need or if you’ve unplugged all your small appliances. It’s tempting to think that travel increases stress. In fact, it does just the opposite.

In today’s modern life, it is too easy to become caught up in the minute details. RV travel helps you leave those stressors behind. It encourages your mind to settle and refocus to be in the present.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. RV travel boosts your immune system

RV travel works to keep you healthy by boosting your immune system. By visiting new places you’ll be exposing yourself to new germs. While this can make you want to reach for your hand sanitizer, it’s a great way to help your body build antibodies.

Related article: Camping Benefits Mind and Body…Here Is How

This introduction to new bacteria gets your antibody factory fired up protecting your body from future illness. When you travel, you’re frequently taking in the natural sites and spending time outdoors in nature. It also turns out that fresh air is great for your health, aiding in digestion and improving blood pressure and heart rate.

Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. RV travel helps encourage healthy choices

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

Whether you head out for an occasional road trip or you’re a snowbird or full-timer, RV travel has some particular perks when it comes to staying healthy. What you eat and how you sleep top the list.

When you’re constantly on the go it’s easy to get stuck eating fast food and calorie-rich junk food. Traveling by RV helps you stay healthy by eliminating that need. You can stock your kitchen and reach for healthy foods and fresh produce when you’re hungry. You can even maintain a garden of fresh herbs and produce in your recreational vehicle.

Sleeping in your own bed each night © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A healthy diet works to keep your overall health on track. A meta-analysis of studies following 469,551 participants found that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease with an average reduction in risk of 4 percent for each additional serving per day of fruit and vegetables.  Although all fruits and vegetables contributed to this benefit, green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens were most strongly associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to your travel diet, RV travel allows you to sleep in your own bed every night even as you’re traveling the country. Sleep is a key to good health.

Sleeping in your own bed can help you get the sleep your body needs. You’ll be able to choose your own mattress, your own pillows, and linens that you love. This keeps you comfortable and promotes good-quality sleep. When you travel in your RV, you’ll also be able to stick to your own sleep schedule which can help you get consistent, good-quality sleep.

Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. RV travel boosts confidence

RVing isn’t always easy despite the pretty pictures you see on Instagram. You’re taking a rolling home on wheels to places unknown hopeful that the weather, campground neighbors, and the RV itself cooperates. The prize for triumphing over the obstacles the road throws your way—because trust me, it will—is boosted confidence and a greater belief in yourself and your capabilities. As you take more trips your confidence grows. That increased confidence from RVing carries over into other aspects of your life and you feel better able to tackle other challenges that come your way.

Utah Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. RV travel inspires self discovery

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

Our capacity for learning more about ourselves is limitless. You can glean lessons from everywhere in life especially when you’re on the road and outside your familiar territory or routines. RV travel immerses you in a variety of new experiences. You’ll discover things you never knew you liked. Being exposed to so many new and unfamiliar situations teaches you more about your strengths and weaknesses, too. When you’re on an RV trip you’re opened up to situations that might highlight your fears and insecurities or perhaps bring about a sense of joy and gratitude. RV travel will shape you, shift your perspective, and help you discover the real you.

Port Aransas, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. RV travel helps combat depression

People suffering from depression often avoid things that can bring pleasure which only makes depression worse. RV travel is a form of behavioral activation—a behavior therapy strategy where you increase your engagement in rewarding activities especially when you are feeling depressed. RV travel offers a change of pace and place that can leave a positive long-lasting effect on your psyche. While curing severe depression is no easy road, getting out and enjoying RV adventures can play a transformative role in helping ease depression.

Related article: Unplug & Recharge

Smoky Mountains, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. RV travel can lead to a longer life

You’re in charge of your destiny when it comes to traveling in your RV. See a roadside attraction that’s off your planned route? Go ahead and take that detour.

Having a strong sense of control over your circumstances reduces the risk of dying by 13 percent, according to a study reported by The Atlantic.

Life on the road can be everything and anything you want it to be.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. RV travel helps you reinvent yourself

A long stretch of road can teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.

—Patrick Rothfuss

RV travel can help you re-evaluate and reinvent your life. Travel has the ability to expand your mind in a way you never realized was possible.

Moreover, the valuable lessons that you learn along the way broaden your perspective making you more aware and open to new ideas. Different is not better or worse, it’s just different. But being confronted with these differences helps to re-evaluate your own principles and values and, sometimes, change them.

Related article: The Power of Mindfulness

RV travel and interacting with the world around you, I found a new passion for life.

Frances Beidler Forest, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. RV travel offers undeniable health benefits

A wealth of health benefits can be found in embracing the RV lifestyle. RV travel does more than allow you to see the country; it allows you to live a longer and healthier life.

Worth Pondering…

I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.

—Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Doctors Can Prescribe Year-Long Pass to Canada’s National Parks

Doctors can now prescribe access to nature with the Parks Canada Discovery Pass to patients through the national nature prescription program

Imagine going to your doctor and, instead of a prescription for some named or generic pharmaceutical, you instead receive a prescription for a 30-minute walk in nature. This is not actually that far-fetched. Put down the Prozac and pick up your walking shoes.

Enjoying nature at Devonian Gardens Botanical Park near Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paracelsus, the 16th-century German-Swiss physician, wrote: “The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.” He could not have imagined the advent of the Smartphone, nor a 24/7, digitally enhanced, Instagram-able world.

Enjoying nature in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Much has been written about the evils (and glories) of technology but the resulting dissociation from our natural surroundings leaves us emotionally and physically worse off. We are bereft of nature. Our bodies—and our minds—need nature. And there is hard science to prove it.

In fact, there is enough science about the health benefits of nature to get the attention of the medical profession. Nature as medicine. Just don’t tell Big Pharma.

Enjoying nature in Elk Island National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canada is famous for its pristine waterways, soaring snowcaps, and beautiful forests from coast to coast to coast. Thanks to a new partnering agreement, health care professionals in four Canadian provinces can now prescribe time in the national park system to boost people’s mental and physical health.

Related Article: National Parks Inspire Love of Nature

Parks Canada is collaborating with a program called Park Prescriptions (PaRx). Doctors, nurses, and other licensed health care professionals who register with the program can prescribe nature—and even a Parks Canada Discovery Pass—to their patients.

Enjoying nature at Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We are very lucky in Canada to have a world of beautiful natural spaces at our doorstep to enjoy healthy outdoor activities. Medical research now clearly shows the positive health benefits of connecting with nature,” Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, said in a written statement.

“This exciting collaboration with PaRx is a breakthrough for how we treat mental and physical health challenges and couldn’t come at a better time as we continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives.”

Enjoying nature at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

PaRx is an initiative of the BC Parks Foundation, driven by health-care professionals who want to improve their patients’ health by connecting them to nature. Featuring practical resources like quick tips and patient handouts, its goal is to make prescribing time in nature simple, fun, and effective.

Each prescriber who registers with PaRx will receive a nature prescription file customized with a unique provider code and instructions for how to prescribe and log nature prescriptions.

Enjoying nature at Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parks Prescriptions began as a grassroots movement in the United States over a decade ago. We are proud to be Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program.

Related Article: How Much Time Should You Spend in Nature?

Parks Canada has provided 100 adult Discovery passes this year and will reassess this number in future years. An annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass covers admission to more than 80 destinations for 12 months. The pass sells for $72.25 and provides unlimited access to national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites for 12 months. The park system is already free for anyone 17 and under.

Enjoying nature at Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The BC Parks Foundation is the official charitable partner of BC Parks and the provincial park system. It launched PaRx—Canada’s first national nature prescription program—in November 2020 in British Columbia. In 2021, it expanded the program to Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Enjoying nature at Brae Island Regional Park near Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winning a prestigious Joule Innovation prize from the Canadian Medical Association, it has garnered widespread enthusiasm across the country with over 1,000 prescribers registered. Doctors, nurses, and other licensed health care professionals are able to add Parks Canada Discovery Passes to the doses of nature they prescribe.

Enjoy nature at Sunshine Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Until now, the nature prescriptions revolved around working out what kind of nature time people should consider, and not something tangible like a park pass. For now, only people in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario are eligible for the Parks Canada passes but the PaRx hopes to expand to Quebec, Alberta, and New Brunswick soon and eventually roll out in every province and territory.

Enjoying nature in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I can’t think of a better way to kick off 2022 than being able to give the gift of nature to my patients,” said PaRx director Dr. Melissa Lem, a family physician. “There’s a strong body of evidence on the health benefits of nature time, from better immune function and life expectancy to reduced risk of heart disease, depression, and anxiety, and I’m excited to see those benefits increase through this new collaboration.”

Enjoying nature in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Participating prescribers who can prescribe a Parks Canada pass are asked to prioritize patients who live close to national parks, historic sites, or marine conservation areas, and who could benefit from it the most.

For years doctors have discussed the healing qualities of nature and in 2006 a group of doctors in Albuquerque, New Mexico launched Prescription Trails, the first nature-prescribing program. Other programs launched soon afterward, and in 2019, Betty Sun of the Institute at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy said there were 71 programs of this nature operating in 32 different U.S. states.

Enjoying nature at Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature prescriptions were one of the top eight global wellness trends in 2019 and are cropping up around the world. Countries such as the United Kingdom are now investing in park prescription pilots to help tackle mental and physical health problems and the resulting strain on their health care systems and economies.

Related Article: Get Outside and Enjoy Nature

Enjoying nature at Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

PaRx was recently recognized by the World Health Organization in its COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health where it was featured as a way to inspire protection and restoration of nature as the foundation of our health—one of only two case studies cited from North America.

Enjoying nature at Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Research shows that children and adults who are more connected to nature are not only more likely to work to conserve it but also engage in other pro-environmental behaviors,” said Lem. “I like to think that every time one of my colleagues writes a nature prescription, we’re making the planet healthier, too.”

Enjoying nature along the Fraser River in Hope, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

PaRx has been endorsed by the BC Family Doctors, Saskatchewan Medical Association, Nurse Practitioners Association of Manitoba and Ontario College of Family Physicians. It offers practical, evidence-based online resources like quick prescribing tips and printable fact sheets, plus a green-time target of “two hours per week, 20+ minutes each time.”

Related Article: Best Parks and Gardens to Connect with Nature

As Canada grapples with the ongoing pandemic, it’s a critical time for health care professionals to promote the mental and physical health benefits of heading outdoors.

Enjoying nature near Valemont, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Our goal is to make sure that people who need it can get out easily and affordably to benefit from the healing power of nature,” said BC Parks Foundation CEO Andy Day. “So far, through the generosity of our donors and partners, we have provided free trips and nature therapy sessions during the pandemic to health care workers, seniors, refugees, and vulnerable youth. It’s been incredibly inspiring to see the impact nature has on people.”

Worth Pondering…

Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.

—E. O. Wilson

The Reason for Which You Wake up in the Morning

Ikigai essentially means the reason for which you wake up in the morning

In an earlier article, I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods.

Hiking Silly Mountain Park near Apache Junction in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Japan, the secret to living a longer, happier, and more fulfilled life can be summed up in one word: Ikigai. In Japanese, iki means “to live” and gai means “reason”—in other words, your reason to live. This ideology dates to the Heian period (A.D. 794 to 1185), but only in the past decade has it gained attention from millions around the world.

Woven together, these simple life values give clues as to what constitutes the very essence of ikigai: A sense of purpose, meaning, and motivation in life.

On a scenic drive near Hemet in California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For years, researchers have tried to find the reasons behind a long and healthy life. While the answer is likely a mix of good genes, diet, and exercise, studies have suggested that finding meaning in life is also a key component.

There’s no single way to find your ikigai but you can start by asking a few simple questions: What makes you happy? What are you good at? What (and who) do you value? What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Related: Getting Back to Nature: How Forest Bathing Can Make Us Feel Better

Hiking near Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finding joy in the small things—the morning air, a cup of coffee, or the ray of sunshine—should be part of what motivates you to get up each morning.

Recent data reveals that people in the U.S. can expect to live an average of 78.7 years.

Bird watching at Crystal River in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These days, screen-addicted Americans are more stressed out and distracted than ever. And there’s no app for that. But there is a radically simple remedy: get outside.

Nature can lower your blood pressure, fight off depression—and even prevent cancer.

Hiking Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Japan’s scientists are in the vanguard of knowing how green spaces soothe the body and brain. While a small but impressive shelf of psychological research in recent decades suggests that spending time in nature improves cognition, relieves anxiety, and depression, and even boosts empathy, scientists in Japan are measuring what’s actually happening to our cells and neurons.

According to Nicholas Carr’s 2010 book The Shallows, the average American spends at least eight hours a day looking at some sort of electronic screen. Then we try to relax by watching TV. Bad idea.

How to have a healthier, happier old age and how to apply it to their own lives

Enjoying nature at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exercise in green space

Trees produce phytoncides which help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and boost immunity. The microbes in forest soil have been found to reduce depression and may contribute to the health of our microbiome. A 15-minute walk is all it takes to reap the benefits, but researchers have found that a weekend in the woods improves immunity for up to a month while a short afternoon run or walk somewhere green means better sleep at night.

Related: Best Parks and Gardens to Connect with Nature

Wawasee Lake near Syracuse in Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Read books

Although reading is sedentary and solitary, frequent reading has been linked to a longer, healthier life. A Yale study of 3,600 over-50s found that reading increased longevity by almost two years; readers of books outlived readers of newspapers and magazines. While those who read for more than 3.5 hours a week lived longest, the researchers said: “30 minutes a day was still beneficial”. Meanwhile, every expert seems to recommend reading as a means of getting to sleep.

Hiking lava fields in Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep learning

Old brains are just as equipped to build new neurons and synapses as young ones. But this process works best when we repeatedly force ourselves to learn new things. The brain loves novelty: crafts, games, even cooking from a new recipe trigger the creation of neurons but the more complex and more difficult the new activity the greater the rewards. Choose something that also involves social interaction and a bit of movement.

The beauty of the Cherohala Skyway in North Caro;ina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cultivate optimism

Studies have found that older people with a negative attitude to aging have worse functional health, slower walking speeds, and lower cognitive abilities than those with a more positive attitude. Negativity, unsurprisingly, puts stress on the body elevating cortisol levels which in the long term can impact heart health, sleep quality, weight, and cognition. You really are as old as you feel, it seems.

Worth Pondering…

Never forget your dreams.

—Corczak

Bird Therapy: On the Healing Effects of Watching Birds

Birds make me happy

Need a new and safe activity that will get you outside and stimulate the mind! How about birding?

Green Heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the past year, we were often told to listen to or follow the science. Well, I am happy to report that there is more and more scientific evidence to support the idea that everyone would be better off watching birds. You can watch them in your back yard, from your RV, or you can visit a wildlife area to see them.

Altamira Oriole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Studies from a variety of sources indicate that the closer you live to a park and the more contact you have with nature, the better your mood, psychological well-being, mental health, and cognitive functioning. In short, watching birds is good for you and you don’t even need a prescription from your doctor to do it.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Published scientific studies reveal that birding (or wildlife photography or just being in nature) correlates with improved mental health. This observation is not new: it was introduced and popularized by biologist, theorist, and author, Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book, Biophilia, where he defined the Biophilia Hypothesis as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. More recently, Richard Luov breathed new life into this idea by referring to it as “nature deficit disorder”.

Being part of nature in some meaningful way is an essential element in an emotionally healthy life. And bird watching can be your ticket to the outdoors. Even if you aren’t a bird watcher (I didn’t start out a birder, either), you will find yourself becoming more aware of the birds around you—their sounds and behaviors and relationships—and noticing the positive impact that regular bird watching has on your mental health.

White-crowned Night Heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding develops mindfulness. Birding is a meditative practice that immediately appeals to all your senses—listening to bird sounds and songs, looking at their plumage colors and patterns, observing their complex and often subtle behaviors, identifying their habits and habitats.

Royal Tern © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With coronavirus restrictions dragging on, interest in bird-watching has soared as Americans and Canadians notice a fascinating world just outside their windows wherever their windows might be. Downloads of popular bird identification apps have spiked and sales of bird feeders, nesting boxes, and birdseed have jumped even as demand for other nonessential goods plummets.

Birding is very low-cost. After the initial investment on a pair of binoculars and an ID guide, the only costs are what you spend on travel and entrance fees. You can bird anywhere, anytime. It’s a hobby you can do in your back yard or take on the road as you travel in your RV. It’s rewarding to see something new, to be able to name what you see, and to make new discoveries.

Roseate Spoonbills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With more than 1,100 different species of birds in the U.S., it’s easy for a beginning bird watcher to feel overwhelmed by possibilities. Field guides seem crammed with similar-looking birds arranged in seemingly haphazard order. I can help you figure out where to begin. First off: where not to start. Many ID tips focus on very specific details of plumage called field marks. While these tips are useful, they assume you’ve already narrowed down your search to just a few similar species.

So start by learning to quickly recognize what group a mystery bird belongs to. You can do this in two ways: by becoming familiar with the general shape, color, and behavior of birds, and by keeping a running tally in your head of the kinds of birds most likely to be seen in your location that time of year.

Great Kisadee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course you’ll need to look at field marks—a wing-bar here, an eye-ring there—to clinch some IDs. But these four keys will quickly get you to the right group of species, so you’ll know exactly which field marks to look for. Bird watchers can identify many species from just a quick look. They’re using the four keys to visual identification: size and shape, color pattern, behavior, and habitat.

We’re going back to our roots to reconnect with nature. It really touches our souls. National parks, state parks, regional parks, and wildlife refuges are great places to observe a variety of birds. There is a birding trail near you.

Clay-colored Thrush © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, Texas

South Texas is home to one of top bird watching destinations in the country, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and World Birding Center. Birders know Bentsen as a treasure trove of “Valley Specialties” or tropical birds found nowhere else in the US. Birds to look for include green jays (see feature photo), white-tipped doves, clay-colored thrush (see above photo), long-billed thrasher, great kiskadee (see above photo), and Altamira oriole. Bentsen is one of nine unique World Birding Center locations in the Rio Grande Valley.

Western Scrub Jay at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona

Catalina State Park consists of 5,500 acres of high Sonora Desert habitat with eight trails traversing a landscape dominated by ocotillo, cholla, and saguaro cactus. This desert park bustles with birds and other wildlife. Ladder-backed woodpeckers, Greater roadrunners, Gambel’s quail, Western scrub jay (see above photo) Say’s phoebes, and 42 other bird species call the park home.

Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, San Antonio, New Mexico

Bosque del Apache is one of the most spectacular national wildlife refuges in North America. The refuge is well known for the tens of thousands of Sandhill cranes (see above photo), geese, and ducks who winter here each year.

Great White Egret at Corkscrew Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples, Florida

Visitors to Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary will find a gentle, pristine wilderness that dates back more than 500 years. A 2.25-mile boardwalk meanders through pine flatwood, wet prairie, around a marsh, and into a large old growth Bald Cypress forest. A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, and raptors can be seen throughout the year. Photo opportunities are available at every turn of the boardwalk trail.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Folkston, Georgia

With more than 350,000 acres, you’ll have no trouble finding birds—or social distancing. It’s famous for a variety of wetland, wading birds. There are a lot of boardwalks and a canoe trail.

Plain Chachalacas at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo, Texas

Step into a rare tropical world at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Spanish moss drips from trees. Noisy Plain chachalacas (see above photo) welcome the morning dawn. Santa Ana is positioned along an east-west and north-south juncture of two major migratory routes for many species of birds. It is also at the northern-most point for many species whose range extends south into Central and South America.

Lesser Grebe at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, McNeal, Arizona

Many people visit Whitewater Draw each winter to experience the memorable sights and sounds of more than 20,000 Sandhill cranes. Whitewater Draw’s waters also attract many kinds of ducks, geese, herons, egrets, shorebirds, gulls, and terns.

Great White Egret at Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cypress Island Nature Preserve at Lake Martin, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Lake Martin is home to a swampy ecosystem that’s full of wildlife and native plants. Unlike the deeper swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin, Lake Martin can be easily reached by car and much of the area can be explored on foot or in a canoe or kayak. Lake Martin is home to a natural rookery where thousands of shore birds and migratory songbirds build their nests each year.

Juvenile Glossy Ibis at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Roswell, New Mexico

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located where the Chihuahuan Desert, short grass prairie, Pecos River, and the Roswell artesian basin come together. Attracted to the area by its abundant water supply at least 357 species of birds have been observed on the refuge including thousands of migrating Sandhill cranes.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

Best Parks and Gardens to Connect with Nature

Parks and gardens are ideal destinations for picnics, enjoying the outdoors, and simply taking time to relax and enjoy nature

In an earlier article I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods including enjoying nature.

From an ancient forest and coastal wetlands to a botanical garden and desert oasis, here are eight of our favorite parks and gardens for enjoying nature.

Frances Beider Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frances Beider Forest, Harleyville, South Carolina

Feel the beauty and serenity of this ancient forest. Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from all over the world, this 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Audubon’s Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk. Paddle the flowing blackwater under towering 1,000-year-old cypress trees. Wildlife is plentiful and varied.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas

Lady Bird Johnson was the First Lady who championed the planting of wildflowers along Texas highways. Her passion was not only for wildflowers but native plants of all kinds. So it’s fitting that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is both a showplace for beautiful plants and a botanical research center. The public botanical garden introduces visitors to the beauty of wildflowers and other native plants and natural landscapes through experience and education. There are 284 acres of gardens, savannas, and woodlands including the Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden, the sprawling South Meadow, and the Erma Lowe Hill Country Stream.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo, natural history museum, aquarium, and botanical garden all in one place. Founded in 1952, 85 percent of the Desert Museum is outdoors and primarily a walking experience. Located just west of Tucson, it features 2 miles of walking paths traversing 21 acres of desert landscape. The Desert Museum’s 98 acres host 230 animal species—including prairie dogs, coyotes, Gila monster, and mountain lion—and 1,200 local plant species (totaling 56,000 individual plants). This highly acclaimed Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum deserves all the accolades that it receives.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With over 15,000 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone, no matter what your interest. At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees. Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads, or bicycle around the Arboretum. Over 40 miles of trails weave their way through the forest at Bernheim.

Desert Botanical Gardens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

You’ll never look at cacti the same way again after visiting the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden. In this environment, every plant represents stunning beauty. Five marked trails, such as the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, capitalize on views (whether of mountains or flowers) and fragrances. Learn how native ancestors and current ethnic groups survived in the desert climate by traveling along the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail which documents Hispanic, Tohono O’odham, and Western Apache people’s connection to plants. The Desert Botanical Garden is located in Papago Park in central Phoenix.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island. The 4,600-acre preserve includes three miles of undeveloped beachfront. This wildlife management area exhibits many characteristics common to sea islands along the southeast coast: pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands, and a barrier island with a beachfront. Only this tract has been left undisturbed.

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park, Superior, Arizona

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, tucked into the foothills of Picketpost Mountain near Superior is a state park like no other. The Arboretum is home to hundreds of species of desert loving plants from around Arizona and other parts of the world. This venerable “Arizona oasis” has nearly three miles of paths and trails winding through colorful gardens, woodlands, and native riparian habitat. Founded in 1924 by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson, the Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden and offers over 323 acres to explore.

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary, Walterboro, South Carolina

There is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of the historic and picturesque city of Walterboro, South Carolina. Easily reached from I-95, the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to leave the traffic behind, stretch your legs, and enjoy nature. Located within the ACE Basin, the East Coast’s largest estuarine preserve, the 600- acre Sanctuary features a network of boardwalks, hiking, biking, and canoe trails that are perfect for viewing a diversity of a black water bottomland habitat.

Worth Pondering…

We can never have enough of nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

Fun and Healthy Ways to Enjoy Nature

There are plenty of ways to enjoy nature

In an earlier article I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods including enjoying nature.

In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson dives into the healing powers of the wilderness. “In the presence of nature,” he wrote, “a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.”

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spending time outdoors has been linked to increased brain function, amplified vitamin D intake, reduced stress, and more. Yet the average American spends just 7 percent of their lives outside. Looking for some new and exciting ways to reconnect with nature alongside friends and family? Check out this list of fun and healthy ways to enjoy nature.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit the Trails

If you already take a walk or go for a run each day, getting back to nature can be as simple as changing your location. Rather than hitting the treadmill, take your walk or run to a local park. You can hit a paved path through the park or opt for a hiking trail for an even greater challenge.

Western scrub jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding

Birding is a great way to keep a healthy outlook—physically and mentally—and get outdoors with some level of exercise. Birding activity often includes walking, but it can easily include biking, canoeing or kayaking, hiking or backpacking—it’s up to you. Birding may be the secondary focus of such exercise outings or it may be your primary interest while you know you will get some exercise in the process. A little sunshine and fresh air and interesting avian action will make any day better.

Canoeing at Stephen Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exercise in Green Space

Trees produce phytoncides which help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and boost immunity. The microbes in forest soil have been found to reduce depression and may contribute to the health of our microbiome. A 15-minute walk is all it takes to reap the benefits but researchers have found that a weekend in the woods improves immunity for up to a month while an afternoon walk somewhere green means better sleep at night.

Hiking at Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go for a Hike

There are a lot of places where you can hike—national and state parks, trails and footpaths, nature preserves. Being out in nature, you’ll enjoy different types of flora and fauna. Hiking usually requires that you move uphill, so it’s good exercise, too.

Photography at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take photos

Taking photos outside requires a focus on nature around you. Look for unusual colors, patterns, or animals to photograph. A botanical garden is a great place to visit for photography since the displays are usually arranged in eye-catching shapes and patterns. You can also visit a nature preserve and looking for photo opportunities with animals or plant life. Simply look for scenes that you find interesting including colorful leaves on the ground, spring flowers, or a stunning sunrise or sunset.

Camping at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentuky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping

Camping is not just a weekend escape or a less expensive holiday. Camping comes with many health benefits. In addition to physical exercise, it is also great for your mental health and social wellbeing. There are numerous options when it comes to camping such as a tent, camper, travel or fifth-wheel trailer, or a motorhome—all of which promote a healthy lifestyle.  

Photographing a green jay in South Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Up a New Outdoor Hobby

Hiking, trail running, camping, and photography are all great hobbies that will get you outdoors and moving. But if you’re looking for something a little more exciting, consider mountain biking. Before you hit the trails on two-wheels, learn more about this exciting sport and the gear that you’ll need to stay safe.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest Bathing

Ok, so this one is a little esoteric, but bear with me here. Shinrin-Yoku is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It started in Japan in the 1980s and has become an important piece of their preventative health care measures.

Sequoia National Park, California

The idea is pretty straightforward… When you take time to visit a natural area and take a walk in a relaxed way, there are rejuvenating, restorative, and calming effects on your mind and body.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get Outside and Enjoy Nature Today

Get outside today! Any of these outdoor activities can be a great way to spend quality time with friends and family while helping to inspire healthy, active habits.

Worth Pondering…

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

—John Muir

Getting Back to Nature: How Forest Bathing Can Make Us Feel Better

Our collective “back to nature” response to the coronavirus outbreak is an important reminder of the irreplaceable value of our parks and natural lands

It took an event that forced the nation to stay at home to remind us how much we need to be outside. The spread of COVID-19 has required that we limit our contact with other people leading many of us to seek out connection with the natural world. From national parks and state parks to local hiking trails, Americans have been pouring out of their homes to enjoy places of peace and beauty.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In an earlier article I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods including enjoying nature. Subsequently, I listed numerous fun and healthy ways to enjoy nature including forest bathing.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tonic of the wilderness was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shinrin-Yoku is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It started in Japan in the 1980s and has become an important piece of their preventative health care measures.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest bathing is taking time to unwind and connect with nature to improve your health. Simply put: Forest bathing is retreating to nature to immerse in the forest atmosphere. The idea is pretty straightforward… When you take time to visit a natural area and take a walk in a relaxed way, there are rejuvenating, restorative, and calming effects on your mind and body.

Corkscrew Sanctuary, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Healed By . . . Trees?

Spending time walking in a forest has positive effects on your body and mind. Following are some conclusions based on various studies conducted by doctors and psychologists.

Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Physical benefits of a walk in a forest:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Enhanced immune response
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep
Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mental benefits of a walk in a forest:

  • Improved mood
  • Improved short-term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Improved concentration
  • Enhanced creativity
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How can walking in a forest do all that? Scientists say some of it has to do with the chemicals plants give off to protect themselves from insects and to fight diseases. These chemicals have antibacterial and antifungal qualities and when we inhale them our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell that kills tumor- and virus-infected cells. Another reason is simple: Forests reduce stress, the root cause of many ailments.

Raccoon State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Simply living around trees and looking at them is beneficial as well. A medical study found a 12 percent lower mortality rate for people who lived near green spaces with fewer incidences of a wide variety of diseases than people who lived in urban areas.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest (See poem below), North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, next time you’re near a swath of towering timber go right on under their welcoming limbs and take a hike.

Worth Pondering…

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

—Joyce Kilmer

Unplug & Recharge

Take a walk in the woods for better health

To “unplug” used to mean take a step away from your daily routine and forget about life’s worries. It also means something more literal—to pull the cord on the electronics in your life, turn off your dang phone, stop checking texts and email, and get off the ’gram.

Pinnacles National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This all is increasingly difficult to do, but it’s critical. Our digital life connects us in ways never before seen, but it also has health ramifications, from psychological addiction to disrupted sleep.

In Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, Wild, her mom tells her that the cure for much of what ails her is to “put [herself] in the way of beauty.”

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turns out she was right, at least according to the latest science. Time in nature is an antidote to the ill effects of stress, prevents, and in some cases even helps cure anxiety and depression and enhances creativity. Though the exact causal mechanisms are not yet known, researchers speculate there is something unique about nature—perhaps related to the fact that we evolved to be in it—that puts both our bodies and minds at ease, promoting physical and psychological restoration and subsequent functioning.

Cherohola Skyway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Long before smartphones and self-driving cars, Japan deemed “forest bathing” an essential part of its national health program. With forest bathing, the soaking isn’t literal. Bathing takes on a new meaning—immersing oneself in the natural environment.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The concept stems from Japanese Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy and goes back to 1982. Over three decades later, the goal of forest bathing is still to reintroduce people to the healing power of nature. Much study and research has confirmed what the Japanese have long believed—nature benefits wellbeing in many ways.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the 19th century, Henry David Thoreau wrote about the problems of modern society, the importance of nature, and restorative benefits of spending time outdoors. “We need the tonic of wildness,” he wrote in Walden, after spending two years in the woods.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here in the 21st century, an increasing number of health experts agree with Thoreau. The varied physical and mental health benefits that seem to come with spending time in the woods or other wild and green settings is the subject of an increasing body of study and some scientific research.

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A good old walk in the woods has been credited with reducing blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety, while improving mental health, cognitive abilities, and sleep patterns. Yet the average American spends just 7 percent of their lives outdoors. Looking for some new and exciting ways to reconnect with nature alongside friends and family?

Hiking to Clingman Dome, Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go for a hike. There are a lot of places where you can hike—parks, trails, nature preserves. You’ll be out in nature, so it’s a great way to enjoy different types of plants and animals. Hiking usually requires that you move uphill, so it’s good exercise, too.

Hiking Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Winnie-the-Pooh once wisely said, “When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an adventure is going to happen.” Whether it’s hiking in the Smoky Mountains, the Sierras, or the Rocky Mountains, follow the thoughtful bear’s sage advice and pack your biggest, comfiest boots for a real adventure.

Photography at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take photos. Taking photos outside requires that you focus in on the nature around you. Look for unusual colors, patterns, or birds to photograph. A botanical garden is a great place to visit to take photos, because the displays are usually arranged in eye-catching ways. You can also visit a nature preserve or wildlife refuge and look for photo opportunities with animals or plant life.

Biking the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Up a New Outdoor Hobby. Hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, fishing, and photography are all great hobbies that will get you outdoors and moving. But if you’re looking for something a little more exciting try mountain biking.

Camping in Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mountain biking in Utah is an endless-crazy-fun adventure. Head to the mountains or red rock desert trails. Singletracks, dirt roads, steep climbs, and rolling hills dominate the state’s beautiful landscape. Mountain biking is an invigorating and intimate way to experience the west. Located just north of Moab, Slickrock is perhaps the most popular mountain bike trail in the world boasting over 100,000 visitors per year.

Get Healthy, Get Outdoors

Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Find time today to venture outside and take advantage of the health benefits of the outdoors. Replace time spent inside on electronic devices with a bike ride or a walk to a local park. Take up forest bathing or gardening as a new hobby. And remember outdoor recreation can be enjoyed alone or as a family.

Reconnecting with nature in Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s no wrong way to get outside and so much to be gained by exploring the natural world. You know why being outside is important. It’s time to reconnect with nature. Your body and mind will thank you for it later.

Worth Pondering…

We can never have enough of nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

Hidden Benefits of Camping

If you regularly camp out, you’ll enjoy dozens of significant health benefits

As long as campers set themselves up for a relaxing getaway, the potential for a stress-reducing trip is very attainable. When we go camping we spend most of our time outside. Mentally focusing on all the things that make you feel great outside can do wonders for your mind, body, and soul. Life pauses and stress levels drop making it a fantastic time for your body to have a break.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we go camping we simplify, subtract, and strip back from our normal cluttered and hectic daily lives. This gives us more opportunity to get in touch with nature, find some solitude and time to switch off, and simply to breath.

Camping at Edisto State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This space and clarity allows us to see everything in natures playground, listen to it speak, and be reminded of how amazing it all is. This in turn helps us put everything else into perspective.

Being outside in the fresh air also seems to heighten our senses, which can bring more rewards. Food tastes better, air smells cleaner, and the birds and nature sound clearer.

Camping at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A byproduct of camping is the physical nature of setting up the camp, hiking, and typical environment enjoyment.

Leave your worries behind you. Focus on the simplicity of your current situation without reflecting on work, concerns, or anything else that may negatively affect your experience.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appreciate the small, seemingly insignificant parts of the living world around you: light shining through a dew droplet just before it crashes to the ground, or maybe the simple elegance of a butterfly as it flutters from flower to flower. Notice how the slight breeze affects its flight, yet not its mission.

Camping in Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The feeling of being calm, appreciating the simple things in life, and knowing that things do not have to be complex all the time allows one to have a more positive and clearer outlook or perspective in life. Camping also gives an emotional rest from all the emotional expense from the usual day to day life.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure your gear is organized and in working order before your trip. Eliminate all potentially frustrating situations prior to your adventure.

There is nothing worse than having a camping trip ruined by a scraped knee. Bring along a basic first-aid kit outfitted with bandages, gauze, and anti-bacterial cream. Also make sure it has insect repellent and some cream to help relieve the itch of bug bites.

Camping at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a walk, ride a bike, or sit on the edge of a lake or river to clear your mind. Simply focus on the “here and now” to get the most out of your experience. 

Camping will not only get you outdoors and enjoy nature, but it also has some awesome impacts on your health.

Camping at Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Modern life as we know it is full of the Internet, social media, work, demands, mobile phones, pressure, and deadlines. This has an impact on our bodies by getting it to produce extra adrenalin to deal with it all. Having this reaction is normal since the body is built to deal with it, however, what isn’t good is not taking time away from it all to give the body time to recover. Camping helps our systems recover ready for the next challenge.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we go camping we have more opportunity to get involved in hiking, biking, fishing, and simply doing what we enjoy. Exercising and moving is simply one of the best ways to combat an overworked body, mind, and soul, in an over committed lifestyle.

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many camping activities can be a good form of exercise. Walking and hiking help improve circulation, strengthen and pump up the heart, help in lowering blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart problems.

Camping at Galveston State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Back pains, eye strains, muscle aches and headaches, sluggish circulation that increases the risks of heart problems and heart attacks are just some of the results of too much stress. Any form of outdoor activities such as camping has been proven to reduce the level of stress in the body. This allows the body to recuperate and regain the energy lost.

Camping at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is an effective and cost efficient form of outdoor activity. Camp out and experience the many health benefits of camping and at the same time enjoy the beauty of nature.

Worth Pondering…

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.

—August Fruge

Camping Benefits Mind and Body…Here Is How

Enjoy the beauty of nature while experiencing the many health benefits of camping

In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson dives into the healing powers of the wilderness: “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.”

It may be century-old wisdom, but his thoughts still holds true today. There’s just something about losing yourself in the natural world.

Camping in the White Tank Mountains Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In fact, there are very real health benefits. We may not be able to transport ourselves back to Emerson’s quaint cabin in the woods, but we can certainly head outdoors. Below are just a few reasons to ditch it all for a few days or more and go camping.

Camping at Rio Bend RV Park near El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we go camping we spend most of our time outside. Mentally focusing on all the things that make you feel great outside can do wonders for your mind, body, and soul. Life pauses and stress levels drop making it a fantastic time for your body to have a break.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we go camping we simplify, subtract, and strip back from our normal cluttered and hectic daily lives. This gives us more opportunity to get in touch with nature, find some solitude and time to switch off, and simply to breath.

In today’s world it seems we are always rushing around, stressed out from work and our daily tasks and becoming less and less healthy all the time.

Camping at Edisto Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Being outside in the fresh air also seems to heighten our senses, which can bring more rewards. Food tastes better, air smells cleaner, and the birds and nature sound clearer.

Camping will not only get you outdoors and enjoy nature, but it also has some awesome impacts on your health.

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Modern life as we know it is full of the Internet, social media, work, demands, mobile phones, pressure, and deadlines. This has an impact on our bodies by getting it to produce extra adrenalin to deal with it all. Having this reaction is normal since the body is built to deal with it, however, what isn’t good is not taking time away from it all to give the body time to recover.

There are three things we can all do to help our systems recover ready for the next challenge, and unsurprisingly camping provides a path to all of them.

Camping at Lockhart State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exercise and Movement

When we go camping we have more opportunity to get involved in hiking, biking, fishing, and simply doing what we enjoy. Exercising and moving is simply one of the best ways to combat an overworked body, mind, and soul, in an over committed lifestyle.

Camping at Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many camping activities can be a good form of exercise. Walking and hiking help improve circulation, strengthen and pump up the heart, help in lowering blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart problems.

If bikes are available, biking uphill and downhill in the trails is also a good form of exercise and a great activity to enjoy with companions.

Camping at Jack’s Landing RV Park, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reduce Physical Stress

Back pains, eye strains, muscle aches and headaches, sluggish circulation that increases the risks of heart problems and heart attacks are just some of the results of too much stress. Any form of outdoor activities such as camping has been proven to reduce the level of stress in the body. This allows the body to recuperate and regain the energy lost.

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoying outdoor activities naturally reduces the feeling of being stressed and greatly improves our mood. The scent of grass can have a calming effect as some research suggested.

Camping at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sleep

This is the other time we go into rest and repair mode—when we sleep. It’s a simple thing but restorative sleep is crucial for us to function properly. Camping naturally helps the body to wind down from stimulating activities and get into the mood for sleep.

Camping at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It doesn’t hurt when you fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves or the chorus of crickets and tree frogs and wake to the rising sun peeking through the tall pines or silhouetting stately saguaros or Joshua trees.

Camping is an effective and cost efficient form of outdoor activity. The next time you think of getting away during the weekends, try camping out and experience firsthand the many health benefits of camping at the same time enjoy the beauty of nature.

Camping at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
—John Muir