Travel tends to bring out our inner adventurers. Of course, we look for exciting attractions, items to check off bucket lists, and tastes of travel from all parts of the world. But one thing we’ve learned to appreciate more and more is the beauty of nature wherever we may be. Perhaps it comes from a yearning for simple joys and unadorned beauty. Maybe we’ve come to realize that human-crafted wonders can change or disappear over time.
However it has happened, we’ve discovered that some of our most precious moments and cherished memories have come from enjoying the great outdoors all around the world. Whether we’ve traveled thousands of miles to visit a faraway destination or are making new discoveries close to home, the call of nature never fails to excite our senses and inspire a stronger connection to our planet, our fellow human beings, and the majesty of nature itself.
Some information included in this piece was obtained during visits hosted by the respective destinations. The opinions expressed are based on our own experiences.
One of our favorite stories about enjoying nature comes from a funny little difference in language between British English and American English. When we visited the gloriously green region in the north of England, locals kept asking us if we were walkers, if we like walking. We are big walkers at home, walking around our local parks almost daily. So we enthusiastically responded that we were. We soon discovered that Fell walking is a passionate pursuit of North Englanders. We couldn’t wait to walk the fells until we learned exactly what a fell is.
Fell walking, also sometimes called rambling, in The Lake District and other parts of Northern England are loaded with hills and mountains, sometimes big and steep ones. The summits of many fells provide wonderful views that are highly prized by the fell walkers. So fell walking is generally what in the United States we would call hiking through hills and mountains, sometimes for a long time. Not all fell walks involve rock scrambling or are super strenuous. We enjoyed many moderate “walks” around the fells as well as less ambitious walks around the lakes and beautiful countryside. But what sparked our imagination most was the thrill of walking and reverence for nature shared by people of all ages in Northern England. They truly enjoy the great outdoors, and so did we.
When we traveled to Madeira Island, one of the most beautiful and remote places in Portugal, we encountered gorgeous hedges of hyacinths and stunning trumpet flower trees. Rocky shorelines and steep cliffs offer dazzling views we dream about to this day. We enjoyed a long leisurely levada walk, seeing how water is transported from the north to the south of the island as well as the beautiful and lush vegetation all along the route. And we'll always remember silently watching a spectacular sunrise panorama from the Pico do Arieiro, one of the tallest mountains on the island. We also explored the Portugal mainline from top to bottom, discovering how varied the landscape is. Rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, evergreen forests, rolling plains, and mountains so tall they get winter snow can all be found in Portugal’s spectacular landscape. We love the food, the culture, and the people of Portugal. The great outdoors makes a perfect way to appreciate this magnificent country.
During our time in Greece, we explored diverse terrain that showed us just how big the country is. Unlike the usual visions of islands in the sun, we saw the steep mountains, craggy coastlines, deep valleys, and thick forests of the Pelion region in northern Greece. Four seasons define this lightly visited part of a world that brings antiquity and the modern age together. Stopping to pick wild mushrooms by the side of the road or looking for green walnuts with healing properties are just some of the activities that took us deeper into Grecian wilderness. We enjoyed breathtaking views of sparkling blue waters from mountainous cliffs in the tiny villages of Mouresi and Tsakgarada, knowing that gifts from the sea are important to Greece and the rest of the world. The foundations of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest eating styles in the world, can be directly traced to the olives, citrus fruits, grapevines, and seafood so abundant in this region.
Our first experience of Montana was during the summer, when the sun was shining and the grass was green. We hiked through beautiful woods and past unique landmarks like a natural bridge falls where an underground river emerges almost magically through a limestone cliff. The second time we visited was in winter. The ground was covered with a glistening layer of snow, with a silent stillness that breathed even more magic into the beautiful Yellowstone National Park landscape. Watching bison, wolves, foxes, and birds in different seasons gave us perspective about the value of off-season travel and avoiding the crowds. Standing in a forest surrounded by spectacular mountains took our breath away even when we were standing still.
Living in Madison, Wisconsin we do our best to enjoy the beauty of our own Midwestern neighborhoods. The changing leaves of fall are spectacular from north to south. Trekking along the Ice Age Trail gives us a feeling of history, knowing that we’re walking on land that was a glacier thousands of years ago. Our favorite parks are filled with trees and lakes, and many different birds. We’ve seen wild turkeys, eagles, herons, geese, ducks, cranes, and more while taking a stroll only a short distance from home. The marshlands like Horicon Marsh offer diverse outdoor explorations.
Wisconsin has so much natural beauty, we could explore someplace new every day and still not see it all. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has unique sea caves and pristine blue waters that make us feel like we’re in another world. We like hiking on park trails to see beautiful waterfalls or driving as leaf peepers to see the spectacular fall colors of Door County. We visit gorgeous parks like Devil’s Lake that are beautiful in any season and go bird-watching all around the state. One thing we’ve learned is that we love exploring the great outdoors everywhere we go.
Enjoy The Great Outdoors
As we continue to explore our colorful world, we find a deeply affirming peace and satisfaction by spending time in the great outdoors. Germany’s Black Forest, mangroves in Singapore, Big Sur’s coastline, and the Canadian Rockies are just a few of nature’s gems that provide us with a common culture, a feeling of belonging to an existence where there is no separation between us and our surroundings.
We encourage others to add excursions in the great outdoors to their itineraries along with all their other plans. Even if visiting an urban environment, there are parks, gardens, and natural areas waiting to be explored. It’s especially important when rushing through a lot of activities that can feel like a race to check off everything on a list. A chance to wonder and wander in nature can bring a welcome break and a great perspective that deepens the enjoyment of any destination.
Nature Now More Than Ever
When times are challenging because of things we cannot control, stepping into nature provides us with a broader context that helps. It calms our souls and reminds us that we are not only alive to experience the beauty of this world, but are an important part of keeping nature around for future generations to enjoy. We have the great gift of being able to experience all the world has to offer us as travelers. But wherever we go, we enjoy the great outdoors, a constant reminder that this beautiful planet is ours to treasure as well as to care for because all of it is our forever home.