Last weekend I visited California with my parents for Independence Day. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time on the west coast, but I remembered quickly that California is a great place to visit as an eco-tourist–the beaches, mountains, deserts, all offer boundless opportunities to explore nature’s beauty.
Eco-tourism? What’s that? You might be wondering.
Eco-tourism asks us to visit new places in a way that celebrates the natural environment. Rather than making consumerism the focus of a vacation, you make it a priority to visit a local botanical garden, state park, or simply lounge on the beach.
Sounds easy, right? I’ll be the first to admit that the allure of the local mall was too powerful for me to resist. I spent two hours roaming around various shops. Roaming around same stores we have in DC. Do you know how much I bought that day? Exactly nothing! While mindlessly looking through racks of clothes, it donned on me. I traveled all the way across the country only to waste my precious few days of vacation shopping for clothes I didn’t need? Right then, I decided that I wanted to spend the rest of my time taking in everything that makes California special: its outdoors.
My parents and I traveled to Catalina Island the next day. We walked around the island and watched deer playing in the trees. We splashed in the ocean and polished off scoops of homemade ice cream on the shoreline. And that truly felt like what a vacation should be: a time to relax and refresh. To spend time catching up with friends and family if you’re together. If you’re alone, a vacation should inspire you to invoke dreams lost in the quotidian.
And what better place to do so than in nature? Countless studies have shown us that spending time in nature increases our well-being. The novelty of spending time outdoors in a new place exponentially improves our happiness. You are far more likely to reminisce on that time you conquered (or got lost hiking) San Jacinto Mountain than you will remembering the pair of shoes you bought in the city.
The next time you travel this summer, or whenever it may be, travel like an eco-tourist. Take pleasure in the cacti or trees that surround you and you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable vacation.