Call Me Crazy, but I Think an Active Vacation Eases Stress More Effectively Than the Beach

My husband and I met in college, where we were both student athletes. Today, we've traded sports practices and class schedules for the stresses of adulthood — namely, juggling careers while parenting our two children. So, once a year, we try to get away, just the two of us. Early on, it only made sense that we do something active together, and now I can say with confidence that these fit vacations are the greatest way to alleviate stress.

Since we live in Michigan, we typically take our trips in the Summer when the weather's warm and there's more to do outside. While we've tried different things — including traveling to a hip town to run a 5K — we enjoy hiking or kayaking the most. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan (or the UP, as locals call it) is our top destination for hiking. It's beautiful there. There are no malls or chain restaurants in sight, only stretches of green trees, lakes, and wildlife. While it's a bit of a drive, we've had some of our most memorable hikes there, particularly one at Hogback Mountain in Marquette.

This hike was a long one, as my husband and I wanted to make a day of it and really push ourselves. We packed some nuts and other dry foods, along with plenty of water, and set out early in the morning, determined to get to the top of that mountain while taking in all the beautiful scenery around us. And push ourselves we did, though perhaps not in the way we'd hoped. We trekked for 90 minutes in the wrong direction — miles out of our way. We grew cranky. And hot. And sweaty. And hungry. Mosquitoes swarmed because somehow, we had ended up in a swampland.

As demanding as the hike had been at times, the stress from our daily lives had melted away on that mountain.

Still, we decided to keep going, and when we finally did reach the top, I noticed something just as miraculous as the view. As demanding as the hike had been at times, the stress from our daily lives had melted away on that mountain. We had forgotten about the bills, work deadlines, and more. Afterward, the two of us practically crawled into a local brewery, where we devoured sandwiches and sipped on beer. We laughed at our adventure. Our bodies already ached. Our eyes drooped. When we climbed into bed for a nap, our tired muscles melted into the mattress — the stresses of everyday life nowhere to be found.

When we got back home to the kids, we noticed that our stress levels remained at an all-time low for weeks. It goes without saying that adulthood (and marriage) isn't easy. Getting away is a must, and in my experience, vacations that include some exercise always leave me feeling better when I come home compared to those where we simply lounge around drinking on the beach. It's true what fitness gurus say about exercise alleviating stress: it drips off of you the more you sweat.