Staring up at the ancient sandstone cliffs, I felt a deep connection to nature and the powerful forces that began carving this canyon 240 million years ago. More than ever, I realized how short a time we have on this planet.
Shortly after making the decision to pursue a life less stressful, I travelled to Zion Nation Park in Utah. It's here that I decided to take a few days and unwind to try and reverse my negative mindset. Being in nature has always helped me to live more in the moment and to let go of my anxieties. I usually come out of it feeling refreshed and relaxed, which was exactly what I needed during my transition into unemployment.
Getting out of town was my way of escaping the people and places that, at one time, had caused me pain. It was an opportunity to heal and not be reminded of the stresses and anxieties of home.
Our trip to Zion wasn't spur of the moment; it had been planned for months and just happened to come right when I needed it most. In every possible way, it exceeded my expectations! This place was nothing like the ocean and mountains I see back home (in Vancouver, British Columbia). There were layers of red, pink and white rock jutting into the sky. There were vast stretches of bone dry desert. Along the banks of the Virgin River, there were lush stretches of green. Zion felt like it was giving me a warm, giant hug.
We flew into Las Vegas, which was a lot cheaper than Salt Lake City. From there, we rented a car and drove two and a half hours north-east to Springdale, Utah, a cute little town located on the doorstep of Zion National Park. Unless you plan to camp inside the park, this is one of the best places to use as your "base camp". Springdale has a free shuttle bus that runs frequently and takes you right to the park's entrance. (From there, another free shuttle can take you to various sections of the park.) This small town also features some delicious food and drink options, a number of shops, and a grocery store (useful for making meals for our day trips into the park).
We spent five days in Zion National Park and did something different each day. The photo you see above was taken in the Narrows, a long walk through the Virgin River that occasionally reaches depths of about three feet. The peacefulness I experienced from being alone in the canyon, with nothing but the sounds of nature, was so calming and really made me feel free from my anxieties. The Narrows should be on everyone's bucket list! (Tip #1: pay very close attention to the weather forecast, as the canyon is prone to flash flooding when it rains up river. Tip #2: go early to avoid the crowds.)
Another amazing experience was participating in a free yoga class alongside the river, directly across from the enormous canyon mountains. All around us were the sounds of splashing water and chirping birds, creating a mood of total relaxation. It was really special and something I'm very grateful to have experienced.
Zion gave us the perfect balance between physical activity and serenity. By the time I got home from my trip, although I was sad it was over, I felt so much lighter and motivated to face the day and start working on new projects. There's no doubt that my time spent outdoors had a huge impact on my body and overall mental health. If you are going through a difficult time and just need to push the "reset" button, get out there and experience the healing power of nature.
Here are some tips for your next body and soul recharging mini-vacation:
1. Choose your location
If you are a working girl/guy (like so many) and can't just jet off on some extravagant beach vacation for a few weeks, look into more local options that result in shorter travel times and lower travel costs. (More on those two topics in a moment.) Above all, choose somewhere that gives you the balance of activity and relaxation that is right for you. And don't forget: doing nothing is not the definition of relaxing! Engaging in the right forms of exercise helps release tension and contributes positively to your mental health. On the other hand, spending too much time rushing around or exercising can leave you exhausted and wishing for a second vacation. Life is all about balance.
2. Be creative with your budget
Money is always a source of stress, so keep this vacation budget-friendly. Look into Airbnb instead of booking a hotel; or try camping if you're the more adventurous type. Invite some friends and share the expense. Consider staying a little further from a popular destination if it means lower prices. If you do your homework, you can find some pretty amazing places for very reasonable costs.
Also, search for free events happening at the location you have chosen. This is how I found out about yoga in the canyon. It was a free event posted on a local bulletin board. And of course, Zion National Park was a great source of inexpensive activities. We paid the $35 (USD) park fee and had unlimited access for up to a week. There were a number of tours available, which can be a little pricey but we decided to splurge on one - horseback riding - as a treat to ourselves. The rest of our trip was self-guided.
Finally, the cost of meals can really add up, so consider buying groceries and making your own breakfasts, lunches and snacks. This might even be a more convenient option if you are out on an excursion during mealtime. You may also want to share a dinner entree if the portions are large. Keep in mind that touristy destinations tend to be more expensive, so budget accordingly.
3. Maximize your time
If you don't have the luxury of taking a long time away from work, try planning your vacation to overlap a long weekend. Although long weekends tend to be busier, you get an extra day to relax without having to dip into your vacation pot. The time between Christmas and New Year's Day can give you a few "bonus" days off as well, especially if your employer closes its doors for an additional day or two. Another option is to take a half-day on the day you leave (instead of a full day). Go to work in the morning and then head straight out on your trip.
No matter how you decide to plan your mini-vacation, don't keep putting it off. Go explore somewhere new and rejuvenate your body and soul.
Use the comments box below to tell me about your body and soul recharging get-aways!
Thank you for reading.
Who What Zen