Summer is finally here, and it is meant to be spent outside soaking up the warmth of the sun and storing it up for the upcoming winter. You don’t need to go away on a long extravagant vacation to the Caribbean or an African safari to get closer to nature. There are many ways to add more vitamin N to your everyday life, even in the city.
Skip the next episode of your favourite show and go for a walk around your neighbourhood
Lack of time is the most common excuse for not getting outside. But if we add up all the hours filled with TV shows, Internet and Facebook updates, we’ll get a good chunk of time that could be spent in nature. So move away from your TV, computer and iPad and head out the door. Explore your neighbourhood, say ‘hi’ to your neighbours, visit the local park. Use all your senses, notice the new summery smells in the air and listen to the birds. The great thing about a neighbourhood walk is that you never know what you will find: a bunny hiding in the grass or a beautiful cardinal singing in a tree. Yesterday we discovered a patch of wild strawberries not far from our apartment building. Yum!
Ditch your car and walk or bike instead
Summer is a great time to embrace active transportation. It is good for your health, your wallet and the environment. If biking or walking all the way is not an option, get off public transit a few stops early or park further away from the office, and walk the rest of the distance. If possible, find a route that goes through a park or ravine.
After I drop off my son at school, I walk back through a hydro corridor. If it weren’t for the hydro towers, you could easily forget you are still in the city. Tall grasses, wild flowers, mulberry trees and intoxicating mix of smells and sounds provide an instant nature fix. Sure it takes me longer but, as they say, time spent in nature is never wasted.
Swap your run on a treadmill for an outdoor workout
Instead of a boring run on a treadmill in a tightly-sealed, air-conditioned room, why not try an outdoor fitness activity. Here in Toronto, we are lucky to have access to so many parks, ravines, rivers and, of course, Lake Ontario. So go hiking in High Park or Rouge Park, paddle on Humber or Don Rivers, explore Toronto Island or a ravine near your home on a bike or do yoga in the local park. Opportunities are endless. I must admit that while we do a lot of camping, we could do better at exploring local nature spots. So that’s our resolution for the summer – finding nature close to home. Stay tuned for reports of our local nature adventures!
You don’t need a large garden plot – a small backyard, a balcony or even a windowsill will do. There is something very satisfying about watching a plant grow from a tiny seed and knowing that food you are eating is a fruit of your labour (pun intended). In the time of mass production and industrial farming, it is exciting to know that your food only had to travel a couple of metres to get to your plate. In addition, gardening is proven to reduce stress and improve mental health.
We live in an apartment building and on our balcony we grow tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, peas, beans, eggplants, salad greens, plus lots of herbs and flowers. Kids love to eat strawberries and peas right off the plant, we always have lots of fresh salads and our flowers attract some unexpected visitors.
Visit a pick-your-own farm
If digging in soil is really not your thing, go to the pick-your-own farm. This way you get the best of both worlds: fresh produce but without all the work of planting, watering and looking after it. There are lots of PYO farms close to Toronto where you can pick strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, peas, currents, peaches and apples.
Stay up late to watch the stars or wake up early to see a sunrise
There is something fascinating about watching celestial bodies. Of course, moving away from all the lights of the city to see starry skies or watching a sunset to the accompaniment of the ocean would be ideal. But even observing a sunset or moonrise from your balcony or experiencing the city in the early morning hours is still pretty special.
Forgo that weekend trip to an amusement park and go camping instead!
Seriously, think about it: crowds, heat, long lines just to spend a couple of minutes on a ride, crappy fast food, not to mention the admission price. What’s so amusing about that? Nature is the real wonderland. We are lucky to live in a country that boasts so many wild areas and beautiful natural landscapes. So get out! Explore! Enjoy nature and embrace simplicity! Summer waits for no one and it will be gone before you know it.