A few weeks ago, a friend and I decided to get out of the city for a day and do a little adventuring. We stuffed our backpacks with granola bars and pb and honey sandwiches–the ultimate hiking essentials– grabbed our water bottles, and headed out for a beautiful hike. A benefit to living in the great state of Colorado is that there are definitely no shortages of places to explore, incredible views and just all of the nature you could ever want.
We decided to do an 8-mile loop over the flatirons, an area known for it’s incredible rock formations. We walked across rolling streams and climbed over boulders. We walked past giant ponderosa pine trees and cacti, past nesting birds, bunnies, and even some deer. As we stopped to take a break near the top of the mountain, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the views of the city that was sprawled out before me. I may have been huffing and puffing more than I care to admit, and there were definitely a few scratches that my legs and hands accumulated on the trek up, but everything was worth it once I got to the top.
I turned back to my friend to see that he was he was fully engrossed in his phone. His head was down, fingers sliding across the screen in a rapid succession. He was too busy texting/Snapchatting/Twittering to look up and see, to really take in the sights, the smells, the sounds around him. He didn’t notice the small white flowers blooming on the base of the hill, or the squirrels jumping from one tree branch to another. I had to wonder just how much more he was missing out on simply because he couldn’t take his eyes off of his phone.
Many of us, myself included, are guilty of ignoring our surroundings in order to reply to emails, update our social media profiles and check the score of the big game. We’re so busy living in this digital world that we sometimes forget to look up and see the sunshine, the feel the breeze against our skin, to really live in the moment.
I’m all for smart phones, and would literally be lost without mine (thank you, Google maps). I love to capture pictures of my friends, of places and events to remember forever. I’m somewhat obsessed with Twitter and cannot get enough of Instagram. However I think there is a time and place for using these things. Most of us spend the majority of our time planted in front of a computer screen for work and when we leave, we go home to Netflix it up. We’re constantly jumping from one form of technology to another.
Sitting on top of that mountain, I realized how much of our lives we let pass by simply by not living in the moment. I’ve decided I’m going to start making a conscious effort to cut back on my phone time and instead spend more time enjoying all of the activities that come with the warmer weather and longer days of summer.
Here are just a few ways that you can get outside and unplug this summer:
1. Get your run/hike/walk on
One of the quickest and easiest ways to get out and enjoy the great outdoors is to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement/trails. Not only does it give you an opportunity to stretch your legs and rev up those endorphins, but you can take in the sights and sounds of your surroundings at the same time. Grab your friends (including those of the four-legged variety) and do some exploring, sans phone. It’ll do the body–and mind–good.
2. Take up an outdoor hobby
Despite our best intentions, we all know how easy it is to fall into the trap of having Netflixathons at night post-work. Instead of spending hours with our pals Rachel, Monica, Joey, Ross, Phoebe and Chandler, make a weekly plan to go outside. Try planning a fun outdoor activity, and invite your Friends IRL if you need the extra motivation.
Take out your bike or start jogging in the evenings. Have a university or park nearby? Give tennis or volleyball (or any other organized sport) a try. My sister as well as some of my friends and I decided to join an intermural softball and kickball league this summer which has been a blast! Don’t worry if you’re not the most athletically inclined–these leagues are more relaxed and laid-back than regular organized sports. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people! If you want a more relaxing outdoor activity, grab your favorite book, do some journaling, or simply people watch.
3. Camp it out
Growing up, my family and I would go camping at least once every summer. I have so many great memories of sharing stories around the campfire, sleeping in tents, making s’mores, and not showering for days on end. There is just something about returning to the simpler things in life that is very refreshing, rejuvenating in a way.
Another great option is to take a weekend trip to one our many wonderful National Parks. These beautiful places are often overlooked in favor of more exotic and chaotic locations around the globe, but offer a remote beauty and sense of calm you won’t find in other places.
4. Spend time on the water
If you’re lucky enough to live near or within driving distance of a lake, ocean, river or other body of water, take full advantage. My idea of the perfect summer day would be spending time with family and friends on the lake, water skiing, kayaking, and wake boarding. If you can’t do that, grab your swimsuit and SPF and check out your local swimming pool.
5. Park it up
Do you remember when you were little, begging your mom and/or dad to take you to the park? The exhilaration you felt as your slid down the slide or swung on the swings? You can still recapture those feelings, no matter how old you may be. Better yet, pack a picnic basket full of your favorite treats and dine al fresco for lunch or dinner one day/night.
Technology plays a crucial role in the way that most of us communicate and interact with the surrounding world, and the constant influx of new information can become addicting. But ultimately, much of the time that most of us spend online amounts to very little productivity.
We scroll through Instagram when we could be enjoying a meaningful conversation. We scan our Facebook feed when we should be doing homework/work. We accomplish very little when we could be accomplishing a lot.
This summer, it’s time to take our eyes off the iPhone and enjoy the sunshine.