Last gear we were invited by a friend to join him in hiking the 450-mile Alpe Adria Trail through Austria, Slovenia and Italy. The trip was organized by the highly creative and efficient Kathy Dragon at Whole Journeys. Before the trip started, she booked us a few nights at the excellent Hotel Stein in Salzburg. We enjoyed ourselves immensely exploring Salzburg and environs; it’s always intriguing how things are different in Europe.

One of the differences I noticed was the light switch near the door to our room. Beside a couple of the basic on/off switches, the top one was labeled ‘All Off’. It was a convenience to not have to go through the entire room shutting off lights, but as you left, just to hit the ‘all off’ switch.

While urban type experiences are nice, numerous studies have shown the power of shinrin-yoku (‘forest bathing’) to reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels, promote better sleep and reduce depression, and increases levels of cancer-killing cells. The concept of an ‘all off’ switch reminds me of the value of stepping away from our daily lives; the meetings, social media, news media, and getting into wilderness. Particularly on a multi-day trip, your world becomes so simple and focused, and your mind and body have a chance to regenerate. Since anxiety and depression are at all-time high levels, I wonder if a prescription for more ‘forest bathing’ wouldn’t be just what the doctor ordered. What are your favorite ways for hitting the ‘all off’ switch and sneaking away into nature?

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  1. With the non stop demands of kids schoolwork and sports and addictive devices, I love asking my 4 kids to each prepare a small pack of personal items while I carry everything else, and we do an overnighter in the Beartooths in southern MT. They pack books and stuffed animals and capes and kazoos and many other pointless items and we explore the west fork of the Rock Creek. As a dad, it’s a beautiful moment to see them disconnect from their normal daily rhythm and assimilate into a slower more present and playful space as they explore and experience the outdoors.

    1. What great habits to promote in your kids! And how interesting to see the things they pick to bring along, and how it changes over the years…

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