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A Different Kind of Vacation


A Different Kind of Vacation

Lana Hawk

It may be no surprise to some of you that my husband and I are active. Shocker, I know. I have a few more lazy bones in my body than my husband, but usually, we are both on-the-go people. We love to go, see, experience, and do. So it may also be of no surprise to you that when we travel, this on-the-go mentality sticks with us. Our joint vacations rarely include a beach (those are usually solo trips for me) because beach usually equates to relaxing and laying. Those are two words that don’t sit well with my husband. Our joint vacations are usually more focused on experiencing a place and all it has to offer. Europe is naturally a more active environment, which makes it a perfect compliment to our interests and “needs” in the way of activity. We are currently planning our second European adventure for this summer. As we plan, here are ways we look to stay active on our trip.

  1. Organized Bike Tours: Two years ago we did our first bike tour in Vienna, Austria. It was awesome. We had a local show us around the city on our bright green bikes. The tour allowed us to get a little local history (nerd alert) while seeing the city on bikes. Too often public transport becomes the norm in large cities meaning you never fully see the city. You’re often underground for most of your day if you use traditional public transportation. This tour gave us the highlights from the local perspective, some fresh air, sunshine, and some exercise. Win, win, win! We will be doing similar tours this summer in Belgium and the Netherlands. Other cities/areas may not be conducive to bike tours, but things like kayak tours and boat tours might serve a similar purpose in getting you OUT.
  2. Self-guided Bike Tours: The same trip two years ago involved another bike tour. This one came from a Rick Steves forum recommendation and turned out to be my favorite day of our entire trip. We took a train out to Melk, Austria to see the Abbey in this adorable town. We then rented bikes, hopped on a trail, and biked 25 km to Krems, Austria. Sounds pleasant right? Well add this to the mix. We biked along the Danube River through tiny town after tiny town, ate pizza at a small local restaurant right off the Danube River, rode through vineyards, AND got sun and exercise. Now, our day did include some stressors. Issues with the bike company/rental followed by a few wrong turns up a huge hill led to a few moments of near tears for the husband (not really, all me), but the stress was short lived. Any tiny stress in that moment was worth it. Absolute favorite day. Wanderlust satisfied.
  3. Walking/Hiking Tours: We also love to walk. Instead of taking public transport, we often just walk and wander through the city. Sometimes these are unplanned or unorganized, other times they are simply a pleasant way to get from point A to point B. Either way, I recommend you put away those fancy shoes, strap on your best version of a grandma walking shoe, and walk! Like the bike tours, you’ll see more and experience more of the city that way. When we went to Dublin, we took a day trip out to the Wicklow Mountains and did some hiking with a group and guide. We loved seeing more than just Dublin and experiencing the beauty of Ireland. We also took a day trip out to Howth, a small fishing village on the coast, and did some hiking along the coast. The town was a recommendation by my brother and the hiking was an added bonus. It was a beautiful day and we once again experienced more of the beauty of Ireland. Rick Steves also has wonderful self-guided walking tours for every major European city you can think of. My friend and I used one of his tours in Rome back in 2011 and it was easy to follow and a great way to see the sites and the city.
  4. Morning Run: My husband and I are both runners as well, so going on a morning run and sometimes getting lost is another way to see a city in a new way. The “getting lost” part isn’t my favorite, but without it, we would have never run through Belvedere Palace in Vienna. Our run took us on a few wrong turns and we ended up at a palace that we otherwise would have never seen. Awesome! The getting back part, tricky, but we made it and saw more of Vienna off the beaten path. After that, we carried a map for pseudo-insurance purposes.
  5. Wander: If you’re not a runner, again, strap on your walking shoes and wander. Four years ago I went on an epic two week whirlwind tour of Europe with a childhood friend. One of my favorite parts was when we slowed down to wander the streets. Nice, France is gorgeous, but it came alive when we wandered through the small, winding streets seeing the nooks and crannies. Paris is just another city until you experience the Rue Cler market or side streets that take you out of tourism central. This option is my favorite because it allows room for people, connection to culture, and a new experience. Again, wanderlust satisfied.
  6. Photo Tours: This one is a new one we are trying this year. A local offers photo tours of the unseen Bruges, Belgium. He takes you around the city, shows you local favorites, and teaches you a little bit about travel photography in the process. Win-win-win! Update: Unfortunately, this particular tour was cancelled. I did try a photo tour in Boston and it was wonderful. Saba and I wandered through Beacon Hill area taking pictures. She shared photo tips, special picture spots, Boston tips, and was overall a wonderful guide! I highly recommend!

Basic idea? Get out of tourist central. Get out of your comfort zone. Ditch style for a bit of comfort and open your eyes! Public transport is necessary sometimes, but leave time for the rest. The rest is what makes travel so wonderful!