Keep It Movin’!

When most people hear details about my vacation escapades, they typically tell me that they’re exhausted just hearing about all of the ground I covered during my “vacation” and that my vacation hardly sounds relaxing to them. Personally, in general, I don’t take vacations for the purpose of rest and relaxation; when I hit the road, my goal is to engage in a new adventure of some fashion and experience something new. If I wanted to lie around at the beach, I wouldn’t have to do much more than hop in my car, head about 20 minutes to the east, park my car at the beach and park myself on the sand. I’m certainly not disparaging the virtues of a mellow beach vacation, and I’ve on occasion been known to enjoy some time here and there while in a tropical location to sit under an umbrella sipping a Mai Tai or caipirinha, enjoying the view and the soothing ocean sounds.

Boutique del Gelato, Venice, Italy
Why active vacations are necessary

However, there are so many things to do and see that sitting or lying around for too long makes me feel like I’m missing out on something. What’s great about an active vacation is also the fact that it helps compensate for lax eating habits while away from the daily routine. When traveling, I love sampling local fare…oftentimes, much more of it than I should. But, it’s difficult to pass up an amazing bakery in Paris, a renowned gelato shop in Florence, a neighborhood tapas and sangria stop in Madrid or the opportunity to sample all of the desserts on the menu du jour on a cruise ship, just because you can. Despite previous shave ice tours throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the like, I never gain weight on vacation (or at least to date, I have not packed on the pounds) on account of my calorie burning endeavors, and believe me, some serious calories need to be burned to compensate.

Matsumoto, shave ice, north shore, Hawaii
Matsumoto shave ice is worth the wait in line (2010)

I’ve been ambitious at times and packed along workout clothes on trips, having good intentions to work out in a cruise ship or hotel gym or catch a short morning run. On occasion, I’ve even put said workout wardrobe to use when schedules have allowed. Other times, I’ve realized in advance that time and/or logistics would not allow for dedicated exercise time; and in some situations, suitcase space just hasn’t been available for superfluous wardrobe changes.

While I’ve not always had the delusion that I’d take the time to engage in a real workout, I have always managed to figure out ways to keep myself moving and the calories burning. The first rule of thumb is the simplest: walk as much as possible. Most cultures, other than that of the U.S., involve lots and lots of walking. In part, it’s because Americans can be lazy, but, in defense of my countrymen, the United States is just so sprawling that if you don’t work in a downtown area, walking in between modes of public transport is simply not a realistic option. Pounding the pavement while on vacation not only allows you to work off some of your vacation caloric intake, it also offers opportunity to mosey in and out of buildings you come across, down a side alley and just otherwise be exposed to sights, stores and such that you’d miss if in a train, bus, subway, car or other vehicle.

Tiramisu, Hyde Park, Harrod's, London
Taking a break from strolling through Hyde Park to enjoy tiramisu from Harrod’s

On cruise vacations, shipboard time is often spent in competitive eating activities; at least, it more often than not seems that way. Since food is omnipresent and far too accessible on board, to me, it’s even more imperative to ensure that something is done to counteract the effects of food-in-the-face syndrome. Much to the chagrin of my son and other travel mates, my self-imposed shipboard rule is never to take an elevator, unless absolutely necessary, which typically is defined as when I’m hauling a gargantuan suitcase which is impractical (or impossible) to lug up multiple staircases. I’ve always informed my travel mates of this tenet up front and let them know they are under no obligation to adhere to my personally imposed commandment; though, they frequently seem to feel under duress to climb stairwells with me. My cruise ship elevator rule not only serves to provide a form of exercise, but also keeps me from getting frustrated watching fellow cruisers utilize the elevators to go one floor up or one floor down, such that the elevator frequently stops on each and every floor from top to bottom. No wonder there are so many obese people in the world….well, that and the midnight chocolate buffet, amongst other things…. But, I digress….

Skiing Breckenridge, Colorado
My son, aka The Mad Bomber, taking on Breckenridge (January 2008)
San Francisco Bay
Bay view after marching up the streets of San Francisco

And yes, there is always the option for the mundane to keep up the exercise routine. It’s simple to do a few calisthenics…sit ups, pushups, squats and the like while in your hotel room. But, how much more interesting and FUN is it to climb 768 steps to the steeple top of Ulm Minster, hike just under a mile to the peak of Diamond Head at Waikiki, ascend 1350 steps to catch the spectacular view from Sveti Ivan Fortress overlooking Kotor’s harbor or even the measly 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris?

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées from atop the Arc de Triomphe
Sveti Ivan Fortress, Kotor, Montenegro
1350 steps to the top leads to an amazing view of Kotor

Vacation destinations offer endless options for active things to do beyond the usual walking, climbing stairs and hiking. Why not rent a kayak, go horseback riding (even though the horse does the majority of the work), surf (just paddling out to catch a wave can be a workout in and of itself!), paddle board, ski, snorkel or take a traditional dance class with the locals (OK, I’ve not actually tried that one yet)? Trying one new activity can be an amazing supplement to hitting the pavement (or cobblestones) between points of interest. It’s so easy to rack up the mileage wandering the streets of vacation towns, and it affords endless opportunity to randomly encounter nuances of each destination that quick and expedient modes of transport would have caused you to otherwise miss. So…..wander, roam, explore and burn enough calories that you can justify that extra scoop of gelato!

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