Travel is one of life’s greatest joys, and something that many of us would like to try to do as much of as possible in our lives, myself included. Theres nothing I love more than hopping on a flight and exploring a new place, becoming emerged in the culture and making memories. It’s great to be able to go away to relax and totally zone out from life and work back home; I love those holidays and really need them for my mental health but I find that the real memories are made on the trips where I explore and do things a little differently. That could be by winging it with my route and being a little more flexible with my plans, to searching out different ways of getting around in the country to going down the active route.
Years ago, I didn’t think that I would ever want to be active on holiday; it was a piña colada by the pool all the way for me but nowadays I think about being active in a completely different light. I used to be so worried about what other people would think about me and if they’d judge me for being the fat girl trying to do something active, seemingly reserved for slim outdoorsy types. Plus I didn’t want to get all hot, sweaty and out of breath when I could be sunbathing by the pool… ironically still hot and sweaty. I always say that when I stopped caring about what other people thought about me, my life began and that’s so true for a lot of aspects of my life but especially for travel. I found my bikini body confidence at the grand old age of 28 and started wearing a bikini while away for the first time in my life because I realised that I deserve to feel the sun on my skin as much as the next person and I started to not be afraid to be more active while travelling. I walked all over when I solo travelled in Bali, up and down the sides of some high cliffs just so that I could visit the most amazing beaches. Sure I felt as though some of the walkways with huge amounts of steps were going to kill me but I got through it and the view from the bottom and top was worth it and I felt the most amazing sense of achievement every single day; I DID IT!
For many people, one of the best ways in which you can travel is to go the active route and there are loads of options out there to consider. It is certainly a great way to see the world but for me, it’s all about finding the balance that works for you. That could be in terms of where you go and how much activity you do while you’re there and I hope that this post gives you some ideas for your own active holiday, should this style of trip idea appeal to you.
THE HOTEL GYM
I’d like to start with the hotel gym as it is something that many hotels and can really be a good option for the majority of people if they don’t want to go on an active holiday as such where you’re going specifically to ski, walk, hike, row, etc but where they’d just like to be active on holiday.
This is sort of how I started, aside from swimming and taking part in Aquafit and AquaZumba if it was on offer. When I went to the Maldives in 2017, I had been working on my fitness and activity levels for a year prior. I loved being in the gym and really enjoyed the way it made me feel, so I didn’t want to lose that feeling while I was away on holiday, especially as it was quite a long trip. I researched the island that we were staying on, Cinnamon Dhonveli, and found that they had a small air conditioned gym with some weights stations, cardio machines and a free weights section. I took my gym kit along with me and thoroughly enjoyed going on a morning before breakfast. Sure it was hard going- even the walk to the gym in the blazing heat was tough but the feeling it gave me was worth it. This trip enabled me to have a relaxing holiday and still be active; it gave me the best of both types of trip. Similarly, I’ve also been on chill out holidays where I’ve just booked active excursions while I’ve been away which has enabled me to enjoy the luxe comforts of the hotel with pushing my boundaries and building my confidence. Its something that I’m still working on but with every trip, I feel that little bit more proud of myself!
If you’re looking for a specific active holiday then a walking holiday is one easiest ways to travel in an active manner and they have many great things going for them. For one, they are the kind of travelling you can do almost anywhere in the world – so no matter what kind of part of the world you want to go to you will find that you can almost always turn it into a walking holiday. Of course, walking holidays are not for everyone – but if you feel that these are the kinds of holidays you would like to go for, then you should absolutely consider them as best as you can and plan them so that you can make the most of them.
Make sure to pack well, as the last thing you want is to not be prepared for the experience. It’s important to think before you go about what you might need to make the walking not just easier and more comfortable, but safer too. Good footwear is, obviously, an absolute must, as is the other clothing that you will need to wear and think about taking. You need clothing for all weathers that you can expect in the destination you are going to, as well as making sure that you have other kinds just in case; consider that the temperature at one point in your walk maybe completely different to that in another, for example if you’re doing a walk up Mount Teide in Tenerife. You also need to pack a first aid kit and make sure that you are prepared for any serious problems with a whistle, torch, water and an edible emergency energy source. Making sure your internet and phone connection works in the destination you’re going to and buying a local sim if needed is essential (I’ve written a guide about it here) but keep in mind that they place that you’re going to may not actually have reception or signal and that’s why its vital that you let some else know where you’re going, the route you’re taking and how long you estimate that you’ll be.
A walking holiday will also be much easier to enjoy and make the most of if you plan out where you are going to walk, at least a little. That doesn’t mean that you have to plan out meticulously every single part of the path, and you might just want to keep it at a bare minimum, but as long as you are at least vaguely aware of where you are headed you will find it a lot less stressful on the whole and always take a map, just in case you get lost. I love going on rural walks that are a little less guided in the North East and its something that I’m building up to feeling confident doing elsewhere. When I was on the island of Gili Meno, every day I would take myself off on a walk around different parts of the island. It was important to make sure that I had my torch with me as once the sun set, there was no street lighting but it was an amazing experience and one that I’ll do again when I go back.
It’s a great idea to plan your walks around the things that you would like to see. I do this a lot with city breaks so that I can take in as many of the sights as possible but this can be done with rural or off the beaten track walking holidays too as there’s often some must see viewing points which are also great refuelling stops and of course, for Instagram snaps!
All in all, walking holidays can be incredibly enjoyable, and one of the best ways to see the world. If you are keen to go on one alone or with others, make sure that you plan out where you are going to go and do your research first. Some places lend themselves more easily to walking holidays than others.
For those who are keen on something a little more extreme, skiing might be more the way to go. Skiing is certainly an exciting extreme sport, and one which you can learn if you are keen and willing to do so. I must say that I don’t think that it is for me right now but I know so many people who go and absolutely love their time on the slopes. They tend to go in groups and return most years as they love the exhilarating feeling of the piste during the day and the social aspect at the resort at night.
Choosing a ski resort can be tough if you’ve never been before but if you take a look at a guide to skiing in Meribel, you can also appreciate that some places are actually able to be better than others, and that there are a lot of destinations in particular which you might want to consider first and foremost, not least because of the weather and time of year that you’re looking to go. One of my friends that I went to school with is actually a professional skier, competing in competitions and working as a ski instructor. She spends half of the year living in New Zealand and the other half of the year in Zermatt, Switzerland. She travels across the world in line with the ski seasons in the different hemispheres and I find it so fascinating!
Many ski resorts are perfectly welcoming to people of all skill levels, abilities and ages and all of the ones that I have heard of have ski instructors that you can hire one on one to show you the ropes or to build up your skills and you can also book onto a class with others of a similar level to you. It can be really frustrating when you’re first learning a new sporting skill so patience and a good teacher is necessary. When I was younger, I went to the dry ski slope near me in Silksworth, Sunderland a few times and wish I’d gone more to build my confidence up with it but since I had a history of weak ankles, I was really nervous about giving it much of a go.
Although it is very similar to a walking holiday, hiking is a little different, as it can be much more extreme and on wilder terrain and therefore be aimed at a fitter individual (of any shape and size!) with more experience but there are smaller hikes that you can do if you’re at a different point in your fitness journey, like I am. The key is to properly research the destination and the routes to ascertain how dangerous they are and to not push yourself too far beyond your capabilities in that moment as you don’t want to risk hurting yourself. That’s not meant to sound defeatist, only realistic; rather than injuring yourself on day one by over exerting yourself, why not set realistic expectations and plan a route or join a tour that is for your ability now and then you can build up your stamina, confidence and experience while enjoying your holiday. The harder routes will always be there and there will always be another challenge which you can conquer and work towards.
Holidays are about enjoyment and experience and by conquering a hike you never thought you’d be able to do, like I did in Costa Rica, you can leave the destination with a huge sense of accomplishment. You don’t even need to do a full active holiday, you could enjoy a sun holiday like I did and then go on hikes or active activities with a tour guide to break up the trip, then you’re getting your rest days in too. Whatever your size and ability, I’m sure that there’s something that you can find enjoyment in. Forget about the opinions of others, don’t let anyone hold you back and go after what makes you happy; remember, what works for you will be best for you!