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Family Fun, A Natural Thing?

Richard Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder in his book LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS and ever since I read about it, I’ve been thinking about how the majority of us are nature deprived; and as a result, in some way, suffering. How many times are you outside walking about but barely taking in the world around you? Have we forgotten how to truly see? Louv claims that in really seeing, and more importantly in experiencing and interacting with, nature we are more able to deal with the troubles that life hurls our way. He links ADD and ADHD among other symptoms that can be healed through more interaction with nature.

I got to thinking about how our vacations are our time (especially as adults) to stop and sniff the roses. It’s how we recharge. But how many of us return from vacations exhausted? So my question is, are we getting that time? And Louv would contend that this issue is critical when we look at how families vacation because we must teach our children to embrace nature. For if we don’t, they will never develop an appreciation for and a commitment to nature. Without that, our environmental stewards will die off within just a few generations and the outlook for the world will be bleak.

I polled Travelocity’s travelers and asked them about how they spend time on family vacations to see what has changed over the past several generations. Here are the highlights of what I found.

Photo thanks to IgoUgo member Caromeow

• Families with children today are visiting national parks and other nature sites much less frequently than previous generations. 25% of the Silent Generation (born between 1925-1945) report that all of their childhood family vacations included some interaction with nature compared to only 15% of families traveling with kids today.
• Today’s families take less time to participate in outdoor activities. Instead of hiking, biking and camping, more than twice as many families today focus on activities like shopping than did earlier generations (now 20% of family vacations – up from 8% during the Silent Generation’s childhood years).
• Instead of camping trips families frequent major cities (19%) and amusement parks (13%) as their vacation destinations. In contrast, as children the Silent Generation visited major cities 8% of the time and amusement parks only 6%.
• The means by which families travel also has changed dramatically across generations. Not surprisingly, car travel has diminished while air travel has increased with families going much greater distances. This means families today have fewer opportunities to stop along the way to admire scenic overlooks, explore local hiking trails, or just watch the scenery outside as it changes.

Click for complete details on this study.

My answer is not that we give up our destination vacvations for a rural retreat, it’s more about incorporating more nature into what we’re doing. Since I’ve been looking at this I’ve made a concerted effort to notice the natural world…I count birds on my morning jog, I look at the shapes of clouds and the changing tree tops along the park as I walk to the subway. It does change the way I look at the world, and perhaps it helps to shape my attitude towards it as well. It’s definitely something to consider on my next vacation.

amy_ziff

My name: Amy is my name, but I'll answer to Ame, Ames or Aimee.

How I earn my keep: My beat is travel, but my passion is collecting stories from people I meet on the road.

Hotel I could move into: Must I pick only one?! The Palacio Duhau a Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires tops my list. For the stunning restoration of the palace and tasteful new tower that create a thoughtful intersection of old and new. Every public and private space captivates. I'd move for the grand Alvear entry as much as for the manicured garden. For the wine and cheese tastings, the dulce de leche, the art gallery, the flower shop and for all the careful attention to detail that went into creating a hotel that is transcendent. If I were to pick a hotel that most felt like me, it would be The Inn at the Manor in the Cotswolds. Oh, I could definitely live there curled up with a book in a leather chair in the bar or outside among the English wildflowers. If I wanted to live in a land far away, the Ngoro Ngoro Crater Lodge would make a unique home with a view of the crater floor from every room (including the loo!), sumptuous beds, endless roses and the most unusual neighbors - massive water buffalo who won't bother you if you stay close to your Maori guide.

If I won the lottery, I'd live in: A historic farmhouse with an enormous barn and hundreds of acres tucked into a small town in New England or a Malibu beach house with stunning views and the surf just steps away. On second thought, winning the lottery means I could jet from coast to coast and enjoy them both.

Favorite way to get around: By foot. Whether in the city or country, I find the best way to get to know someplace is ambling around to discover and sample the distinct sights, sounds, smells, and tastes a place has to offer.

View that took my breath away: Looking toward the sky in Arusha and watching black and white Colobus monkeys scramble among the treetops, jumping from one tree to the next, floating through the sky like a primate version of Superman. Monkeys know how to have a good time!

My most beloved place in the whole world is: The place I visited last. What can I say? I'm fickle.

Follow me on twitter @amyziff

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