“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
– John Burroughs
From the first time I read this quote a few years ago, it has been engrained in my brain. It was one of those ‘ah- ha’ moments when you just think, ‘Yes! That’s exactly how I feel!’ From a small age, I grew up spending a lot of time in nature; going out to Beaver Lake in Arkansas, exploring caves, hiking, going to Colorado every year, etc. During those moments, I didn’t really grasp the healing and grounding affects that nature brought; all I knew was I needed to be in it. It was my happy place.
From St. Louis, to the tiny island of Aruba, to remote tent living on the beach in Mexico, and now to the big city of Austin, I have come to realize just how much nature is needed for my well being. It does something to us on a cellular level. It forces us to slow down, heightens our senses, and is a catalyst for presence and awe toward the world. Like Burroughs said, it really does put our senses back in order.
As much as I love city life, the buzz can make it challenging to fill up the nature cup. In a city, everyone is always on the move-- shows, events, fitness classes, meet ups, happy hours, festivals, and the list goes on and on.
Thankfully, as far as cities go, Austin is one of the easiest cities to getting out in nature and away from the buzz of city life. However, no matter what city or town one finds themselves in, “nature escapes” exist. Whether through an escape to a hidden swimming hole, the local greenway or bike trails, or a trip to a nearby state park, reconnecting with nature while in the city just takes a little extra thoughtfulness. Here’s three easy tips for reconnection with nature no matter city size or place.
Find a Swimming Hole::
Taking time to find a nearby swimming hole could be your saving grace this summer! Not only a way to escape the heat, swimming holes make for great people watching. Here in Austin, the classic Barton Springs gets us through the heat. A natural fed spring turned swimming pool carved out into the limestone lies in the heart of Austin. It stays a stable 68*F year round with a steady supply of fresh water. Whether secluded of packed like our Barton Springs tends to be, the overall vibes of crystal clear water has a way of cleansing the soul, making you feel refreshed and alive.
Explore Your City’s Greenbelt:
Most cities have a greenbelt, a spread of land on which building is restricted and connection to nature is encouraged. Here in Austin the Barton Creek Greenbelt is a seven-mile strip along the creek full of hiking trails, mountain biking, climbing, and swimming holes, making for a paradise and escape for both humans and dogs alike.
Though in the center of the city, greenbelts encourage a feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. Put up a hammock along the creek bed with a good book and journal to be restored for hours. No more traffic sounds or concrete jungles, just dirt paths, the sounds of the creek rushing past, completely surrounded by greenery and trees.
Find the Nearest State Park::
Looking for a way to better understand the natural environment a city was founded upon? Need to get far away from the city buzz and deep into nature? Finding a nearby state park is a great way to do so, especially if there’s overnight camping. Here in Austin, I head to Pedernales Falls State Park, just 40 minutes west of the city when I need a reboot.
Being in the city with the city lights, there’s one thing I crave: looking up at the night sky and only seeing the vastness before me. My favorite thing to do in Pedernales Falls is lying out on the riverbed during the sunset, and watching the colors begin to reflect along the water as the sun hides behind the horizon-- slowly witnessing the transition between day and night as the stars come out one by one until the night sky is completely covered.
Amanda Gibbons, @gibby_11, currently lives in Austin, Texas where she has set some roots after living both domestically around the country and internationally. Through teaching yoga, plant-based health coaching and cooking, and always devoting time to be barefoot in nature, her vision is to find ways to empower people and assist them in living healthy, wholesome lives. Things that make her happy include dancing, her island puppy, Kyro, and long, aimless drives into nature.