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Why Experts Believe Gardening Is Good For Both Your Physical And Mental Health 

There’s been a growing amount of research surrounding what we can do for ourselves at home to continue to practice good physical and mental health habits. After the last year, we’ve all had to adapt our lives to make sure that we’re constantly stimulating our brain, and moving our body to ensure that we remain as healthy as possible. 

Gardening has become one of the most popular pandemic activities and for good reason. A growing amount of research has proven that gardening is not only great for your physical health because it gets you up and moving, but your mental health as well, due to the fact that it gives you tasks to focus on, while also adding beauty to your space. 

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James Wong is a botanist and journalist who recently looked into this concept more deeply, and found that gardening has actually helped a lot of people cope with the isolation of the past year. 

Wong explained how in general, “research has shown that mindfulness exercises that focus one’s attention on the here and now and stop our minds wandering to the past or worrying about the future are an important therapeutic tool.” So gardening has always acted as a form of therapy for many people. 

“Gardening is a classic example of such a mindfulness exercise, where you clear out extraneous thoughts and focus on what is in front of you, especially given the seasonal nature of gardening.”

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“In fact, many Eastern cultures that have a long tradition of mindfulness are fixated on the beauty of seasonal plants, such as cherry blossom, precisely because of their transience, not in spite of it. So, in my opinion, fake plants and a green fence are unlikely to provide the full benefit,” Wong explained. 

There’s also a major social aspect that comes with gardening that Wong explained has motivated many individuals to go out of their way to talk to others. 

“Studies conducted at community gardens found that gardening in such places has a significant positive impact on one of the key factors behind poor mental health – loneliness and isolation.”

Wong recommends putting energy into your front lawn garden, or whichever part of your house is closest to your neighbors if you want to attempt to branch out and get to know the individuals you share a block with. 

“Each of these benefits appears to play only a small part in a much more complex puzzle, and the relative importance of each piece is likely to vary enormously for each person, to the point where they are often contradictory. When it comes to horticultural therapy, the best advice is it doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it the way that works best for you,” Wong explained.

Couple Camping

Why The Travel Industry Thinks Glamping Will Save The Tourism Sector This Summer

Bookings for camping and glamping locations all around the nation have been reaching record levels, as more people are ready to get back to some level of safe travel this summer now that more people are being vaccinated. 

Mike Bevens is an MD at glamping specialist company Canopy and Stars; a glamping business that assists travelers with all their travel needs and luxury wants. Bevens recently spoke about the increase in business that he’s endured, along with the rest of the industry. 

“We’ve had the busiest winter in terms of bookings, but there’s also been a huge increase in the number of new sites wanting to advertise. We’re up 200% on bookings from last year and have around 100 new sites coming online for this summer.”

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Derry Green is a UK resident who spoke with the local press about how he knew he had to do something to motivate his kids to leave the house with restrictions easing up this summer, however, he didn’t think his personal quarantine project would lead to a great new business opportunity.

“My kids were watching Love Island all the time, so when I got done building my back deck (my personal quarantine project) I put up a pod with a fire pit and lights, inspired by the show. Then people started asking me if they could come and stay in it so I put it on Airbnb and it sold out for two years in advance in five days,” he boasted.

Green quickly went viral on Facebook, so much so that now he has six more glamping units currently under construction that will be made available in the coming months. He personally owns four acres of woodland, so there’s plenty of room for his new business to thrive. 

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Green is not the only one who’s taking advantage of this new glamping trend. For those who are able to set up camp sites on their larger properties, renting out these spaces on Airbnb, and other rental services, have helped them immensely in terms of making an income during the past year of economic turmoil.  

“I believe in the transformative power of camping. It’s perfect for the situation we are in. Campsites can appear quickly in a way that cottages and hotels can’t, and they tend to benefit other businesses around them.”

Mojo and Kizzy Fell joined the glamping industry by necessity, after the pandemic halted all business for them last year. Originally, the two ran a successful rental business for Airsteam caravans that they would use mainly for film locations and music festivals. So when the pandemic shut down all of those activities, they needed to rethink their business model. 

“Our income just disappeared. We had to diversify, so we put five Airstreams on our 40-acre farm and called it The Wells Glamping. The caravans sold out immediately and now we have applied to increase the number to 12, hoping to be ready for bookings by the end of April. Luxurious vans that used to accommodate stars such as Will Ferrell and Kenneth Branagh will be repurposed for family holidays – and create up to 20 new jobs at the same time,” Mojo explained.

Some Of The Most Breathtaking Places To See Wildflowers In The US

With the Covid-19 pandemic finally beginning to reach it’s long-winded end with the release of multiple vaccines, many are ready to return to their normal lives. Many aren’t going to be rushing to the airport anytime soon, however, a lot of people are ready to begin traveling across the country in a safe way as more and more people get vaccinated. 

Below is a list of some of the most spectacular locations to see a variety of vibrant wildflowers throughout the United States. Many individuals are opting to go on road trips as the weather gets warmer and the country begins to reopen, here’s some of the most popular destinations that US residents will be heading to in the coming months: 

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Texas: From March to May Texas is known for having spectacular fields full of colorful spring flowers. Texas Hill Country is one of the most famous parts of the state for flower viewing due to its prominent Indian paintbrushes, pink evening primroses, daisies, winecups, prairie verbenas, and golden eye phlox populations. The 80-mile loop from Brenham to Chappell Hill is also known for its intense and vibrant meadows full of purple coneflowers, verbenas, beardtongues, skullcaps, prairie parsley, yellow wild indigo, blue-eyed grasses, blanket flowers, and more.

South Dakota: South Dakota offers a wide variety of wildflower destinations alongside the multitude of other national monuments present in the state. Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse Memorial all contain some of the nation’s most spectacular views. The Badlands National Park is known for having some of the country’s most natural scenery in the spring and summer, including the prairie coneflowers, Woods’ roses, and Rocky Mountain blazing stars.

Florida: According to travel journalist Skye Sherman, “while they’re not exactly wildflowers, South Florida’s tabebuia trees (also known as trumpet trees) are still a sight to behold. Each spring, the trees erupt in clouds of yellow — sunny as the state itself — or a light pastel pink that perfectly captures the spirit of springtime. Head to Palm Beach starting in March to spot these colorful blooms.

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California: California is constantly blooming, it just depends on where you go and what the time of year is. February through April is known to be the best time to find the state really covered in wildflowers and other exotic plant life. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Carlsbad Flower Fields are the best places to take in the golden state’s beauty. 

Colorado:  Colorado is ideal for a summer hiking trip because not only is the weather glorious, but trails across the state are surrounded by a rainbow of wildflowers. Head to Crested Butte, considered to be the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” for the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival and great hiking opportunities, or Steamboat Springs to spot the Colorado blue columbine and red Indian paintbrush on the trails,” according to Sherman.

Montana: Prairie and Alpine wildflowers saturate the grounds of the Glacier National Park every year from June to July. The one month residency makes Montana one of the most popular summer travel spots in the US. In general more than 1,000 breeds of wildflowers grow in the Glacier National Park throughout the summer, so you’re guaranteed some of the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen should you take the trip.

Camp Tent

Things To Keep In Mind If You’re Planning On Going Camping For The First Time

With the Covid-19 pandemic hindering everyone’s summer plans, many are turning to alternative means of travel to itch their vacation scratch this year. Camping has become one of the most popular modes of vacation this year as it’s one of the only ways that individuals can get out of their house while remaining socially distant from others. For those of us who have never been camping before but are ready to finally try it out given the circumstances, there are some things we must avoid in order to ensure we have a fun and safe time in the wilderness. 

First and foremost, do your research, especially if this is your first time. Luckily the internet has millions of resources one could use to find the perfect spot to camp. Apps like Campspot have grown in popularity within the past few years. Campspot specifically makes it easy for users to find campsites that fit their budgets while also listing all the surrounding amenities in the area you’re planning on travelling too. The app also helps individuals with disabilities find more accessible campgrounds so they don’t have to worry about getting around complex terrains or running into any seriously dangerous wildlife. 

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For your first time camping it’s also important that you don’t choose a location that’s too far from your home. Being relatively close to your house will make you feel more secure if you’re a little nervous about your first night in the great outdoors, and you’re more likely to find private campgrounds as opposed to more open ones that are popular in National parks. 

CEO of the app Campspot, Caleb Hartung, recommends going no further than 130 miles from your home for the first time. This way you’re still distanced enough to feel like you’re in a completely new environment, but are close enough to leave if you feel so inclined. 

“I wouldn’t recommend a national park for a first-time camper.  There’s just a lot more staffing on a private campground, and these private campgrounds are also more common, meaning they’re within an hour to an hour and a half from home.”

Campot operates in 47 states and some parts of Canada, so Hartung is referring to a majority of America when he says private sites are more common. When it comes to actually preparing for your trip, don’t over-pack/over-invest in new camp gear. It’s easy to feel pressured to buy everything at a camping store when it’s your first time because you don’t know what to expect and want to be prepared for everything, but it’s just not necessary.

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Again, do your research on the area you’re planning on camping at and look up other more experienced campers testimonials of their experiences at the same sites. Listen to what they brought and read up on recommendations for the specific campsite, it’s likely if the grounds have a website they’ll have a section that tells you what you should be bringing. 

Make sure you pack a variety of clothing for your trip as well. This is yet again dependent on where you plan on camping, however, in most wilderness areas the temperatures drop heavily at night. Pack a lot of layers and also plenty of light clothing for during the day in case it gets really hot. 

Make sure you’re packing enough water and food provisions for yourself as well especially if the area you’re heading to doesn’t have a lot of convenient store establishments around. This is the part of packing that Hartung always encourages campers to over-pack on. 

To that same extent you must also over-pack on things that are meant to protect your skin. Sunscreen/SPF lotions, bug spray, and closed-toed shoes are all necessities anywhere you camp. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and to reapply it every two hours, maybe even every hour depending on how much time you’re spending in the sun. 

Do your research, read up on where you’re going and get organized. Camping can be a fun spur-of-the-moment experience, however, for your first time it’s best to be as prepared as possible.

Summer Vacation

Planning A Summer Vacation During A Pandemic

Now that summer is officially here, many are trying to think of alternative ways to scratch their vacation itch without breaking Covid-19 health and safety restrictions. Luckily, many home rental and hotel services are still offering ways for you and your loved ones to travel this summer with updated guest policies to ensure everyone has a healthy and fun time. 

Home rental services specifically will be seeing a major influx in business within the next few months, and they may receive even more business then they’re used to, according to Sean Breuner who’s the CEO of AvantStay, a short-term home rental company. 

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“Usually we average about three to four days per stay and now that has increased dramatically. You might see four couples get together to work from home in Scottsdale for a month at a time… people looking for control versus going to a hotel. Generally, people are booking in two windows: they’re either looking to travel immediately or scoping out a trip for late summer,” he explained. 

Home-rentals also offer a change in quarantine scenery. As stated by Breuner, many adults who have been working from home for the past few months are using rental services to change up the spaces they live out their lockdown days in. 

Major hotel chains across America have also begun implementing new health and safety procedures to ensure every guest feels comfortable staying there. For example, Marriott International has adopted new hygiene technology that includes electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant for all rooms. Hyatt Hotels have hired “Hygiene Managers” for all of their locations to oversee proper disinfection protocols; Hilton Hotels are doing something similar and also employing a “CleanStay Room Seal” so that guests are guaranteed their rooms haven’t been touched since its cleaning. 

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There’s expected to be a major influx in road trips this year, as that genuinely is one of the safest ways to vacation in terms of Covid-19; especially if you’re driving an RV or trailer. 

“People are really embracing the road trip. We’re seeing a lot fewer people book island trips and flights… people can still get away to the lakes, the river, the countryside, and have that bigger space,” Jeff Hurst, the president of Vrbo, a summer rental company, said.

John Staff is the CEO of Getaway, which offers tiny home rentals that are located within driving distance of major cities in America, and in a recent interview he claimed that his company saw a 400% increase in bookings for this summer once president Trump officially banned travel to Europe. 

Obviously, the main concern with all of these options is cleanliness, health, and safety. Major home rental services like Vrbo, Getaway, Airbnb, etc. have all made their new disinfecting/cleaning procedures public online to ensure all guests know they’re walking into a covid-free space. If you’re planning to go the home rental route, call the owner regardless and ask them to take you through what their process is, remember, this is their property, so they likely are going to want the space to be just as clean as you do. 

You can do the same with any hotel you’re planning on staying at, or even campsite grounds if you’re deciding to do that as well. Regardless, make sure you’re prioritizing your health, as that’s what we all should be doing in general right now.

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Travel Journalist Offers Advice On Summer Vacationing During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Nicquel Terry Ellis is an Atlanta-based travel journalist, and as expected, a majority of her work now is covering all things coronavirus, and since travel restrictions/bans are a major part of this current pandemic, Ellis has definitely had her work cut out for her within the past few weeks.

Couple Camping

The Top 5 Campgrounds in New York for 2020

New York is home not only to one of the largest cities in the world, but also some of the country’s most beautiful nature sites, as parts of Niagara Falls, the Adirondack Mountains, and world-renowned beaches can all be found within the Empire State. One of the best and most affordable ways to experience all of the natural beauty the state has to offer is by staying at one of New York’s many campgrounds, whether that means sleeping in a tent, renting an RV, or even booking a cottage or cabin. As many of the best campgrounds in the state tend to book up quickly, it’s best to make plans for a camping vacation early in the year to ensure you can stay at the campsite you prefer. To help you get a head start on your vacation plans this summer, here are the top 5 campgrounds in New York for 2020.

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5) North-South Lake Campground

Nestled deep within the Catskill Forest Preserve, North-South Lake Campground offers a total of 219 camping sites in 7 camping loops, and campers can visit two lakes with two beaches as well as picnic areas and hiking trails. A number of historical sites, such as Alligator Rock, Kaaterskill Falls, and the former site of the Catskill Mountain House can be found within the park. This campground is likely to be preferred by residents of Long Island or New York City, as it is located in the southern part of the state, making the trip fairly quick compared to other campgrounds on this list.

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4) Cranberry Lake Campground

This campground is located in a secluded part of the state, in the northwest part of Adirondack Park. Though it is located far away from tourist attractions in the state, Cranberry Lake Campground offers more than fifty miles of hiking trails as well as opportunities for biking and rowing. Campers can choose from among 171 campsites, which can support both tents and RVs, and the park includes a fishing pier, an amphitheater, and a picnic area, among other amenities. Visitors can swim in the lake, though no lifeguards are on duty, and can also use power boats, rowboats, kayaks, and canoes. Cranberry Lake Campgrounds is suitable for a wide variety of campers, as it features hiking trails of all levels of difficulty, each with scenic views of a relatively-untouched wilderness.

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3) Hunter Lake Campground

This campground advertises itself as “a scenic campground built on family values,” and as such, it offers a number of activities that the whole family can enjoy. Located in the western Catskill Mountains, Hunter Lake Campground is home to a country store, an enclosed pavilion where kids can play ping-pong, pool, air hockey, and video games, and a sandy beach at the shore of Hunter Lake, where campers can swim and ride in boats. Each of the campsites have water and electricity, and RV sites include a sewer hookup as well. Pets are allowed at this campground, so all members of the family, including canine companions, are welcome to stay.

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2) Alger Island

Also known as Big Island, Alger Island is located on Fourth Lake within the Adirondack Park. The entire island, which is only accessible by boat, is operated as a New York State Park campground, featuring 15 sites with lean-tos all located by the island’s shore. While the selection of activities available on the island itself is fairly limited, the island is close to several nearby tourist attractions, including a museum, a golf course, and a theme park. Campers can go jet-skiing in the nearby lake and enjoy lunch at the picnic tables provided on the campsites while enjoying their view of the water. Alger Island is ideal for campers looking for a unique experience, but site availability is limited, so be sure to book your campsite well in advance.

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1) Hither Hills State Park

Long Island is home to some of the most celebrated beaches in the world, and there’s perhaps no better way to enjoy the island’s beaches than to stay at one of the campsites at Hither Hills State Park. Though the campground features an impressive 189 sites, Hither Hills is one of the most popular campgrounds in the state, so it’s best to make your reservations as early as possible. Located on the east end of the island in Montauk, Hither Hills offers sites for both tents and RVs, which offer stunning views of the dunes, beach, and ocean. Campers can take advantage of activities hosted on the expansive beach, including volleyball games, sand castle contests, and campfire jamborees, or visit the nearby Hamptons.

Autumn

Is Autumn the Best Time for a Camping Trip?

Fall has officially begun, marking the end of what is widely considered to be the season for vacations and the beginning of back-to-school activities, earlier evenings, and more time spent indoors. As the leaves change colors and the temperature drops, many people, and students in particular, see this time of year as symbolizing a return to productivity and new professional endeavors. But despite the longer nights and colder temperatures, the beginning of fall may be the perfect time of year to book a campsite and set up a tent in the woods, enjoying the restorative beauty that nature has to offer.

Camping is widely regarded as an activity best enjoyed in June, July, and August, as the hot temperatures, long days, and extended break from school inspire outdoor activity. However, in many cases the experience of sitting around a campfire, hiking in the woods, and gazing up at the stars outside of a tent is best enjoyed in late September or early October. Doing so at this time of year allows for a relatively unique experience, and while the change in weather can make the experience a little more uncomfortable, the benefits of spending time outdoors later in the year more than make up for it.

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People who are interested in going camping are often looking for a chance to get away from the crowds and heavily-populated areas of their everyday lives, and one of the advantages of doing so in the fall is the fact that campgrounds are likely to be much less busy. As families shift their focus from summer vacations to schoolwork, campgrounds are more likely to be patronized by smaller groups of people, such as couples and even individual campers, making this time of year particularly attractive for adult campers looking to spend time away from children. Being in nature alongside a small number of close friends or loved ones makes for a better opportunity to bond with them and with the outdoors, which is what the best camping trips are all about.

While the thought of sleeping outdoors in the fall without the benefit of indoor heating can seem unthinkable, the right gear can mitigate the discomfort of doing so. A plethora of sleeping bags that are rated as providing sufficient warmth in the cold, even at temperatures approaching zero degrees Fahrenheit, are widely available. If you have no interest in investing in a cold-weather sleeping bag, camping gear is available to rent from a variety of outlets. Dressing appropriately by wearing multiple layers of clothing and making sure to pack sweaters, jackets, and hats is essential. Of particular concern in the fall is the possibility of rain, as wet clothing can lower body temperatures and potentially cause hypothermia, so make sure to take this possibility into account. One way of thinking about cooler weather is by considering it to be brisk and refreshing, as drinking a hot cup of coffee in the morning and enjoying the warmth of a campfire become even more invigorating.

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Autumn also offers an opportunity to experience the beauty of nature when the leaves change color and fall to the ground. The period of time when trees become more colorful and varied is relatively brief, so camping in this environment is a special experience which only occurs once per year. Additionally, when the temperature starts to drop, pests like ticks and mosquitoes are less abundant. As such, taking a walk in the woods during this time of year, given adequate preparation, can be more fun than doing so in the summer, spring, or winter. If you’re interested in photography, the colorful fall landscapes are perfect environments for Instagram. And while camping in the fall may cause you to miss out on some activities that are only possible in the summer, like swimming in lakes, other activities become available during this time of year, such as apple and pumpkin picking, harvest festivals, and Halloween-related events.

One of the benefits of camping as a vacation activity is that it requires relatively little investment of time and money, as campsites are cheap, equipment can be rented, and campgrounds can often be located within a few hours’ drive from home. A successful camping trip can be planned for a weekend, meaning you don’t have to take time off work to enjoy the experience. One thing to watch out for, though, is ensuring that the campground you plan on staying at will be open for the time you wish to stay, as most campgrounds close for the year around mid-October, with some smaller locations closing even earlier than that. Nevertheless, camping in the fall can make for an unforgettable and restorative experience, perfect for preparing oneself for the cold and long fall and winter nights to come.