By Bob Difley
Since 2011, Baby Boomers have been reaching the potential retirement age of 65 at the rate of about 10,000 per day, with many taking to the highways in search of the “real America” – exploring our national parks and boondocking in our national forests and in the southwestern deserts.
Part of that dream – since you can easily recall how hard you’ve worked all your life – includes snoozing in a camp chair by a babbling brook full of rainbow trout, or at the edge of a meadow filled with grazing elk.
Sweet relaxation. You deserve it after all those stressful years. Kick back, enjoy doing nothing. But then, all of a sudden, what you see in the mirror is not really you, it is someone that looks like you but has 20 extra pounds of softness around the middle. What is happening?
What has taken its toll is the frantic activity of work, raising a family, mowing the lawn, all those activities not associated with an RV lifestyle have vanished, leaving an activity – and calorie-burning – vacuum. Just driving from campsite to campsite and setting up your camp chairs and barbecue is not enough exercise. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that once you’ve gotten the relaxation-means-doing-nothing out of your system, a whole new concept of calorie-burning physical activity opens up, enabling you to stay active, keep in physical condition, and feeling good without all the stresses you once felt.
The RV Lifestyle – and especially boondocking out in America’s open public lands – offers myriad opportunities for physical play, of which I’ve listed only a few here:
• HIKING – Hiking is a wonderful way to see the surrounding area, places you can’t get to by vehicle, hidden canyons, following mountain streams, wildlife watching, finding hidden Alpine lakes. The beauty of it is that all you need is a sturdy pair of hiking books, preferably two – one pair for winter and wet conditions, the other for hot summer hiking. Put together a day-pack, ready to go at a moment’s whim, consisting of a few energy bars, compass, small first aid kit, sun hat, windbreaker/rain jacket, small folding binoculars and sunglasses. Hang it right by the entry door so you can grab it on the way out, along with your water.
• BIKING – Mountain or road bikes are easy to carry on your motorhome, fiver, or tow/toad. Various types of bike racks abound that keep your bike handy when you discover a neat place to explore. And if you don’t think biking is good for controlling your weight, look at those Tour de France riders. If you haven’t ridden in awhile, start with level Rails to Trails – old RR routes (their trail finder page will help you find a trail wherever you are) and graduate to more difficult trails as your skill and endurance come back. With a bike you can cover more area than when hiking — and there are great trails all over the country.
• CANOE/KAYAK – Roof-mounted racks can carry your paddle boat to wherever you go, and paddling will provide access to backwaters, lakes, rivers, bays and other watery places also not achievable by other means. It is a quiet mode of transportation, with only the slight splash of a paddle dipping in and out of the water, enabling an intimate approach to ducks and wildlife – and it’s a great upper body workout. Ask at a canoe/kayak store if they have demo days when you can try out various types.
• BIRDWATCHING/WILDLIFE WATCHING – Keep a day-pack hanging by your entry door with binoculars, field guide, pad and pencil, and grab it when you leave. You never know what you might see. Birding is popular with us RVers since we are always traveling to new areas and seeing new species. Look for tracks of wildlife and practice identifying and tracking.
• PHOTOGRAPHY – If you grab your camera when you go for a walk, you will find many things to photograph creatively, and before you know it you’ve walked a few miles without even thinking about exercising. With a photo-editing program on your computer or app on your phone you can then stimulate your creative juices to produce a work of photographic art. Make photo collections, such as old fences, birds, wildflowers, dilapidated barns, waterfalls – the subjects are endless.
Here are a few more activities to consider: square dancing, swimming, snorkeling, climbing to the highest point in every state, walking or bicycling a Rail Trail in every state, rockhounding, geocaching, building homes with Habitat For Humanity, and lots more.
These are just a few of the activities that will keep you out of that camp chair and on your feet, stimulated rather than complacent, curious rather than bored, feeling good rather than tired. Try some … you just may add some extra, enjoyable, healthy years onto your retirement.