I have a bad habit of pretending that I am on vacation for at least a month longer than I actually am. I put myself in social purgatory; hiding out from the world, giving ambiguous responses to the pile of “Are you home yet?” text messages. My friends know me well enough not to take it personally. Without fail, every time I return from a trip, no matter the length, I suffer from an intense, suffocating bout of post-vacation blues.
What’s not to miss about vacation? You get to slip the chains that bind you to your desk and explore all day, doing whatever your heart desires, eat as much as your muumuu will conceal, and dance till dawn without worrying about hitting the snooze button in the morning. As much as I love travelling, there ARE things I long for when I am abroad. I miss knowing where the best restaurants and bars are, how to use the transit system, being able to speak the language and modern conveniences like a strong wifi signal and air conditioning unit.
Building a life, career, and a space to call my own provides the necessary contrast that allows me to appreciate being away more acutely. I love being able to go to my favourite local ramen place on my lunch break as much as I adore discovering a hole-in-the-wall montadito spot in Barcelona on vacation. Maybe some day, my life will afford me the opportunity to travel for long periods of time but I will always have a home base where I spend lengthy swathes of time. How can I reconcile my desire for adventure AND enjoy the comforts of home?
Microadventures is a word coined by “adventurer, author and motivational speaker” Alastair Humphreys. “A micro adventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding”. Keyword: LOCAL. It’s a realistic and accessible trip that you can fit into the context of your regular life.
While I’ve lived in Toronto my whole life, there is still so much to discover if I just take the time to look. There’s no reason I can’t cultivate the same wide-eyed wonder I have when I travel, at home. Will it require me to be more vigilant; more hands-on with my daily happiness? Will I have to make a conscious effort to plan ahead and do some research on what extraordinary adventures can be had nearby versus returning to my frequented watering holes out of habit? You can see where I’m going with this…YES (!!!) of course, but it’s worth it to chase moments filled with magic that are more often associated with travel.
There is still about a month (or 2 if we’re lucky) of good weather left so I thought I’d give you a list of microadventures that you can take from Toronto:
Glamping or “Glamorous Camping”
All you hardcore campers who brag about how strong their thigh muscles are from squatting behind bushes are probably scoffing at the princess who dares to suggest this soft option. I can rough it as much as the next person but glamping seems more of a novelty than camping does. Glamping is the new camping! You get to enjoy the experience without the uncomfortable negatives. Until I can make my way to the middle of the Saharan Desert in Morocco to stay at Camp Adounia, a microadventure in Toronto will do.
There were 2 options that caught my eye that are only a 90 minute drive from Downtown Toronto. One is in Dunnville Ontario, tucked away in a forest of tulip trees, oaks, walnuts, and birches in the middle of a Carolinian Forest. Fronterra is a farm, camp AND brewery so no need to worry about stopping by the beer store on your drive down to Prince Edward County! Both boast rustic, prospector-style safari tents with luxuriously massive beds made up with plush pillows and duvets, an ensuite bathroom, and all the necessary kitchen equipment you'd need.
Elora Quarry Conservation Area
Location: Western edge of Elora (90 minute drive from Downtown Toronto)
This rugged bit of paradise is a very popular spot for a picturesque day of swimming and hiking near the Grand River valley. Kayakers and tubers can be scene making their way through the rapids in the river from one of the many scenic points up on the 22 metre high cliffs. If heights aren’t you thing, bring your bathers and a cooler of beers and chill out on the beach and enjoy the view. If a day isn’t enough time to spend in this paradise, camping options are also available.
Hiking from Rattlesnake Point to Crawford Lake
Location: Milton (45 minute drive from Downtown Toronto)
Were we a little crazy to attempt an almost 3 hour and 15-kilometre hike from Rattlesnake Point to Crawford Lake in 40 degree weather? I can’t remember since I almost passed out from dehydration (bring water!). It was really beautiful (and a bit treacherous) walking under the thick canopy of trees enjoying the views from different lookout points that overlooked the Rowville Valley. As we neared the Crawford Lake Conservation Area, we wandered into a reconstruction of an Iroquois village. It has a lot of interesting structures and artifacts to examine as well as an archery area to practice your shot. Crawford Lake is not too far off and a gorgeous sight, well worth the hike. If you don’t have masochistic tendencies, there are also shorter trails you can take.
Location: Scarborough, East Toronto (45 minute drive from Downtown Toronto)
The Bluffs, as they're also known as, look like they’re not even in Toronto but it’s a very easy day trip. It’s an escarpment that forms a large portion of the eastern waterfront in Toronto and the white cliffs loom 65 metres at their highest above the shorelines of Lake Ontario. Drive to the top of the Bluffs to park, soak in the view and sun, and head down to Bluffer’s Beach with a picnic! Also don't do as I do, stay far back from the edge of the cliff.
The Bruce Peninsula
Location: Georgian Bay (4 hour drive from Downtown Toronto)
While the Bruce Peninsula is a bit more of a trek to get to, it’ll feel like you’ve be transported to the middle of the Caribbean, sans the pricey airfare. The water is so clear and turquoise you’d swear it was the sea and not somewhere in Ontario! Take advantage of the clear waters by taking a glass bottom boat tour that will take you to scope of shipwrecks as well as tour Flowerpot Island. Other adventures that you can take from this area is a visit to Manitoulin Island, explore the Cyprus Cave Campground, or just wander.
Winery Bike Tour
Location: Niagara on the lake (90 minute drive from Downtown Toronto)
I can't think of a better way to spend a sunny Toronto day than drunkenly swerving on a bike from winery to winery in Niagara. You can make a weekend trip of it, that is, if you're able to find accommodations in the summer. Or you can do a day tour, either with a company that will take care of all the planning or you can pack a cheese platter, grab your bike and take th GO Train.