The fall back-to-school hustle doesn’t mean hanging up your hiking boots, fishing rods, and climbing shoes. There are more ways than you realize to get out exploring and active in the Great Outdoors—even in the throes of academia. And it will likely even help your studies; spending time outside has been proven to boost everything from concentration levels, mood and sleep schedules, while lowering stress levels about that upcoming exam. It’s also an ideal social setting to help you meet other students—in a more fun setting than the classroom.
“College can be startlingly isolating,” says Ben Cherry, a student at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz, who has been climbing at the Gunks since he was a toddler. “Students need a space to escape the stress of studying and writing papers.”
Here’s how to carve the free time to get outside this school season.
Make the Time
While you’ll likely be busier than ever at school, make sure to carve out some Me Time to get outside. It’s easy for your schedule to get booked solid by class, studying, eating and social everything else. But establish at least a couple times a week—say, that quick hour between classes on Thursday, or that gap between labs on Monday—to sneak out for a brief excursion outside, be it a hike, run or ride.
Are you an incoming freshman? Ask your school about outdoor or wilderness orientation trips—and take advantage as they can offer the simplest entry into both a connected social group, and to your institution’s outdoor programming.
Relieving the stress of studies can be as simple as tossing a Frisbee. You’ll be surprised how easy it can be to inspire a pickup soccer or kickball game. Set up a slackline in the quad and you’ll quickly connect with other like-minded folks, oriented to being active outdoors.
The key, says Cherry, is to start small, even if it’s just going out for a walk. “Whenever you have the slightest inclination to head out on a little adventure to give yourself space and take a breath, just do it,” he says. “You’ll thank yourself later.”
Other easy outdoor activities on campus, he says, include skating, climbing, watching the sunset at the fields, setting up hammocks, or an extended stroll away from a screen. From there, expand your horizons by heading off campus for outdoor activities, whether it’s seeking out the local rail trail, singletrack network or cross-country skiing center. And you don’t need a car for these forays, either, even to just check quirky attractions in town, local bouldering best bets, new hikes, or swimming hole plunges.
“Little outdoor treasures are scattered around all over,” he says. “All you have to do is uncover them. Go explore; it might not be easy to find outdoor activities at first, but just give it the college try.”