We hunter-gatherers evolved in vast open Savannah, but somewhere along the way we’ve lost the link.
Years of glaring lights and gadgets have re-framed our relationship with nature, creasing a chasm between ourselves and the world around us.
But this dislocation from the Great Outdoors isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Neurological research shows that when we wander through greenery, our brains subtly shift. We become less hyper, more calm and more alert to our surroundings.
This effect is so potent that even a short time in peaceful scenery is enough to quieten our minds, pause negative brooding and improve emotional wellbeing.
In other words, we’ve changed an awful lot since we first roamed free in search of food, but our intrinsic lure to the landscape still stands.
No better time then, to lose your laptop and unplug your phone, as you join us on a wilderness escape:
Canoeing Diable River, Quebec
Nothing cures the hangover of modern life quite like a day in Mont-Tremblant National Park. Diable River snakes its way through the heart of this vast wonderland in countryside Quebec, flowing gently between wild flower meadows and silver maple forest.
Canoeing is a quintessentially Canadian activity: French-Canadian “voyageurs” used canoes to navigate the landscape in the 18th Century, and far before that, Canada’s indigenous population did the same (often using birchbark vessels).
As you paddle down the river in an unspoiled wilderness – keeping an eye out for native fauna such as white-tailed deer – it’s not hard to imagine yourself in a bygone age. Soak in the cool alpine air, light years from your overflowing inbox, and let the greenery work its magic on your overloaded soul.
Hike the Jostedalsbreen glacier, Norway
Have your ice picks and crampons handy to hike the largest glacier in mainland Europe. The mighty Jostedalsbreen in southern Norway lets you step back several millennia into a jaw-dropping canvas of icy crevasses and jagged peaks.
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Stroll through lush green valleys in the surrounding national park before tackling hidden tunnels and ice caves dotted around the glacier.
This awesome glacier trek is not for the fainthearted but the first Flashpackers to try it in a trip this year were seriously impressed. Throw your worries to the wind as you immerse yourself in the rugged snowscape, before pausing for a picnic in the nearby fjords.
Camp between the treetops, Cornwall
If you haven’t heard of tree tents yet, you simply haven’t lived. OK, we jest … but this pioneering camping concept is a game-changer, letting you get up close and personal with the teeming woodland canopy.
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On our Cornish mini-adventure, you can tap into your inner Bear Grylls by swinging between the treetops in these unique tents, suspended artfully above waterfalls, grassy plains and hidden thickets.
Nod off beneath the stars in the Cornish nightscape, with the sound of rustling trees all around, before rousing from your slumbers to the tune of morning birdsong.
This coastal campsite is completely off-grid, so you’ll have every excuse to turn your phone off and dive headfirst into the ultimate rendezvous with Mother Nature.
Wild swim in the waterfalls, Laos
If a maze of sun-dappled pools is your thing, look no further than the spectacular Kuang Si waterfalls near Luang Prabang in Laos. This breathtaking three-tier cascade cuts through the jungle landscape, plunging down into a series of natural lagoons.
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An afternoon here requires you to tap into your inner mermaid, as you soak off the chaotic pace of city life in tranquil nooks that nestle between gushing rapids.
With turquoise water bouncing off limestone rocks and the sun dancing through tropical foliage, this is a wild swimmer’s paradise that’ll make your very soul sing. Deadlines, demands, direct messaging: let ’em all wash away as you bask in one impossibly pretty emerald grotto after another.
Climb Mount Toubkal, Morocco
Once hailed as “the most fabulous mountain in all of Africa”, Morocco’s Jebel Toubkal looms like a noble centaur in the clouds at 4,167 metres. The route to the summit is a fair old slog but it’s not on par with our Everest foray: so, it’s perfect if you fancy a few days’ chilled hiking in the Atlas foothills.
Leave modern life far behind, as we follow ancient mule trails that weave their way across the hazy Ait Mizane valley, passing through a tucked-away world of sleepy Berber villages and sun-dappled cliff paths.
This is a land of waterfalls, juniper forest and sacred Muslim shrines, along with lush green basins and shimmering floodplains. You can really take your time dialling down to a more relaxed pace of life before we take a dawn scramble over rocky screes to the “roof of North Africa”, with euphoric views that stretch from the Sahara to Morocco’s Atlantic coast.
Tubing Palomino River, Colombia
There are few finer sensations in life than that of floating aimlessly down a river in the depths of the Colombian jungle.
Tubing – if you’ve never tried it before – is the most brilliant of past-times, all the more so because it’s just so simple. Grab a tube and let the gentle current carry you downstream on Palomino River, framed by the untamed bush of Colombia’s Tayrona region.
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Beer in hand, it’s deliciously easy to drift for hours, with a front-row seat to the Jurassic Park-style scenery all around. From thick mangrove swamps to cacao trees and colourful crops of orchids, there’s so much to see here. Plus, it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife such as red howler monkeys, lizards and capybara.
Let your frazzled thoughts unspool as you glide down a river wild, the sun bouncing off the water through a thick canvas of trees.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock