Our Favourite – and Free – Ways to Get Outside This Summer

Stuck in a summer rut? From eco activities to new running routes and urban foraging, this is our guide to mixing it up without opening your wallet.

Human beings are creatures of habit. Which is weird, because studies show those of us who seek out new experiences live healthier and happier lives.

Wherever you’re based, summer is undoubtedly the best time to take advantage of new opportunities, especially those that get you outside and into nature. Whether it’s trying something brand new or reconnecting with an old hobby, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of pushing yourself to do more, especially when it comes with a side-serving of vitamin D.

With that in mind, we hope this list serves to spark your own summer adventures. Whether you like jogging, swimming or helping the planet, there’s something for you.

Run a new trail

Let’s start with the obvious. Running is great. Being in nature is great. Combine the two and you’re on to a winner. The problem is, it can end up a bit samey. We aren’t suggesting you sack off your go-to five-mile loop in favour of New Zealand’s Waitomo Trail Run or Jersey’s Round The Rock, but by joining a local or national group you can tap into a shared resource and a world of new ideas – many of them on your doorstep.

Get involved: In the UK, the Trail Running Association can help you burn through a pair of running shoes in no time. On the other side of the Atlantic (or even further afield), the Trail Run Project has logged more than 250,000 miles of trails on its helpful map, covering everywhere from California to South Korea.

Clean up a beach

The word ‘plogging’ comes from the Swedish verbs ‘plocka upp’ (pick up) and ‘jogga’ (jog) and sounds like something weird your parents did in the 80s. Don’t get us wrong: litter-picking is awesome for you and the planet. In fact, according to Surfers Against Sewage, 5,000 items of plastic pollution are found per mile in the UK. So, terminology aside, if you have a spare hour, day or week, helping clean up our beaches is actually a great use of your time.

Get involved: There are organisations you can join across the globe, from The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in Vancouver, to The Beach Co-op in South Africa.

Go urban foraging

Picking nettles from the side of the autobahn might not be the most productive use of your time. But searching for edible wild flowers and berries in your local park? That sounds like a great day out. We’ve covered the health benefits of spending time in nature, but a recent study suggests foraging can be a "powerful tool" too. The key, of course, is to do it safely.

Get involved: From collecting cloudberries in Lapland to mushrooms in the Black Forest, this is a great beginner’s resource. (Of course, we should caveat that it’s not wise to eat anything unless you’re 100 percent sure it’s edible, especially mushrooms. If in doubt, seek out an experienced guide to help you).

Start a photography club

These days, smartphone cameras are so good that everyone can be a photographer. Now, the world certainly doesn’t need another picture of your avocado toast, or showing off what you wore today. Instead of aiming to become an influencer, why not take some time to study how to take pictures that are actually good? You could even set weekly photography goals with friends. Maybe it’s the best nature shot of the week. Maybe you combine it with urban exploring. Whatever it is, please – no more pictures of sunsets.

Get involved: There are plenty of free online guides covering everything from adventure sport to fashion shoots. Peter McKinnon's page is a great place to start.

Swim a local waterway

Whether it’s a local river, lake or massive puddle, most of us have walked past something near our homes and wondered: could we swim it? The answer is probably yes. But doing so safely is key. Luckily, there are loads of clubs just waiting to welcome you as a member.

Get involved: WildSwim.ie is a great resource for the aquatically-minded in Ireland, while Norway’s Outdoor Swimming Society offers some icier options.

Plant a tree

According to researchers from Harvard, spending time around trees is a panacea for stress. Not to mention, they help capture carbon from the atmosphere, help balance out our ecosystems and provide homes for all sorts of life. With the global rate of deforestation estimated at 10 million hectares per year between 2015 and 2020, it’s vital we help get new trees in the ground.

Get involved: In the US, One Tree Planted is looking for volunteers, fundraisers and tree-enthusiasts of every type.

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