Why RVing is good for your mental health

Stay safe, skip the airport, and experience peace of mind by exploring Northern Ontario's vast landscapes in an RV.

Life in an urban environment is challenging at the best of times. Traffic jams, busy schedules, and juggling the demands of work and home can be exhausting physically and emotionally. Add in a widespread, infectious disease and you have a whole new layer of challenges: keeping 6’ apart from those outside your bubble, constantly keeping track of your mask, even waiting in line just to enter the bank or grocery store. Simple pleasures like decompressing with friends on the weekend have been curtailed. Perhaps the worst part is living with the uncertainty of it all. How bad will the second wave get? When will there be a vaccine? Will we ever go back to normal?

You're in Luck: RVing can heal your soul

2020 was a hard year for all of us. No wonder people have been turning to RVing in droves. As a safe alternative to air travel, Canadians who must travel for work or family obligations have been opting to rent RVs instead of flying. Plus, RV travel is a great way to escape the stressors of urban life in a global pandemic. With your own kitchen and bathroom in tow, there’s no need to use public washrooms, stay in a motel or hotel, or go out to restaurants. You can retreat into nature while bringing the comforts of home–and your own sanitary bubble–with you. When you need a break or need to travel to north for any reason, an RV trip is a covid-friendly option to get you where you're going and a great way to retreat and relax. Escaping the noise and air pollution of the city, you can breathe in the fresh clean air and calm energy of our northern forests. For those new to RV travel, fear not–here are some tips for RV beginners.

Wake up and feel better with views like these from your RV front door.

Spending more time in nature can have a meaningful positive impact on your mental health. Dr. John Eastwood and Dr. James Danckert describe a Japanese practice known as shinrin-yoku, or “forest air bathing” in their 2020 book, Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom. “The practice simply involves spending time in nature to promote health and well-being. Comparing time in the forest with time in an urban setting showed that hostility and depression decreased significantly when people were in the forest,” the authors explain.

Stare at this for 15 minutes and feel better. Or just get outdoors and see it in real life. 

A recent article, Effect of Viewing Real Forest Landscapes on Brain Activity, concurs. Simply viewing a forest setting for 15 minutes resulted in measurable increases in physiological relaxation compared to viewing urban settings. (Song, Ikei, Kagawa, Miyazaki, Special issue of Sustainable Nature Therapy, Aug 2020). The authors note that previous studies show that forest therapy is connected with improved immune function, particularly useful during a global pandemic. Even a brief walk in a forest has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone, resulting in lower stress levels.

Northern Ontario boreal forests are right outside your window when you drive up north. 

Northern Ontario forests are among the most beautiful in Canada. Whatever the season, the restorative effect of being in the woods is palpable. In the springtime, the return of songbirds setting up their nests to raise their young breathes new life into the forest. In summer, the full leaf cover under towering trees provides welcome relief from the heat while the sunshine powers the photosynthetic processes that pump rejuvenating oxygen into the atmosphere. Autumn brings the magnificent red, yellow and orange foliage that will take your breath away with its stunning beauty. But, especially in the north, winter may be the prettiest season, with untouched, sparkling white snow beckoning you to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, while winter resident blue jays, cardinals and black-capped chickadees keep you company.

Heal your soul with these RV outings

Many hidden gems are waiting to be discovered when heading north in your RV and there are many routes to choose from, like the fur trading route or this 10-day provincial park route. Located off Hwy 64 between Sudbury and North Bay, Mashkinonje Provincial Park is a 2000 hectare day-use park open year round on the west arm of Lake Nipissing. With 30 km of trails and multiple access points with parking, you can choose your own adventure. The easy 2.9km Loudon Peatland Trail has a marsh boardwalk and visits a lookout tower with expansive views across the wetlands to a distant heron rookery. On a recent hike on the Samoset Trail, we spotted two young black bears in a tree! With no sign of mamma, we decided that was a good point to turn around!

Bear cubs spotted on the Samoset Trail

This summer, I enjoyed several trips exploring Grundy Lake Provincial Park. Don’t let the name fool you: this park is a true gem with gorgeous pink granite trails and the warm, swimmable waters of multiple lakes. With hundreds of RV sites, even if the campground is booked, there are usually multiple cancellations every day, making it possible to snag a last minute site. Hiking, and canoeing or kayaking, beckon in this RVer paradise! Swan Lake Trail is another beautiful and easy hike 1.5 km with a boardwalk over a small lake, while the 2.5 km Gut Lake Trail skirts the lake edge while meandering over the lichen-covered Canadian shield.

Get out of the RV and into a kayak. It's easy when you're camped out up north. 

Possibly the best medicine for mental health is an afternoon of pure fun cliff jumping into Grundy Lake. With a gradual increase in cliff heights, there are jumps suitable for all ages: jumps just a foot high are easy even for little ones, while cliffs of 30 – 40 feet in height will challenge your most fearless teenagers (or teenager at heart) with lots of options in between. After all that exercise, you should definitely treat your family to some ice cream at Grundy Lake Supply Post across from the park entrance and while there, pick up some local smoked fish for dinner.

All these adventures and more are within easy reach on your next RV trip to Northern Ontario. With international travel off the table for the foreseeable future, why not start planning your next RV trip today? Whether you are paddling a canoe along a peaceful river or hiking among the trembling aspens and towering white pines, your stress will melt away as you immerse yourself in the natural world.

Resources for RV rentals

Looking to rent an RV in Ontario? Here are some places to check out: 

About Margot Bai

Margot Bai travels North America in her RV. Based in the Greater Toronto Area, she has camped in all seasons and has RV’d across Canada to Vancouver, BC, to Key West Florida, and Mexico. Margot is a published author.

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