When pleasure, entertainment, nature, fitness and culture combine to form a trip that leaves you feeling refreshed and inspired...it’s magic.
Yesterday I returned from a long weekend in southeast Michigan. My husband and I visited my cousin and her fiancé. With loose plans, we didn’t really know what to expect but I became super excited when they proposed water sports and ethnic food.
When I travel I like to eat like a local...
The next day began at Walled Lake. I expected stand up paddleboarding (aka SUP) to remind me of kayaking but make me feel much more wobbly and unstable. I figured I’d spend our entire rental hour clumsily trying to turn my paddleboard around or climb back onto it after going for an unplanned swim. It turns out SUP has a pretty short learning curve. Before I knew it, my cousin and I were proclaiming ourselves paddleboard “pros” and sailing smoothly along the lake. The whole thing was so easygoing that I was able to take in the scenery along the shoreline or close my eyes to lift my face up to the sun. As we paddled along, the men kayaked, local children splashed and pontoon parties popped up. Meanwhile, I didn’t even realize the workout that my abs, legs and shoulders were getting.
That night we were taken to Polish Village Cafe, located in Hamtramck, which was a predominantly Polish community for many years, according to the University of Michigan website. I’ll be honest: The menu was pretty much 100% meat, potatoes, cheese and fried foods (not the type of stuff I make a habit of eating) but I was delighted to be there experiencing more of Michigan’s history and culture first-hand. (The same website states: According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Michigan is home to the third largest Polish population after New York and Illinois.) I was still sticking to vegetarian choices so my dinner that night consisted of potatoes three different ways but I could not have had more fun that evening. We were dining among the locals and drinking Polish beer under the twinkling lights of this little pub-like spot that immediately transported me to another time and place.
Thanks to my cousin and future cousin-in-law, who took the time to plan meaningful experiences for us, my husband and I had a blast in Michigan, on a weekend filled with culture, exercise, nature and learning. My favorite kind of trip.
Don’t get me wrong: There was plenty of sitting around laughing, playing games and watching the fire pit burn. The point is that in life we talk about striving for “balance” but when we go on vacation, many of us tend to throw away this idea. We think of finding balance as hard work and worry that we can’t relax if we bring balance with us on vacation. I’m challenging that idea. Not only that, but I think balance is the key to getting the most out of travel.
Take advantage of all that your destination has to offer. Use bike paths, hiking parks, oceans and lakes to meet locals, see the cityscape from a unique vantage point and immerse yourself in nature all while burning off that cocktail or dessert you enjoyed the night before and building energy & endurance for the rest of your sightseeing. Get creative and eat like a local to enjoy the culture of the area while staying within whatever dietary boundaries you might have.
In a few days I take off for local, seasonal food, bike riding & SUP Yoga in Seattle. I’m sure I’ll have some indulgences too so this week I’m focusing on getting plenty of sleep, getting back to my regular workout schedule, and eating lots of great produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans & peas. Balance.
Do you accept my challenge?
Southeastern Michigan Checklist:
- Al-Ameer Restaurant. Dearborn, MI. Savor delicious middle eastern food.
- Henry Ford Museum. Dearborn, MI. Feel like a kid again among a collection of historic planes, trains and automobiles.
- Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, MI. Take in art from every era and corner of the world.
- Eastern Market. Detroit, MI. Stock up on fresh, local produce at unbeatable prices, browse antiques, buy from local artisans.
- Urban Grounds (at Eastern Market). Detroit, MI. Head to the truck to grab a cup of coffee to walk around the market with, then purchase beans or grounds from their stand to take home!
- That’s wasSUP! Walled Lake & White Lake, MI. Get a lesson in SUP (stand up paddleboarding) or just rent a paddleboard by the hour.
- Polish Village Café. Hamtramck, MI. Leave room in your tummy for traditional polish food in a homey setting.