For very chill hydration.
One thing about me: I’m an outside person. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved backpacking, hiking, kayaking, camping, and basically anything that involves being out in nature. Even during the winter when temps drop and most people head into hibernation mode, I’ve found that continuing to find ways to get outside plays a major role in my mental health—which is why as soon as the excitement of the holidays died down this year, I was itching to take a winter getaway.
It wasn’t long before I was scrolling TikTok (isn’t that where everyone gets their travel inspo?), and found myself entrenched in tiny cabin videos that had me ready to book my own winter wellness weekend where I could truly unplug from the world and tap into nature. (Sorry, TikTok.)
I quickly landed on reserving a stay at Getaway Starved Rock, just outside of Chicago, because it was easy to get to from my home base in Pittsburgh, and it was stationed near popular Illinois state parks and great trails. Balancing adventure and relaxation is important to me while on vacation (my ideal day looks like hitting a trail or scenic view early in the day and spending the afternoon journaling by the fire), and Getaway promised to deliver both. With that in mind, I was headed to my cabin in the woods for some much needed R&R—here’s what happened.
After an easy hour and a half drive from Midway Airport in Chicago, I arrived just before sunset with my dog, Huck, and was eager to get settled and start up the fire pit.
Our first night in the cabin was a dream. Getaway provides everything you could need (and more) to make your arrival smooth. No need to worry about grabbing firewood or s’mores supplies on your way in—it’s all there! After getting Huck connected to the lead provided at our private outdoor space, I opened up our campfire kit to find it fully stocked with bundles of wood and firestarter. Less than 20 minutes after checking in, I had our fire pit roaring and ready for s’mores. We stargazed from an Adirondack chair and enjoyed the fire before heading to bed, knowing that the following day would be a full day of exploring the area.
Like I mentioned, I try to find a balance between relaxation and adventure on any winter getaway, and there’s actually science to back up the idea that just being in nature can seriously contribute to the relaxation portion of that goal. According to an International Journal of Wellbeing review, natural environments are often positively perceived and ultimately can reduce cortisol levels. It’s called the “stress reduction theory,” and stress reduction is pretty much my goal for any vacation—hence my love for nature escapes.
This theory played itself out on my first night in the tiny cabin. Normally the lumpy beds and weird climate controls in hotels make it hard for me to get a good night sleep on a normal vacation. Not so in my Getaway cabin. Something about the ambient sounds of crickets chirping or rain falling lulls me right to sleep, and waking up to a view of the forest from the floor-to-ceiling windows by my bed was a serene experience that worked wonders on my nervous system. Plus, no waking up with cold toes or wet shoes like I would if I were camping in a tent.
The next morning, Huck and I woke up rejuvenated and ready for adventure—and, you guessed it, there are scientific benefits of that, too. Movement alone has a profound impact on our physical health, but a Journal of Global Health study found that 98 percent of people see consistent improvements in mental health and 83 percent in physical health when exposed to natural outdoor environments specifically. So basically, exercising in nature is a recipe for major well-being benefits.
Huck and I cashed in on those benefits by exploring the nearby trails. With the help of a local, we made our way to Buffalo Rock and Starved Rock State Parks for some great views of the river and even some buffalo sightings. Our guide shared stories of how the geography of the area was carved by glaciers and the history of the state parks themselves before we headed into town for coffee and a quick bite to eat.
Once back at the cabin, Huck and I spent the day relaxing and reading in the hammock. We danced in the kitchenette while listening to the radio provided in our space, and I made pasta primavera using the provided cookware, olive oils, and seasoning. I cooked asparagus, mushrooms and shrimp on the adjustable grate over the fire pit for the perfect fire-grilled sear. There is nothing quite like roasted vegetables on the fire, plus Getaway provides foil to make your campfire cooking even easier.
We were fully capitalizing on our slow paced, unplugged itinerary, and as the sun began to set, I knew exactly what would be on the agenda after dinner: a dip in the cabin’s outdoor heated cedar soaking tub. A recent study from Coventry University found that a good soak can reduce cortisol levels by 22 percent (sign me up). So after dinner, I grabbed one of the cozy robes and slipper sets, and made my way into the 104 degree wooden tub for a soak while gazing up at the stars and feeling really grateful for such a perfect winter getaway wellness escape.
Ready to take your own winter Getaway? Book in January and you’ll score up to 30 percent off any stay through March 2024!