In her new book, "The Urban Bestiary," Lyanda Lynn Haupt explains that most people's relationship with nature has gone from that of being a romantic wanderer (think John Muir or Henry David Thoreau) to that of being "present, involved, touched and touching, in a journey of reconnection between daily life and wilder earth." While we still yearn for the days when nature was truly untouched and to walk within it was completely different than our everyday lives, that has changed quite a bit, as anyone who as visited Yosemite Valley or Yellowstone in the high season can tell you. My home in Marin County feels more relaxing (especially when no ones using a chain saw or a leaf blower).
The palpable sense and evidentiary proof that we are losing species and places due to our own actions makes every interaction with nature seem that much more important. We can no longer take wild places for granted. One way to make that trip into the wilderness that much more meaningful to you and your family and restorative to the Earth, is to plan a service activity that can be done as part of the trip. The local ranger station or a "Friends of" group can point you in the right direction. Choose lodgings where the proprietors are involved in taking care of the place that is sustaining them.
So the next time you consider going into the woods or to the seashore, consider planning for that quiet time that fuels your creative spirit, the fun with family and friends that creates a life well lived, and don't forget that restorative action on behalf of the wilds that will soothe your soul.