Dispatch, Baja: Breathtaking views and heavy breathing

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Less than one-third of the way into the "difficult" hiking excursion, I was beginning to question my sign-up decision as sweat started pooling above my brows and my breathing was becoming embarrassingly audible.

But, I reminded myself, this is exactly the invigorating experience passengers want when they book one of Lindblad Expeditions' new wellness-oriented itineraries, which emerged from a partnership that was forged last year with lifestyle and fitness brand Exhale.

Passengers on the National Geographic Sea Bird take on a challenging five-mile, 600-foot uphill climb on Isla Partida in the Sea of Cortez.

Michelle in Baja

By the end of day one, I had completed a sunrise barre-yoga class, a 5-mile hike to a coastal lookout that mostly consisted of climbing over rocks and boulders, some standup paddle boarding and another yoga class at sunset. That's about as much physical activity as I achieve during a very ambitious week at home.

I felt tired, but in that awesome, feeling-very-accomplished-and-healthy way (you know, the polar opposite of the I'm-a-lazy-slug fatigue that you feel when yawning after a long day of sitting at your desk). The nutritious food, from post-yoga smoothies to veggie-rich entrees, helped further boost the fitness euphoria.

Sailing along the eastern coast of Baja California Sur, visiting small islands in the Sea of Cortez, the views are stunning. Between the scenery and the sea life, there is a lot to take in. So, is all the added physical activity necessary to enhancing such an itinerary?

I think the answer is yes.

At right, the writer poses at the summit of the Isla Partida hike.

Even if it's challenging, getting outside and moving, pushing ourselves in ways we don't always do every day, has become not just an attractive component of the travel experience but almost a necessary one. Because it's a way to feel even better about the overall experience -- not only did I see amazing things, I feel great, too!

Chelsea Kruse of Exhale in Los Angeles, leads a sunrise yoga class on the deck of the Sea Bird.

I think a growing number of travelers are finding that wholesome sense of improved well-being to be a much more appealing take-home than feeling like you overindulged during your whole trip and need to go on a post-vacation diet and detox.

Though, full confessional time, I couldn't resist the delicious cookies that were served after meals, one of the few guilty pleasures on the ship. But giving yourself a little leeway while traveling is part of the fun, too. Especially if you earned it with an arduous hike. And lots of yoga.

TW photos by Michelle Baran

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