(Map courtesy of Michigan.org)

Props to Rob Messinger for his awesome coverage of global adventure trips in last week's Alive. Those bucket-list trips sound fantastic. But if you're looking for something more affordable and closer to home, continue reading.

Last summer in Chicago, I picked up the fantastic travel section in The Chicago Tribune and stumbled onto a story about Harbor Country, a small beach community on Lake Michigan about 90 minutes from Chicago.

A Midwestern beach community is nothing too special: I grew up about 50 feet from Lake Erie and my adoration for it continues. Except, in Harbor Country, you can surf. You can sail, swim, tan, sandboard and kayak. And you can surf, on waves that build as winds build and push south across the lake for about 300 miles.

[Tribune story] [Harbor Country visitors bureau]

"It's like Chicago's backyard playground," Ryan Gerard, owner of Third Coast Surf Shop in New Buffalo, told the Tribune. "We've got quite a few activities a lot of people don't even know are possible in this area."

Together, the hot spot comprises a collection of nearby communities each offering a range of outdoor activities and plenty of accommodations for those who just want to lay around. It'd take you about five hours to drive there from Columbus.

The story continued:

"Chicagoans who grew up on Michigan and Indiana summers rediscovered the place in the 1980s. Now escapists who live by the 'work hard, play hard' mantra are recognizing the adventure-sports potential. They're bringing weekend-warrior toys and disposable income to the other West Coast."

For anyone who can't afford a trip out West or survive the mid-winter swells on Lake Erie, this is the next best thing. I'm getting my story pitch ready right now.