And suddenly, it’s February. We’re a month into the new year, and (ideally) we’re all a month closer to achieving our champagne-fueled, New-Year-New-Me, really-gonna-do-it resolutions. Maybe you vowed to donate your change to cut down your ice cream intake to once a week. But if your resolution was to get back outside—to embrace the great outdoors for longer than the ten minutes it takes to catch your bus—then I can help you out. Here are just a few ways you can work more adventure into your year.
Photo by Drew McGill at Desert Tower Tent Camping, CA
Maybe you just took a big trip for the holidays, or maybe you just started a new job. Maybe the semester is already overwhelming. “There are piles of laundry all over my house,” “I have so much work to get done,” “My cat will miss me too much…” Well, laundry is an eternal problem, you were never going to get that work done this weekend anyway, and your cat can tough it out. There’s never a perfect time to leave, and you can always find excuses to stay. This is why you need to give yourself permission to go outside more. There are a million reasons not to take that weekend camping trip, but there is one big reason to keep your dates with Mother Nature: If not now, when? If you cancel this weekend, what are the chances you’ll cancel next weekend, and the next? Sometimes, you need to force yourself to follow through. Trick yourself into sticking with it by using one of these two strategies:
Use the buddy system – Camping alone can be a revelatory experience, but if you plan an outing with a friend, you’re both less likely to duck out.
Say it out loud – Let your conversations keep you accountable. Set an away message on your email, tell your coworkers about your plans, or give your mom a call and tell her what your trip has in store. (You know what? Call your mother anyway.)
Photo by Lisa Succo at Meadow Campsites, TN
Fast forward to the Day Of. You planned on hopping in your car by 3:00 on Friday so that you could set up camp before sundown. But traffic was slow and you forgot to make trail mix and those socks you wanted to take were still in the dryer, so by the time 4:00 rolled around, bingeing re-runs of Naked and Afraid was a lot more appealing.
Once again, you’re burrowed in your bed when you could be basking in the glow of a campfire. Can you guess how we could have avoided this? You got it—packing ahead. It only takes an hour or so to get ready for a short trip, and you’ll be miles ahead by the time you want to leave. This way, you can head out right away instead of racing around the house throwing random things into a grocery bag. Preparation beats procrastination every time.
Photo by Madison Kotack at Chanslor Ranch, CA
If you’re anything like everybody else, you probably over-pack. Unless you’re the type who casually tosses a headlamp and a Lärabar in your bag and struts out the door, packing light is a lesson we can all learn. Cramming your pack with all sorts of superfluous stuff is a good way to stress out your brain and your back. Try shaving your list down to the essentials, especially if your trip is a short one. Sure, your list of vitals might include two pounds of gummy bears or that arrowhead bolo you’ve had since summer camp, and that’s fine. Start the process by imagining yourself on the trail or at the campground. What are you using? What never left your bag? It won’t take you long to realize that trimming down your stuff is easy—switch the backpack for a fanny pack, or bring one book of short stories instead of five novels. The less you bring with you, the more room you’ll have to relax and enjoy your surroundings.
Time is a non-renewable resource, and it’s one of the main things that keeps us from heading outside. Trade the time you’d spend driving to some faraway destination for more hours on the water, more beers by the fire, and more sleeping in before you head back home. Uncover a new favorite hike you might have overlooked, or rediscover that park you visited when you were a kid. Short trips are especially great if you can’t do an overnight. Reserving a day here and there for smaller adventures will at least let you dip your toes in.
Finally, if you just can’t afford to lose a weekend’s worth of time or money, we get it. If it were up to me, I would only come indoors when I needed a new book. But don’t let work or school get between you and your resolution. Many cities have volunteer programs in place that promote tree restoration or the removal of invasive species. Check with your local Parks Department or search for more volunteer opportunities with the Parks Service… or keep an eye on Hipcamp’s social channels for stewardship opportunities. As little as an hour a month spent cleaning up trails or planting new seeds can make a huge difference in the outdoor spaces we love.
Good luck this year, I can’t wait to see where you go!
P.S. Has this post got you hungry for the outdoors while you’re stuck at your computer? Give a listen to Out There, the podcast that explores life’s bigger questions through stories from the wild.
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