Ah January; when gyms see spikes in memberships, bad habits are put to the side, and lots of plans are made of which very few are done by December. I’m a little cynical about New Years resolutions (if it’s a beneficial change to your life, just start when the epiphany strikes) but there are definitely benefits to sitting down and considering, well, everything. One of the lessons taught by my father was that I needed to think about things from many different angles, and not just keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. And, with working some of the longest hours of my life these past few weeks, I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate on what being outside means to me, and what the plan is for 2019.
Wilderness has always been in a cool breeze in the hot summer that is life. Every camping trip has a way of slowly devolving my mind to the same state it was at age 10 when, standing beneath a small waterfall in the middle-of-nowhere Upstate SC I asked my dad with childhood innocence, “Why do we have to go back home? Why can’t we stay here?”. That’s a common quest though, people looking for their eternal summer free from anxiety and stress. That’s why books like “Into the Wild”, where a teenager eschews civilization to instead try and make it on his own in the wilderness, does more than capture our imagination; it makes some of us try it in reality...hopefully with less of the “starving in a school bus” result.
But some of the anxiety, I think, has to do with the constant stress we put on ourselves by not being happy with our lives as they are, and always convinced that living like a hippy in a van (or a millenial with a paid-for-travel Instagram account) will make us happier than we are now. People are fond of saying that things don’t make you happy, but buy whole heartedly into the idea that a drastic change of lifestyle will. If the mountains of the Blue Ridge aren’t tall enough, move to Colorado where hopefully your spirits will be as high as those 14ers. If lonely emptiness will somehow fill you up, Alaska is only a one-way plane ticket away. All of this is possible if you don’t have responsibilities like a spouse or children, but what happens if you have those?
And now we edge closer to my situation. Torn between the idea that if I leave everything behind and run into the woods I’ll be happier, but I’d have to live with leaving a lot of relationships behind. I’m close to 30, the wife and I are talking about having kids, and our extended family is in a state of flux as to what the next few years hold. There’s no other word to describe my desire to flee to some remote corner of Montana except for “selfishness”, and even if I did I’m not sure I’d really be happier as I think the problem is me. The problem of happiness isn’t external in my case, but an issue of being content with my small adventures and how they’re the exception rather than the norm.
I’ve often wondered what the great explorers of our time: Mike Horn, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, J. Michael Fay, do after crossing the polar caps unsupported, climbing unsummited peaks, or hacking their way through the deepest jungle imaginable? Can they enjoy a weekend camping trip with their kids? Are they annoyed to find other people on hiking trails? Or is it an eternal “chasing the dragon”, always looking for the next epic trip that never really leaves them feeling fulfilled? I understand part of the constant drive of pursuing bigger and better things, I tend to think I have some of those same quirks minus the superhuman drive, but I’m always more impressed by the people who can love a spot so much that they can return to it for ages and always find constant joy visiting. The paddler that has visited so frequently he knows every ripple and hidden rock on their favorite river. The hiker who knows what month produces the best sunsets on their favorite hike.
So for 2019, my goal is to find the small quiet places around me, and visit them often. To make a point of enjoying “the same old same old” more, even if it means spicing it up by going out in bad weather. Except for that 5 day trip I already have booked for a trout fishing trip in Idaho. Other than that, I’m definitely focusing on simple trips. Unless I get a good airfare for Alaska...no. No. I’m definitely spending 2019 on humble, simple adventures.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.