I’m a bit late to the party on this post, considering it’s halfway through March 2017, but hey, better late than never, right? Some of my favorite things to share on this blog are lessons that I’ve gathered firsthand, mostly the hard way. So without further ado (I know you were waiting breathlessly), here are my Lessons in Wandering from 2016. You can check out my 2015 lessons here.
Bring a (Note)Book
As a writer, I usually bring a notebook with me everywhere, and my woodland adventures are no different. Finding a small, packable notebook and a good pen can take you miles in chronicling your adventures. Memories of tiny details like the way the morning dew enveloped our tent as a net of mosquitoes sprayed across the rippling water or the faces we made as we chased a curious family of mountain goats away from our campsite are more vivid when written down. I also always have a paperback book on hand because it’s my favorite thing to do beside an alpine lake.
As a Floridian by birth, basking in the sweltering sun’s rays was a statewide pastime. In my older age, as lines and wrinkles carved their way in my face, careening like my favorite mountain traverses across my forehead, I decided to begin defending the integrity of my skin (sunscreen superhero!). The main catalyst for this change was a terrible sunburn incurred in one of my favorite mountain settings when we impulsively dedicated to hike 12 miles to the Maroon Bells because the road was closed. We also did not expect the paved path to be covered in snow nor the sun to come shining through the clouds. The hike took far longer than expected and we were unprepared, to say the least. After five hours in the sun at high altitude, my face was so sunburned I was peeling sheets of dead skin from my face for days.
True story: it sucked. Now I make sure all of my makeup and moisturizers have no less than 30 SPF. My favorite product for moisturizer is Protecting Hydrator Broad Spectrum SPF 30 by PCA, which is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for daily use.(Not a sponsored claim, I just really love the stuff!)
Farewell Dear [Wine] Bottle
I’ve curbed my alcohol consumption greatly in the past year. I’m finally able to decide the difference between “one last drink” and “I’m not getting out of bed tomorrow”. You quickly find how much better you feel, earlier you can wake and friendlier you become when your brain and neuroreceptors aren’t muddied by alcohol. Do I still take a soft flask of wine in my pack for hiking adventures? Definitely. But that flask gives me two glasses of wine in two days, rather than six glasses in one night. And hell, I always cap off a nice long hike with some hard-earned libations with friends, but I make sure to be in bed early for my next day’s adventure. I’ve set my priorities and sadly, that bottle of wine or pint of whiskey doesn’t seem to fit in there (all the time). Sorry, it’s not me, it’s you.
Test Your Body
A few years ago, I never thought I would be taking park laps through the mountain or hiking 3-4 day treks with all my crap strapped to my person like a hunchback homeless woman. I’d only seen snow a few times and grew up in a place where hiking was about as comfortable as a full-frontal lobotomy. I was terrified of hurting myself on a snowboard and unsure I could make it on long hike. But I was determined to make these things happen, even if that meant cuts, bruises, sore muscles or worse, injuries. I’ve had my fair share of injuries over those years, and I did some stupid things, but I feel stronger than ever, both mentally and physically. By retraining your brain on fear, you’ll be surprised what your body can accomplish.
Work out Like You’re Training
Last year taught me that lazy pseudo-exercising isn’t going to take me to the next level in the sports, hobbies and activities I love. I began working out like I was constantly training for something. To land this jump on my board, to be able to hike this far without discomfort, to be able to climb higher, go further, see more. The older I get, the more I have those pesky pains and aches in the morning, so I make sure to take my vitamins coupled with movement. My workouts tend to be 30-45 mins in length and packed with intervals and body weight exercises, plus yoga and PT-inspired stretching to keep my joints protected. Bend so ya don’t break.
It’s Worth the Drive
We did a TON of driving in 2016. We traveled thousands of miles just to spend the night in a gleaming white gypsum desert and climbed 8 hours through winding mountain highways to backpack in a breathtaking national park. My favorite hike is about 6 hours away from where I live. And on my birthday, we drove there on a Saturday and left the next Sunday. I never think “this drive isn’t worth it” once I step foot into this surreal settings. My partner and I have gotten accustomed to long drives and learned the keys to making a long drive seem short are: movies on the computer, a great road trip playlist, stand-up comedy playlists, road trip snacks and planned (and unplanned) pit stops. Because who knew a pistachio farm could be fun?
Wake Up Early
Climbing out of bed on a weekend morning at 6 am is usually the last thing I want to do. But I do it. And here’s why.
Embrace the Ordinary
I’m the type of person who can’t sleep past 7 am most days. I feel trapped like a caged animal when I can’t be out roaming, and oftentimes this makes me a bit irritable to be around. This past year–and lessons in patience from my partner–has taught me that not every moment needs to be some grand adventure. I’ve slowly come to appreciate the small, mundane tasks associated with a quiet morning in my living room, a leisurely drive against sprawling farmland or making breakfast and not eating it in the car. These moments are beautiful in the way a grey, hazy morning unexpectedly shakes you down and makes you feel something.
Sacrifice Weekend Getaways for Dream Trips
2016 was a year of weekend adventures. As full-time corporate drones, we each have to strategically place vacation days for our getaways. Soon, we’re completely out of PTO…and funds for the big trip we wanted to take in summer 2017. It was a sharp pain to the side, but one I needed to take gracefully. This year, we’ve begun saving money, selling “stuff” and being better about frivolous spending of both money and our precious days off. I’m slowly learning that every long weekend doesn’t need to be a faraway adventure.
What did you learn this year?