Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
When I first started my outdoor habit it was because I needed a way to push myself outside consistently, no matter what, even if I didn’t want to go, even if I didn’t feel like I had time, even if the weather was bad or I wasn’t in the mood or would rather be binging Downton Abbey yet again.
Since then I’ve done more than 2,000 days outside in a row. I certainly don’t remember every day. Like you with anything you do regularly, including heading outside, I am more likely to remember the things that are unusual over those days, the things that were extra hard and the things that were extra fun. I wish I could remember every single trip outside. But I don’t.
Not remembering this stuff is why I take a photo a day and post it on Instagram. Back when I started all of this I wanted a way to log what I did each day. I knew I’d never get around to that kind of journaling. As for those helping me remember now, I know if I printed them off or scrolled through, it might do the trick. But I still wouldn’t remember every instance, especially when it came to days that were very similar to others before them.
And 2,000 days is a lot of days. Some of them are going to be similar. And that’s OK.
One of the things that helps make some days stand out more than others is outdoor experiences that remind me of why I love, LOVE having this habit and just can’t imagine my life without it. As you take on this challenge or keep your own habit, I hope you find things you love about yours the way I love these about mine. And in case hearing what mine are will help you explore your own personal spin on these benefits, I want to share them.
First, my habit gave me the gift of so many hobbies that have become my absolute favorite things. And they are all things I never would’ve done had I not started this adventure. Before my habit I did not run ultra marathons. I did not cross country ski. I did not downhill ski. I did not snowboard. I did not backpack. I did not camp in any place that wasn’t a designated campground. I did not run down mountains. I did not regularly visit glaciers. I did not podcast. And I did not talk to you. I did not know what the midnight sun looks like when it hits the high alpine just so. I did not understand the power of the purple fireweed or other wildflowers dancing across the mountain fields. I did not know that the low light of winter made the snow sparkle on the trees and ground. I didnt know the release that comes as you walk through woods after a long day, the heavy sigh releasing all of the tension into the wild where it just — poof — vanishes.
Experiencing these hasn’t just changed my life. No, that makes it sound like a one- time thing. Instead, thanks to still heading out daily, it’s a continuous process where it pushed me incrementally, then I grow into that challenge, and then it pushes me again. Every time I think I have found the end of good things, I find more.
And all of these new experiences and favorite things that I love so much are only made better by the next thing I love about my habit — the way it constantly introduces new friends. Now, you should know that I am an introvert. I saw a meme awhile back that illustrated how introverts make friends: 10% they don’t, 90% an extrovert finds them, likes them and adopts them. That sounds right to me.
But an introvert who is outside all the time? Well I have two ways of making friends: I get adopted by extroverts, and I fall in with other people who also outside doing the same things I doing at the same time. And then we do them together. And before I know – bam! Friends. This has happened so many times now that it is impossible for it not to be a favorite thing about heading outside.
And in case you’re rolling your eyes because you know I’m a runner so you think all of my outside friends are running friends — wrong! My friends come in all sports and activity styles. I have XC ski friends, alpine ski friends, friends who hike, friends who I only see at community festivals, friends who camp, friends who mostly just run by me and friends who I find at summer concerts on the ale House lawn. All of these people matter — and some of you listening are among them, you know who you are — and they make my outdoor time even better. They are a favorite thing.
But I think my most favorite thing about my habit is the thing that prompted me to make this the subject of my diary episode this week. And I hadn’t really thought about just how much this part of my habit means to me, just how important the push and pull of this facet is. And it’s this: I LOVE that my habit means I go outside even when I really don’t want to.
Unlike my other two favorite things which are really the byproducts of the habit, this favorite is the habit itself, in a way. Because going outside every day means every day, even when I’d rather not. It’s why I bothered to start this outdoor streak to start with. I knew that without it I would find reasons to not go out daily. And many of them would boil down to a simple root problem: I anticipated going out would be uncomfortable or otherwise inconvenient in some way. And, therefore, I’d rather skip it thank you very much.
There’s a saying among runners: the only run you regret is the one you didn’t take. We joke that there are a million runs we regret – but really it’s facets of what happened there that we didn’t like – it was hot, there was a toilet emergency , it was cold, it was cold, it was late, it was early or whatever. But never in my experience have I been sorry that I went on a run.
And the same, it turns out, is true with heading outside. Why do I know that? Because of my habit of course! It was thanks to my habit, for example, that this week on a very unpleasant snow day – not a gentle, lovely snow but that kind that blows in sideways cold and biting – I leaned into the force of my habit and went outside anyway. I didn’t want to. I WANTED to stay inside working on whatever project was more convenient than bundling up and finding a way to stay warm outside — in this case by shoveling my driveway. But I went anyway, of course, because day 2,005 of my outdoor habit was not going to be the last one of my streak just because of some unpleasant snow and my bad attitude.
And of course the day before this bad attitude moment had been a perfect outdoor day where I woke up to the northern lights, then ran and skiied in spring-like, albeit very cold, sunshine. And the day after included skiing in falling snow but no wind. And while I was composing this episode? I was sitting in front of a wood stove in a public use cabin watching the sun set out the window and waiting for the stars to come out so I could go on a cold, brilliant ski by moonlight.
It’s the habit that got me out here. And it’s keeping it that keeps me going no matter what. And that’s my favorite part.
You can see photos of my outdoor adventures, yes including the bad attitude shoveling, all manner of skiing and some of our cabin adventure, on Humans Outside on Facebook and instagram. And I want to see your outdoor time too, of course. Share it with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.