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Would you believe me if I told you I wasn’t always someone who likes to go outside? Would you believe me if I said I was categorically not an outdoor person?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got to this place of being nature-minded — about how it was I went from an indoor person to an outdoor person. Ive been thinking about the stories I tell myself about myself, about the stories you tell yourself about you and about how they make a difference in how we act. And Ive been thinking about all of the ways spending concentrated, intentional time outside has dramatically changed my life and relationships, especially my relationship with my husband, Luke, someone who I love and appreciate in a way that is so much deeper than it was before heading into nature was a central part of who we are. And I know that’s cheesy — and I’m not even sorry.
I can’t talk about all of these things in just one diary episode, so Im going to spread it out a little. And first I think, before anything else, I have to talk about who I used to be.
I used to be an inside person. I still sometimes think of myself that way, although I think we could all agree that I’m not really. Even saying THAT makes me a little uncomfortable. Am I not? Because I DO really like my couch and my Netflix. But I guess that’s not what makes you an inside person, is it?
I did not grow up spending tons of time outside. I grew up wandering the beach as a playground, but my family never went into nature on purpose. If anything we avoided it — it was a lot of work, really, to take my large family outside. And then there was dirt. And then there was cleaning up. And that just didnt seem that worth it, so we didnt really DO nature stuff.
And since you become an adult holding onto the things that brought you up, I headed out into the world clinging to all of those creature comforts.
And then I married Luke. I agreed to go camping with him, but the poor guy wasnt exactly set up for success. He had us sleep in his one man tent — and I do not recommend that if you’re trying to woo your wife into a love of the outdoors — and it was a hot night and there were soooo many flies .. oh and I had just found out I was pregnant with our first son and, whew, that was a lot of emotion.
I basically swore off camping after that — or really anything that wasnt a lot of outside. Fast forward about six years, and we rented kayaks from the on-base outdoor shop which, now that I’m thinking about it was my idea, and took them floating down a local river. Luke enjoyed this so much that he bought himself one and then, later, a second one so that we could both go, even though kayaking wasnt really my thing. And all of the sudden the door opened to showing us the kind of release brought by spending time outside.
Next thing you know, the whole family is going camping — complete with everything we’ve ever owned, or that’s how it felt. Lord, we took a lot of stuff with us. And why did I agree to do this? Because Luke really wanted to take the boys camping, and a very wise mentor told me that if I didnt agree to go with them, they would go without me. That sounded bad. So i agreed to go camping IF we went to a place with flushing toilets. And IF I could sleep on a cot.
The man knew an in when he saw one, so off we went. And wouldnt you know it, but it didnt take long for me to realize that the campsites without running water were quieter and more fun for us and that we were all in better moods when we came home from camping or when we were at the campground than we were when we were at home. And you know what happens when you do something and it makes you feel better? You crave it.
So obviously we went more — as often as possible, really. It was an hour door-to-door from our house to our favorite backcountry camp spot in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. And the release it gave us was marvelous.
It took awhile, but we realized that what we really wanted was nature all the time — and not when the Army, which literally gave Luke his marching orders, said we could take the time to have it. We wanted it to be a daily part of, well, everything. That meant making a big life change, so Luke got out of the Army, and since I have a flair for the dramatic, we thought hey, why not make the big life change REALLY BIG?
And so we moved to Alaska. You’ve heard this part of the story before –we’d never been here, but we hoped it would be what we needed. And it was. And through this move and the lessons I learned here I shifted my life to be less about priorities inside and more about spending time outside, finding new hobbies, expanding how I thought about myself and changing what we did with our time.
That brings me back to this. When I started Humans Outside, would you believe I used a tagline that went something like “indoor people in an outdoor world.” I simply did not consider myself outdoorsy, and I still struggle to see myself as an outdoors person, maybe because when I picture someone outdoorsy, I do not picture me. I think of myself now as someone who is working to be outdoorsy.
But it’s up to me if I let that guide my decisions. If I think of myself as more than just someone who is trying to become outdoorsy instead of someone who IS outdoorsy, I am more likely to make decisions that are less bold or less outdoor centric. If I AM outdoorsy, maybe choosing a camping trip over an evening at home is the obvious outcome. If I am WORKING to be outdoorsy, maybe it’s harder to make that decision. I also tell myself how much I hate, hate flies. But if, instead, I tell myself that while they arent my favorite I dont HATE them, how would my willingness to deal with them change?
Understanding the stories I tell myself about me is the first step to changing them. Im not going to say Im totally there yet, but Im growing in my awareness. I invite you to join me in thinking about this — what stories about how you approach nature do you tell yourself? Stop and think about it a little, and take the time to confront those that arent the stories you to be living.
You can catch the things I’m doing outside on my Instagram feed and Facebook at HumansOutside. I’m going to warn you — right now that involves a lot of running as I prepare for this extremely tough run I’m doing in the end of July. Save my from all these running photos by sharing your outside time with me by tagging them with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.