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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
When I first started clocking outdoor time in 2017, I knew that to get myself out there doing it regularly and for a full year no matter what, I was going to need a plan. I needed to do more than just schedule it into every day. I needed consistency so I didn’t have to think about what exactly I was going to do every day. Some days I was just going to need the easy button.
And was winter crept in, I knew I was going to need outdoor things to look forward to and involve my family in. Yes, my desire to have my habit was compelling. But I needed to create fun around them. When I entered into logging my habit for literal years, I realized I had an opportunity to create winter and holiday traditions around my outdoor time that would make it fun for the whole family. It would make getting outside around the holidays a group event, not just a me thing. And I really did want this to be a part of my family’s lifestyle, not just a part of my own lifestyle.
Now, five years in, I can confidently say we have outdoor holiday traditions that we all genuinely love and look forward to. And we also add or flex things each year as our family’s needs change. But at the basis of all of them is spending time outside and close to nature as a family, no matter how cold it is. It’s become a treasured part of who we are and what we make important to us.
So, maybe that’s something you want to do too. And with the holiday season fully upon us, now is a great time to establish new outdoor traditions or stretch your current traditions outside the four walls of your home a little.
Now, before I jump in here you’re going to notice a theme: intentionality. That’s because any time you stop and think ahead about something you’re being intentional. So often I find that the longterm success of my outdoor habit goes right back to being intentional. I don’t plan something extravagant for myself every day. That would be insane, and I do try to be NOT insane.
But have you ever noticed that some of the most memorable outdoor experiences you’ve had are outside of your normal routine? They are unique. They probably take a little effort. And they definitely take a decision point where you choose to diverge from your normal pattern and do something different. That’s intentionality.
So here are some of those ideas that work for us.
First, start easy and take a holiday lights walk. Somewhere around you is an outdoor holiday lights display, holiday tree walk, lights at the zoo — something. Why not schedule into your holiday traditions heading out to see it by foot. Sure, you could drive by. But what if you turned into a walk. Bundle up, have a thermos of hot chocolate waiting for you in the car, and make 20 minutes of it. It really doesnt need to be an hours-long event. Around here our small town has lights displays around the downtown area. And the ski club has a holiday tree ski night that we did for the first time last year. We’ll be doing that again this year because it was so much fun.
Another thing you can do is find and an attend an outdoor holiday festival. You may have heard me talk about how much we love our local Hometown Holidays Colony Christmas festival. We go all in, staying out basically from 9 to 5 starting with a community pancake feed, attending a street games event in costume and then attending – and, if I’m lucky because it was so fun, judging — the holiday parade. Now, you don’t have to go crazy like this. But why not do a little googling and see if there’s a fun outdoor holiday event you can duck into near you?
And you can take it another step if you want. Once I realized there were community events around me in December I started looking for as many as I could find so we can attend as many as possible. Community snowshoe race? Count me in. Opening day at the community ski hill? Yes please. Full moon community ski night with the nordic ski club? Absolutely. Winter festival on our military base for Solstice? We’ll be there.
Now, another way is by creating day-specific traditions. You may have heard about the “Opt outside” movement started a few years ago and promoted by outdoor retailer REI, which closed their doors on Black Friday and instead asked people to quote opt outside instead. That was very on-brand for me, so it wasn’t a stretch to a longer outdoor activity on the day after Thanksgiving. And we’ve since turned that into heading out to a public use cabin for a few nights over and around Thanksgiving. But we’ve also added a simple and enjoyable outdoor activity on Christmas, too. After we’re done with our gifts and Christmas morning fun, we bundle up and head out to sled for an hour. It’s an activity everyone in the family loves and can do together. It’s also free.
No matter what you end up doing for the holidays, how you celebrate or what holidays you choose to recognize, I hope you experience the joy of getting outside in the winter with friends, family and even just on your own. You can see photos of how we’re doing that on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram, of course. And share yours too with #humansoutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.