One thousand days.
That’s how many days in a row I will have spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day as of May 27, 2020. One thousand days.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t say that I’ve had a 1,000 day streak of something before, certainty not 1,000 days in a row of doing something intentional.
When I set out to spend at least those 20 minutes outside every day, it was to for just a year. 20 minutes might not seem like a lot of time, but I picked it because I knew that, in addition to being an amount of time that actually brings benefits for going outside, it was something I could reasonably do. There’s no point in creating a resolution or challenge that you simply won’t do. That’s a great way to make a resolution or plan that you can’t stick to.
So I picked 20 minutes.
My why was pretty simple. I wanted to see how spending a set amount of time outside every day would change me and those around me. Would it make me a better person? Happier? Healthier? Would I be glad I did it?
Outside of the lessons it might bring me, the 1,000 days have been a matter of, well, logistics. How do you fit into your daily life an at least 20 minute a day habit outdoors, when your daily life is centered around an indoors job in a place that doesn’t have fantastic weather year round?
For the majority of the 33 or so months I’ve been doing this I have spent far more than 20 minutes outside each day. For the most part, its not that hard. Fitting it in has become second nature. But there’s two times where squeezing out 20 minutes can still be a challenge.
The first is in the winter months here in Alaska, when the wind is howling and the temperatures are below zero, are when the 20 minutes is actually a challenge. Given the option between your warm hours and -15, why wouldnt you stay inside?
The second is when I’m traveling for work, particularly on the travel days themselves when Im heading out of state, and even more so on travel days in the winter months when the days are shorter. I have spent many sets of 20 minutes walking city streets in the dark after a long day of travel as the last thing I have to do before I can finally eat some food and go to bed. I’ll tell you — outside time in the dark in a city isn’t that great. It’s still better, however, than no outside time at all.
And there have been golden moments there. One time I arrived at my final destination in California, and spent more than 20 minutes sitting in the dark on the beach, listening to the waves.
I have some least favorite sets of outdoor time — 20 minutes pacing under a bus stop shelter off a highway in Virginia in 45 and raining comes to mind or the time I walked the Portland airport drop-off area during an incredible long travel day packed with delays.
And I have some favorites. Sitting on a riverbank outside our campsite in Denali National Park. Standing on a peak in the Chugach range during a long day of mountain running. Napping off sea sickness on an overlook in the Channel Islands National Park. Long, peaceful and challenging miles run — somewhere around 2,300 over the 1,000 days.
But I think my favorite thing to come out of this has been watching my sons learn to live outdoors with me. I do things willingly outside now that I never thought I would do. I ski. I mountain run. I camp as often as possible. I am constantly looking for ways and reasons to be outside instead of inside. And my sons do the same, modeling what they see.
And then there’s you all, listening to this, joining me for the outdoor journey. If my time outside, these 1,000 days, have touched anyone or encouraged anyone else to spend time outside, too, then it is more than worth it.
We don’t have an outdoor hero this week. I spent my week honoring Memorial Day with purposeful steps for the fallen and the first night camping with my family plus a few evenings by the fire — they spent a few extra nights in the tent but I had to work, so I stayed at home. Alaska’s pleasant summer weather — anything is pleasant compared to negative temperatures, honestly – makes it hard to not spend every spare moment outdoors, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.