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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what has made past summers memorable or live on in my mind and heart as being times I want to revisit.
You know the kinds of summers I’m talking about, right? If life is actually like that movie Inside Out, which is one of my favorites by the way, then these summers contain what they would call core memories. They are times that are so happy, so joyful or so full of peace and contentment that they are things that made you who you are right now. For me these memories are times of togetherness as a family. Or they are moments when I rose up within myself and knew that hey, I’ve got this. They are surreal moments where I cannot believe I am living the life I am living. They are moments of astounding natural beauty, where I see around me things that, in the words of one friend, are simply preposterous. They are moments when I watch other people conquer their fears or their hurdles and rise up. They are simple times around the campfire, laughing with my kids. They are full of sunshine or, sometimes, rain. And they are all moments I want to relive again and again.
But of course you can’t do that. You can’t repeat those moments. You can only have new ones and trust that they are going to be perfect, too.
Which is why I’ve been thinking about how to get myself back into situations where those moments can happen.
We’ve been having days just stuffed full of warmth and sunshine. There’s always a little bit of a countdown clock to days like that in Alaska. How long are we going to get these sunny days? Better use them while you can! And of course, you have to balance that with being too tired, too harried. That balance is the subject of a different Outdoor Diary episode.
But here in these days of sun I’ve been feeling even more like I want to make sure I use them to create those special summer memories. As I flipped through a photo album in my mind of past adventures and moments that fit that description, I noticed two things they all have in common. And that’s what I want to tell you about today so that you can have moments like those, too.
First thing I noticed about each of these summer memories is that they took effort and intentionality. Zero of these core memories happened sitting in front of my TV watching netflix. Some of them are as simple as sitting in a hammock in my yard — but that took actually hanging the hammock up and heading out there. Several of them involve trips somewhere hard to get to, though not necessarily far away. Those adventures took a little planning, packing the car and actually hitting the road. They took taking a day off work. They took take a small risk that I maybe wouldnt like the thing we were going to go do or that it would be too much work to be any fun. All of them were 100% worth it in the end. I actually can’t think of a single instance I regret the decision to just go and try.
Two specific adventures come to mind. The first, in 2014, I took my kids camping by myself for the first time. They had just turned three and six years old and we still lived in Tennessee. We spent Memorial Day weekend at Land Between the Lakes. I had never pitched the tent without help. I was nervous about being a woman alone with two kids in a wilderness area. I had never used the camp stove without help. And was chasing my little guys around alone really going to be fun? The answer was yes. Fully and completely yes. Not only was it an incredible time, but it was the first time I had ever actually gone out, just spent time with my two kids alone for an extended period and actually had a really fun time. It also taught me that I was a whole lot more capable than I thought I was.
Another time was yet another solo adventure with my two kids. This time they were eight and 11. We packed up the car and headed five hours south to Homer to camp for a few nights and go on some mom and son adventures. We stopped and camped where we felt like stopping. We followed our curiosity to climb on some rocks I had always wondered about. We stopped on some side roads just because we could. We ate snacks out of the trunk. We drank hot chocolate and coffee and watched the waves on Alaska’s coast. And we had a truly spectacular time.
Getting there was a lot of work and some risk. But it was so worth it. I had to make the effort. I had to actually GO and DO the thing.
But that’s only the first commonality. The second is maybe more important. These core memories are not passive experiences. They all include DOING.
I like to multitask. I’m the parent at the playground working in a notebook or on her laptop in the shade while her kids play tag. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Why shouldnt my kids get to go to the playground even when I need to work? That’s the beauty of working from home after all. I’m also the parent reading in a chair while the kids swim in the lake. And why not? Reading a good book is one of my favorite ways to relax. They are doing something fun and so am I.
But these core summer memories? While the adventure itself might include periods of reading by a campfire or a pause to make that grocery list, those aren’t the things I remember. What I remember are the non-passive moments where we are all experiencing everything together.
And I think that’s a really important realization for me as I look into our summer and find ways to create more of those experiences. On any given day I could take the kids to the park — or I could take them for a hike we all do together. I could take them to the lake and watch them swim, or we could walk to a rope swing or dock to jump into the water and all take turns. I could kick them out of the house to go on a bike ride, or I could go with them.
I tried out this theory on the recent gorgeous Saturday afternoon. I had chores and a run to do in the morning, so we weren’t going to spend the day far from home. But what could we do nearby that was fun? Huck, my 10 year old, suggested a hike up the Butte, a small nearby mountain. I suggested we swing by a lake for a swim after. So that’s what we did. I changed into my swimming suit, too, so I would have no excuse. And we had a truly fun time — one that I, at least, will remember for a long time. But it took making an effort, actually heading out the door and being fully present, fully participating.
I hope you’re having a magical summer so far full of that kind of adventure with your family. You can see photos from our hike and lake day and many other outdoor times on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Share your outdoor time with me by tagging #humansoutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.