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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
When I first read productivity and time management expert Laura Vanderkam’s most recent book, Tranquility by Tuesday, one idea immediately caught my imagination. In her book Laura lays out 9 practices that her research has shown high performers use to make their life more tranquil, which is what we’re all going for here, right? She suggests things like moving your body by 3 p.m., having a back-up spot slated for anything that’s really important that you get done just in case your first plan falls through and heading outside every day. Oh hey, that sounds familiar doesn’t it?
But those weren’t the things that really stood out to me. Instead it was this: Laura suggests that each week you slate time to have one big adventure and one little adventure. They are not necessarily outside, but they can be.
Oh, I thought. What a tantalizing idea.
A little adventure, she says, is something slightly out of your normal habits that doesn’t take very long. This could be swinging by a different playground with your kids, hitting a new coffee shop, walking down a different path than your normal route or purposefully trying something more interesting for dinner. A little adventure is a little disruptor to your normal schedule, which makes it memorable. And it breaks up the monotony of your normal week, which gives you a break.
A big adventure is something a little further afield. It takes extra intentionality and planning. It lasts a few hours. To make it happen you really have to schedule it in. You probably need to do a little bit of research before going. It might feel like work to make it happen. But because of those things the adventure is extra memorable.
And memorable is what we’re going for here.
Now, there are a few reasons I really like this idea. First is a big theme you hear me hit on time and time again: intentionality. Doing anything out of the ordinary, big or little, takes intentional thought and planning.
Which brings me to the idea of disruption. When you have intentionality you bring disruption. You break yourself out of your mold and put yourself into a situation where you can have influential and transformative experiences because whatever you are doing is no longer route.
And now you’re in a place where you can have mindfulness because you are noticing what is happening around you because it is new.
I’ve been working to practice one big and one little adventure weekly since talking to Laura about her book for a podcast episode in Season 6, which I’ve linked in the show notes. My adventures are not always outside, though they often are. The idea has inspired me to head up to a different ski trail than I would otherwise hit, or take snowshoes out instead of simply going for a walk somewhere easy. It’s forced me to think through what big or little adventure I can do in any given week. It’s prompted me to try a new restaurant or schedule an extra ski afternoon with my kids. It’s what has inspired me to keep going back to a Thursday night run group I recently joined. The organizers pick the route each week, and it’s often not a route I would ever choose and sometimes it’s somewhere I’ve never been. Sometimes it feels like a big adventure even though the timing is more that of a little one. And every time I take my snowboard out to practice that new-to-me-skill feels like a big adventure.
The point is to be open to ideas and experiences, not just to check some boxes. And so far it’s working.
But I’ve also realized that being regularly adventure minded has opened the door to even more expansive idea: one really big adventure a quarter. Now, in my perfect world this is actually one a month, but that’s a lot of pressure on me from me, so I’m aiming for quarterly with the idea that maybe it becomes monthly without even trying.
If a little adventure is slightly out of my way, and a big adventure takes several hours, then a really big adventure takes some big time planning, maybe an overnight, probably includes getting uncomfortable at some point and might be something I’m tempted to just skip in the name of staying warm and dry in my house.
I’m trying to remember a big adventure I’ve taken that I regret. I can’t think of one. But I can think of many I almost bailed on because they seemed like too much work in the planning or prep phase.
Before I give an example, a caveat. I know being able to have big adventures is a matter of privilege. You have to be able to afford things, or be able to have transportation to them. Big adventures can look like many things, so please don’t take my example as the only kind of big adventure out there.
So here’s my recent big adventure: I pulled my kids out of school for a day and spent the night at a ski resort so we could have ski adventure weekend. The big resort in Alaska, Alyeska, has a free ski day for military service members and their families once a month. Free skiing is my favorite kind. So the kids and I went down, stayed in the hotel the night before so we could use the pool and have a fun overnight, and stopped in at the low-cost ski hill on the military base on the way down so we could have an adventure there, too. Great. It was a lot of fun. Mission accomplished.
But Lord help me, what went into making it happen was not small and almost kept me home. First, I had to figure out what to do with the dogs. They ended up staying with a neighbor as a last minute change to plans, but before that I had them booked for boarding. And booking for them boarding meant I had to get their just expired shots updated right this second. So I did that. Then, I had plan food for the trip – two lunches, two dinners, breakfast, and snacks for very hungry ski people. Don’t even get me started about packing everyone’s ski gear, because forget one piece of equipment is a great way to have a not very good weekend. And oh wait a second, everyone’s socks are suddenly way too small. How does this even happen?
And then there was the driving there. And the driving home in a blizzard that took twice the time it should. And when we finally got home we discovered a driveway that really needed to be shoveled or we wouldn’t be able to function the next day. So we did that.
And on. And on. Let’s just say: i was very tired by the time this was done and not at all sure any of it was worth it.
But today, several days later, I can confidently say I’m glad we had that Big Adventure. And I’m trying to cling to that feeling as I mentally prep for future big adventures. They, too, will be challenge and absolutely worth it.
On day one of ski weekend I decided I finally have the hang of my snowboard, a skill I really wanted to gain this winter. And on day two I decided I definitely do NOT have the hang of it, and doing it might be what kills me. So you can see there were ups and downs.
I hope you take the time for some big and little adventures in your week. You can see photos from our trip on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Share yours with me with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.