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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
If you’ve decided to try the Humans Outside 365 Challenge or start your own outdoor habit of going outside every day for at least a certain amount of time, you’ve probably given some thought to the question of what actually counts as “outside?”
If you’re tempted to laugh this question off, just a warning: this is the most asked question I see from people who are trying to tackle a big outdoor challenge both here at Humans Outside and in other groups like the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge. A similar question about what counts as a hike is often asked by those doing the 52 hike challenge.
And there’s a good reason for this question. When you’re tackling a big challenge like this, you’re probably thinking through how to get it done. Perhaps you’re already facing less than ideal weather. You might be looking for a way to give yourself a compromise or have an emergency back up plan in case the weather gets really bad or you’re stuck in an airport for what seems like an eternity. How will you make time to go outside?
I’ve been heading outside every single day for almost 2,000 days in a row, so you better believe I’ve asked myself this question. It was actually one of the first things I thought through when I decided to give this challenge a go for myself back in 2017. What would I count as outside? Did it include riding in the car with the window down? What about standing in the garage? Did I have to be moving if I was outside? Did sitting on my porch count? What about sitting in my hot tub? Sleeping in a tent? Sleeping in my van?
Now, maybe you’re hoping that at this point I’m going to lay out some rules for you. Maybe you’re hoping that right now I’m going to say – great, glad you asked this question, here’s what counts as going outside.
Sorry, that’s not happening. The Humans Outside 365 Challenge has no blanket rules that I can give you about what counts as outside. That’s not how this challenge works.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t have some guidelines you follow. You definitely should. I’m just not going to give them to you. Instead, you need to decide for yourself what counts as going outside for your challenge.
It’s possible that you’re thinking about how much you hate rules and guidelines and you have none and that’s how it’s going to be. Very well. Fly free, rule-less bird. But at some point there’s going to be a day during your challenge that you are very much tempted to not go out in THAT weather, and then you’re going to have to decide whether you are going to do it or not, or if standing in the garage counts. That’s up to you.
I’m not going to send you entirely into the wilderness on this alone to come up with your own rules. That would be mean. So while I’m not going to give you any rules at all, I am going to tell you what I count as outside for me.
Outside is, well, outside. It is primarily in open air. It is on my deck. It is in my yard. It is in the woods. It is in my hot tub. It is not in the confines of a building – so no, I don’t count my garage. If I had a screened in porch, I’m not sure I would count that for me. 20 minutes is plenty short for me to deal with not having protection from screens. But if you want to count that for you, go for it. I do not count riding in a car, open window or not.
I absolutely do count walking or sitting next to any sidewalk in any location, including at an airport. I absolutely have counted sitting in the open air porch at the Delta lounge I got to use in Atlanta in July and whew it was hot out there. And it was outside.
The lone grey area I feel that I personally have is a tent. I would consider sleeping in a tent and certainly sleeping in a snow cave to be outside. But really this isnt a question I’ve had to tackle. At some point during a camping trip I’m outside for way more than 20 minutes in one go. I don’t even need to think if spending time in the tent counts because it hasn’t come up. And for the record, neither has the snow cave question. I’m not really that into snow caves. Too chilly for Amy.
The long and the short of it is: not all nature experiences are peak nature experiences. But all of them are outside, and all of them matter for what they do in your life day by day. So, for me — outside is outside. And I’m good with that.
You want to make your challenge more complicated? Ban tents. Disallow porches. Only count time in motion. Want to simplify? Sit on that screened porch. But wherever you land, you do you. This challenge only makes the difference we’re looking for if it has a positive impact on your life.
While you’re hearing this I’m getting plenty of outdoor time on a little vacation with my family, I promise. Hopefully Im feeling warm and happy — if that’s happening the vacation is going well. You can see pictures of all of my outdoor time on Facebook and Instagram, and as always I want to see yours too. Tag me with #Humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.