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It’s almost 2021 — time to put 2020 behind us, phew, and the perfect time to build or reenergize that outdoor habit. Want to know why I spend 20 minutes outside a day and how we got here on Humans Outside? Listen on. Also, I’m going tell you how to get a free one-month habit tracker printable made by me.
If you’ve been with me for awhile you know about my at-least 20 consecutive minutes a day outdoor habit I’ve kept since September, 2017. You also know that I think September is the perfect time for kicking off new habits. But I also know that a fresh start is naturally on our minds around January 1, if only because the calendar is flipping over and everyone is talking about it.
Plus let’s be honest, we’re all pretty eager to move on from 2020. I’m an optimist, so I don’t think 2020 was all bad. After all, it gave me this podcast and so many pretty good things despite the challenges — things like lots of extra time with my family and an extra focus on outdoor adventures because we were avoiding big crowds.
But it was pretty challenging in all of the ways we all know, from the pandemic, to a challenging and stressful political climate in the U.S., to the continued and blatant racial inequalities that, I pray, end and the memory of which push us to justice for all.
So, now that we’ve got that calendar flipping over to 2021, now seems like a pretty good time to take a big breath and start or refresh our dedication to getting outside every day. With that in mind I’m going to spend the next several Outdoor Diary episodes talking about the nuts, bolts, how and why of getting outside daily. I’m also going to give you a tool to do that, which you can access simply by singing up for my weekly Get-Out Guide newsletter.
This week, let’s talk about how we got to this point. This is a little bit of the background of why I’m yammering at you every week about how I get outside and why I think you should, too.
It all started in 2013, really. My husband, Luke, had come home from a deployment in late 2009 and four years later things were really starting to get hard. We know from studies of service members that these quote hidden injuries of war start popping up four to eight years after deployment, stuff like post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Over the next two years — 2013 to 2015 — we started to understand how bad things really were for him. He had been working really hard serving in the Army and just had no visibility or tools to understand what had happened to him in the form of traumatic brain injury and how to deal with it.
Now, in the summer of 2013 I had gone camping near our home in Tennessee with my family for what was really the first time in my life. When I was a kid we had camped a very little bit in an RV and once or twice in a tent next to an RV, but nothing to speak of. But my little family and I had gone to REI and bought the biggest tent they had and learned to camp a little, and it was great. That had given me a clue that spending lots of time outside was good for us, but I didnt yet know how good.
Over the next two years we spent more and more time outside as a family, camping and visiting our favorite wilderness location, Land Between the Lakes, on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. In 2015 we hit a critical moment, and we realized that if we didnt make a big life change our family was not going to survive his injuries. We knew that he had to get out of the active duty Army, and we knew that we needed to shift our lives to be more outdoor focused. Spending time in nature was clearly just the therapy he needed.
So we decided to go for the dramatic, and moved sight unseen to Palmer, Alaska. We had never been to Alaska, but we had plenty of friends who loved it. It seemed worth the risk. We sold a lot of our furniture, let the Army move the rest, packed the station wagon, and hit the road hoping it would be just the change we needed.
Over the next year we became Alaskans. We made all the mistakes – like wearing the wrong jackets or buying the wrong boots — and figured it out the way you really have to, by doing it. By the summer of 2017 Luke was well into living his best life, off on an outdoor adventure on Denali with a grad school class skiing and crevasse exploring. But me? I was waiting for the weather to get good so I could go have fun outside, too.
And it wasn’t. It was categorically not good. There I was, sitting in the rain outside in a sweatshirt on Memorial Day weekend wondering when Alaska was going to change for me. And I realized right then that it wasn’t — that if something was going to change it was going to have to be my attitude, or moving to Alaska would have no point.
So. I decided to try something — what would happen if I went outside every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day no matter what?
And that’s what I did. For those 99 days of summer I headed outside daily, trying new things, wearing my new rain pants when needed and just getting out there. There were warm gorgeous days, and there were wet, wet, wet hiking days that I definitely would’ve stayed inside for had I not made that commitment. And it was the best thing I had ever done.
It was so great that when we got to the end of the summer I wasn’t ready to stop. And so I decided to make it a year long thing, extending my commitment to 20 continuous minutes daily instead of just any daily time at all. That was September 1, 2017. And now, for over 1,200 days in a row, I have spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day.
Next week I’ll tell you about why I picked 20 minutes and why I think that’s the perfect amount of time for you, too. And in the meantime, I’ve created a fun new printable for you to track your daily outdoor time over the next month. All of you have to do is subscribe to my newsletter — the link is in the show notes — and Ill send you a link for it. If you already subscribe keep your eyes peeled for this week’s Get-Outside Guide since I’ll include a link there as well.
I’m also going to highlight a few basic gear items over the next few weeks that have made this outdoor time possible, things I think we all should have in our closets. Since it’s the winter, we’ll start with what’s on your feet. This week’s outdoor hero are my Icebug boots. If you’re going to get outside daily somewhere cold, you want to keep your feet warm. I chose to get Icebug boots because they are not only very warm, but they are specifically designed to keep you from falling on ice. I’ll tell you what will really ruin your outdoor time quickly — falling on ice. Ice bug makes boots with built-in studs designed to grip into ice and retract when you’re indoors so you dont ruin anyone’s floor. My particular pair is a little different, and instaed of studs it’s made with the same rubber used on Michelin winter tires. It’s designed to grip the ice and cold, and I find that it offers really excellent traction. I love these boots and I can’t recommend them enough. If you’re spending consistent time outside in a very cold place, warm boots are worth the investment. They should last you several years, and just like not falling on ice, keeping your feet warm isn’t just a comfort thing, it can also be a safety thing.
One of the things I started when I kicked-off my outdoor habit in 2017 was posting a daily picture of my time with the hashtag humansoutside365. I wanted it to work as a visual journal of my daily time, and I hoped others would join me by posting their outdoor time, too. Now more than three years later that’s exactly what is happening. You can see my daily time at humansoutside on Facebook and Instagram and share your time, too, with the hashtag humansoutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.