This is the best gift of my outdoor habit (Outdoor Diary)

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Episode 388

There are a lot of reasons to spend time in nature, but as I reflect back on all of the things I’ve learned by heading outside every day for more than 2,500 days in a row, some takeaways stick out more than others.

The biggest thing I’ve learned by spending time outside is also both my favorite lesson and the thing I least expected.

What is it? Listen now!

Some of the good stuff:

[00:45] The start of my outdoor challenge

[01:39] There were some benefits I expected

[02:21] And then there is one big benefit I didnt see coming

[03:33] I realized while doing this unpredictable thing

[04:15] 2016 Amy would NEVER

[05:08] It’s time to face the change

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Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

It was more than 2,500 days ago that I first wondered what would happen if I went outside every single day just for one summer.

We had been living in Alaska for about a year, and I just wasn’t experiencing my new home the way I had anticipated because I was constantly waiting for perfect conditions. I was worried that if I didn’t somehow make myself enjoy going outside I would regret moving here.

I didn’t want to have those regrets. I didn’t want to feel like I moved here for no reason.

And so I decided to start a little challenge for myself, just going outside for the 99 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I thought while I was at it I might as well start going to some new-to-me places around town and take my small children with me to a few new-to-us parks for a picnic here and there.

There was plenty of rain that summer and plenty of adventures in soggy rain jackets. But there was also the realization that I could make myself go outside even when the weather wasn’t perfect, that I would without fail have a memorable and good experience regardless of the weather, and that I would never regret going outside.

When the end of my summer experiment rolled around, I simply wasnt done going outside. So I decided to try my challenge for one consecutive year. Going outside every day in the summertime is one thing, but going outside every day, even in the winter when sub-zero temperatures freeze your face, or the wind blows so hard that gravel hits you in the head? What about those days?

Obviously, I made it more than a year. In fact I’m at more than seven years and still going strong.

When I set out to try that experiment, I believed it would give me many new adventures. I trusted that it would lead me to new places, that I would meet new people. I knew there was plenty of data to show it make me happier and healthier and that it would probably make my relationships better because of all the concentrated time.

But one of the best things it’s done for me is something I did not anticipate.

It has made me a more courageous person who is comfortable with being uncomfortable and living in unknowns.

Generally speaking, I like things that are predictable. Honestly, that phrase doesn’t do justice to how I feel about the situation. Here are just a few examples: I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast every day. I buy the same types of t-shirts in multiple different colors because I know that I like the style. I go to the same run route over and over again in part because the predictability is comforting.

What is not predictable, ever, is what you find outside. Outside you can put yourself in positions that are as predictable as possible and you can find comfort in the predictable patterns of the seasons. But other than that, outside is endlessly unpredictable in small ways. And it give endless opportunities to experience the unpredictable big ways, if you’re only brave and curious enough to chase them.

I recently found myself in the middle of such an adventure, confronted with just how much heading outside daily has changed who i am and what interests me. We headed six miles down an established trail, and then went 6 miles more picking along a trail that used to exist, running along the riverbed, crossing the river of a few times, bushwhacking for a solid hour, climbing up and down riverbanks, finding an incredible number of moose bones and generally have a wildly unpredictable time.

It was as I was running over tricky river rocks, into a headwind during one of the most challenging sections, that I zoomed out a little and saw where I was in the context of where I came from. And I reazlied that while 2024 Amy was having a really fun time on this adventure, 2016 Amy would NEVER.

She would never have been out there running through a river canyon. She never would’ve found a moose molar to carry home because she never wouldve come across moose bones. She never would’ve, ever would’ve agreed to such a trip because all the details were impossible to know ahead of time. And she would’ve missed out on all the challenges, triumphs and laughs that made it memorable, awe inspiring and life-fueling.

2016 Amy would never. But 2024 Amy is so very glad that she did.

I am grateful for the gift of knowing how to say yes to adventures, even ones that mean one thing must pause or end as another begins. I’m coming to the end of some journeys in my life and while endings feel like loss, they’re super necessary to opening the way for new things. I’m going to have some changes coming here on the Humans Outside podcast to allow me to make more room for other stuff in my life. I’ll tell you about that soon, but the truth is I just don’t have the bandwidth to do everything anymore, even as much as I really, truly enjoy creating these diary episodes for you and bringing you new interviews with interesting outdoor people.

But even as those changes come, you can still catch photos of all of my outdoor time on Facebook and Instagram, including a picture of me on that running adventure. I found the entire spinal column of a giant moose and got to hold it up for you to see. And I want to see your photos too, still, always, and forever. Tag them with hashtag Humans Outside 365, and until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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