A couple of weeks ago, Angel had the chance to hang out with Carly Wynn - an outdoor athlete who is living the dirtbag dream as a competitive ski racer and world-travelling digital nomad. Like us, she's building a business centered on making adventure and the dirtbag lifestyle more accessible, and she inspired us so much that we asked her to write a guest post. She gave us this great "how to" article that outlines her approach to life. We think it's super helpful, and hope you do too!
If you love the outdoors, there’s a good chance you also love some form of outdoors media, whether it’s a great adventure blog, a crunchy Instagram, or yes, a podcast. We adventurers love to hear what our fellows are up to, perhaps enjoying some inspiration and daydreaming about embarking on similar missions. Nothing kills the adventure buzz worse than that daydream coming to a sudden halt as you wonder, how do these people make this stuff happen?
When we hear inspiring stories, it’s natural to wonder how we could make our lives more like them. It’s easy to convince ourselves others are in on a secret that allows them to go on all these epic adventures while we struggle to break out of daily patterns.
We might worry about not having the time or money to take off to the Alps for a week, or fret about our limited experience, or lack of gear. We might want to go camp alone in the mountains for the night, but hesitate for fear of being eaten by a bear. (Or a mountain lion. That’s what keeps me awake alone in the mountains!) All of these fears have one thing in common: They are mental limitations, and overcoming them is all about mindset.
If there was a secret to achieving a life full of adventures, I think it would be much less about technical skills or money and much more about the way we think about adventure. Today I want to walk you through my approach to tackling the mental hurdles that hold us back from living out our adventure dreams, take a look at three action steps you can take today to launch your next adventure, and examine a few of my favorite digital planning tools.
In my years with others who have made outdoor exploration their lifestyle, I have identified three common attitudes of the adventurer:
#1 Adventure has a variety of definitions.
What sets one person’s heart on fire may be of little interest to another, and what calls to us in one moment may not have the same pull in the next. There are as many definitions of adventure as there are people who seek it. The happiest adventurers know that just because someone else finds their fulfillment paddling whitewater doesn’t mean a winter summit of a nearby peak is less of an adventure. While it’s great to be inspired by the stories of others, we should exercise care not to judge ourselves by comparison.
Adventure is also not just about physical feats. When people talk about adventures they have had, common themes include doing something for the first time, experiencing solitude, facing a challenge, and, probably most common, having unexpected and fulfilling interactions with strangers along the way. If we have in mind a fun way to achieve one or more of these experiences, we probably have the makings of a good adventure.
So if you want to discover what your definition of adventure is, pay attention to what excites you. That moment when you see a picture or hear a story and your heart just says, yes! When you daydream, what makes you feel happiest, most alive, or most excited? What experiences have you had in the past that brought your soul to life? In the vast world of possible adventures, simply finding a good reason to choose one path over another can be overwhelming enough to keep us inside. Start paying attention to the subtle emotional responses you have to the outdoors world and you will be well on your way to discovering what adventure means to you.
#2) The goal of adventure often extends beyond the physical experience.
Whether we are embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition, or making our daily snowshoe lap around the nearby farm, there is often a higher purpose than that of reaching the summit, the end of the adventure. What motivates us may be a simple desire to have fun or challenge ourselves, or we may be using adventure to help us deal with pain, or make a big change. Getting clear with ourselves on what our larger goals are will help us choose the most fulfilling adventure, as well as motivate us to follow through.
Practitioners of yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness-based exercises may be familiar with the idea of setting an intention for a practice. Adventure works in much the same way. Embarking with our intention in mind helps us see more clearly which adventure is the one for us here and now, and motivates us to see the dream through to the end.
Remember, there is no “right” reason to adventure.
#3) We can work through barriers in small steps.
If a shortage of time, money, experience, or gear is cramping our adventure style, or if we are limited by fear of being eaten by a mountain lion (or a fear of anything else!), we can always work through these limitations in small steps. Trying something new, working through fear, and getting outside of our comfort zones are common reasons why we adventure in the first place, so overcoming these challenges one step at a time can be enormously satisfying.
This is your chance to pick your favorite reason for not embarking on the next great trip. We’ve already identified a lack of time, money, gear and experience as common things that hold us back. Any one of these limitations can be overcome with baby steps. Strapped for time? Start by blocking off whatever amount of time seems manageable, even if it’s only ten minutes, and commit to enjoying it. A ten minute walk in the park might not quench our entire thirst for adventure, but it helps us practice the mindset of devoting time to ourselves. As we get used to the idea that it is acceptable, even essential, to take the time we need for ourselves, we will get better at finding space for more significant undertakings.
The same holds true for knowledge, gear, or money. Start small. Bringing more adventure into life does not have to involve radical changes, although radical change can also be achieved through small steps. Dreaming big is fantastic, except for when we dream so big that we don’t know where to start. So pick a small step that will inspire confidence, and go for it.
We may never feel “ready.” Sometimes we just have to do it. Don’t wait.
With the mindset of a happy adventurer in place, we’re read to take the next step in getting out there!
#1) Talk to someone! Talk to crunchy friends, or cold-call a local adventure artist you admire. Ask them about a recent adventure or about their daily life. Tell them about your adventure dreams. Inevitably, someone else has a way of doing things that you’ve never even thought of. Furthermore, many great adventure stories involve a fortuitous meeting with a stranger. A totally routine outing can turn into an adventure, or inspiration for an adventure, when we put ourselves out there and connect with the people we meet along the way.
#2) Repeat an adventure you’ve already done. Sometimes we just need a confidence boost, and in this way we can remind ourselves that we have the time/know-how/money to do this!
#3) Plan something with a friend. It’s fun to have someone to bounce your ideas off of, and can be particularly beneficial if limited time tends to hold you back from adventuring. Committing to an adventure with a buddy helps us stick to it. It’s harder to bail on friends than it is to bail on ourselves.
If you are looking to really get out of your familiar world for your next adventure, here are some digital tools I like to use when planning my far-away fun:
#1) Freecampsites.net. Ideal for roadtrips, this website will show you places where you can camp for free, complete with descriptions and reviews by other folks who have been there recently. You will find a mix of dispersed forest camping, RV parking behind gear stores, and established car-camping sites complete with fire pits and sometimes even an outhouse. The highest concentration of campsites is in the U.S., but parts of Canada and Europe are well-covered too.
In the U.S., free dispersed camping is allowed in most national forests and on some BLM land. Find your local forest on www.fs.fed.us to find out more. As ever when in wilderness, practice Leave No Trace in your public lands.
#2) Kayak.com’s “Explore” feature. This tool lets you search for flights by setting your departure airport and your budget, and it shows you where in the world you can go and when. You would be amazed how inexpensive flights can be if your dates and location are flexible. For example, a search this morning revealed that I could fly roundtrip from my current home airport (Portland, OR) to Barcelona, Spain for $400 this February! Or I could head to Denver next week for $40 roundtrip. If flexibility is part of your adventure style, this is the tool for you.
#3) Couchsurfing.com. This site unites a community of adventurers around the world and connects travelers with hosts who provide free accommodations for a night or two. Hostelworld.com is another favorite for cheap accommodations. Keep in mind that many hostels offer work exchanges. If you will be in one area for an extended period of time, you might be able to find a hostel that will let you stay for free in exchange for labor of some sort. If you are only passing through, you might be able to exchange a couple hours of work for a free meal. This can be a great way to keep expenses down!
With so many ways to get out, so many places to go, and all the great tools available for explorers, there is definitely something to fit every adventurer’s lifestyle! Believing that we can do it is often the most difficult part. My sincerest hope is that you can use one or more of the ideas in this post to help make your next adventure a reality, and build more adventure into your lifestyle. If you do, or if you are trying but still struggling to achieve your adventure dreams, I want to hear from you! Please drop me a line at Carly3ski@gmail.com, or contact me via my website below. I’m always looking to connect with fellow adventurers!
Carly Wynn is a semi-pro Nordic skier with a semi-nomadic lifestyle. She offers coaching and lifestyle design for athletes and free spirits through her website, www.enduranceefficacy.com. There you will also find her blog, where she writes about everything from digital nomadism, to adventure travel, to training and racing at a national level.
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Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.