Title: 2016 Adventure Challenge: Return to Your Roots

On the eve of 2016, I look at the Christmas tree tipping slightly in the corner of my apartment. It took this crooked stance on the 26th, and — after trying to right it for a couple of days — I gave up. The holiday was passed; I barely remembered to turn on its lights at dusk anymore. A few cheap ornaments were scattered around its base.

Sad.

New Year’s Eve is kinda like that for me. I think back to all I hoped to accomplish outdoors that year: the trips, the gear, the strides I hoped to make in performance, and settle into thinking, “Well, this new year, then.”

And so, I approach the dawn of the next 365 with shining optimism. “This is my year,” I think. “This year, I won’t let injury/finances/lack of companions/whatever-my-excuse-might-be hold me back.”

I always feel this conviction coursing through every vessel in my body. It will happen.

Then life happens. Time passes, and my bright, sparkling conviction, much like the Christmas tree in the corner of my home that once stood proud and bright, begins to lean under the pressure of life, and my convictions drop like the ornaments that now sit forlornly around the perimeter of my tree.

At the end of the year, I see another 365 that passed, with little — I feel — to showcase.

There’s got to be a stop to this madness.

We’ve (I write collectively because I assume there are others out there who see this cycle happening in their lives) got to stop beating ourselves up about our outdoor imperfections. We fell in love with the lifestyle because of the freedom it offered us, not because it enslaved us to ideals. It made us happy, wild, and gave us confidence. It didn’t tear us down because we didn’t reach the climbing grade we thought would made us a “good climber” or because we didn’t knock off each of the 48 “4ks” of the White Mountains or thru-hike the PCT.

We did that to ourselves.

The further entrenched we got in the culture, the more us “self-competitive types” started thinking being core to the sports we loved meant pushing our limits and gaining grounds. And in a way, it can. But it doesn’t mean we need to get down on ourselves if we don’t cover the grounds we hoped to attain.

Generally, I’ve found that even thinking in the optimistic light at the beginning of the year, having high hopes and lofty goals, can set in motion wheels that help us achieve more than we would have had we not been so exuberant in our outdoor dreams.

That’s something, right? Be satisfied, if that’s what happened for you.

But even then: what if we stripped it all back to the true essence of why we fell in love with adventure? What if we became “new” to the outdoors again, allowing ourselves to simply discover and see our sports with fresh eyes?

What if we allowed ourselves the freedom of simply moving through the elements, feeling the sun and snow, exerting muscles that otherwise sit still, and experiencing that soulful smile that overcomes our hearts when we take to the outdoors?

This year, I challenge you to allow yourself that freedom — even if it’s just a portion of the time. Think of it as your psychological “rest day” in the outdoors; not your down day physically, but mentally. Give yourself the chance to just be in love with what you do, to reconnect with the cold air whipping by your cheeks, with the feeling of chalk against your skin, with the spray of ice from your axes, with the soil crunching under your feet. Let the water move your kayak as you move with the river, allow the canyons to engulf you in darkness as you rappel down their hidden waterfalls. Think of how you are in each space and how those spaces contribute to your love of life.

Let your 2016 be deeply fulfilling with the soul of adventure.

SHARE
Previous articleWinter Activities in 6 Eastern National Parks
Next articleGoing Backcountry When You’re Busy
Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Leaving home to journey westward alone, she chased the sun to Utah. Over the years, she was consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. But exploration continued to call. After closing her bakery — which funded college courses and adventure — she stored her possessions and hit the road again, on a quest to reach the distant places of North America. For three years she lived in her little Mazda 3 and skied the backcountry of Alaska, slept under the northern lights in the Yukon Territory, ice climbed Colorado's frozen canyons and rock climbed across the continent, photographed Nova Scotia’s coves, backpacked in southern US wildernesses and munched on sugared tamarindo in the jungles of Mexico. But living in a car started to feel limiting, so after seeing the many glories this continent had to offer, she chose the only place fitting for an explorer to spend a lifetime of wild wonder: British Columbia. Dual citizenship in hand, she settled along the Powder Highway in the Selkirks and is now making her home between four walls and deeply wooded mountains. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.