The Case For Ditching Perfection In Your Adventures

By: Erin McGrady + Save to a List

Less stress and more fun, that's what's up.

For most of my life, I’ve been guilty of thinking about things in regards to perfection. I’ve spent countless hours mapping out the perfect road trip route, obsessed over how to have the perfect weekend in a new city, read numerous gear reviews in an effort to pick the perfect set of trekking poles, and on and on and on. But somewhere along the way, I realized that the quest for perfection was no longer serving me. It made me anxious, indecisive, and irritated when things didn’t go according to plan. I still get really excited when an idea comes together ‘just-so’ and I’ll probably always plan more than I need to...but I’ve slowly become less attached to the end result. 

These days, I try to embrace the idea that everything won’t be awesome all of the time. And you know what? It actually makes most of the things better, most of the time. Because ditching flawlessness has led to more experiences, more opportunities, and more fun. You down?

Perfect weather

One of the quickest ways to get more out of your adventures is to stop letting the weather be a factor in whether you go or don’t go. Don’t get me wrong, safety should absolutely be a consideration, but a walk through your neighborhood or a quick ride up to your lookout need not be sun-drenched and 70. Besides the weather is constantly changing so what begins with drizzle and fog may end up being a perfect afternoon.

All the Best Gear

You don’t need top of the line gear to have an adventure. Yeah, you read that right. Don’t get me wrong... I love puffy coats in bright colors, gaiters, trucker hats, rain shells, trail running shoes with knobby patterns designed just for technical trails, things made out of titanium, descriptions like rip-stop, moisture-wicking, and nano anything. I lust after Sprinter vans with lift kits and 4WD, I endlessly pour over gear reviews and I’ve been known to save catalogs from certain brands for more than a season or two. In fact, if I’m honest with myself, I’m constantly looking to increase what’s in my gear closet and upgrade whenever I can. In fact, just got my first set of trekking poles (thanks Eddie Bauer).

The thing is, you can get by with a lot less gear than you think you need. Unless you’re going on an extreme adventure for an extended amount of time, what you have in your closet may already be enough. And if it’s not, or you’re just starting out, entry-level pieces and even used pieces are going to do just fine. The $400 pack (insert any gear item here) is going to have more bells and whistles on it than the used pack going for $150 but at the end of the day, both are probably going to do a fine job of hauling your stuff.

Companionship

In high school and college, I almost always did things with at least one other giggling friend at my side. More often than not, it wasn’t just one other person but a group of people. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties when the pack mentality started to shift. My friends got married and were suddenly up to their elbows in diapers. I, on the other hand, was still searching for loose change in the cupholders of my car, trying to scrounge up enough to get me and my longboard over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for a weekend of surfing.

We’re taught from a young age that 1 is greater than 0; society lets us know that being alone is sorta weird; that it maybe says something not so good about you. Meh. I reject this. I believe that there’s nothing wrong with a solo adventure or a table for one. Yeah, it’s super fun to go on adventures with your buddies, but when they can’t go, don’t let that stop you from getting after it.

Timing

Seems like once you reach adulthood, time becomes one of those things that never seems to be in abundance. There are schedules to stick to, deadlines to meet, bosses to please, and a lot of these responsibilities have a tendency to bleed into the weekend. But make the schedule work for you. Ink in your adventures on the calendar and make them happen. And in between those big epic trips that you look forward to all year, find time to do smaller trips and activities. The older I get, the more I make use of my alarm. These days, most of my runs take place in the dark. The benefit? I feel better and I’ve seen more than my fair share of sunrises.

Intel

The amount of information at our fingertips these days is enough to make your head spin. Gone are the days of getting information from an encyclopedia, or a friend of a friend, or even a guide book. Instead, we’ve got an almost infinite scroll of data in our pockets. But you knew that. The thing is, not everything must be (nor should be) researched to the point that there’s very little mystery left to your destination. Stop planning out your entire trip including where you’ll stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Let your senses guide you. Sure, after a day on the trail everyone wants to score the absolute perfect piece of pizza but every now and then try skipping the yelp reviews and just wandering around until you see or smell something you want to eat.

Fitness

While it’s probably not advisable to sign up for a marathon without having done the training, you don’t have to be in tip-top shape to lace up and go for a jog. Or a hike. Or a bike ride. There’s nothing wrong with signing up for a race with the goal of completing it. Who said you had to try and go fast and aim for a PR? Stop waiting until you ‘get in shape’ to do the things you love. We’ve all got to start somewhere and we’re all a work in progress. If you wait until you’ve got the perfect fitness, you’ll be letting a lot of awesome opportunities to have fun pass you by.

The whole point of letting go of perfection is that it opens up possibilities. In an age when we’re constantly trying to optimize all of our experiences, there’s something to be said for letting go, just a little, and letting adventure find it’s way to you organically. Some of my fondest memories are things that happened when we ditched the plan (or the plan got ruined) and we had to improvise. Trust me on this one. When you stumble your way down a back alley in a new town after a long day of hiking and you find the absolute coolest dive bar that you never knew existed, it’ll make a much bigger impression on you than arriving exactly on time via an Uber. From one perfectionist to another -- you got this.

TLDR: Don’t wait for people, things, or situations to line up perfectly... just go.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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