3 Things I've Learned about How to Cope with Routine

John Sides

What will be your next big adventure?

I traveled a lot growing up. My family moved abroad when I was young, so my siblings and I grew up as Third Culture Kids (TCKs), which meant our childhood was unique in the ways we experienced living in different cultures and eventually formed a blend of our own. This lifestyle also came with plenty of opportunities to travel to many countries and shaped my love for travel and adventure. 

Something that many TCKs struggle with is putting down roots. It seems the more you travel, the harder it is to see yourself staying in one place. After all, the whole world is out there, so why would I stay? Moving back to the States for college was tough for me. Thinking about the commitment to be in one place for four years… I felt stuck. Often I thought of how I might just pick up and go. It didn’t matter where (well, at the time my girlfriend and now wife was in Australia, so that probably would have been top of the list!), but the fear of settling overshadowed the uncertainty of going somewhere new.

My sister had gone through the same transition two years before me, so when I moved back, one word of advice she gave me was to plan at least one trip each semester. This, she said, would give me something to look forward to, and remind me in a refreshing way that I wasn’t stuck. And so I planned road trips to see old friends, camping trips, and other excursions that seemed to ease the itch.

A few years later in grad school, I took a job helping run my university’s outdoor program, where I was responsible for leading many of our outdoor trips. At times I led groups every other weekend, and while this was one of the busiest and craziest times in my life, it provided me with consistent opportunities to get out and explore, and travel to places I’d never been. I think many of us in this online community understand the feeling of being exhausted and yet finding a deep restfulness in nature that’s really hard to find anywhere else. 

Now that I’ve been out of school for about a year and a half, I’ve had to find other ways to help me cope with routine, and a regular work schedule that keeps me busy Monday through Friday, and affords me with two weeks of vacation. Here’s what I’m learning:

1. Get your next big adventure on the calendar. 

I’ve found that often when I’m feeling restless, it’s because I haven’t planned my next adventure. Getting a trip locked in on the calendar brings a sense of relief for me, and gives me something really tangible to look forward to. In my family and circle of friends I’m typically the initiator, and I really enjoy this. Months before a trip I’m asking friends and family who’s free on a particular weekend, to see if we can make it happen. Getting it on the calendar means that it usually does.

I’ve also learned to make the most of weekends, and try to plan most trips so they don’t require anyone to use vacation time. This year alone, I’ve done at least seven multi-day backpacking trips, and only used vacation time for one of them. Sure, it depends on how far you live from where you go adventuring, but many of my weekend trips are about 5 hours away and involve late Friday night arrivals, all day in the backcountry Saturday, hiking out by Sunday afternoon and arriving home that evening. It’s an amazing feeling to wake up in the backcountry and realize you just finished your work week the previous afternoon. 

One of our latest really big adventures, hiking the Teton Crest Trail  

2. Find ways to get outdoors in between the big adventures. 

The reality for many of us is that most of our lives will be some kind of routine—I still almost cringe when I say that. But routine doesn’t have to be bad. Look for ways to build time outdoors into your routine, and not just on weekends. I’m not an early morning person, so I’ve found that after work trail runs or short hikes at local parks are a great way to get a dose of nature in my work week.

Give yourself something to train for like a 10k trail run, which will get you exercising regularly, push you to challenge yourself, and as an added bonus helps get you in better shape for whenever that next big adventure rolls around.

Jemison Trail in Birmingham, AL is a great local spot to get in a trail run after work

3. Build community. 

Community is a beautiful thing. I really enjoy reading stories and adventures on The Outbound Collective and it’s a great way to have a sense of community with fellow outdoor enthusiasts, but I’m talking about more than that. After all, the ultimate goal of even this online community is to inspire one another to have real outdoor experiences with real people. One of the reasons I love spending time in the outdoors with others is because of how relational of an experience it is, with so many distractions gone and priorities reset.

One of the things I’m most proud of this year is that I’ve taken my dad and brother, who hadn’t done much backpacking before, on three different backpacking trips. While I could list off all the really awesome stuff we did, what’s most impacting about those trips is the fact that we shared those experiences; we were challenged and rewarded together.

Seek out a community of people who you can share your love for the outdoors with on a consistent basis. If your friends or family don’t share your interests, look up local running or hiking groups, or groups that do whatever you’re into. Or get yourself out there and meet people along the way.

Hiking Mt. Rogers, VA, one of our most memorable trips to date

Growing up as a TCK, my concept of “home” was shaped and reshaped. But I’ve come to realize that for me, home is where the people I really care about are. When I’m with the people I really care about, I don’t want to leave. Sure, I still crave adventure, but as best I can I build it into my schedule, get the next big trip planned, and then encourage my community to do it with me.   

Published: December 9, 2016

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