By Michael Lanza
Do you get outside as much as you’d like, either locally or on longer trips away from home? Who does? For many of us, work, family, and other responsibilities can erect roadblocks to getting out as much as we’d like. Although my work gives me excuses to spend a lot of time outdoors every year, like most people, I still have to balance many commitments. In fact, my professional need to get out frequently on trips—along with my desire to get out regularly on short, local hikes, runs, rides, and skis of anywhere from an hour to a day—has, over the years, forced me to learn many tricks for accomplishing that within the framework of a busy life.
In this story, I share with you the simple strategies I’ve learned and continue using to satisfy my large appetite for getting outdoors more—both on short outings near home and longer trips away from home.
The point is not whether you’re getting out as much as someone else, or even where you’re going—it’s whether you’re doing what’s necessary to ensure you get out as much as you’d like (or as close to that ideal as possible).
I think you’ll find that these tips can change your life for the better. Please share your thoughts on them, or your own tricks for getting out more, in the comments section at the bottom of this story.
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No. 1 Plan Trips Weeks or Months in Advance
When was the last time you had the freedom to take off on the spur of the moment? Probably years ago, right?
Many people lack that flexibility, which means that your outdoor recreation, like your work, has to be scheduled in advance, or it doesn’t happen. That’s partly because backpacking, camping, and other activities in many national parks, like Canyonlands and Grand Canyon (lead photo at top of story), can require making reservations months in advance.
I usually have at least three trips in some planning stage; and by late April every year, I typically have much of my summer filled with trips long and short. For years, I’ve also maintained a list of trip ideas with some details or links to information; that document is now well over 18,000 words and the list keeps getting longer, not shorter.
I need to get busy. So do you.
No. 2 Involve Your Family
As a parent, the best way to get outdoors more is to get your kids involved at a very young age—carrying them on hikes and other activities before they’re walking, then letting them move under their own power as soon as they can walk. Since our kids were babies, we’ve taken them on adventures that were realistic for their ages and abilities. Now that they’re older teenagers, they have—to our joy, for many reasons—grown into enthusiastic and very capable backpackers, climbers, skiers, and whitewater boaters.
I’ve also, for years, taken annual father-son and father-daughter trips, which my kids love and look forward to as much as I do. That delivers multiple benefits for me: creating additional opportunities for me to get outside; ingraining in our children a love for the outdoors that my wife and I have always shared. Plus, by getting my family out as much as they’re willing to go, they occasionally don’t mind when I take off without them on a climbing or backpacking trip (or maybe they’re just happy to get a break from me).
See my “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids” and all of my stories about family adventures at The Big Outside.
No. 3 Get Organized
If the thought of packing up your gear for a weekend erects a mental hurdle to going, maybe you’ve created too much of a barrier for yourself. Get organized and efficient not just about packing for a trip, but also about storing gear after trips; having it ready to go helps you get out the door more quickly. Keep supplies like stove fuel and backpacking food on hand. That way, taking off for a night or two of camping or backpacking isn’t an ordeal.
Plan your next great backpacking trip in Yosemite, Grand Teton, and other parks using my expert e-guides.
No. 4 Be the Planner
Just about anyone appreciates much of the trip planning being done for them. I look at my list of trip ideas and propose specific adventures to my family and friends. By repeatedly coming up with ideas for great trips and facilitating them, I’ve cultivated a stable of capable, fun friends to choose from, depending on the nature of the trip.
While it requires some time from me, I enjoy thinking about new adventures. Plus, when you’re taking the lead planning role, other people are willing to have duties delegated to them.
I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life. Find out more here.
No. 5 Build Extra Time Into a Business Trip
Whether it’s a week or more, a weekend, a day, or even a morning or afternoon before catching a flight home, when traveling for work, schedule time to get outside. Before you depart on the trip, find out about the local recreation options where you’re headed—the choices may pleasantly surprise you.
For example, on a visit to Joshua Tree National Park, I added two days to a business trip, and a good friend who lived in California was able to schedule a work trip to that area at the same time. We both got bonus days hiking and rock climbing without incurring more travel time or expense.
Get a jump on your next adventure with my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”
Shopping for new gear? Start with the categorized menus of all of my reviews and expert buying tips at my Gear Reviews page.