Nat Shultz, Adam O’keefe and Joel Wenger on the South Ridge of Mt. Superior in Utah. Photo by Mark C LeBlanc
Every day that goes by is an opportunity to make new memories. Someday we will all look back on our lives and our accomplishments and it is within those memories that we will try to define our life, our legacy, and our purpose. This is a thought that goes through my mind every day. I want to look back on the things that I’ve done, the things that I’ve seen and the things that I’ve accomplished and smile. Therefore, I seek out adventure. I seek out the road less traveled. I seek out higher ground (literally) and I seek to master the things that I am not good at. Now, before I get too far into this, I want to be honest with you. It’s not easy. Seeking a life of adventure entails many struggles, many sacrifices and plenty of suffering. But here’s a little more honesty: it’s worth it.
We’ve all heard the saying “time is money” and there’s no doubt that it’s the truth. This is where most people get hung up and throw in the towel on a life of adventure. I hear it every day from friends and relatives: “I don’t have time.” So what is it that is eating up so much of your time? Being an engineer, I always go back to the math. There are 168 hours in a week. If you spend 40 hours working, one hour getting ready every day (7), one hour commuting every weekday (5), eight hours sleeping every night (8x7=56) and three hours eating every day (3x7=21), you’re left with 39 hours for living. I doubt it feels that way. I’m sure it feels like there’s just no time left for adventure. So where does all the time go? This is a problem that can be solved through time management and prioritization. I was fortunate enough to have spent a couple of years competing in the sport of triathlon and I’ve never met a group of people with better time management skills. I had friends who were married with children and successful careers who trained 15+ hours a week at a higher intensity than most people ever have. It was inspiring and I learned a lot about how to find the time. Here are some things I learned along the way.
Working after hours - Work is important and I take my career seriously, and that is exactly why I spend so much time outside. Studies have shown that people who spend more time outside are more productive at work. Also, as important as career building may be, you shouldn’t let life pass you by in the process. Every day gone is a day you can never get back. Perfectly successful careers may be nice, but there is a balance to be found. Find your balance, and in my experience, both your career and personal life will prosper.
Watching too much television - The best thing I ever did was disconnect cable. I grew up in a home where we had only one television for the entire family and we spent most of our time playing outside. Television can be a nice way to wind down or escape reality at the end of a hard day, but try and keep it to a minimum. If you watch television for one hour a day for 80 years, you will have spent 3.32 years of your life watching television. If you’re going to watch television, my suggestion is to find documentaries that inspire you to be more adventurous.
Sleeping in on the weekends - This is your chance to get out and crush it! The recommended amount of sleep is 7-9 hours per night. If you get to bed at 10 pm, you should be able to get nine hours of sleep and be up and ready for 7 am! The most successful triathletes that I used to train with were in the pool at 5 am every morning. Not a morning person or just don’t feel like you can manage an early wake-up call every weekend? Shoot for at least one weekend a month where you get up early and get after it. You might just find you come to love those early morning hours.
Spending time on social media - I’ll be honest. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this, but do your best to limit yourself as much as possible. If you’re going to spend time on social media, follow people or brands that inspire you to seek more out of life.
Mealtime - Try and be more efficient when it comes to meal times. For breakfast, I usually have a cup of coffee and a cup of blueberries or blackberries. For lunch, I usually grab something healthy and convenient and try to work through lunch to free up my afternoon.
Master the dawn patrol - You’d be surprised at how many people are awake before the birds in seek of an early morning adventure. These are the masters of the dawn patrol and efficiency is the name of the game. There have been many mornings when I’ve woken up at 4 am and was sitting on a peak eating my breakfast while watching the sunrise with time to ski or run down and make it to my desk for 8 am. There’s no better way to start your day.
COMING UP WITH IDEAS
You don’t have to start your life of adventure with a summit attempt on K2. The great thing about the outdoors is that it has something for everyone. Don’t worry about how other people experience the outdoors. Try and seek what will bring the most fulfilling experience to you. Here are some of my favorite types of adventure.
Hiking/Trail Running - Hiking and trail running are great ways to experience the outdoors and there are so many different variations of experience that can be had. I sometimes look for hikes or runs that are physically challenging and rewarding. Trails that end at the summit of a mountain or at a high altitude lake give me motivation to keep going even when the trail gets steep. Alternatively, you might be more interested in hikes that you can take at a more leisurely pace to observe wildlife or hone your nature photography skills. Find a trail that suits your needs for that specific day. Some days you might be chasing fitness and some days you might just need to connect with the nature in a more spiritual way by watching the sunset from a nice overview. Try and think of waterfalls, mountains, rivers, wildlife and fresh air as a daily vitamin. Pack a bag before work and find trails that are close by so you can get the most out of your afternoon.
James Breaux out for a hike in Moab, Utah. Photo by Mark C LeBlanc
Cycling - It’s amazing how much you can see from a bicycle. Whether you’re on a mountain bike or a road bike, you’re usually traveling at a speed that is slow enough for you to enjoy the view, but fast enough to cover a lot of ground in a day. If you’re new to cycling, start with a couple 1-2 hour bike rides per week and you’ll be capable of 5-6 hour weekend rides before you know it.
Adam Mills mountain biking on the Wasatch Crest Trail after work in Park City, Utah. Photo by Mark C LeBlanc.
SUP - Even if you don’t live near a raging whitewater river or a mountain range, you probably live within driving distance of a body of water suitable for stand-up paddleboarding. This can be super fun and spending the day out on the water exploring under human power is extremely good for the body and soul. Look for a place that rents stand up paddleboards and pack an ice chest with lunch and plenty of water!
Rock Climbing - Rock climbing is a sport that has something for everyone and it can be learned in the controlled environment of a climbing gym. Getting started is pretty cheap, and top rope climbing (a style of climbing where the climber is in a harness attached to a rope that is passed through an anchor system and down to the base of the climb where a belayer actively manages the rope for the climber) is relatively safe if you take the time to learn the proper techniques and safety precautions from an experienced mentor or guide. The best part about rock climbing is that couples or families often begin and progress at a similar grade of difficulty. Women are often better than men at rock climbing and children are often better than adults.
Mark LeBlanc out for a climb after work in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Camping - If you haven’t spent a weekend away from electricity and the noise of the city, then you probably need it. Camping is extremely therapeutic and it is often the launchpad for multiple adventures.
Sam LeBlanc relaxing on a weekend camping trip in Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Mark C LeBlanc.
Backpacking - It’s camping, but with all of your supplies in a backpack. This requires lots of fitness, equipment and skill to navigate through the mountains on multi-day backpacking trips. Multi-day backpacking trips can also take you to some of the most beautiful and secluded places on earth. If the more popular hiking trails or campsites are too “peopley” for you, backpacking can provide the solitude you are looking for.
Duckies/Kayaks - Whitewater kayaking is often reserved for the enthusiast who spends much of their time and focus mastering the craft, but duckies can be fun and safe for beginners because they are inflatable and durable. The first time my wife and I went down a river in duckies, I’m pretty sure she hit every rock in the river and had more fun than anyone else on the trip! Kayaking can also be an extremely rewarding adventure, but be sure to spend the time preparing for that activity and give the river the respect it demands.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION
Successful adventures are the ones that you are well prepared for. Being prepared can often require research, knowledge, skills and/or equipment depending on the objective, but one thing that is almost always required is fitness. Most worthwhile outdoor activities require a certain amount of fitness so that you can move efficiently and stay safe. Attaining a level of fitness beyond what is required can, in some instances, compensate for mediocre skills or experience. With that being said, you should take serious objectives seriously and train for them accordingly.
Planning your objectives ahead of time is super important so that you can be organized and efficient and focus on enjoying the experience. Get on the internet and do as much research as you can to find out what the route is, the equipment needed, the best weather conditions or season and potential hazards or danger. Make sure you anticipate things that could go wrong and have a plan.
ADVENTURE FOR FAMILIES
Finding an adventure suitable for the entire family can b tricky, because everyone has different needs, capabilities and interests. My wife loves gardening, I love cycling and we both love hiking, trail running and rock climbing. So when I go cycling, she spends time gardening and a few times a week we try to go hiking, trail running or rock climbing. All of those are great family activities that can lead to memories that last a lifetime.
You might not have enough daylight after work to go rock climbing outside, but you can spend time during the week preparing yourself to conquer the weekend. Climbing at a climbing gym is a great family activity and can really boost your fitness and skills for rock climbing outdoors. My wife and I go to the climbing gym a couple times a week and we have a standing date night every Friday night. We show up at the rock gym on Friday’s around 6:30 pm, climb for a few hours and then have a late dinner. It’s really good quality time that we spend together and we both get physically stronger so that we can climb more on the weekends. Climbing also has the benefit of requiring intense focus, which is sure to get your mind off of all the “other things” that might be stressing you out.
Hiking, trail running, or even a long nature walk outside after work is a great activity and something the whole family can enjoy. Try to find hikes or walks that are close to your home or work to cut down on the amount of time it takes to travel to and from. If you only have a short amount of daylight, try to find a shorter/more strenuous hike or walk so you can really get in a good workout in a short amount of time. This will boost your fitness for those longer weekend family adventures that require more endurance.
THE OUTDOORS ARE FOR EVERYONE
You should reject the idea that a life of adventure is reserved for the elite. The earth is rich and it has something to offer for everyone. Find the type of outdoor experience that you best connect with. Find what makes you completely forget about everything else going on in the world(I refer to this as “the other things”). Try doing something that you’re bad at and find out something about yourself. Occasionally get out of your comfort zone and you might find a new one. Experience new things, share those experiences with friends and seek out a healthier mind, body and soul. This life can be free and beautiful. Don’t be one of the many who forget to enjoy it.
To see more from Mark, follow him on Instagram: @markcleblanc