Being Adventurous as a Parent

By Forrest Smith -

To many I would imagine, especially to those who aren’t into the outdoors, we’ve done a lot. We’ve done numerous camping trips with our little one, small hikes, and some bike rides. We have even managed a few backpacking trips in the Sierras with our little one. However, with the exception of some of the backpacking trips, all of these adventures were missing a key element; the exhaustion factor — that feeling of getting to the end of a day out, or a full weekend of adventure completely physically depleted. That feeling of being sore all day Monday, and part of Tuesday after an epic weekend in the mountains. I miss that.

More than I realized previously, a large part of the draw to playing outdoors is the pure exertion of it. It can be hard to reach this point with a little one in tow.

One Day a Week Warrior

Over the past six months, my wife and I have been playing with our schedule to allow for this missing piece of the puzzle. The best solution we’ve found so far is to give eachother one weekend day off each week. I’ll watch the child on Saturday so she can get out and do whatever she would like to do, and then we switch roles on Sunday, so I can get out. Using this strategy, I’ve managed to get out on a hike or a bike ride each weekend for the past five weekends, which easily feels like my longest stretch of sustained adventure since being a parent. And on these days off, I’m pushing myself to weare myself out, to make sure I’m tired at the end of the day, and ideally sore on the next day.

I feel a little glimmer of myself peeking through, from a time when the outdoors was part of my normal lifestyle, not something that I would enter every-now-and-then.

A Larger Project

One day a week is still not that much time, but it’s better than nothing. I’m also trying to take a step back and view my weekly adventures as part of a larger project. We moved to southern California at about the same time we became parents. Historically, I’ve been a hiker and a backpacker, but since there is less opportunity for that here, I’ve decided to pick up a bike so I can get out and explore the many dirt roads that criscross the scrub and deserts east of San Diego.

My weekend excursions are centered on exploring my region in a manner that’s ideally suited to the region. I’m slowly filling in blank spots on my mental map of southern California and I’m even thinking of trying to “pioneer” a few gravel-grinding routes. My strategy for many of these one-day trips is to do a ride and hopefully get myself fairly exhausted. Then, the game plan is to scope out another ride or two before the day ends, finding where to park for a future ride, and ideally riding out a ways to see if the road conditions and landscape is worthy of a longer trip in the future. I currently have four or five trips that I’ve partially scoped out that I’m looking forward to exploring more. 

Full Weekends

The main issue with the current system is that one day isn’t enough. I’ll arrive back home, ready to get out again the next day. In reality, this has always been a problem, even when I had normal weekends I always wanted more time to play. The next strategy we’re looking to implement will hopefully partially solve this. Instead of trading one-day a week, we’re going to trade full weekends. This will likely involve me buying my wife a nice hotel stay for the weekend so she can go relax and spend some time with herself and with friends. Perhaps a massage and a nice relaxing weekend. The next weekend will be mine. I won’t be indulging in a spa weekend, but getting out as much as I can on a bike, on foot, and however else I want to play and wear myself out.

Family Time

Our new strategy for getting more adventure time as parents has definitely improved my overall well-being, but I think it’s one of those things best done in moderation. It would be easy to adopt this strategy for every weekend, but I also want to spend time with my family, and have us all be able to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. We want to raise our little one with an appreciation and enjoyment for nature, so we want him to join us as much as possible. As we continue to evolve our strategy, it will be a mix of single days off as we’ve been doing, full weekends off, and plenty of family weekends spent playing in the wilderness as a family.