Building Adventure Muscle Memory
It happens every year. We have been at this for at least six years and every summer it is like we have never done this before. Camping weekend? We probably do not need lighters to start a fire, or diapers, or hiking socks, or the proper cooking pans. Every year when we start our camping season we will forget 4-5 “essential” pieces of camping equipment. Every. Dang. Year. Luckily, after a few trips we regroup and get so dialed in that we can camp on a whim almost any time without forgetting anything important. This is all a roundabout way to say that this adventure thing is a process. It is a growing process that, at least with kids, never seems to end. With each passing season, time seems to speed up as their skills grow, their gear increases and their basic needs seem to dwindle. Our toddler is only four and already we get to start packing his bag very similar to our own. He no longer needs diapers or formula or bottles. He has graduated from changing tables to pedal bikes and it is honestly a relief.
Baby years are challenging, everyone is adjusting to this new reality of being in this world or becoming a parent for the first time. I do not regret a moment of adventuring with my babies right away. I feel like even at our slower pace we kept up the momentum enough that it is not as hard to continue to get into the wild with our wild ones. My husband and I were laughing at our packing gaps last weekend and as we compiled our annual ‘don’t forget this next time’ list we had to chuckle at ourselves. Every year we do this and every year we survive it. Except for the diaper debacle, that required some expensive gas station diapers. But every year our “essentials” list is proven wrong, we can always survive a weekend on less than we imagine.
If you are worried that you are unprepared to camp, that you do not know everything so you should wait to collect more gear and do more research before you get started, let me ease your mind. You are not ready. You will forget something. More importantly, you will survive it and you will learn from the experience. Even the most remote towns have at bare minimum a gas station, Ace Hardware, Family Dollar and grocery store. My guess is that when you are just starting you will be close enough to one of these things that you will be able to pick up water, snacks and a lighter to start a fire. Those are really the only essentials you absolutely need. The key is to getting started.
Adventure does not have to look like camping either. I know many adventurous people that do not camp. Adventure is more of a mindset than an activity anyways. If you can walk out your front door and find a bug in the grass you can have an adventure. Start small. Walk around the block or go to a park, or steal a moment on your 5x5’ apartment patio with your loved one. This is how we started. Once you become comfortable outside, try something bigger. Figure out a temperature that you enjoy, and when you get that weather plan a picnic outside, or go watch an outdoor sports game. We spent many early adventure nights watching people play pick up games of all sorts in the park while snacking on sandwiches. After you figure out how to dress for more weather days and get a taste of a sunset or fresh air that can bring more joy (at least to me) than your home AC unit can supply, build on that. Start to replace binge TV sessions with a walk or preparing a meal with someone you love and then enjoying that meal together without the TV blaring in the background.
Trying something new is not always immediately successful. Hard, worthwhile things take practice and failing and trying again. Life coaches have made millions on ‘how to create habits’ in every area of your life; books, apps, websites, infomercials all boast about how to change your life in a multitude of ways and it always comes to habit creation. Athletic trainers call this muscle memory in your body and mind. It is like when you are driving to a familiar route and get to your destination without even remembering making a single turn. Your body and your mind have been trained so well to drive that route that you no longer have to think about the details of the journey. The same technique applies to adventure. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
When your car always has backup clothes for the kids and water you can almost always detour to an adventure. The other day I had many errands to run and I knew we could end up at a park if I just packed some snacks. I have stopped at parks many times without snacks and I have come to know over time that those trips are more successful with that simple addition. So I packed a small bag and a picnic blanket and we ended up spending a few hours enjoying the sunshine and having fun for the kids right in the middle of all the mundane errands I had to run. Not only were the kids better behaved on my errands, we were all in better moods for the rest of the day. This is what adventure muscle memory has done in my life. It has allowed for more fun to be added into the mundane.
If you have an adventure goal in mind, map out a plan to make it happen. You should not go from never having done anything on the weekends to hiking into a backpacking camping spot for a week and assume you will have everything you will need. You won’t even know where to begin. Do yourself and your family a favor and build up that muscle memory first. If you have sight lines on where you want to go you can map out a plan to get there. Recently I posted about a yurt trip where I took the boys camping solo, and I will say that while I am incredibly proud of how well it went, that victory would not have been possible without years of practice.
My husband wants to get to a place when the boys are a little bigger to be able to take them on mountain biking trips. Since no one in the family really had any experience in that, we have started small, building in that direction so it will not come as such a shock and inevitable failure. The boys are two and four and have now both gotten incredibly good on a Strider balance bike and the older one is working on his pedal bike this summer. Last year we even took our oldest to the local dirt biking trails and he rode a few of the ones built to learn on. I was blown away by his fearlessness and persistence, always hoping right back up even after big falls. My husband has also been developing his muscle memory by starting on smaller trails and building up to harder and more technical ones. I know that by the time the boys are big enough to fit on a true mountain bike, everyone will be ready for a bigger adventure, because we have built on small successes for years.
One of the goals with my blog is to help people get started on their adventure life by sharing some of the lessons we have learned over the years. There are so many more lessons that we have learned that I do not even think to mention because they are so ingrained in us now. This is why even after you do all of the research you can, start small anyways. Develop your skills, discover your preferences and really set yourself up for success. Nothing that lasts happens overnight; just ask most lottery winners about the lottery curse. Find the type of adventure that lights you up and get after it!