No goals allowed

I have a small stack of journals sitting on my desk. I don’t write in them regularly; they’re mostly for keeping notes while I’m traveling. I’ll often go weeks or months between scrawled, barely-legible entries. In the back of each one, there is a tally of annual nights spent in a sleeping bag (tents, yurts, huts, cabins, hammocks, and truck beds all count). I’m usually in the thirties by mid-May, and, for the last few years, I’ve broken 100 nights by September or October. 

This year has been a little different. I haven’t spent nearly as many nights outside in 2017. 

Instead of spending the early summer backpacking, like I usually do, I trained for my first marathon. (Side note: it is still unclear to me whether this was a worthwhile tradeoff.)

Instead of hightailing it to the nearest trailhead to camp on weeknights, I’ve spent my “off” hours working on projects I don’t otherwise have time for, like sprucing up the bed in the back of my new truck and brushing up on my Spanish.

Instead of pushing myself to climb a grade harder or paddle rapids that make me feel like throwing up, I’ve been listening to my aches and pains and letting myself go for long, slow, easy jogs.

For the first time in many years, I don’t have a bunch of immediate, self-imposed goals. It is a little disconcerting, but also oddly freeing.

The last weekend in July, Bix and I had a rare stretch of days to ourselves: no travel plans, no friends in town, no on-call status. There was rain in the forecast just about everywhere we looked. So instead of bagging a few 14ers or gearing up for a 20-mile run or consulting our ever-growing list of Trips We Should Take Sometime, we headed to some dispersed camping outside the little ranching town of Yampa.

We went for a hike. We napped. We fished. We sat around the campfire and read and drank Tecate and made elaborate dinners. I did not accomplish any goals whatsoever, and it felt wonderful.

(Upsettingly, my dog did not get the no-goals memo and accomplished his lifelong objective of killing a vole in the wild.)

In my early twenties, I don’t think I could have enjoyed a no-goals weekend. Not checking a bunch of things off my to-do list would have sent me into a downward spiral of FOMO (don’t worry; I, too, hate myself for using that expression) and self-doubt. This is, perhaps, another way in which I’ve arrived, kicking and screaming, at Adulthood. It also helps to spend less time scrolling through Instagram.

This week, we will celebrate the end of Bix’s busy (and my painstakingly slow) summer season by taking off on a weeks-long road trip. This, I will remember, is why we have the jobs we do: for much of the off-season, we can work from just about anywhere. Our plans are not earth-shattering. We will spend a week in the Boundary Waters, where we’ll celebrate our second wedding anniversary, then a few days mountain biking and floating in packrafts, then a few days visiting friends and family. I will not come back hardened and steely-eyed, but I will come back feeling like a human again. Right now, that sounds even better.

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