10 ways being an outdoors enthusiast made me a better person

If you’re like me and have a love for the outdoors, you know there is a natural high that comes with summiting a peak, rafting a class V rapid, off-road bicycling, or catching a 40lb fish. One adventure down and you’re likely talking about or planning the next one. Though you may fit any one of a handful of outdoors stereotypes (think hipster, craft beer snob, chaco-wearing, Subaru-driving, granola and organic yogurt kind of person) I have no doubt your heart is big and your enthusiasm for life is what draws others to you. I know this because I’m often told this is what people love about me.

That being said, I was elated to see a request for articles related to Great Outdoors Month (I feel like every month is dedicated to something these days), particularly because no one ever really talks about this subject. I debated on what angle I should take. Since the article request came from Elite Daily I thought I might do one on why you should date an outdoors enthusiast given dating articles seem to be the most successful on that site (did I mention I was named a top contributor for my latest article for them!?!).  But I ended up settling on how my love for the outdoors has helped me grow as a human being. To me, that’s a lot more interesting, but we’ll see what they think! Here is a version of the article I ended up submitting.

1) I have a greater appreciation for the things we often take for granted

When you spend months without a hot shower, sleeping on rocky, hard surfaces, subsisting on beans and rice, or sweating through the last pair of clean clothes on the trail, the moment you get them all back is one of the closest things to paradise you’ll come across. Without access to the niceties of being in the real-world, you find yourself having a greater appreciation for them – running water, a bed,  heating and air conditioning, take out Chinese food. I thank my lucky stars I have access to all of those things and even more that I can afford them.

2) My life is more interesting

When you’ve done a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, rafted the Gauley River in West Virginia, kayaked the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin, or jumped out of an airplane for the first time, you end up with a slew of stories to tell. People are drawn to that sort of excitement and they make great conversation starters. Some of my favorite outdoors stories to tell? That time I got detained in Mexico for looking like a female terrorist on the loose, sailing down the coast of Belize and how I camped on a deserted island, the sensation of being surrounded by howler monkeys in a rain forest, the serenity of coasting through the air with your parachute. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself connecting with more people because of those experiences.

3) I have a greater sense of self

Being in nature provides a lot of opportunity for self-reflection and introspection. You dissect your life, you push your limits, and you come to find that you’re capable of a lot more than you thought you were. Mix that all together and your confidence about who you are, what you want, and what you expect out of life is pretty spot on. I give myself a lot of grief about this but now that I’m not stuck in my own darkness, if you ask me who I am, I can tell you without a moment of hesitation.

4) I put more emphasis on collecting experiences over materialistic things

I know at the end of my life it won’t matter what car I drove or the kind of house I lived in or whether or not I had the latest version of technology equipment. My hunger for adventure means I value creating lasting memories that no one can take away from me. Roasting marshmallows over lava on top of a volcano in Guatemala, seeing bio-luminescence in Puerto Rico, sharing a meal and laughs with friends over a camp fire – all these experiences mean I know what it feels like to truly live, not just exist.

5) I’m more flexible

If you love the great outdoors you know not everything goes as planned. Road conditions, weather, trail closings, injuries – your plans can pretty much change at whim. No matter,  you rarely complain when things go wrong because you know how to make the best out of any situation. Sure, it might suck. But really cool things happen too (I got lost in the Blue Ridge Mountains and came across a bunch of baby bears so cute I could squeeze them!).

6) I’m healthier, physically and mentally

If you’re an outdoors enthusiast then your body is constantly moving – from walking to hiking to kayaking, the energy your body expends being physically active is much higher than those who find themselves glued to the couch. Science has proven that such activity helps fight certain conditions, like cancer, obesity, depression and heart disease. I’d say my quality of life and sense of well-being is probably higher than those toughing it out in the indoors (although don’t get me wrong, I like couch surfing as well).

7) I’ve become a more fun-loving, free-spirited person

People tell me my enthusiasm for life is unparalleled. I’m a free spirit which means I am  always up for last minute adventures. More than that, I have a say yes to most anything attitude and generally speaking just like to have a good time no matter what I am doing. Finding peace in nature means I’m carrying around fewer burdens out in the real-world. People love being around me because of that.

8) I understand the importance of preserving the environment

No one appreciates nature more than an outdoors enthusiast. I know ‘the earth does not belong to man’ and I feel a responsibility to leave behind a healthy environment for future generations. Natural resources are precious and when I’m in the great outdoors, I cause the least amount of harm possible – recycling (I could do better, though), leaving no trace behind and respecting wildlife, to name a few.

9) I am a better girlfriend 

I’m pretty low maintenance and have no problem scrapping the expensive, fancy dinners for a simple hike through the woods or going to the Saturday Farmer’s Market (in fact, I prefer the latter). More importantly, I’m independent (sometimes overly so) and don’t feel like it’s a requirement to spend every waking moment with my significant other, which means I give my partner space to explore their own wants, desires, and needs. I know that each of us are individuals outside of our relationship and that it’s importance to give each other space to cultivate our own uniqueness.

10) I find value in solitude

In everyday society, doing things alone (e.g. going to a movie, eating at a restaurant) is often met with judgment from others. Though being immersed in the outdoors and doing activities with other like-minded people is fun (and truthfully, sometimes necessary for me given my depressive episodes), I find that doing all those things alone every now and then can provide a lot of other benefits. I have ample opportunity to process the events of my life; I get inspired to write sitting next to a lake, nurturing my own creativity; I’m better able to connect with others, and; I’m not afraid to be alone with myself because I know that aloneness does not equal loneliness.

Even if my love for the outdoors has made me a hipster, craft beer snob, chaco-wearing, Subaru-driving, granola and organic yogurt kind of person (to be clear I don’t drive a Subaru but would really love one!), at least it makes me a more well-rounded, caring, and loving friend, daughter, sister, aunt, and coworker.

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