The last two months have been a slow-moving tornado of exploring, hosting friends and family, and running around California with a one year old in tow. In the space of ten weeks we hit Sonoma, Big Sur, Carmel (twice), and San Francisco (a million times), road-tripped to LA, and logged approximately 2700 miles. I ask myself how it's possible. Now, I do not recommend that you cross the Golden Gate Bridge sixteen times (twice is cool), or exhaust your reserves. This is not a rationalization for insanity. But I have figured out a few tips for making exploration possible, though it can seem daunting and impossibly draining in the midst of an already busy life with a tiny human. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but it's helpful for me to document for myself what has helped me to create the mental space and energy for adventures.
One note: In this blog post, I'm using the word "adventure" to mean "any activity outside your house that may be a little or a lot outside your comfort zone and/or normal routine." It doesn't have to be a 200 mile trip, although it could be. It might be a trip to the museum on free day or a jaunt to another town just to look around. (Babies get in and eat free nearly everywhere, which is one of their greatest and oft-overlooked perks to being young and alive. Sam is a cheap date.)
I'm planning to keep a running list of Adventure Tips on this blog. I'm kicking it off with my first three.
1a) SHUN FACEBOOK
I read something the other day where the author referred to that itch to check Facebook or email as a "ping." It's akin to a snack attack that compels you to go stare in the fridge. Every time I follow that "ping," I lose precious minutes throughout my day that could add up to something usable and productive. I drain creative juice as I stand there staring at my phone. In an indirect way, this seriously inhibits adventuring. Stopping to poke around on my phone can stop a spark of energy in its tracks, fill up the empty spaces that would otherwise be fertile ground for a new idea. A little dose of healthy boredom is crucial for getting you out the door or dreaming up a new plan. To help with the Ping Problem, I've started leaving my phone in the bedroom so I can hear it when it rings, but it's not burning a hole in my pocket like a pack of M&Ms.
1b) SHUN TV
It's not the easiest one on the list, but it is the simplest. Don't default to TV-watching, but enjoy shows intentionally, as a special event, like a good dessert. I am not saying that we should shun Facebook and TV-watching entirely; I am saying that that we need to use them wisely, with self-imposed limitations, if we are to reclaim the time and energy they can so sneakily drain from us. This is hard. I am always re-learning this, which is part of why I'm writing it.
I realize that on first glance these first two points seem to have very little to do with adventuring. For me, though, they are critical. I have a baby. I have limited time and energy, and very little margin. If I want to throw an adventure into the mix, something has to go.
2) BE PREPARED (a.k.a. THE THREE-MINUTE CHECK)
All right, let's talk nuts and bolts now. Fun, in-the-moment adventuring requires nitty-gritty advance prep. I try to keep my car loaded with the essentials at all times. Essentials may include, but are not limited to:
- A full tank of gas
- Mom gear: water bottles, granola bars, jacket, sunglasses, hat
- Baby gear: food, stroller, Ergo, blanket, jacket, sun hat, sunscreen, emergency change of clothes, a couple of books and toys.
- A stash of diapers and wipes
- Car charger for my phone (which inevitably dies partway through a day of navigating and photographing)
- Mini cooler with an ice pack that lives in the freezer at all times
The night before an adventure, even if I'm totally wiped out by the time Sam goes to bed, I take three minutes to do my three-minute check. I rummage through my car essentials, make sure the diaper stash isn't running low, throw a couple of Sam's snacks into a baggie, grab a clean baby spoon, make sure there's an ice pack in the freezer, refill my Nalgene bottle and toss it on the passenger seat (I keep a list by the door so I can double-check). The key here is to move FAST. Three minutes. Take it at a run, if you need to. So you can go to bed. Because adventurers need sleep.
Also, keep your keys in the same place. Every day. No. Matter. What. There is nothing more frustrating and unnecessary than lost keys at the last minute. (Excuse me while I repeat this to myself five times.)
Nevertheless, it's still a headache to get out the door, and most of the time this is how the last 20 minutes before leaving sounds in my head: There's too much to remember, too many last-minute things. I'll be in this house forever, collecting small objects and stuffing them in my purse. I can't find my own shoe. I mean, shoes. I need two, right? WHERE ARE MY SUNGLASSES? This is one of the circles of hell. Oh, they're on my head. SAM THE TOILET IS NOT A TOY! Now we get to wash your hands. Okay, we're going. Bye! *door shuts* *I run back in* *door shuts again* I run back into the house three more times, for deodorant; for Cheerios; for my phone, which I can't find because it's in the car, buried under my gear.
Finally, we drive away. (Following Google Maps, of course, because I forgot where we were even going.)
3) GET INSANELY GOOD AT PARALLEL PARKING
I can't tell you how many times I've nearly bailed on an adventure because parking seemed terrifying. So I practiced until I was undaunted. Here's a great video with tips for how to parallel park like a pro. Also, be willing to walk inconvenient distances to get to your destination. The parking, the walking, the getting lost on the way...it's all part of the adventure.
I never said adventuring was easy, or sane. I only said it was possible. And worthwhile.
What are your favorite adventure strategies? I'm always collecting new ones and would love to hear yours!