How to Play Outside When You Can't Play Outside

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A good friend of mine once told me she didn't believe in the idea of not having enough time. You make choices about how to spend your time, and if something is a priority, you'll find a way.

I agree, but balancing work, family, life and other activities and still allowing yourself time to play outside is hard. There's no doubt about it.

Two of my first posts on Adventure-Inspired were about the balancing act that is leading an active life. (Those were more focused on how to say no to friends in favor of going to bed early the night before a big climbing day without feeling like a hermit.) I found that a good number of my friends had the same issues, and we all found different ways to balance everything in our lives. But what if you simply can't work a weekend, even a day of playing outside, into your schedule right now? I've got a few things that might help.

Recharging my batteries on a very short walk in Pacific Grove, California during a work event last year.

Set up your tent in your living room/bedroom/backyard and have a good old fashioned camp-out. 

One of my earliest memories is camping out in the backyard with my parents. I don't remember much other than the sounds of my neighborhood at night and the morning dew on the grass, but the concept of being able to experience the outdoors in such a familiar environment was wonderful. Now, tents have become associated with climbing trips, backpacking trips and car camping trips of all sorts, and even just pulling my tent out of the closet makes me happy. Living in Philadelphia-proper means backyards are scarce, but I can still set my tent up in my living room. I could even break out my Mountain Oven and have a Mountain House meal to complete the experience. (This dessert tastes just as good at home as it does on the trail.)

Peruse guidebooks and make wish lists. 

This one might be adding insult to injury, but really, what better way to get yourself in the right mindset than by starting to plan a trip? Even if it's not going to happen this year, or ever, learning about places you want to visit can be exciting. Always wanted to go to Nepal? Pick up a few books and spend time figuring out how you'd spend a week there if you could. Jonesing for a climbing trip? Choose a few spots you'd like to visit and make a tick list. Even if you can't nail down a specific time for a trip, when you can, you'll have your homework done already. In a similar vein...

Look forward to future opportunities to get out. 


If you're sidelined with an injury, take care of yourself and know it'll heal. If you've been having trouble balancing everything going on in your life, don't worry, somehow, you'll make it through and get back out there. Whatever the reason, eventually, and though it may seem like forever, you'll make it happen. If you can plan a trip in a few months, even in a year, or just set aside a week or weekend for your favorite outdoor pursuit, do it. Having something to look forward to can really make a difference.

Live vicariously through other people. 

Climbing partners planning a trip to Yosemite the weekend of your family reunion? Hiking buddies tackling Mount Whitney without you? It can be hard not to let jealousy rear its ugly head when you find out your friends, who have the means and the time, are planning something huge that you can't be a part of. But regardless, it's a great chance to be genuinely happy that at least someone's got the opportunity to go outside. You'll also pick up valuable tips for when you do have a chance to get out. 

Find a way. 

Even if it's not an epic climbing weekend or that backpacking trail you've been meaning to tackle, take advantage of every outdoor moment you have. I walk to work every day, and even when life's too scheduled and I can't make time for a hike, I love looking at the trees in my favorite park and remembering some of my favorite prompts from 31 Days of Adventure. Every little bit counts. It's good for all of us to stop and smell the roses once in a while.

Do you have other ways you deal with not being able to get outdoors as much as you'd like? Leave a comment!

4 comments :

Meghan J. Ward said...

I'm loving this post Katie, particularly as I lay inside this weekend, cooped up because of a flu. I was supposed to be out on a big ski trip, but there was no way I getting out. You've reminded me that adventure can be found in the small things, and I can be just as excited about my friends' trip (the one I was supposed to be on) even though I wasn't there. 

Daniel Beach said...

just getting outside and working in the yard helps a lot, going on short walks in the evening. Thanks for this great post!

Katie L said...

Meghan, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for your response post on The Campsite! I'm sorry to hear you're sick and hope you're well soon. For me, this post was cathartic, and a way of cutting myself some slack like you mentioned you needed to do for yourself! We'll both get back out there soon, I'm sure of it.

Katie L said...

Daniel, glad you're able to find outdoor fun in the yard and on walks! I wish I had a yard to work in, that might help!