How not to mess up your own fun

Who knew, back when we used to swing on trees and hide out under the forsythia bush on summer days, that “getting outdoors” would one day be a thing.

Like, a Thing.

An activity. A hobby. An industry.

As kids, we were just told to outside and play, so we did. In a tiny town in West Virginia, that meant riding bikes up and down the street. If no other kid was around to play with, my brother and I found something to do in the front yard (baseball) or the back yard (swinging) or the side yard (throwing stuff or poking stuff with sticks or going through the sheds). In summer, Mom took us swimming near the low-water bridge for hours at a time. We played basketball up at the schoolyard, or whatever sports our friends were up to. Nobody told us we were wasting our time, or should be studying something…we were kids and were doing what we were supposed to.

Goofing off in a tree.

As an adult, I really enjoy reading articles about hiking and backpacking, hunting and fishing and gardening. People share great tips they’ve picked up from doing that thing faithfully over time, saving me from making dumb mistakes I’d surely make, because they made it first. Sometimes I worry, though, that everyday people may buy into the idea that they need to get directions, or special gear, or an expert guide to try out a new outdoor activity. For sure if you’re going to go climbing vertical rockfaces, or whitewater raft on a big river, or pack into the backcountry wilderness alone, you ought to do your homework first. But short of that, most people could just take a swing at an outdoor sport or hobby without doing themselves any harm. Fishing can start as simple as a cheap pole, hook and some worms. Hiking is just walking, really…a trail map and some water are the only necessary tools. Gardening can start with a 99 cent pack of seeds and a spoon to dig the dirt.

We overcomplicate lots of stuff in life. Exploring outside is, for me, the antidote to that human inclination. Feel free to seek out and take advice, read, shop and research before you take on a new outdoor hobby, if that works for you. But don’t be afraid to just get out of your car and take a long walk on a trail you’ve never seen, or toss your fishing hook off the banks of a stream. It’s the nature of exploring that you never know what will happen next.

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