Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
THE GREAT OUTDOORS — There's no need to delay.
The new year has already begun and it's best not to dilly dally. Here are four outstanding resolutions to help make you the outdoors master of the year.
Try something new
It's easy to stick with the familiar and the comfortable, but the natural world has countless gifts and diverse knowledge to bestow on humble adventurers.
Hitting the metaphorical repeat button is kind of like going to a buffet and just eating the croutons at the salad bar again, and again and again. There's nothing wrong with liking croutons, but think of what you're missing.
Pick a new activity, location or season just outside your comfort zone. Give preference to low-impact, non-consumptive activities that place fewer stresses on our natural resources. Try bird watching, backpacking, thru-hiking, trail running, snowshoeing, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, scuba diving or volunteering your time to improve or restore our public lands.
You won't only discover a whole new world of outdoor experiences, you'll gain an expanded appreciation for nature and learn to better relate to other groups of outdoor enthusiasts. The result will be greater understanding and hopefully an increase in respect and courtesy. Both are very much needed in our day and age.
In all that you do, make sure to start small and increase gradually. You are responsible for your own safety. Stretch yourself but don't bite off more than you can chew.
Go on a pilgrimage, not a trip
We're all incredibly busy and the temptation to just copy and paste something you see on YouTube or other social media can be incredibly seductive. But if you're just copying what you see others doing, you're denying yourself some of the sweetest rewards nature grants genuine explorers, such as personal discovery and genuine communion with nature.
Certainly, there are some resources, including online, that are very much worthy of your time. But by charting your own course instead of being drawn into the internet travel feedback loop, you won't only avoid being misled by the endless collection of mostly indistinguishable, untrustworthy, clickbaity lists of "must-dos" or "top 10s."
Instead, begin to author your own personalized book of discovery, experience, growth and pilgrimage. That is a far sweeter reward than anything legions of mostly repetitive internet influencers can offer.
Pilgrimages are about connection — connection to the earth and wilderness, connection to the divine, connection to generations past, and connection to yourself. Share what you learned and the mistakes you made along the way with your friends and family afterward.
Share your personal growth and how you connected with something greater than yourself. You'll be surprised at the power pilgrimage and connection have to inspire and uplift.
Share an adventure the old-fashioned way
These days the word "share" has been almost entirely co-opted by the internet.
When it comes to sharing your outdoor adventures, the old ways are still the best ways. Buck the trend and go old school — share an outdoor adventure with your friends and family, leaving social media and electronics out of it entirely.
A unique connection forms when you share an experience in person. There is joy and growth to be discovered that simply can't be gained except by undergoing an experience together. Photos and experiences shared on social media have a remarkably short shelf life and rarely achieve any level of importance beyond passing curiosity or distraction. Go deeper and take someone with you.
There's another critically important reason to share your outdoor adventures the old-fashioned way.
The internet is kind of like the lawless old west, too vast to effectively regulate. There's no way to ensure that only responsible and courteous viewers will take advantage of your shared travels and discoveries. Vandals and narcissists are inflicting terrible harm on what remains of our shared natural heritage and social media has been one of the primary engines driving that destruction.
Sharing the old-fashioned way won't do much for the "like" counter on your social media feed but you're trading in those likes for something far better and much longer-lasting.
Be a better steward
This is indisputably the most important outdoor resolution you can set this year. Most of us need to do better at taking care of our belabored and dwindling natural resources.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we've collectively turned nature for recreation, solace and even therapy in unprecedented numbers. Mother Nature has obliged but has paid a terrible price for her generosity.
Parks and public lands were "getting trashed" in 2020. And, nearly two years later, the situation has only worsened.
For veteran adventurers, the change has been extremely difficult to witness. Vandalism and overcrowding at national parks tend to grab the headlines, but the flood of people, trash and destruction are evident everywhere.
There's not a single nature preserve that hasn't been affected. Lovers of the outdoors need to mobilize individually and collectively or risk losing our natural treasures and everything they offer.
There are a few primary basics to live by if you're new to the outdoors — almost all of which are covered by the basic seven Leave No Trace principles. If you're an experienced outdoorsman or woman and you haven't yet committed to taking these measures seriously, then make 2022 the year you step up in a big way.
Consider volunteering your time to repair trails, pick up garbage, restore wildlife habitat or help scrub away graffiti. And remember, taking care of our natural wonderlands doesn't just start once you hit the trail. What you do at home has a profound impact on our public lands.
From what you share online to your consumption habits, you have a critical role to play in the preservation of our priceless natural playgrounds. Commit or recommit to all three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.
A great deal of misleading emphasis has been placed on recycling over the past few decades, but recycling is just one leg of a three-legged stool — and it's by far the least impactful. Reduce and reuse need to be given priority; recycling, when done properly, can help pick up the slack.
If you haven't checked in a while, review your curbside recycling guidelines and locate specialty recycling drop-offs near you. Poor recycling habits can contaminate otherwise valuable materials and result in whole truckloads of good, reusable materials being thrown out. Make sure you're recycling properly.
Being a better steward also brings us back to social media. There's a growing perception that social media and the internet are destroying public lands, and this is largely true with an important caveat. The internet and social media are tools — tools that are sadly being used by many very irresponsibly. The internet's economy of likes, clicks, viral engagement and the fragility of nature is generally not a good mix.
Where social media rewards the sensational, outrageous and bombastic, nature rewards the humble, respectful, contemplative and prepared.
Responsibly sharing your outdoor adventures online is a tenuous balancing act. You can inspire and motivate others to care for our public treasures — or, if not sufficiently careful, feed the like-crazed destruction of our priceless natural treasures. Remember, something takes on a life of its own once it is shared online. The consequences can be severe and even irreversible.
Responsible outdoor adventurers take their stewardship very seriously and know when to share and when not to share their wanderings online. Social media when used responsibly, is critical to the survival of our wildlands and strengthening our collective love of the natural world. Used irresponsibly, it may well grant you temporary notoriety but possibly at a terrible cost to our parks, forests and other wildlands.
Whenever you do share your travels online, make sure the message of stewardship is absolutely clear. The last couple of years has demonstrated the remarkable fragility of our shared wildlands. Consider withholding pictures and travel information if you can't be certain it will be used responsibly.