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How I Learned to Enjoy Dream Destinations Close to Home

Well dang it. I missed out. Do you ever get that feeling? That regret? I do.

I lived in North Carolina for almost ten years. You would think that would be plenty of time to do everything I could possibly want to do there. It wasn’t. I wanted to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains, a short two hours from my house. I didn’t. I wanted to ride horses down North Turkey Creek Trail in Umstead Park, which was just around the corner. I didn’t. The list goes on, and all I have to say for myself now that I live on the other side of the country is… Dang it!!

Looking back, I have to say I wonder why it was so hard for me to get around to doing the things that were practically in my backyard. I would spend months planning trips to exotic, faraway places and still miss doing the just as awesome thing that was right in front of me. Was it just the fact that it was always there that made me less motivated to go?

Now I live a couple thousand miles away, and those cool things that were around the corner are the exotic, far-off places that I would have to spend months planning to visit. However, instead of dwelling on the dang its of my past, I have been finding ways to make sure I don’t have any more in the future.

I Looked Around and Made a List

Something I’ve realized from moving across the country is that every area has it’s charming places. Its spots around the corner that are too good to miss, and I am bound and determined to find those spots near my new home. I find them online using social media groups and sites like Free Arenas, I hear about them from locals, and I find them through my own exploration.

Every time I find a new spot, I jot it down on my list. I keep a list digitally in my phone, and another taped to my mirror where I can always see it. There is something motivating about seeing a list of what I want to do every day. I find myself using the items on the list to fill spaces of time that may otherwise have been horribly wasted.
A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon I had a few hours to kill. Looking at my list I noticed one entry that had been up there for months, “Hike R Mountain”. I knew the drive to the mountain would take a couple minutes, and the hike a couple hours. I grabbed my best friend and we set out on that chilly afternoon.

It was a beautiful hike up what turned out to be a long extinct volcano, and I marveled that I hadn’t come before.

After the hike, instead of a dang it, I had a memory, some wonderful photographs, and a check off my list.

I Made a Schedule

Seeing how well hiking R Mountain fit into a Sunday afternoon, I tried looking at other empty spaces in my schedule to fill. Noticing a free Saturday a few weeks out, I wrote in something that would take longer than a few hours, “Visit Craters of the Moon.”

The scheduled Saturday arrived, and that morning I didn’t feel like doing much of anything, but seeing it on the schedule awoke some motivation in me. I looked at myself in the mirror, and told myself, “I said I’d go, so I will.”

Seeing Craters of the Moon was an other worldly experience, a step into outer space. The stunning hiking trails and fascinating caves were something unique. Something that I was glad I didn’t miss.

Having this on the schedule helped me make time for an activity that I otherwise would have missed. It gave me time to have an out of the world experience.

I Created a Reward

After a long day of typing away at a computer, I couldn’t seem to motivate myself to finish this project. It was at about that time that I got a call from my parents. “We are going camping in West Yellowstone this weekend, would you like to join us?” Would I? I looked at my list, and yes camping in West Yellowstone was definitely on there.

I told myself, “If I finish this project. I can go camping.” This glimmer of hope helped me trudge through the rest of my mundane project, and I was able to go on the camping trip. I saw the stars more clearly and sharply than I ever knew they could be and said to myself, “Now this is a reward.”

Using the activities on my list as a reward works sometimes. It helps me look forward to the activities with excitement and anticipation, and complete less desirable tasks that life demands I do. Other times, instead of using these activities as a reward I use them as an escape.

I Took a Break

As a human, I can tell you that my life sometimes feels mundane. I feel stuck in the patterns, and have a need to escape to the wilderness. I have found that looking to my list for a means of escape has brought me a newfound sense of freedom.

There was one particular week where I felt like I was a broken record, playing the same day on repeat. As I brushed my teeth one morning, my eyes fell on my list. I noticed “Visit the Saint Anthony Sand Dunes”. I smiled, thought through my day, realized nothing on my to do list was vital, grabbed my roommate and drove to the sand dunes.

We spent the afternoon with our feet sinking in the sand. We walked up and rolled down the dunes. When the afternoon was over we watched a spectacular sunset, and I thought about how life is so not mundane.

I Found a Friend

I have found that the desire I have to explore and escape is one I share with many of my friends, family members, and roommates. After spending a few months in my new home, I noticed that my best friend and I had a lot of the same places on our list. We started planning to explore these locations together.

I noticed how quickly I began to gather pictures, memories, and checkmarks on my list. My best friend and I motivated each other to get out of the house and go around the corner. It was wonderful to have someone who was just as excited I was to get out there.

Seeing her list added places to my list. We hiked, camped, kayaked and bonded. We explored the spots around every corner, only to discover new corners. I noticed that I was falling in love with my new home. I was pining less for the dang its of my past.

I Created Scarcity

After all of my exploration, I still notice that the best motivation to get out there is scarcity. There is something inside me that always knows that the amazing spot around the corner might not always be there.

I create scarcity for myself using a variety of methods. For some activities I consider the fleeting days of warmth or the melting snow. The weather can be a great motivation to explore now. After all, I don’t want to wait until next year to go skiing for the first time.

Another method I use to create scarcity is the realization that life is short. I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I don’t know if I will always live in the same place, or be able to hike a mountain. I don’t know if I will always like kayaking, or have my Sunday afternoons free, but what I do know is I can visit the place around the corner now.

If I could shout any piece of advice to the people who’ve missed out on the spots around the corner, it would be make a list of places to go, remember those places might not always be there and go.

Going to the places around the corner has given me a new home and a feeling of constant adventure. My list gets longer as time goes by, no matter how many places I visit. I have found favorite spots and spots I never want to go again. I have strengthened relationships and made memories. But, most importantly, I find myself saying dang it a lot less.

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The Beginner Jitters: How to Start ANY New Sport

There I was, at the bottom of a huge rock wall watching my husband’s feet as he scurried up it like a spider, barely touching each handhold before bouncing to the next. He was at the top in seconds. It had to be easy right? I started my climb up the exact same wall, and after several painstaking minutes I fell… a whole six feet.

Did my husband laugh at me? No. At least not externally. Was he judging me? No. Was I embarrassed anyway? Oh yeah! Did I want to go rock climbing with him ever again? No way!

Being a beginner standing next to someone who could do what I couldn’t (and could probably do it blindfolded) was intimidating. It made me not want to try again, despite how much I liked climbing those six feet.

Overcoming those beginner jitters was not an easy task, but there are some things I discovered that helped me through it.

1. Begin at the Beginning

The first thing I discovered, that I just had to be ok with, was that beginners begin at the beginning. A shocking revelation right? For some unknown reason I looked at rock climbing differently from any other learned skill. I was young and fit. I should be able to do this right? Wrong.

If I wanted to learn to paint, I wouldn’t expect myself to sit down and paint a masterpiece the first time. I would expect to paint something that looked like someone who had never painted before painted it.

I had to realize that rock climbing was the same, a skill to be learned over time. I couldn’t instantly go from zero understanding of the sport to scaling cliffs. That was an unreasonable expectation. I had to get over this expectation and tell myself (more than just once), “It is ok to be a beginner who begins at the beginning.”

2. Find the Right Place to Start

After I lowered my expectations of myself to something more reasonable, I had to figure out exactly where the beginning was. I had to understand what my body and skill level could handle.

I wish I could tell you that the next wall I tried was easier. Everyone at the gym told me this was one of the easier walls. But, after several attempts that ended in falling, I concluded that they must be lying.

I liked climbing enough that I wanted to work up to climbing those walls, but I knew I couldn’t start there. I began exploring other options, and found somewhere to start.

That was when I discovered the wonderful thing that was bouldering. The great thing about bouldering is that boulders are typically shorter structures. Perfect for someone who couldn’t make it past the first few feet of any wall.

Practicing on boulders increased my strength and my love for climbing. Each time I tried it climbing became easier and more attainable. It seemed like I might not be completely hopeless after all.

3. Find a Mentor

A few months later (Yes, it took me months) my husband and I took a trip to City of Rocks. We climbed over boulders and up some easier rocks. This trip made a couple things very apparent to me. First, that I was absolutely in love with rock formations. I mean, wow, this place was cool. Second, I wasn’t gonna get anywhere without a mentor.

I was about halfway up a rock formation, when I got stuck. I had no idea where the next handhold was, and I was starting to panic. My husband offered me his help, which I quickly and snapplily declined. Then I clung there, in the same spot, until my arms ached.

After I began shaking I knew I needed a little help. So, I swallowed my pride. Well, more accurately, I choked on it and asked my husband for help.

My husband kindly offered advice from above me, and I made progress. It was in that moment that I realized the value of listening to someone who has already been where you are. Not only had my husband climbed these rocks just moments before me, but he had, however long ago, been a beginner too.

After I reached the top, my husband and I agreed that he would be my new mentor.

It wasn’t easy having a mentor. There were days I felt self conscious about him witnessing my lack of skill, and other days I wanted to insist I knew what I was doing without his help. I choked on my pride many times, but I kept on choking because I could see improvement.

For me, the most wonderful thing about having a mentor was not the advice, but the support. He cheered me on, whether I succeeded or failed and after a time I realized he wasn’t the only one.

4. Join a Community

I noticed that people who frequented the rock gyms we went to started to become our friends. They cheered for my success and shared their own stories of success and failure.

When you learn a new sport, you aren’t just learning a sport. You are joining a community.

As I grew more advanced, I began searching for other ways to find advice and new climbing spots. A quick internet search lead me to local rock climbing groups on Facebook and other social media sites. The online support and information became crucial to me as I began integrating myself into this community. I noticed how friendly people were, and how some people seems as excited by me learning their favorite sport as I was to learn it.

5. Achieve a Goal

I had come a long way. I really had. To go further, I needed something to work towards. I needed a goal.

A few months after I started climbing, I sat there at a notebook. With a pencil in hand I tried to find a goal to set for myself. Where did I want to be in six more months? What did I want to accomplish?

My mind wandered back to that first wall. Just the thought of it made me gulp with fear and blush with embarrassment. Somehow that natural reaction made it very clear to me that that should be my goal. In six months, I would go back and climb that first wall.

After a lot, and I mean a lot, of practice, I found myself standing at the bottom of that first wall, six months later. I began climbing as my husband and mentor cheered me on and called up advice. When I made it past the first six feet I smiled. It took me a couple of tries, and a lot longer than my husband’s few seconds, but I made it to the top and I was elated.

As I bounced back down, I couldn’t help but think back at the moment that gave me my beginner jitters. Those were gone now, and I was so glad that I was able to take control of them before they controlled me.

It was a process. I had to realize it was ok to be a beginner who begins at the beginning, to find a place to start, to humble myself enough to listen to a mentor, to join a community and to set goals. But I made it, and now I look forward to being a beginner again as I try more new sports.

I still constantly have to say to myself, “It’s ok to be a beginner who begins at the beginning.” This is just something I have to tell myself when I have the beginner jitters. Don’t be afraid to tell that to yourself as you start out in your new sports.

That’s the key. Be ok with being a beginner, find a place to start and just start.

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