My dad has taught me a lot of important lessons. Tuck Skor bars into your jacket pockets when you go skiing. Always take the dog for a walk, even if it’s -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your line cutters are attached to your waders, wake up early to do your best work and never, ever, serve hot food on cold plates.
One of the most important things he has taught me is how crucial it is to plan and enjoy outdoor adventures, no matter how busy you are.
My dad often works 80-hour weeks, but carefully carves out time each year to do the things he loves, like paddling the remote river canyons of the Nahanni and skiing the dry powder of the Kootenay Mountains.
He schedules carefully, works hard to prepare for his absence and calms pre-departure anxieties by reminding himself that things will move on just fine without him.
When life becomes stressful and packed full, it is often our outdoor trips and adventures that are the first to get scrapped. We feel too tired, disorganized and fearful we will crumble under the workload on our return.
In 2014, the number of unused vacation days in the United States hit a 40-year high, with a collective 169 million days unused. That’s 169 million days that could have been spent exploring, facing challenges and learning about ourselves. The drops you never boof, new river friends never made and take-out beers you don’t crack.
Instead of ditching our time off to keep grinding away, we should be adjusting our perspective. Sending ourselves on paddling trips may make up just a fraction of the year, but it’s these experiences that make us happier, more inspired and vibrant the other 50 weeks.
Planning awesome whitewater adventures has benefits that begin long before your seal launch on the first morning of the holiday. Picture this. You book time off six months ahead, choose a flight and begin initial research.
After work, you spread topographic maps on your kitchen table and daydream about what features and wildlife those vermicelli-noodle-like blue lines hold. The trip comes closer, and you email the buddies joining you constantly to go over details.
You debate the benefits of beef jerky over granola bars while menu planning. Gear and boats spill into your living room. The trip hasn’t even begun and you have focus and stoke.
Adventures are not defined by geography, the number of rapids run, or photos captured. Yours could be like Michael Neumann’s kayaking the Zambezi in Zambia, or like Erik Boomer’s epic Kiteski traverse of Greenland.
Perhaps adventure will come in the form of a new river in your backyard. No matter what, find the time for whitewater adventures.
Trust us—no one ever came back from two weeks of road tripping in the Pacific Northwest or seven days catching eddies in the jungle and regretted it, wishing instead they had made a bigger dent in their to-do list.
Hannah Griffin is Rapid’s assistant editor and a whitewater paddler living on the banks of the Madawaska River.