Ever since I got back from my 11 day (12 nights) adventure in Scotland, walking the Cape Wrath Trail, the one question that comes up the most is, “how on earth did your wife let you go for so long?” I’m abbreviating…. but if you want a quote:
A 2 week hike!!! Oh my. I’m just reading about this on your blog. That’s pretty hardcore. Pictures are gorgeous. I’m amazed your wife is ok with you doing that.
So the only natural thing to do is to explain how my wife allowed me to go on an almost 2 week trip in the Scottish Highlands, on a trail that is not really marked and with extremely patchy cellphone service. I want to explain not only how I went on this trip, but how I carve time for all my outdoors outings while being a very active and involved father to a 1.5 year old, husband and keeping my day job. Not only will I explain how it works for me, I want to offer some practical ways for you to be able to go outdoors more, too. So lets get to business.
The first time I encountered the concept of Adventure Equity was while recently reading an excellent article on Backpackinglight.com (requires a subscription or a one off purchase to read) from a few years back. This article, by Jeremy Pendrey, is brilliant and really worth reading; I had already implemented all the advice in the article and then some, but I did get this great term: adventure equity.
But what is adventure equity? Jeremy doesn’t really give it a definition, but rather defines it by the negative:
To backpack more, you need capital. I don’t mean cash. I mean family capital. Let’s call it “adventure equity.” This doesn’t mean tit for tat. No saying “I’ll watch the kids tonight while you go to book club if I can backpack this weekend.” Support your family members unconditionally in achieving their goals, and the capital will build on its own.
Build adventure equity by seizing opportunities to contribute time and effort to your family.
The last statement is key – adventure equity comes from actually being there for you family, be with them and part of their lives. It is important to do so as a way of life and not just in the build up to a big trip, as you will soon generate a “deficit” just as quickly.
How I create adventure equity in my life
First and foremost is that I love my family and seek to provide them happiness – this is where all my actions are derived from, the rest is what happens when I try and make them happy. For each family that means different things based on the expectations, but in my house those are:
- Spend time together actively with no “private” distraction (i.e phones, computers etc)
- Doing things together indoors and outdoors
- Keeping the house well maintained and clean
- Good food (for all involved) and nice drinks (for the adults)
- Staying fit and healthy
The combination of the conditions above always make my wife and my daughter happy, which is my goal. After I cater to my family’s happiness I can easily take care of myself – some of it corresponds with what my family wants, but I also need my alone time: to read, write, hike, climb, run or just have a beer and stare out the window. With my family’s happiness taken care of, they are happy (well, my daughter is too young for that for now) to give me the space I need for my alone time, hence “earning” my adventure equity simply by living my life with my family’s happiness as a guide.
The second part of how I get my adventure equity is by being very honest about it – my wife knows when I need to have some peace and quiet, or want to go hiking or need (yes, need) to spend a couple of nights outdoors, because I tell her. As long as I make myself and my needs (wants?) clear, my family is more receptive to me and what I want to do. For example, if I have been mentioning for a couple of weeks almost every day that I’m feeling choked in London (where we live), it won’t come as a surprise when I say I want to go up to the Peak district for a couple of days – it is a natural progression.
Another big part of how I get my adventure equity is by being clear – I ask, offer or suggest clear things: I don’t make a statement such as “I just need to go outdoors” and then expect things to happen. I make it clear that I want to go for a weekend by myself, or that there is a thru hike I’m interested in trying, a climb that is my goal etc. Being clear about what and why I’m after something (including gear) makes it easier for my wife to accept it because it makes sense.
Last is earning adventure equity by getting your family involved. Mika wasn’t an outdoors person when we met and my daughter doesn’t seem to be a great fan of the irregularity of being outdoors, but I still try and get them to join me sometimes. This has a two fold benefit: you get to be outdoors and hopefully they will warm up to your interest. When Mika joins me outdoors she always mentions how much she can see that I’m enjoying myself, so she can see that I really NEED to go outdoors sometimes. That perspective makes it easier for me to get some time to go outdoors because now she gets it.
But what about the long trip?
Well, here all the points come together with an extra thing: pre-planning, as early as you can. When I told Mika about the Cape Wrath Trail, it was 6 months before my original target date, which ended up being a year and a half in advance, in the end. When I came back I told her that I want to do a 3-5 day winter hike this winter – again, 6 months ahead of time. This planning is not just good for your wife, but also for you: getting all the details ironed out and all the booking you need sorted.
Another aspect of planning is being able to show my wife exactly what I’m going to do, where I aim to be every day and when I hope to call. Those details allowed her to keep track of my trip and feel less out of control, and thus making it less stressful, especially in the time leading up to the trip.
Putting things into practice
Lets see what we have covered so far and how to make it happen:
- Spend time with your family according to their needs and interests (because you want to)
- Don’t engage in petty “I stayed home so you can go out, now I want to go hiking” – just don’t keep tabs
- Be honest about your interests
- Be clear about what you want to do
- Plan ahead and let your spouse know what the plan is
- Take your family outdoors with you when possible
- Take care of all your obligations in advance
Last but not least I’d like to add that even with all of the above, you also need to be able to cancel your trips at the last minute: sick child, over-worked spouse, unexpected special event (for the kids) etc. Those are all reasons to stay at home, be there for your family and earn major adventure equity for the sacrifice.
And now I will pass the mic to the person who made the decision to be okay with me going – Mika.
Mika’s (my wife’s) perspective
I’d like to start with the disclaimer that when Gilad first mentioned going on the Cape Wrath trail, we didn’t have a baby yet (I was pregnant) so I had no idea what it meant when I agreed to the idea.
I think it is important to point out to any outdoors father that I had no idea what I was agreeing to until about a week before Gilad left, and then I wished I hadn’t agreed to it. But ultimately, I’m glad he went. So here are some tips to getting your significant other to agree also.
The first thing is, I really love my husband. And I know that one of the things that makes him happiest is being in the outdoors. So if I want him to be happy (and I do), he needs to have time outdoors, by himself. I know this because I have seen him outdoors, and I have seen how much happier/more relaxed he is when he returns from a trip.
I hope that your partner also already knows this. I think that probably the question is whether she accepts it or not. If she does, then this shouldn’t be too difficult. Just explain that you need this, and that you can re-assess afterwards what future trips might look like.
If she doesn’t accept the fact that you need to go outdoors by yourself, it will be a bit more difficult. You will have to have an honest conversation about your need to be outdoors, by yourself. If you have kids, it will probably be a trip that they wouldn’t be able to go on anyways (or it would be a pain in the behind), and this isn’t something that you will be doing often.
Which leads me to my next point. Long trips are a big deal, and you can’t expect to go on them often. And you can point this out. Gilad did. This is not the kind of trip you take once a month. This is the kind of trip you take once a year, or once every few years. And it has to work with your family situation. Leading to…
Gilad is really involved with our family life. He plays with our daughter, changes nappies, hangs out with me after she goes to bed and generally is an active part of our lives. He didn’t go when she was really small (both because of training and also because it wouldn’t have been right for us), and it shows me that he pays attention to what is happening in our family. So when he wants to go out and the timing works, I want him to have that experience.
I am also a fellow athlete. I’m not an outdoors person by nature, but I understand the need to engage in your chosen activity. I appreciate the lure of a physical challenge, and in the same way that Gilad supports me in my exercise, I support him in his outdoor pursuits.
Again, if your wife is an athlete you will have an easier time with this. If she isn’t, this will be another part of that conversation you are going to have. Hopefully she already knows you have this outdoors/sport commitment, so it shouldn’t be a shock. But you should explain that you need the challenge – both physical and mental – and the stimulation of pushing yourself to the limit. She may not like it, but she should get it.
To be honest, my last point isn’t particularly pretty, but it’s true: I hadn’t dwelt much on what it would mean for him to be gone. I was so focused on him having the trip he wanted, it didn’t actually sink in that I would be a single mom for the best part of 2 weeks. If your partner is like this, you will probably have an easier time getting her to agree, but then there will be a rude awakening a week or so before you leave. If she isn’t like this, you need to help her plan out the time that you will be gone. Are there people (friends/family) who can help her out? Distract her from what is going on? What will the day look like (dropping child(ren) off at their care situation and picking them up at the end of the day, etc)? How often will you be in touch to reassure her? Obviously hopefully the answer is as often as you can, but for the first trip, try to pick a route that has a few spots where you know there is service so you will be able to call. As much planning/support that you can give, you should – this trip is a family effort, no less on your partner’s part for being at home while you are off adventuring.
And that is that. A serious conversation with your partner, showing that you have thought about what you want to do, what her experience will be like, why you want to do it, why it is for the greater good of the family and finally, that you appreciate the effort it will take, will hopefully get you on your way. It may need to be several conversations, addressing all areas of her concern, and you need to have patience with that. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!