Invest in the Outdoors

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Running during Christmas break.

One of the lessons I’ve learned in medical school is this: The human body is incredible.  Look at your hands.  The mere thought to move a finger sends electrical impulses racing through complex circuitry in your brain, down your spinal cord, flying through nerves in your shoulders and arms, where they stimulate the correct muscles in your forearm.  As the muscles contract, causing movement by pulling on tendons attached to your bones, your brain constantly analyzes the motion via returning electrical impulses to make sure that the movement follows the intended pattern.  And that was just to move a finger!  Your body can run, jump, climb, lift, swim, and propel you through the largest, most coolest playground ever: EARTH.  There are mountains, caves, rivers, oceans, prairies, trees, flowers, animals, all of which your body will see, feel, taste, and smell as you explore.  In geek language, you are set up for the greatest live action role playing game ever invented!

But wait!  Something is stopping us from fastening on our crampons and having an adventure.  This creativity-sucking enemy is lulling modern humanity into a state of pacified apathy, chaining us to our couches with our eyes glazed over and our mouths drooling.  This enemy is….

Screens.  And screens are everywhere.  Computer screens.  Smartphone screens.  TV screens.  GPS screens.  Tablet screens.  A screen is often the first thing we see in the morning, something we stare at all day for work/school, the thing that entertains us when we return home in the evening exhausted, and the last thing we look at as we lovingly plug in our phones before bed.  We work on screens, we order food on screens, we pretend to socialize on screens, we desire large incomes so we can purchase even BIGGER screens!  Your amazing tool known as the human body could be jumping over logs while running down a forest trail, but instead it is enslaved to moving your finger to tap a screen.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  So much for the need of giant leg muscles, capable of lifting hundreds of pounds in order to maneuver through rugged terrain.  It’s a waste.  It’s like using a beautifully crafted state-of-the-art mountain bike as a wall decoration.

What’s the solution?  Unplug and invest in the outdoors.  Start using your body to explore your surroundings.  Go biking, walking, hiking, running, climbing, exploring, anything!  Just make sure it’s outside.  There are lots of things that I, Mr. DebtAnatomy, want you to do: start a budget, learn responsible investment strategies, pay off your debt, etc.  But all these things are for nothing if you miss the great adventure that is life!  So start using your body the way it was meant to be used, and explore the outdoors!  One of the benefits of exploring the outdoors is that you can do it for free!  When Mrs. DA and I first started budgeting, we had a decent sized entertainment category.  However, we quickly realized that this category was far too big.  We didn’t spend a lot of money on movies, outings, etc.  Instead, we just needed enough entertainment money to pay for replacement bike tubes and gas money for the occasional larger outdoor trip.  You may be shocked to see that your budget becomes healthier as you replace expensive “city” hobbies with outdoor activities.  However, money is not the biggest reason you should get outdoors.  No, instead Mr. DebtAnatomy wants you to live life to the fullest, by pushing your body and finding out what you are capable of.

Enter the naying naysayers:

1: But it’s cold outside!  Awesome!  Extreme temperatures make outdoor experiences a bigger adventure.  Cold excursions require thought and planning.  Use your brain to solve the very real challenges of correct layering and activity planning, instead of launching fake birds on a screen at little green pigs.  One of my favorite outdoor excursions this past year was in single digit weather where Mrs. DA and I explored a shallow river that had frozen over.  We spent hours hiking up the banks, looking at frozen waterfalls, and throwing rocks on the the ice.  It was the best study break ever.

2: I don’t know where to start.  I’m not outdoorsy.  That’s ok!  It’s true, you may not have led a very outdoorsy life.  Start with something small.  Hop on google maps (yes, it’s still ok to use screens if it’s for a productive reason) and look for parks or forests in your area.  Zoom in and search for streams or rivers.  My current city has large metroparks available for public use, and these parks are full of little rivers.  Pick a river that looks interesting, shutdown your computer, put on appropriate clothing, and go explore!  Enjoy being outside, hearing the birds, and feeling the sun on your face.  Try to explore up and down the banks of the river.  There will undoubtedly be trees and steep banks that block your way.  Be daring.  Use your brain and muscles to figure out a way up, over, or around these obstacles.  Don’t be afraid to explore off the beaten path.

3: I live in a city and there are no outdoor opportunities.  I can definitely sympathize with this one.  I grew up in one of the premier outdoor destinations in the country, and then moved to a large city for school.  I felt like I was living in a cage.  However, outside the city I have found tons of new forests and trails to explore.  You might have to be creative (isn’t that the point?), but it’s still possible to get outside and have an outdoorsy experience.

Investing in the outdoors and doing hard physical things will yield a lifetime of adventure and memories.  Plump bank accounts are great, but what a waste of your body’s abilities if your life’s culmination is a string of all-inclusive resorts where your unproven body lies poolside, never even knowing if it is capable of climbing the mountain in the distance.  Regardless of our future financial landscape, Mrs. DA and I plan on raising the future junior DA’s on bike trails, camp outs, mountain hikes, and fishing outings.  They will challenge their bodies as they explore the world, and screens will take the backseat as they realize how much cooler real life can be.

1 comment on “Invest in the Outdoors”

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