Outdoor Burn Out?

Every once in awhile, I notice I accidentally take a break from this blog of mine. It’s never intentionally, but I’ve always noticed that the breaks come when I’m at a crossroads. In this case,  I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what defines me. For years, I would say that I was a snowboarder and rock climber. Then came kayaking, and now I’ve added hiker on to my description too.

The past year has just been a weird one for me. I felt like an impostor when I said I was many of these things. I barely snowboarded this past winter after getting a knee injury early on. But I had no hall pass for climbing and kayaking. So what happened?

In an effort to explain it to someone recently, I realized the answer was simple: I just wasn’t having fun anymore. I fell out of love and burned out.

With climbing I had gone from having a great laid back climbing group to one person in particular going wicked sour and becoming a horrendous partner (note: not Rob – he’s still a wonderful outdoor partner). Climbing was no longer about beautiful days at the crag trying new routes and having fun putting the puzzle together. Suddenly this one lousy group member had made us all focus on advancements, big challenges, and unacceptable failure. Rob felt the same as I did. We both missed days of just playing around on an easy route, chatting with other climbers, and never uttering the word “fail”. Climbing had become this literal rock wall of unattainable proportions and often dangerous situations. If we didn’t make huge strides every trip, we were failing and failing wasn’t fun.

Kayaking was a different story. Early on in the year, Rob and I joined in on a guided sea kayaking tour. While it was another guided tour (river kayaking) years ago that had hooked us on kayaking, this one ferociously ripped me away. In the mere three hours on the water, I managed to re-aggravate old injuries on both of my shoulders, feel like a pathetic newbie, and be reminded of all the dangers that come with water activities. All because of one lousy guide who threw safety and understanding to the side, my confidence was stripped away and with it my passion for kayaking. It had taken me so long to embrace water (the element I’m least comfortable with), and I took so many steps back.

But, an interesting thing happens when you try to find yourself. I didn’t spend this past year sitting on the couch or catching up on missed television. Instead, I spent the year trying new things and visiting new places. I went to Colorado, California, Arizona, Missouri, Kansas, and of course all around New England. I visited Joshua Tree National Park, Channel Islands National Park, and Acadia National Park. I saw cacti, lizards, thousands of dolphins, blue whales, sea lions, and a few moose. I hiked 4 of the NH 4000 Footers: Pierce, North Kinsman, Lincoln, and Lafayette, and also got a bunch of other peaks too (Welch, Dickey, Little Haystack, Truman, the Cannonballs, and others). I got lost, learned to really read a map and compass, and saw views that took my breath away. I took up running and fell in love with it. I planned trips for 2015 and even embraced the idea of solo adventure again every once in awhile.

In the end, I discovered the most important lesson of all. I am no longer “just” a snowboarder, rock climber, kayaker, and hiker. Somewhere in that feeling of being lost and burnt out, I turned into an actual outdoors woman, a jill-of-all-trades. And with that discovery comes the realization that I no longer need to hit a quota of experiences to be any of the things that used to define me. As long as I am outside pursuing something that makes me happy and fulfilled, I am exactly who I hoped I was all along.

2 thoughts on “Outdoor Burn Out?

  1. Good on you, Ms. “Jill-of-all trades.” (I like that turn of phrase.) The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the old adage holds true: different strokes for different folks. I rather solidly fall into the “easy going” hiking style, and will happily talk smack about goals, etc., but always in a light-hearted kind of way — I think adding some friendly competition is fun. Some folks take this stuff way seriously, though, and that can really take away from the joy of being outdoors. I wish them the best… but outdoors enjoyment, for me, is an end unto itself, and not the exclusive realm of how well or fast I accomplish something.

    Even more importantly, though, is your figuring out a bit more about who you are and what makes you tick. A bunch of folks never really figure that out, or do so too late. Kudos, girl! Keep on exploring — everything!

  2. YES! It’s good to have a bunch of interests, rather than one. That way, more people can share in the awesomeness of the outdoors. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t feel bad about taking breaks. Breaks are necessary. Embrace them. 🙂

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!