8 Hacks for More Outdoor Adventure in Your 9-5 Life

by Justyna Frank
outdoor adventure hacks

Who doesn’t want to escape the 9 to 5?

In today’s post, I’m going to show you 8 simple strategies to fill your life with outdoor adventure you long for, even if you work a regular, forty hour job.

In fact, these are the same strategies I used to go on 52 adventures in 52 weeks the year I turned 52, while running a busy brick and mortar business, and homeschooling two older teens.

The secret? Microescape!

What is a microescape?

Good question.

The idea is to change the way we think about vacation, leisure time and outdoor adventure. I have a whole blogpost dedicated to scaling the way we think about adventure. But very briefly, a microescape is a short break you take from your regular life (anywhere from an hour or two to a handful of days) to leave behind your electronics, your social media, your motorized transportation, and immerse yourself in nature and a reasonably challenging physical activity.

Satisfying microescape examples

Even brief outings in nature help break the 9-to-5 routine.

My very favorite weekday microescape is cooking breakfast outside. OK, this one doesn’t involve much physical exertion, but the act of cooking food over an open flame on a regular weekday definitely has a strong whiff of adventure. You can literally squeeze it in on your way to work, and –trust me– it will nourish you for the whole day with more than just calories.

Other examples of microescapes are an after-work full-moon kayak paddle, section-hiking a thousand-mile trail one Sunday at a time, a brisk morning lake swim, or a weekend bikepacking overnight.

But how do you fit these small adventures into your regular work schedule?

Your regular job already creates enormous demands on your available time.

You’ll need to shift your mindset, and get creative about identifying available chunks of free time. The key is not to have to spend too much time brainstorming, preparing and overthinking before each trip, but to do some of that prep ahead of time, so when the mood strikes and the window of opportunity opens up, you’re ready to go on your outdoor adventure of choice.

Here’s how you do that:

1. Get to know local resources

Dedicate a couple of rainy afternoons to perusing the webpages of local forest preserves, county parks and state parks, as well as bike trail guides such as Trailink and Alltrails.

Since the idea is to have an adventure, look for trails that are long enough to push your comfort level a bit (or a lot). How hard you want to go will depend on you. If you typically only walk a mile or two, a 4-5 mile hiking trail might be plenty challenging to start with, but if you’re comfortable with a 5 mile walk, you may choose a 8-10 mile hiking destination. Same logic goes for cycling: use your current fitness and experience level as a guide, and push your comfort level just a bit.

While you’re searching for trails, make a note of any interesting side trips or camping opportunities you find nearby, and perhaps some unexpected attractions you want to check out, such as waterfalls, caves, canyons and more.

If you have a job that calls for regular travel, definitely take the time to research some quick getaway options near your destination. If you live in the generally flat Midwest, even a short mountainous hike near Denver or Salt Lake City can be quite exhilarating. If you drive out of town for work, look for interesting diversions along the route. Some of my favorite serendipitous outings happened as detours on the way to “somewhere else”.

Add to this list some ultra-local spots that you can use for tiny getaways before or after work, or even on your lunch hour. For example:

  • A bridge in a local park can be a great place for rainy day coffee-outside.
  • A river embankment off a local trail is a nice, scenic spot for a breakfast cooked over a campstove on the way to work.

2. Sort your microescapes by length of time needed

After a couple of such armchair explorations, you should have a sizable list of trails for day hikes and rides, and a few camping options for weekend outings.

Tag your planned outdoor adventures by how much time each is likely to take (allowing also for the time to get to and from your destination).

You could use a general guideline, like under 2 hours, half-day, day-long and overnight. Or you could devise system more suited to your specific work schedule.

When the time comes for your next outing, you can simply choose the next item on your list of activities that matches the time window you have available, or have a rolling list of 5-10 places and activities to explore. Or, you could make it more unpredictable and create decks of index cards, shuffle them, choose one and go.

3. Don’t coordinate. Go alone.

Sure, it’s fun to do things with others.

But let’s face it: too often plans fall through because of an an unexpected conflict. And not everyone’s 9-to5 job actually falls neatly within those hours, or within a traditional workweek, so getting a group of outdoor adventure companions on the same page may prove tricky, and discourage you from going at all.

So, by all means plan some trips to take with friends, a spouse or partner, or the whole family when the time is right. But be equally open to doing some of your microescapes alone.

It may take some coordinating and negotiating with your significant other, but you (and they) may find that a little time alone makes you a better partner. And going solo is likely to enhance your sense of adventure.

4. Keep your gear organized

We cover some essential gear in another post.

The point I want to make here it that to make it easy for you to leave your job routine on the spur of the moment, it’s good to have your gear in one place, and have a system for keeping it clean, dry and in good repair.

  • Have a designated place for your outdoor gear, with labeled bins or shelves for camping/sleeping, hiking, biking, and camp kitchen, as well as a place where you store your carrying containers, including backpack, hip pack, bicycle panniers, etc.
  • If you travel for work, have your”getaway pack” ready, for example:
    • If you travel by air: lightweight trail running shoes for any hiking opportunities, a hydration hip-pack, and a packable hammock.
    • If you travel by car: a folding bike, lightweight day-pack, compact camp stove, camp meal, water carrier and a packable chair stashed in the trunk.
  • Allow time and have a protocol for cleaning, drying and putting your items away after each outing in a predictable way. The last thing you want is messy, smelly gear, and another unplanned chore to eat into your 9-to-5 schedule.
  • Have a regular timetable for maintaining and/or replacing your gear. For example:
    • Tune up bicycle once a year, and perform other regular maintenance.
      Pro Tip: WINTER is a great time to have your bike serviced, as bike shops are less busy, eager for work, and likely to shower you with love and attention.
    • Replenish camp kitchen supplies (freeze-dried meals, stove fuel, fire-starting supplies, etc) every two months
    • Inspect camping and sleeping gear every quarter, wash, mend or replace as needed.
    • Etc.

Any escape from routine, even a microescape, requires some change in habits. Below are the best ways to optimize available time for your outdoor adventures.

5. Make the most of weekends

If your job coincides with the standard workweek, chances are you’re accustomed to using your weekends for errands, shopping, laundry and other unadventurous tasks.

It may take a little advance planning and discipline (not to mention a heart-to-heart with your spouse or partner) to shift some of those tasks in order to free up time for your weekend outdoor escapes.

While to you may not be able to (or want to) use every weekend for adventures, if you plan to run some errands before and after work on certain weekdays, and discipline yourself to start a load of laundry before sitting down to dinner, you may be able to clear some weekend time for your microescapes.

Weekends can also mean family time for many working adults, and if that’s you, it may be necessary to plan special family time on certain weeknights instead, or possibly to include the kids in at least some of your outdoor microadventures.

6. Use the hours from 5pm to 9am

Alastair Humphries, who coined the term “microadventure” advocated using the hours after and before work to escape the routine of the 9 to 5. If you typically work an 8-hour day, here are some quick and doable ways you can use remaining 16 to enjoy nature and renew yourself:

  • Cook a meal outside on your way to or from work, or at any other time. There’s nothing like actually cooking outside over a camp stove to make you feel like you’re camping.
  • If you typically drive or use transit to get home, let your spouse know you’ll be a little late, and take a long walk home. Bring a compact folding chair, and a portable dinner or a hot beverage to enjoy in a pleasant location along the way.
  • Bike home after work and take a deliberate scenic “long-cut”.
  • Meet your partner after work and rent a kayak for a late afternoon paddle.
  • Bring your camping gear and bicycle to work, hop on the train after hours, and enjoy a quick overnight campout

7. Use your lunch hour

Take a small outdoor adventure break in a local park or forest preserve.

  • Brew coffee or tea outside. No, not Starbucks. Actually bring a camp stove and make your own beverage.
  • String up a hammock and take a catnap or read a novel.

8. Scale everything down

Thinking too big is an impediment to your escape from the 9 to 5. You may think it’s impossible. And if escape means cutting loose completely for a grand outdoor adventure, it may literally be impossible and impractical at this given moment.

But if you scale it down your thinking about outdoor adventure, and make it super-easy to get away regularly, you may discover that a grand exit is not necessary. Or not today.

Do you need to hike an entire 1000-mile Ice Age Trail in one fell swoop, or is doing it in sections throughout the year just as satisfying? Is maybe camping at Yosemite in two years any better than camping at Starved Rock this weekend?

Regular microescapes and small outdoor adventures can help you gain perspective, adjust your mindset, and give you regular breathers, so that you’re able to tackle your workweek and other obligations with renewed energy.

And this may help you think more clearly about making lasting changes in your life moving forward.

Leave a Comment