It is a common misconception that everyone you see on Instagram does whatever amazing thing they’re doing—road tripping in an airstream trailer, napping in a perfectly strung hammock, tearing up endless trails—full time. Chances are, they don’t.
Most of the people behind these inspirational, envy-invoking accounts have to find ways to pay the bills just like the rest of us. Fortunately for those still trying to hack it, balancing a nine-to-five desk job with a life of adventure isn’t as hard as it might seem. How do I know? I like to think I’ve done it.
Looking over the cliff edge near the Grand Canyon like any good weekend warrior. Photo credit: Bryan Rowe.
Know What You Want
After college I worked as a horse wrangler in the Rockies of Colorado, where I somehow made less than minimum wage and spent every day outside in mud, sleet and snow. When that didn’t seem to be a good use of my bachelor’s degree, I moved on to power my way through 10-hour days in the tech industry, where I could more than pay the bills. But there simply wasn’t any time left over to get outside. I knew I wanted a happy medium, and the hunt was on.
To do it yourself, narrow down your search by industry. Next, tap into your contacts to see what leads you already have. Informational interviews, where you’re the one asking questions, are an excellent way to explore these contacts to learn more and introduce yourself to the field.
Crossing Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, off the bucket list.
Love What Keeps the Lights On
After exploring my own network and community in this way, I hooked the perfect role working remotely in Colorado for a travel company specializing in active outdoor experiences. Now my day job and my after-hours activities blend together with ease. When Monday mornings roll around, I meet my inbox with eagerness instead of trepidation—or worse, downright despair. But that doesn’t mean I’m not anxious to hit the road on Friday afternoon for a weekend off the grid. No matter how much you like your job, taking time to disconnect will leave you feeling inspired and fresh at the start of a new week.
When it comes to prioritizing, time on the river is always somewhere near the top.
Summer traditions are experiences best repeated. The Flying U Ranch in British Columbia is one worth doing every year.
Remember to Get Real
As I’ve well realized, the security of employment comes with a few inherent drawbacks. You don’t get unlimited play! Camping trips and adventures abroad will always eat up vacation time and extra savings, so knowing how to prioritize and be fully present during precious personal hours is key to cracking the code. Start small by making it a priority to spend lunch breaks outside, and instead of using the time to upload a new photo on social media, update your bucket list with old-fashioned pen and paper.
Practicing yoga among the tourists at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.
It’s easy to see why Colorado mountains are home.
Make It Happen When You Can
Just can’t stop drooling over those images on Instagram? Me neither. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think to make an experience come to life. When I couldn’t get enough of the images of Havasu Falls earlier this year, I picked up the phone and called to make a reservation. The daunting logistics of flights, car rentals, and gear all seemed approachable once I’d made the firm commitment. I would recommend keeping track of your dream trips, and checking in every few months to see which ones could turn into realities. Our schedules change all the time, so when windows of opportunity arise, grab them!
Crested Butte, Colorado, is one of the places where endless trails make it hard to get back to work. Photo credit: Bryan Rowe.
Be a Smart Weekend Warrior
When it comes to weekly fun, there’s no better way to set yourself up for success than being prepared. Have all of your gear organized so that when Friday afternoon rolls around, you can throw it in the trunk and hit the road. The same mentality goes for when you return. Take the extra half hour to get everything cleaned and prepped, so that next time it’s just as easy. Keep a notepad handy while you're out for ideas such as how to optimize your packing and what needs to be done during the workweek, like re-waterproofing your jacket or buying more batteries. Before you know it, the only thing you’ll need to balance is your backpack.
Nicaragua made a great finale to a year of paid time off well spent.
How do you make best of a work-life balance?