REI Presents: Aniakchak, A Wild Love Story

I love adventure travel because Graham and I end up learning so much about each other, ourselves and our relationship. The 8 months that we spent planning our Aniakchak trip and the 10 days we spent traveling were no exception. One of my favorite things about adventures is that the lessons learned can be applied directly to everyday life. Here are a few tips we picked up along the way this time.

Graham and Shannon in Aniakchak

3 things from adventure travel that apply to everyday life.


Know your limits before you get there

Discuss your go/no-go situations in advance. That way, when you find yourself faced with a tough decision (should we paddle the class 5 rapid or walk around?) the choice is easy because it was made before you got there. When emotions get involved (like when one person really wants to paddle while the other is hesitant), it becomes easy to make a decision that not everyone feels comfortable with. Anticipating these circumstances is crucial in backcountry adventures, but it’s also a great practice in everyday life. Knowing your limits in advance can make pulse-quickening decisions—like whether to take a job far away, how much to spend on daycare or if you should go on an awesome vacation instead of buying the newest and greatest TV—a little easier.

Graham and Shannon assessing river conditions

Plan for the worst. It helps you enjoy everything else.

Graham and I had a lot of worst-case scenarios on our minds when we flew to the remote Aniakchak of Alaska: bear encounters, getting injured in a remote location, and feeling too overwhelmed by the river and needing to hike out through heavy brush, to name a few. Discussing these scenarios at home before we left helped us plan how we might respond. In the end, the primary factor on our trip (the weather) seemed trivial in comparison to the scenarios we had imagined. And, because of this, we were able to view our experience with relative positivity and have a great time with the given circumstances!

Shannon walking through greenery in Aniakchak

It’s the same in everyday life. When the worst happens, you’ll be better prepared to jump into action if you have a plan. In the meantime, pretty much everything else you experience simply isn’t the worst it could be. And that makes it so much easier to enjoy the experience!

Shannon on Aniakchak packrafting

Everything is relative.

One of the best things about an adventure like our trip to the Aniakchak is can help you adopt a fresh perspective on everything else. In addition to growing our relationship and pursuing outdoor adventures, Graham and I lead busy professional lives. Finding the balance between these three pursuits is a challenge, to say the least. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the pull of the many friendships and activities that we hold close to our hearts. A challenging trip like the one we took to Aniakchak National Monument forces us to focus our attention on the most immediate tasks at hand. The intensity of our trip made us realize how low-key and laid-back our home lives truly are. When we returned from Alaska, we felt like we were finally starting our vacation—back at home and work, we were ready to relax into the rest of the summer.

Graham and Shannon in Aniakchak