No time? Un-pause your life and hit play

My corporate head shot.

Instead of a literal journey, in this post I share a little about my personal journey. Many people think they can’t have adventure or travel in their lives, or let it go for some reason. I used to be one of them. Perhaps my story will inspire at least one person. I’ve skipped most of the details on how I achieved my shift back to living, but I’m happy to discuss it via the comments section, so don’t afraid to ask. ~

I hit pause on living. Years before I began blogging, I worked seven days a week, nights, and on vacation. TGIF had no meaning because I worked every weekend. There were no boundaries between my work and personal life. When I traveled, my plans revolved around cell service, internet access and a business center. I went so far as to hide the fact I was on vacation. I even quit backpacking because I was afraid of being out of touch. I was existing, not living.

I don’t know the date, but sometime in 2008, I cracked. Before opening my business, I’d been a traveler, adventurer, and generally upbeat spirit, but that person was gone. I vowed to find her.

Getting work done. I found a signal during a car tour along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. I still want to return to backpack there – away from cell service.


Working again on my way to the Tetons. Backpacking the the Paintbrush/Cascade loop is still on my to-do list.

A year later, I shut the doors to my office, merged by company with another business, and set a date to backpack a section of the Appalachian Trail. I knew the real me was out there somewhere; I just needed to meet up with her. I also started blogging about this time.

There is never a perfect time to make a life change, and that first backpacking trip was no exception. My son was getting into trouble, business was still whacky in spite of the merger, and my marriage was on the rocks. Still, I had promised myself I would go. Frankly, my health depended on that journey.

It took a few days for me to calm down on the trail. I forgot my hiking poles and trashed my knee, but the pain only helped me feel more present in my hike (yes, I’m a little weird). Nearing the Nantahala Outdoor Center, I posed for this poor quality photo. It might not be pretty, but it was a moment of I-don’t-care-how-stupid-I-look joy.

After six years of not backpacking, I’m finally out on the trail again. Ugly shot, but it’s still one of my favorites.

In spite of my fears, nothing dreadful happened. In retrospect, I realize I had overestimated my importance. An organized business should be stronger than one person. My kid stepped in it a bit, but it would have been the same if I were home. No one died or lost a bunch of money, so I’d say it worked out.

Since then, travel, backpacking, photography and caving have become a regular part of my life. Although I’m not exactly where I want to be, I’m in a better place. I reopened my own business, but I’ve set boundaries. I still work some while traveling, primarily because I travel so much now it’s a necessity. Most importantly, I’ve accepted that I can’t control everything (almost).

So how can you make similar changes? That is the subject of entire books, but here are my top three suggestions:

1)      Read The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. There are practical tips for changing your mental outlook on work/life balance, a critical first step to change.

2)      Schedule personal commitments before anything else and then call them “appointments”. No one needs to know you have a date or a doctor’s visit. Practice saying, “Sorry, I have a commitment at that time.”

3)      Invest in systems that free you from your desk like E-Fax, a smart phone and DropBox. This way a small task doesn’t require a trip to the office. Now, don’t get me wrong, just because you can work remotely, doesn’t mean you should stay plugged in more. Use the “OFF” button too. This is a tool to free, not leash, you. This makes more sense for some people than others. Because I’m self-employed, a virtual office has allowed me to increase my travel schedule dramatically. (I just returned from three weeks in Lake Tahoe and Chicago but most of my clients never noticed I was gone.)

I’m just scratching the surface here, the point is, you can make a change. The purpose of this post is to inspire those who have given up adventure to seek balance in their lives. It might require tough decisions, but more likely, it will require conquering fear and goal setting. Life is too short to give up living until you retire.

Have you given up travel or adventure due to work? On the flip side, have you succeeded at reclaiming balance in your life? Share your story in the comments to help inspire others.


Comments 17

    1. Oh Beth! You are so much a part of this story. I still remember the night you and Lori asked me what was my “big why” and I almost cried over my drink (an important part of most good stories). That was the moment I knew I had to get out on the A.T. and start living again. Then you taught me how to take control of my business instead of letting it run me. Thanks for being such a good friend. Lunch soon?

  1. Erika, I don’t remember if we ever had this conversation or not, but Trail Sherpa was the same move for me. Years of working with brands that I didn’t really relate to, hours of babysitting processes that should have been managed by someone else, you get the picture.

    I started Trail Sherpa so I could work with the companies that resonated most with me and how already understood wunderlust.

    Now we’re working through the challenges of a life of adventure with a 1 year old and a 4 year old. Gear changes, daily mileages change, and I seem to be learning what patience really is!

    I hope this conversation continues. We could all use a bit more direction in finding our perfect trail in life and business and props to you for sharing your story.

    1. Tim, thank you for sharing. We hadn’t discussed this before and it’s good to know I’m not the only one. As I grow in my new direction (writing and photography), I sometimes feel guilty because it’s such a pleasure. Luckily it’s the enjoyment that helps me work through the challenges. I know it’s the key to getting where I want, which is to be location independent. At least now I’m living!

      On another note, as the kid of adventurous parents, I can assure you that your kids will appreciate the experiences you’re giving them. You’ll be surprised how much they will remember.

  2. Erika-

    I love this post- so many “put this on the wall next to your computer” quotes: “There is never a perfect time to make a life change” and, especially, at least for me, tip 2 really, really resonates.

    1. Thank you Julie,

      I plan to explore this topic more as I wrap my brain around all of the details. Step 2 has been key for me, not only do people respect my time more, but I look at those appts differently in my own mind now.

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  5. Great read. I remember feeling this exact same way. First it was marriage and kids and all the pressures that come with those responsibilities that brought me there. And ultimately to the end of my marriage. After losing everything I felt I had worked so hard for, (through a depressed filled existence). I awoke… It took time, but I decided to live. And though I’m still not doing what I want, as you put it. “I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I’m in a better place.” I realized I have to live and love myself to find happiness. And I have to be myself, don’t change for anybody, or anything. And I plan to live even more “off the grid” once my children are grown. I’m building towards this. I’m the mean time small and meaningful adventures, great connections and wonderful memories fuel my life. Thanks for sharing, I’ve actually been meaning to write a post similar to this.

    1. Thank you for sharing, it helps to know I’m not the only one who has faced similar struggles. I had to spend a lot of time preparing, as you are now, because I had my kids to care for as well. In many ways that made sure I was ready for my move when the time came. Otherwise I may have ended up somewhere else [besides SLC] doing work I may not have loved.

      Stay true.


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