*Guest post from Gina Bégin*
It begins with your first summer job. Maybe you took it to save up for a big-ticket item your parents wouldn't purchase, or perhaps it was under their direction that you found yourself coerced into seasonal labor. Either way, you entered the workforce and gave up the freedom of summer's play in the name of responsibility and the almighty dollar.
This is how it all begins. You become accustomed to increasingly shorter stints of play as you move through school — recess disappears as homework grows more time-intensive. That summer job somehow creeps into a year-round position, taking up time on the weekends and blowing your entire school vacation. By high school's end, you are fully primed for indoor life, moving from box to box throughout the day.
To illustrate, let's take a look at the typical North American's daily routine: You wake up at home (four walls, a roof, the ground= a box) and get into a car (a box) to join the morning commute in a race to work (a box) then rush back home (box) to eat dinner from a box. After the rigors of the day, you relax in front of moving pictures in a box. You fall asleep for five to six restless hours, waking up to do it all over again the next day. And the next, and the next...
Outside time? Sure, you got some of that, too. It consisted of the time you spent moving between the car and another box.
That first summer job might as well have come with a greeting card: Welcome to the Rut of Society; you have been molded.
Call me rebellious, but society never quite got me in the rut. I took my time getting into and through college, preferring to take classes at night or online so I could work seasonal jobs in the outdoors. This daily injection of the natural elements created a dependency no job could shake. Wilderness was in my blood. Though I took part in it, cubicle life only found me searching online for others' outdoor adventures — an attempt to mentally escape "the box" until the 5 o'clock bell rang and I could be outdoors myself.
Sound like you? Then what happens next might make you face a new reality. I ditched my 9 to 5. I put my things in storage. I subletted my apartment and I hit the road.
It's been two years now, minus a four-month break where I returned to my apartment in Utah to pack it up for good — and to ski every day. During the two years I have seen the First Nation villages in Yukon, the waves crash into the Atlantic shores of Acadia, heli-skied the powder of the Chugach range, snapped pictures in from the southern-most point of the continental U.S., and slept among wild horses in Cape Breton. I've skied with the Quebecois in the backcountry of the Chic Chocs and climbed with native West Virginians in the New River Gorge, both times feeling like a foreigner for lack of being able to understand a word of what was being said. Sometimes I had a passenger with me; many times the adventures started off all alone. 100% of the time, they were worth it.
I scrape by. I can't afford dinners out and I have no space for new clothes. I live in a sporty Mazda 3; it's not even the hatchback version. My legs are cramped in the morning from being hunched up against the steering wheel. My diet consists of two smoothies a day made from items that don't need to be refrigerated and snacking on craisins and almonds. There are no splurges and every dollar is calculated.
I traded a steady income and security for time and freedom. I live frugally in exchange for new friends, new places and memories impossible to capture from a cubicle. Instead of reading others' adventures from my desk, I am now writing those adventures and in turn, writing the adventure that is my life.
Time or money? Memories or material goods? Society has molded us into thinking the latter in each scenario is the correct path. But deep down, you know better. You know for what your heart yearns, where your mind goes to escape the gray walls of your office. This is your only chance to live. Do it by your rules. There is no other life but the one you own now and it is slipping by unremarkably for each day you spend in the rut of boxes.
Take back recess. Take back summer break. Heck, revert to pre-school days when you played with reckless abandon, having no clue society cared one ounce for what you did. As a matter of fact, forget society and create your own reality. It isn't easy, but the rewards are more than your 401k can ever offer. Or whatever other letter/number aggregation society has strung together. You will never look back with regret on the time you spent living.
**Once dubbed the Martha Stewart of the outdoors (minus jail time), Gina is a ski lover, freelens photojournalist, "The Most Epic Trip" climber, pro roadtripper, founder of Outdoor Women's Alliance & owner of mad kitchen skills. She's into big hugs & Hi5s. Follow her adventures at Ginabegin.com.
By Andy Hawbaker
May 01, 2013
Join the Conversation