When you love the outdoors but feel like you don’t have enough time for it because of your super busy work schedule, it can be easy to feel disappointed or even sometimes FOMO (fear of missing out). However, luckily, there are some ways to get around to fitting outdoor adventures in your life still without the need to use your PTO (paid time off) days or to take any days off. Don’t let the 9-5 schedule stop you from living your best life because it’s possible with “microadventures”!
Ever since I started working more hours in my life again, I had to go back to having to find time to fit adventure in my life. I don’t work a 9-5 schedule, a little bit less than that but it’s still a timed daily schedule, and I definitely did a 9-5 back in 2020-2021 yet I still feel like I went on a lot of adventures within that year because of the way I found ways around it. Having to find time to go out for an adventure means a lot to me because I prioritize it, and I tell my co-workers that my weekends usually involved something like it.
Where you live kind of matters
I don’t want to sound like I am being very biased here, but the state and area in that state you live in do make a huge difference in the ability to embark on many adventures. Since moving to the west coast in late 2018, I’ve been to countless places in my own backyard (the state of Arizona) than when I used to live in New Jersey. Staycations here become an easy choice when you’re in the countryside.
I’ve never been more outdoorsy or active in things than when I moved here. If you feel like you prioritize the outdoors, want to breathe fresh air as much as possible and compress your mental state with a nice break, but feel like those opportunities aren’t abundant, then you may want to consider moving to a different state. Only if your career can allow that and you’re willing to take that risk, but I can’t imagine living in a lot of other states simply because it lacks a lot of outdoor opportunities that appeal to me. You may feel the same, but making that decision does take a lot of thought, planning, mental preparation, and encouragement, so please make that pro and con list and reflect on it for a while before choosing a big life change, because life changes can be a lot for some.
Now, here are my tips on how to fit adventure in your 9-5 schedule:
Plan to go right after your work
This might be an obvious one, but after you get off your work shift, just get out of your home and get heading to your outdoor activity. It doesn’t matter if it takes up an hour or the rest of the day, make sure you’ve done everything you needed to with your home or taking care of personal life duties the days before. And if it is for the rest of the day you are gone, just get back in time for your night-time sleep back home and be at work in the nick of time for the next day. If you want to make it bolder, go camping and then pack it all out and drive back a few hours before work.
Turn off technology and don’t read your emails right after work or the weekends
It’s best to relax with minimal distractions to technology, so you’d need to consider turning off your devices or at least silencing your phone notifications when you step outside. It can be a habit (like it is for me) to feel like you need to read any work emails sent to you, and I also get some even during the weekends, but it is best to just check on them right when you hop back to work during your work hours. Turn off that work mentality if you do not need to work!
Invest in basic outdoor gear
You don’t need to go all out in gear or accessories for your outdoors outings. Just throw on some active wear, bring a recyclable insulated water bottle, possibly some snacks, and your backpack (with a portable battery, GPS watch, source of light, first aid kit, emergency blanket, and a jacket). I know I’d bring these out on a day hike, but you might even decide to go camping that requires a little bit more, but it doesn’t have to become an excessive load.
If it’s a recreational activity aside from hiking like kayaking or mountain biking or just a bike ride around a park, you can’t forget to throw those equipment into your car. This is why I LOVE having my midsize SUV where the back seats all go down so I can squeeze whatever equipment in and drive off, even without the need to tie anything on my roof. Of course, there are some exceptions if it’s bigger than your vehicle interior.
Get things prepared the night before
Like I mentioned above, you want to make sure you got all of your personal life duties and priorities out of the way. Part of that is planning to prepare things the night before. You may also want to consider meal prepping instead of feeling obligated of coming back home earlier to make dinner at home. You can bring your already cooked meal with you to your outdoor outing. You want to make sure you have all your gear lined up by your door and have your outfit picked and hanging by your vanity.
Choose activities and places that are locally near you
With limited time during weekdays, you need to choose places that are locally near you and doesn’t take hours to drive to that spot. This is how I was able to go sunset-to-night tubing in the gorgeous Salt River with my church, drive an hour away to the gorgeous Lake Pleasant (that I used to live closer to) to go swimming with friends, and plenty of memorable day hikes.
You honestly don’t even have to step foot outside to a scenic place in the country, but you can join a local club like for gym rock climbing, yoga group, and group meet ups for recreational sports.
Go on a super short outing right before your work
Sometimes you don’t want to go out after work (my preference however), but you may find it feasible to go out a few hours before you start your work. Some people make this work by waking up before sunrise and plenty of people in Arizona do this to hit the trails so they don’t go out mid-day when the temperatures rise like crazy in the summer. You could also just go out for a run right before you work. Some people claim that they feel energetic if they start their work day with a workout.
Save longer adventures for the weekend
Driving off to places that are farther do require more time and you may even feel like you want to stay around that area overnight. There might also be a longer trail or a mountain you want to summit or go do several things in one day. Consider those longer adventures for the weekend. Get out Friday right after work and return back Sunday noon or evening. This is why people start calling them “weekend warriors” when it becomes a routine to make the most of their weekends.
Coordinate with friends to make things easier
If you’re used to hanging out with your friends at someone’s home or going out to eat or going out for the nightlife, change how you and your friends make plans. Include them in your planned outdoor trips and coordinate with them who gets to drive next for a carpool, how much gas money to split, and take turns laying out an itinerary. If it’s a weekday and one friend doesn’t have work the next day or very early, you could also see if maybe your friend is willing to do the driving for a longer road trip.
If your work allows it: Travel to a different state and work remotely in that area.
Also known as a “workcation”, changing your work environment or surroundings is exciting and doable, if your type of work could allow it. Most people who work remotely do have this opportunity, especially if they are allowed to work in any state (because not all companies do, I used to work for a company a few years ago during the pandemic that only allowed me to work in my own state sadly). You may not even have a boss that is cool with the idea of you working remotely, but it never hurts to ask.
You can plan out the state you want to travel, the hotel or Airbnb that has WiFi as an accommodation, and plan all the details that are required. I wrote up a guide here on how to plan a solo trip if you haven’t planned one yet or are new at solo traveling. The timezones may change, so you want to be aware of your work hours changing when you arrive at your location. It was a beautiful feeling when I was able to go out on a lovely waterfall hike right after finishing work in the tiny home hotel I stayed in Portland, Oregon and you could live that feeling too.
Most importantly, step into the mindset you have to adventure.
I prioritize time to go out a few times each month and it has became my lifestyle. You get more excited and motivated when the idea of needing to go out is something you have to do. It always motivates me when I think of spending time outside as a form of meditation, especially when it’s a solo adventure. I always found some type of “healing” feeling coming on when I get out and it becomes a feeling I want to constantly chase.
What may also motivate you is “There’s something new I have to see!” or “I want to become an expert in the outdoors but it requires me to be comfortable with it and learning how to!” or the feeling of being this great friend to introduce the outdoors to a friend that will surely benefit from it. You could also see getting outside is the refreshing break you just need before you start a new (and possibly repeatedly stressful) work day.