F*&# Busy.

Alastair Humphreys, writer and adventurer on both macro and micro levels, just came out with a new book called Grand Adventures. Thanks to a shipping misprint, I ended up with two copies in my mailbox. So I put a post on Instagram the other night asking people to make a case for why I should send them the extra copy. I wrote: “Who out there has a big trip dreamed up but needs a kick in the ass to make it a reality?” because I think Al’s book is intended to do just that.

I didn’t intend the Instagram post to be a case study, but after reading all the messages, I realized a lot of us need a quote-unquote kick in the ass, because we have a lot of great ideas or half-formed notions of adventure, but somehow don’t make time for them. So they stay dreams.

And when we say “dreams,” there are two kinds: (1) the ones you have when you’re asleep, in which you spend four hours trying to get a malfunctioning gas pump to work at a Shell station in the desert while completely naked except for a pair of oven mitts and a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet and for some reason your old college roommate’s ex-girlfriend is there too, and (2) the kind of dreams that you think up on your own while you’re sitting in traffic or staring out the window of your office for a few minutes and think about what you might do if you were somewhere else.

I am not a behavioral psyschologist, but I think there are a number of reasons big trips/adventures don’t happen. The biggest one is that we procrastinate them, as if instead of being the coolest thing we might ever do in our lives, they are something like cleaning the gutters of our house or going to the dentist. Why do we procrastinate big trips? We’re busy.

Well, seriously, fuck busy. We’re all busy now. Here’s how it happened: a long time ago, you weren’t busy. Then you got busy with a bunch of shit, some of it that you made up, and now you’re always busy. That time long ago when you weren’t busy, that would have been the time to take that big trip to South America or Scandinavia or Alaska, wouldn’t it? You didn’t have shit to do. Except you didn’t have any money. Now maybe you have money, but you have no time.

Here’s how you plan a big trip and make it happen: Look at your calendar. Yeah, I know it’s busy—we already covered that. There is a point where you have nothing scheduled. Could be six months from now, could be eight months from now, could be a year from now. Keep the calendar open.

Now make a quick list of all the stuff you want to do in the magical time we call “someday.” Some of the stuff is big, some of the stuff is small. Focus on the big stuff. The trips you’d have to take two or three weeks off work, or a month, or hell, just quit your job to do oh but heavens no you couldn’t ever do that yes you could. Pick one of those big things and figure out how long you would have to be away to do it. Two weeks? Great. Write it on the calendar, in the appropriate season (i.e. you don’t want to try to do a weeklong backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon in July).

Now, do not break that date for anything. Find a partner for this adventure, someone who does not drift into “Flake Mode,” ever. Commit. Tell your boss about it and confirm that you will not be in the office those days. Treat this adventure plan as if it is a wedding. Weddings are bulletproof, because everyone knows how much planning goes into them. Even when shit completely melts down at the office, no one messes with the person getting married. Ever heard someone say, “Denise, I know you’re getting married on Saturday, but we really need you to come in to the office …” Hell no you don’t. This adventure is your wedding. You are getting married to not procrastinating your dreams any longer. Congratulations.

In the months between now and the time of your big adventure, you will still be busy. Guess what, busy is not going away for most of us. It’s the new reality. Again, fuck busy. Work within it. The adventure you have planned is a giant rock in the middle of a river, and the waters of Busy will flow around it. You are not going to magically find yourself not busy eight months from now. Your boss isn’t going to stop piling shit on your plate. You are not going to “get caught up” and have a big sigh of relief and look at your calendar and go, “Would you look at that, nothing going on next week. Guess I’ll just buy some tickets tonight and finally go to Bali tomorrow.”

So make a plan now. That nagging feeling you have that your life is passing you by will go away, and be replaced by a very real need to buy gear and maps and train and talk a friend into going with you, as well as a joyous feeling called anticipation, which is about a million times cooler than procrastination.


More stories like this in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.

28 replies on “F*&# Busy.

  • Justin G

    I appreciate the point that anticipation is much more satisfying than procrastination. I don’t always follow this advice, but I do see the value in it. Thanks for the kick in the ass, Brendan.

  • Dan

    100% true. Most importantly, where was this picture taken, so me and my never “flake mode” friends and build some anticipation?

    • brendan

      Hey Dan, the spot is called Reinebringen—if you google it, you’ll probably find a million better photos of it than I took up there. But it’s amazing for sure.

  • Paul

    Thanks. I’ve just marked a couple of weeks on my calendar for bikepacking adventure later this year. Now, where do I find these friends who never drift into ‘flake mode’?

    • Leah

      Yeah that’s my problem too. Everyone is always so “busy” that sometimes it’s practically impossible to plan a trip, even months in advance. I’m lucky – I’m marrying a dude who never bails on anything so we’ve decided to say to hell with everyone else and we’re just going to do badass shit together all the time and let everyone stay home because of their coughs/because it said 20% chance of rain.

  • John

    A good mate of mine had been in a job for about 6 months and went to the boss to ask for 2 months off to go climbing in South America (with about 2 months notice). The boss looked at him and said “You’re not asking me – you’re telling me, aren’t you?” “Yup”. He had a great trip and then worked the same job for another 4 years. Make the time; have a blast; go back to work; repeat.

  • harry

    My current enemy isn’t procrastination, it’s chronic injury. I’ve been making do with local advenures (microadventures, as Humphries would have it) for a year now. Just did a bike overnight eight miles from my house last weekend to get around the issue, which was a great tonic, but very temporary. I don’t dare book something months away, when even a four-hour ride seems out of reach right now. I dearly wish I could.

    Carry on; just a sullen middle-aged guy carping over here. 🙂

  • Katie

    If you can’t find a friend to go with you, go by yourself. Another way that you’ll never take the big trip is if you’re waiting for someone else to commit or “not flake.” Make your plans and either someone will join along or you’ll make new friends on the way. Just go.

  • Laura

    So true! You have to plan big trips way ahead of time or it never happens. I put a note in my callender a while ago that I am going on a “Big Trip” somewhere in the beginning of November and told everyone about it. Maybe to Arizona, maybe to Thailand. Who fucking knows right now. But I’m going!

  • Dave

    I read this somewhere – hell, maybe here – that some climber was answering questions and one was along the lines of, “What’s the most important thing in planning an expedition?” And the answer was, “Buy the fucking ticket.”

    I’ve found that to be good advice for life in general.

  • willie bailey

    I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really.
    Get busy living or get busy dying.
    – Andy Dufresne

    Not only will you run out of excuses to not do it,
    but eventually you’ll run out of time to do it. Time is of the essence.

    Fuck Regret and Fuck Busy!

  • Valerie

    You’re so damn right! I’m turning 40 next year and I’m finally planning two of my many dream trips for 2017: a week Lapland in winter and two-three weeks camping on the Lofoten islands, Norway in summer. I don’t want to wait another ten years for doing this kind of trips.
    My grandparents always said to me: go as far as you can while you still can. Take what life gives you, because the older you get, the more doors are closing. And who am I to ignore this great advice 😉

  • Katie

    So true! Loved reading this post, great job Brendan for giving people a kick in the pants to get outdoors. You should check out my new blog called Outdoor Lighting Only (www.outdoorlightingonly.com). I think you would really like it

  • Cujo

    Hell yes. At my ripe middle age, I’ve just realized how awesome anticipation is, and I now strive to always have at least one adventure on the books. Always have something to look forward to.

  • JT

    Hi Brendan,
    Well this is a timely post as I’m 2 1/2 weeks away from a Tour Du Mont Blanc and a drive around the Ring road of Iceland with my wife. This trip is a celebration of a year and a half of living alcohol free! Having the time, energy, $, and wherewithal during my drinking days probably would never have happened. Just another facet of a new, much better life. Having sexy, difficult goals to focus on has been a real boon in keeping myself headed towards the good stuff and not falling back into the pit. Just tossing in my own Carpe Diem I guess.
    P.S. I’m about half way thru “60 Meters” and very much enjoying the ride. Thanks for sharing all the humor, adventure, and posativity. You Rock!

  • Steph

    This is a good reminder – despite the fact I don’t fit into the “too busy” category in the same way most do. I’m a seasonal wildlife “biological science technician,” which is fancy talk for helping study wildlife (mostly birds) in remote places. I recently got back from my summer on Buldir Island in the Aleutians, and now I’ve been stuck at a computer working on data for the last 2 weeks. It’s killing my soul a bit.
    I monitored wintering birds in California’s central valley for the last 2 winters, but I’m tired of counting birds and need to do something else. My best friend is in Peace Corps in Mexico, and I’ve known I need to visit while she’s there, but I hadn’t committed to when. Well, last week I finally pushed the button that says “purchase ticket,” and now a friend might join me. The anticipation is so much better than the hypothetical planning!

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