How I’m cutting out the clutter and living my Great Adventure with my family this winter
posted by: Amber Johnson
I spent my final semester of college on a study abroad in the Middle East. Our campus was on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and we traveled frequently around the region. We floated in the Dead Sea and slept in cabanas by the Sea of Galilee. We roamed through Petra’s ancient wonders in Jordan and we climbed Mount Sinai to witness the sunrise. We marveled at the Great Pyramids and sailed the Nile at sunset.
Upon the completion of my studies, I stopped over in Europe with a few of my friends. We backpacked five countries in two weeks and had the time of our lives. One of our final destinations was Switzerland. We stayed at a hostel in Interlaken, the country’s outdoor Mecca. After a day of rafting the mighty Lütschine, we talked late into the night with some fellow travelers.
One of them was named Ralph. He was charming, athletic and drop-dead gorgeous. He was a mail carrier from Australia who had saved up his money for a year-long adventure abroad. He was going home the next morning. Feeling remorseful about the end of my own travels, I asked him how he thought he would adjust back to his humdrum life after being given a glimpse of the world.
His answer still resonates today:
“Before this trip, I was always planning my next great adventure. It has taken this trip to help me realize there is so much close to home I have yet to experience. My next great adventures will be in my own backyard for many years to come.”
This has become my mantra in life. Sure, I still love to travel. I always will. But there is so much to explore here and now. With a glorious October behind us and a winter wonderland within our gasp, opportunities abound.
Fall and spring are busy times at our house but we have chosen to live deliberately the next several months and scale way back on extracurricular commitments. We’ll instead spend dark evenings snuggled up by the fire reading books together. Playing games. Cooking fancy dinners and eating together without being rushed. Going to movies, museums, skiing and the rec center. My son will not die if he doesn’t sign up for indoor soccer with his friends; my daughter is overdue for some time off from volleyball.
As parents, when our kids’ activities wind down, we have become addicted to asking “What’s next?” and clamoring to sign them up to the next big thing instead of just letting them be kids. I’m tired of “scheduling” playdates to work around crazed schedules; what happened to just ringing your friends’ doorbell and asking them to play?
And, most importantly, being a family means spending quality, meaningful time together.
Since we have started focusing on living more deliberately with less clutter, my family has had some amazing adventures. We discovered a 40-foot pile of leaves at our town’s left recycling drive and spent hours playing in that golden pyramid as we launched into a sherbet sky.
A week ago Saturday, we signed up for Lookout Nature Center’s free naturalist-led Full Moon Hike. As we snugged together on top of Mount Falcon, we breathlessly watched the harvest moon slowly, deliberately climb the horizon as a titanic swarm of a million stars pierced the sky. Like that luminous moon, we were bound together by gravity and time.
I am amazed what I find when I leave my daily routine. Whether I am leaping off a giant pile of leaves or watching the full moon rise, I feel fortunate to find it all here in my backyard.
Just as my Australian friend wisely proclaimed so many years ago: Wherever you live is your Great Adventure.
And remember just how extraordinary life can be when we slow down to enjoy it.
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