Sleeping bag?  Check.  Tent?  Check.  Pocketknife?  Check.  Horse?  Wait, what?  For years my father-in-law has invited me on a cowboy camping trip that involves a four-hour horseback ride into the Wind River Range in Wyoming.  It’s never quite worked out in the past, but this year I was determined to make it happen, which is how I found myself on the back of my trusty steed (a.k.a. El Diablo) riding into the mountains on the Friday before Labor Day.

It wasn’t just me.  My father-in-law was there, of course, but also his brother-in-law Rusty (the organizer of the annual trip) and Rusty’s three sons.  We were each riding a horse and then we had three packhorses that were carrying all of our gear.  We made it to our remote campsite, unloaded the horses and began setting everything up.  What followed was four days of hiking, riding, fishing and telling stories around the campfire, all while miles away from the nearest cell phone signal.  Needless to say, it was a great time.

When the trip was over and we got back to civilization, I took a much-needed shower and started the long drive home.  I had plenty of windshield time so I thought back on the trip and a few takeaways came to mind.

There will always be reasons to say no.  As I mentioned earlier, my father-in-law has been inviting me on this trip for years.  As much as I wanted to go, I had just as many reasons to say “no” this time as I had previously.  Life is always busy.  There will always be schedules, commitments and to-do lists.  If you wait for the stars to align perfectly, you’ll never do anything.

“Yes” is more complicated than no, but much more rewarding too.  It can often be complicated and costly to say “yes”, but that is usually the price of admission for doing interesting/fulfilling things.  I had to take several days off work.  The drive was 11 hours each way.  And did I mention the horse?  “Yes” gets you out of your comfort zone.  It costs time and money.  It takes effort.  But to summarize Mark Twain, someday we’ll all regret the times we said “no” much more than the times we said “yes.”

Opportunities are finite.  You and I will only have so many chances to say “yes.”  To take the trip.  To mend the relationship.  To embrace the new opportunity.  Even if the world were perfect, our opportunities are finite and—newsflash—the world is far from perfect.  Case in point.  Both my father-in-law and uncle-in-law are battling cancer.  They’re doing well, but illness is always a good reminder that you won’t always have the opportunity to say “yes.”

Your body is in a constant state of entropy.  The horseback ride up the mountain was difficult, but the horseback ride down the mountain was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done (think “The Man From Snowy River”).  I managed it in my 40s, but I don’t think I’d want to attempt it in my 60s.  As we get older, things change.  Our bodies start to break down (entropy) and doors begin to close on certain opportunities.  I wrote about this concept in The Funny Thing About Time.  Take a minute to read it because it’s a good reminder.

Routine is the enemy of time.  A guy by the name of Jed Jenkins said that and he is so right.  When you’re stuck in a routine, time flies by.  Getting out of your routine slows things down.  It helps you look at things differently.  It refreshes and makes you better when you get back.  Four days in the mountains seemed like a really long time.  Not because it wasn’t fun, but because I was doing something different and new.  I had fresh eyes.  I was having new experiences.  Rather than my brain being on autopilot, I was aware and focused and present.  If you regularly fill your life with new experiences, it won’t seem so short and hurried.

How about you?  What travel plans are on your to do list?  What have you wanted to get around to “someday”?  What can you do today, this week or this month, to make those plans a reality?  Don’t keep putting it off.  Just go already.

~ Joe




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