Adventure is for everyone, no excuses

Adventure sports such as kayaking aren’t limited just to able-bodied athletic types. With proper training, preparation and facilities, wheelchair-bound explorers can enjoy its freedoms as well.

Every Saturday, I get a couple of Google Alerts that keep me in the know about the latest in the worlds of outdoor recreation, adventure travel and more (I’m a nerd, I know). A lot of what comes through is just local event information from all around the country that happens to include my targeted keywords, but there are always a few interesting tidbits. This week’s emails led me to an article about a few new handicap-accessible canoe and kayak launch facilities in and around some city parks in Midland, Michigan.

This is pretty cool stuff. A local community group spearheaded the effort, and the new access points highlight their push to make a wider range of recreation opportunities available to everyone. Although there are some obvious limitations inherent in different disabilities, a partial handicap doesn’t have to mean a person can’t take advantage of an activity that doesn’t require full mobility, and it’s great to see a community taking strides to make its facilities universally available.

The article got me thinking about all of the excuses I’ve heard (and used) for why we let ourselves miss out on opportunities for recreation and adventure, and this is just the latest example of how inadequate those arguments really are. Remember Natalie du Toit, the South African swimmer who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics, despite having one leg amputated at the knee? Or Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee also from South Africa, whose record time for the 400-meter dash is less than two seconds off of the world record for an able-bodied athlete? Or Erik Weihenmayer, whose blindness didn’t stop him from reaching the summit of Mount Everest? With role models like this, our complaints of “It’s too hot,” “I’m out of shape,” “I’m too busy,” “I can’t afford it” totally fail to hold water.

Today, we have a lot more advantages in terms of recreation than our parents and grandparents did, but we often need to overcome some modern obstacles first. Everyone knows that video games have contributed to the decline of neighborhood kids playing together after school and the growing trend of obesity in both kids and adults. Fifty years ago, most kids considered playing outside much more interesting than being confined to the house, whereas many of today’s kids with access to gaming consoles, hundreds of television channels and an Internet full of possibilities have to be forced outdoors by their parents.

This enchanting misty morning found while camping in West Virginia was absolutely worth the drive, the time off and the early wake-up. I think our campsite fees were $8 a night.

Despite the digital distractions, we have a lot more options to get out and do something than ever before. Parks and trail systems are easily and freely accessible to just about everyone, and as the weather gets warmer, there are few valid excuses to not take advantage and enjoy what’s available. In terms of cost, there are thousands of opportunities that we’ve already paid for in part or in full with our tax dollars. For adventures on non-public lands, most cities now have flash deal sites, which make it much more affordable to spend a day on a high-ropes course, go whitewater rafting or try your hand at disc golf. Our jobs usually allow evenings and weekends off or a few days in a row away from work, and although we all have full lives that take up much more time than just the hours we spend on the job, the time is there for getting out and doing something active outdoors if you consciously make it a priority. The physical and mental benefits make it well worth the trouble.

I’m just as guilty as anyone, so this isn’t me pointing an accusatory finger here. During the winter, I yearn for the warmth and flexibility that summer brings, but each fall, I always look back and think I could have taken more chances to bring my dog on longer hikes in new places or get out for more weekend trips with my kayak or just go to a dark, open field at night to lie down and watch for shooting stars. There are few things I enjoy more, and sitting around watching the Thursday night lineup pales in comparison.

I’m going to make a point to make the summer of 2012 one that I won’t look back on with any regrets. The opportunities are right within our reach. Let’s seize the day.

Categories: Adventure, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Adventure is for everyone, no excuses

  1. I totally agree!! Back in college it seemed so easy to get out and be adventurous. There seemed to be an overabundance of opportunities to get outside. Once you get into a 9-5 routine the summers seem to rush past faster and faster, and getting outside seems to take such an effort. It’s easy to get caught up in a sedentary lifestyle and forget how good it feels to just take a breath. There are so many things to do out there and it’s so easy to talk yourself out of them. I’d love to start working outdoor activities back into my schedule.

    • We need to go for that day o’ photography we’ve been talking about for awhile. Let’s find a good day after you get back from Mexico!

  2. Tyler

    I live in DC and have been kayaking for years. We are lucky enough to have an active group in the area that helps injured soldiers get out on the water and have a blast in kayaks. Some of them may not have legs anymore, but they have huge smiles on their faces.
    for anyone who may be curious about the group. I want to write more, but your article has me convinced, I’m already spending too much time in front of my computer. Im off to the river…

  3. Dianne

    You make very valid points! I’m pretty sure all of us are guilty of making excuses for why we do not do more outdoor activities! But in reality we really do not have a reason as to why we are inside instead of being outside doing something. Great post!!

  4. You are right. And exercise by hiking or other outdoor activities is so much more fun that working out in a gym.

    • Andrew

      That’s the thing about working out indoors. Indoors you keep checking your watch, wondering when your time will be up. But go for a hike and you can lose 2 hours just enjoying yourself outside! The scenery is always changing, your sense of accomplishment is associated with seeing plants and animals pass by, not a hand on a watch rotate around! Not to mention it’s gotta be better for your health out there than breathing in sweaty recirculated air in a gym!

  5. meghara

    So great to see public parks prioritizing accessibility for people with disabilities.

  6. Andrew

    I also live near DC and it kills me what people around here consider nature! I miss living in a more rural setting, back then it was just a quick trip to get to the woods, and I took advantage of it. Now to get to decent forests I have to endure hours on I-66 staring at the brake lights in front of me! But I agree, these are excuses, I too can’t wait for summer, and then don’t utilize it! I’ll have to make an effort this year, dust off the old camping stuffs, use those brand new fishing poles from 2 Christmas’ ago, and get outside!!

    • I agree, it’s easier to get out and be active when you’re surrounded by more wilderness and less urban sprawl, but don’t discount things like that park across the street from your house. Even from my townhouse community, I can take Paxton to the park behind my neighborhood and walk the trails for hours without seeing another human being. It’s not as involved as a weeklong backpacking trip, true, but it’s an easy midweek pick-me-up that keeps me refreshed, and my puppy properly exhausted :).

      I haven’t been fishing in years… let’s go sometime soon! Did you hear the news last week about that guy who may have just caught a record-breaking snakehead in the Occoquan, but let it become dinner before any officials could check it out? Let’s try for trout instead, hmm?

      • Andrew

        That’s awesome, and a little sad. Bet he is really kicking himself over that blunder… unless the fish was cooked really tasty!

  7. Martha

    So many good points being made here. How about remembering that exercise is supposed to be fun and not a chore? The thrill and independence of making your way on the open water is joy and I’m so pleased to see communities including the disabled. And, if they don’t make excuses, why do we? Let’s resolve not to take these opportunities for granted.

    • I love how you refer to the disabled as “they,” oh temporarily lame one :). You get a pass on hiking until your broken ankle heals, but I’m looking forward to getting out on the water with you this weekend, and it’s fantastic that you’re not letting your injury hold you back! I completely agree about exercise needing to be fun — it’s great that some people can convince themselves to go to the gym and run for hours on a treadmill, but personally, I need a more mentally stimulating environment.

  8. Allison

    I think that running on a treadmill is the worst exercise ever. Exercise shouldn’t be about “convincing” yourself to keep going in hopes of burning a few more calories at 4.5mph! If more people went outside and did fun things like kayaking, they wouldn’t even notice they were exercising! It’s time for America to take a few steps outside and a step in the right direction towards living healthy!

  9. Nate

    I’m always inspired by those athletes that compete with less abled bodies. It is a true testament to the human spirit and what you can do with some determination. AND …. you’re right ….. it takes away all my excuses for not pushing myself harder.

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