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How to Help Someone Learn to Love the Outdoors

Illustrated through a trip to Zion National Park.

By: Andrew Todd + Save to a List

It's neither unusual nor a bad thing to discover that your spouse, a family member, or your best friend doesn't fully share your passion for the outdoors. They may have had a less-than-ideal experience at some point or perhaps they just haven't had much exposure to nature at all, but that doesn't mean that you can't help them along toward greater appreciation and enjoyment! Here are five tips to help you get it right.

1. Go First

This is probably the easiest of the five, but really allow them to see just what you love about the outdoors - go first in getting out there and enjoying it to the fullest. Just be careful not to share your passion so heartily and so quickly that it's overwhelming! My wife would have been much more wary of going camping and hiking in Zion National Park if she didn't already know how much I love it as well as knowing that I was prepared and experienced through previous camping trips.

2. Open Their Eyes

Sharing your passion should begin to pique your spouse, family member, or friend's interest in the outdoors, and hopefully sooner or later they'll want to go running, hiking, bike riding, camping, or climbing with you. Just remember that when you've finally made it out to your favorite spot with them, your job is just beginning!

While you're on your outing, open their eyes to what's around them. Point out and explain cool trees, animals, or features of the land. Gently teach and instruct them in whatever activity you're doing. There's a good chance that this is a big step for them, so make things as interesting as possible and give them plenty of good stuff to think back on after the fact so that they aren't overwhelmed by any difficulty or discomfort along the way.

3. Know Their Abilities

This is something that should be thought through in advance of actually taking someone along with you into the wild, but when you're doing your planning, take their ability level into account. We were all beginners once and everyone has to start somewhere - don't throw them in over their head on their first big outing, whether physically or psychologically.

My wife and I had done practice hikes close to home and even a "warm-up" hike the day before when we attempted Angel's Landing (her first time). We knew that it would be a hard hike, but we also knew it was just within reach.

4. Ensure They're Rewarded

You may love a good sufferfest just because, but it's very likely that your spouse, friend, or family member does not! It's often impossible to avoid some difficulty and suffering in our outdoor activities, but at least ensure that you'll be rewarded for it. It could be simply choosing to hike or bike a trail that has stunning views at the top, or maybe allowing some time for photography or hammocking if that's what they would enjoy. Even just the promise of some post-hike/ride/climb ice-cream can make things better and add some fun memories. Whatever you come up with, make sure their experience is richly rewarding.

Hiking and camping in Zion provided many amazing views for my wife's first big trip, but we also spent a couple of days in Los Angeles sightseeing after our camping days in Utah. Make sure your outdoors adventure includes plenty of fun and reward that your spouse, friend, or family member will love!

5. Give a Lot of Encouragement

It's almost impossible to be too encouraging when introducing someone to the outdoors. Let them know how happy you are that they're out there with you, remind them of how great they're doing as they follow you up the trail, and have infinite grace and patience for any slowness, difficulty, or lack of knowledge that they may have!

With some passion, patience, and preparation, you can help just about anyone have awesome adventures out in the wild places of this amazing planet. Don't give up on your reluctant spouse, friends, or family members!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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