How To Cope With Your Indoor Job When You Are An Outdoor Person

I’m not sure if I hate desks or love windows.

By: Jonathan Roberts
April 29, 2016

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When I was in school, I always caught myself daydreaming, staring out the windows towards the mountains west of town. I wanted to be out there, definitely not in a classroom, sitting at a desk. I wanted nothing more than to go outside, climb a mountain, and let the wind whip all around me.

For a long time, I stayed seated. Once I got to college and had the freedom to choose, I started skipping class to go outside. I’d go to morning classes and head off outside by the afternoon. I’d go slackline or go off hiking until it got dark. I still managed to graduate on time. I even did well. I wasn’t content, though, burnt out on the doldrums of academic life.

Every summer in college, I worked at a campground along the New River. I started out cleaning fire pits. After a couple years I could run the place by myself on a weekday and drive the shuttle busses. It was exhausting and dirty. I developed a distinct hate of sand. On a hot afternoon in July I would have traded anything for a job with air conditioning and a real roof. Through all of that, I knew that these would be some of the memories I would cherish of my college years. I even toyed with the idea of becoming a raft guide the summer I was set to graduate. The real world recruited me away pretty fast.

8 Tips to Help You Land a Job as a Campground Host | Photo: Yeager St. John

The concept of a double-digit hourly rate enticed me and air conditioning sounded even better than that. You don’t even have to wear sunscreen under florescent lights! I took the first job that offered a computer screen and a little sedentary escape from farmer’s tans.

Here I am today. A couple jobs down the line and a full-time writer! I write software documentation, mainly. I’ve accepted the fact that, regardless of what your Instagram feed tells you, most people don’t live in a van and hike everyday. Deep down, I even like my job that allows me to be a writer and afford a new pair of boots when I want them. That doesn’t mean I don’t stare longingly out my office windows when the sun is out, wishing I could be hiking with my dog or casting my fly rod into a narrow trout stream.

The truth is, you can do both. You can live your life as an outdoors person while maintaining that day job. You weekends might be filled with long miles down country roads and restless nights sleeping in dilapidated bunkhouses instead of wine tastings and brunch, but you can do it.

That balance is what keeps me going. I spend the weekdays working hard, getting my life back in order from busy weekends, and talking with friends to plan the next weekend. Except for a couple friends who still work seasonal jobs, we all sit at desks or work indoors. Plans are made and debated upon over long emails and text messages, just waiting for Friday when we can all skip town and head to the mountains.

7 Tips For Balancing Work, Life, And Getting Outside | Photo: Jason Zabriskie

Sometimes that means backpacking trips with the rough plan to hike in on Friday night and come back to the car on Sunday. Many of our weekends revolve around project trips into caves - surveying underground, slowly plugging away more and more feet to add to cave maps. Once the weather warms up a bit more (I can’t wait!), I’ll be out on the New River kayaking, glad to enjoy the water that I used to see only from the banks or seat of a shuttle bus.

My best advice is to dive in on the weekends. A day job isn’t a death sentence for an outdoors person. Sometimes it feels that way to me, especially when the weather is perfect and I know some of my friends skipped out on work to go have fun.

The fact that I have to pack my outdoors adventures into weekends and what little evening time I have left makes me cherish the moments I get to be outside. I know that the older I get, the more responsibilities I’ll have, which motivates me even more to push myself now.

Once Monday morning rolls around and I come into work, coffee in hand, I feel like I really accomplished something. Even before my sore muscles, bruises, and scrapes begin to fade, I’m already making plans and packing for the next weekend. Maybe someday I’ll be able to channel more of outdoors passion into day-to-day work. For now, though, I can cope at a desk.

Cover photo: Moe Lauchert

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.