The other week I was in Zion National Park. I picked up some hitchhikers who were climbers (being a climber myself, I was happy to give them a lift when I saw their ropes and gear.) One of the two guys came from Sweden. He had been self-employed for many years and quit to travel and climb. He had been summiting mountains for years (including Everest) and told me how people thought he was crazy and that his life was a joke. It made me think about the questions I mentioned above, whether they've been said to me directly or spoken between friends or family members.
Do these things bother me? In short, no. Sometimes it's flattering that people think I live such a glamorous life. I am facing the same challenges that others in almost all phases of their career are dealing with. I'm trying to find balance in my life. I have to work to live, to support my family, and to pay the necessary expenses that comes with living here. I'll do my best, for my own sake, to answer these questions/statements that friends/family/acquaintances have said to us personally or said to others about us while we aren't around.
"Do you guys even work?"
As hard as it may be to believe, we do in fact have full-time jobs. I work about 50 hours on any given week, not including the phone calls I receive from people about my company that are happening at 6:00 in the morning and 10:30 at night. Alexa puts in her weekly 40-50 hours working as one of two chemists in a water conservancy district that covers 4 counties and deals with 94 million gallons of water per day. We worked very hard to get these jobs and continue to work hard to advance in our careers.
"They can do all these things because they are given everything."
Wouldn't that be great! I can say one thing, if I was given everything that I needed to live a comfortable life, we would definitely spend a lot more time on the road than in the office. Did we grow up in homes where our parents had done well for themselves? We did. I can definitely say that our families have been very blessed. My parents had the means to take my siblings and me on great vacations, to have a beautiful cabin where our family can gather, and to enjoy activities like boating on a lake or visiting a beach. My parents worked unbelievably hard to give us kids those kind of opportunities. I remember not seeing my Mom for days at a time during tax season, and my Dad having to determine what we would be able to do with the leave that he had. Seeing my parents work so hard to provide a comfortable lifestyle for me was inspiring and motivating.
I, like most kids, had to earn money for the things I wanted to buy, and was repeatedly told "No" when I laid my eyes on the items that I thought I literally could not live without. I worked through college and, mostly thanks to Alexa's scholarship and science fair money, we were able to graduate without any large debts. It was our hard work during our college and immediate post-college jobs that eventually landed us the jobs that we have today. I can't say that our parents didn't help us through college. The fact is, they did help! They always told us, "we won't let you go hungry", and they never did. Despite what many people think, I saw first hand and learned the value of hard work from a young age as I learned my parents to the times in college where I knew if I performed well enough in those jobs, I would be rewarded in my job search after graduation.
"It looks like you guys are always on vacation!"
We try really hard to make our lives as "vacation-like" as we can! It isn't easy, but it has been worth it for us so far. We don't take ourselves too seriously, and we work to make new memories and friends all the time!
This is how we try to keep an active lifestyle despite our time committed to the office. Obviously everyone does things different and does what makes them happy. I'm not trying to "coach" people in similar situations to do the things I do because, frankly, not even close to everyone wants to do the things that we enjoy doing! Some people would rather sit on the couch over a weekend than do a spontaneous road trip to a place they've never been, and I can't say which one is better or worse or wrong and right. This fits our current situation (no kids, no more school, just us and our two careers) and works for us for now.
1 - Wake up early! This is a great time to get things done and out of the way. Wake up, exercise (important), organize your things, send letters (do people still do that anymore?), etc. Getting your workout done in the morning saves you at least another hour after work that can now be used for something other than your workout.
2 - Work hard while at work! Don't just get your obligatory duties done with mediocrity, be efficient and do them well! Being efficient with your time at work will help you do a better job in a shorter amount of time, causing less amounts of stress.
3 - Decompress on your drive home. Try to decompress while on your way home from work by listening to audiobooks, good music, driving in silence to comb over anything that bugged you throughout the day, whatever works for you. Do this so that when you get home you don't have to fall onto the couch and say "Oh man, I just need a minute to sit and do nothing." This one is hard for me. It isn't easy for me to get home and say "Ok, what do we have planned?" or "Hey, let's head up to the lake for some paddle boarding!" It's always easier to stay on the couch and turn on the tv, but I've never regretted getting out and doing new things.
4 - Leave your work at work. Some of us have to answer phone calls that come at any hour of the day (myself included), but that doesn't mean we have to bring work with us everywhere we go. In your after work gatherings, rarely do people want to hear all about how Sally jammed the copy machine again even after you've explained the correct paper-loading process a million times. Use your time after work to be in moment whether with friends or family.
5 - Have hobbies, interests, and friends outside of work.
6 - Weekends (when you don't work) are GOLD. Never waste a weekend. That is a motto that Ali and I try to live by. Don't let a weekend slip away by sitting around on the couch or sleeping it away. Sometimes it's a lot of work to take off on a weekend, or maybe the drive is "too far away" for anything you'd like to do. Sometimes the hardest part is getting out the door. Once you do, just enjoy the experience!
So here is the deal.... We work pretty damn hard. We have to work for the things we want, whether it be material, spiritual, or mental. I am incredibly grateful for my parents, their work ethic, and the sacrifices they have made for me. We understand work. Finally.... I hope to be able to make my life feel as much like an adventure and a journey as I have so far!