We left Seattle after work at 5 p.m. on a Friday in February, eager to find ice that was still “in” before the ice climbing season disappeared. We pulled into Lillooet, B.C. at 1 a.m. the next day and climbed all day Saturday and Sunday, only to turn around and drive the painfully exhausting eight hours home for work on Monday. Come Friday, I would be back at it, rearing to fill up another weekend with outdoor adventures.
How many of us can relate to this script? Work hard, play hard. Society trains us to maximize our time, like the commercial that shows the hard-working lawyer rushing from his job in a suit, straight to hitting the bicycle, then finishing with a hot date at the bar. Go, go, go!
In an age when many of us are stuck at a computer five days a week, racking up hours on our cell phones and spending evenings watching Netflix, a weekend in the mountains can feel like a necessary way to unplug. It can feel like the only way to truly connect in meaningful ways with others and ourselves. We learn valuable lessons, breathe fresh air and move our bodies in profound ways. For the past 10 years, I have been religious about getting out on weekends. It’s easy to see how it makes us better, healthier people and brings joy to our lives. But when does being a weekend warrior cross the line from being healthy to getting in the way of what may be more important in our lives?
I have missed out on a lot of important events by prioritizing the outdoors. Friends’ birthdays, family gatherings, parties, work functions and sporting events have been bypassed. As an avid climber, skier and mountaineer I like to think I care about the environment; the fuel burned to get to these amazing places says otherwise. When I come back from a mountain adventure, I feel rejuvenated and my spirit is lifted, but my body is often broken down. I roll into the workweek feeling worn out and lethargic, struggling with low energy due to lack of sleep and physical exhaustion. Am I a better person for having spent so much time on outdoor adventures or has it taken away from more important things?
It’s a fine line, but it can be blatantly obvious when it’s crossed. When I missed a rare dinner opportunity with my sister who was visiting from the East Coast because I was late coming back from a ski tour at Snoqualmie Pass, I knew I had crossed that line. The answer it seems (as cliché as it is), comes in finding the right balance.
While outdoor media mostly shows the upside of spending all our free time outside, let’s not forget what else is important. Whether it be prioritizing weekend brunch with friends, taking a weekend off from driving, saving energy for the work week, or being there for an important holiday: it’s OK to lose a weekend in the mountains in favor of something else.
David Gladish is a writer, climber and backcountry skier based in Shoreline, WA. Besides his strong addiction to good coffee, his life mission is to be well, live hard and live simply.