Balancing School, Work, and the Outdoors

Balancing School, Work, and the Outdoors

As someone who uses nature for relaxation, play, and work, it can be difficult to find a way to balance these needs with other responsibilities in my life. I’m currently working 40-hour weeks in an Amazon warehouse, taking 14 credits of online schooling, trying to find housing for next semester, preparing for my summer job at Philmont, and many other day-to-day tasks that must get done. Needless to say, finding time to spend in the outdoors, not thinking about work or school, can become difficult.

One technique I use to balance my responsibilities is using weekend overnighters as motivation to finish my other tasks more quickly. I try and schedule one short backpacking trip a month as something to look forward to, so I know I have a weekend set aside where I won’t have any worries or responsibilities. This means that I have to finish my assignments before the weekend, and I find I perform better on my classwork and homework if I have a motivation to get it done.

I also do my best to fill every block of free time I have outside. Sometimes, I’ll go for a long day hike along the Gunpowder River, or other times I’ll walk my dog through the neighborhood. I think of these short periods spend outside as “microdosing” a backpacking trip, and they really help me be able to focus and burn off some extra nervous energy built up by watching video lectures all day. Some days I’ll set a speed goal or a distance goal for myself, and other days I’ll just take in the environment around me.

Photo: A day hike to the Quarry at Little Gunpowder State Park where I practiced pitching my tent.

The final thing that I did to better balance my time spent outside was to take classes that allowed me to do so. This semester, I’m taking two classes that require field measurements to be taken. I’ve never really taken a class before that requires field work, so being able to do it almost weekly is a blast, and I find I learn much better when I’m able to be hands-on and take the measurements myself.

Photo: Taking soil infiltration measurements using an infiltration ring, water, and a stopwatch for my GIS course.

I think that finding a balance between these things can be very rewarding, providing a sense of accomplishment and success, while still allowing time for relaxation and mental recovery. That being said, I can’t wait until the summer- my job and backpacking will be one and the same. I hope that my efforts during the school year to train and research pay off!

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