The “Try New Things” Challenge: Adventures in Off-Trail Life

In 2015, the year before Limbo and I embarked on our thru-hike, we weren’t happy people. The biggest reason: we had the trail to look forward to. You would think that would be a good thing, right? In some ways, it was, but it also made me feel like I was just biding my time until my life would be better. Newsflash: that’s not healthy.

The idea

So we had this idea – let’s challenge ourselves to try one new thing every month. This could be anything from a new restaurant to a new hobby. If we do more than one thing, great! The point was to look for ways to stop biding our time and enjoy the everyday.

We completed the “try new things” challenge until we left for the Appalachian Trail in February of 2016, and then we re-instated the challenge in January of 2017. Thru-hiking the AT impacted me profoundly, but let’s be real – you shouldn’t have to uproot your life for a year to make a positive impact in your day-to-day existence. I took on the “try new things” challenge with renewed enthusiasm after the trail. I find that when I’m challenging myself to seek new opportunities, it’s easier to keep that pesky post-trail depression at bay.

And the best part of all this? You don’t have to spend a bunch of money to be successful! In fact, some of my favorite experiences have been free or very inexpensive.

The details

  • Make a grid for one year, six months, three months, or whatever time period you want to challenge yourself. Include the month, and space for your activities. Hang this grid somewhere easy to see. For us, that’s our fridge.
  • Find groups to join, hobbies to try out, activities happening in your area, or just go to a restaurant you’ve been wondering about. See below for some ideas.
  • Track your activities as you complete them by physically writing them on your grid. Why not in Excel or another digital media? You challenged yourself to step outside your comfort zone. If that grid is staring you in the face every time you open the fridge, it’s a reminder that you should be proud of yourself.
  • If you don’t try something new one month, don’t beat yourself up about it. Life is busy sometimes. There are often months where we complete more than one activity, so I’m okay with the months that are lazy.

 Finding activities

Probably the most difficult part of the challenge is actually finding stuff to do or things you want to attempt. I think the best strategy is to first think about your hobbies. Is there something you have always wanted to learn, but never took the first step? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without TV for a month? Are you interested in making friends, or more into adventuring solo? What’s your budget?

Taking a quad out on the Oregon Dunes

Another way to think about the challenge is that you’re saying “yes” to opportunities or ideas the world throws your way. One of Limbo’s co-workers is a DJ. She invited us to a show her and her husband were playing – at 1am. I think it’s safe to say neither of us would independently think to go to a techno show in a warehouse at all hours of the night (I’m more of an in bed by 10pm girl). But we said yes – and it was really fun!

Once you have some ideas, consider recruiting a buddy. One of my “new things” was running a 5k. Having my friend Emily to train with made it so much easier.

What we’ve done

Still looking for ideas? Here’s some of my favorites from the challenge thus far:

  • Running my first official 5k
  • Eating strictly vegan for a month
  • Joining a bar-league softball team
  • Hiking naked (this is a real thing)
  • Making homemade pretzels
  • Cliff jumping into the Clackamas River
  • Volunteering for the Nature Conservancy
  • Attending a monster truck rally (on Valentines day, no less)
  • Going without TV, Netflix, movies, or YouTube for a month (easily the hardest one of all)

Homemade pretzels – ugly yet delicious

You don’t have to be a hiker to enjoy this challenge, but as I mentioned above, it’s something that has helped me readjust to life in the “real world”. Long trails feed your spirit and connect you to people you might not otherwise meet. But long trails and thru-hiking isn’t the only way to get that experience. There’s a lot of ways to make the most of your life, so go out and get them!

Tending the farmer’s market stand for the farm I spent a month WWOOFing on

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