My dad is a shoehorner. He manages to squeeze an abundance of intrepid, thrilling and frolicsome activities into tight windows of time that most of us wouldn’t presume an adventure could fit. It is not uncommon for him to get off a river, drive past midnight to make it home, only to get up the next morning with four hours of sleep to teach an intensive five-day workshop before rolling out again on Friday afternoon to head to a trailhead for his next rad adventure.
When I was in grade school, he would quote Mark Twain and remind me to “never let schooling interfere with [my] education.” My dad is an educator, so this propensity to endorse skipping school to go backpacking or river rafting was particularly notable.
Just two weeks ago he invited me to float Hells Canyon with him. I was supposed to work on the Friday he was leaving. I might have been able to get out of it, but my list of assignments and due dates was feeling pretty long, and I would have had to rearrange my schedule to make it work. Honestly, I was feeling a little tired. I hemmed and hawed as I weighed the stress and effort it would take to make it happen against the benefits I’d receive from four days on the water with my dad.
That is when he interjected with one of his signature lines, “There’s always a reason to say no.” He smiled when he said it and the warmness of the invitation was palpable, even through the blatant goading.
I usually cave when he pulls that phrase out. It’s hard not to. The searing truthfulness always causes me to consider whether or not my reasons for saying no are valid or contrived. What my dad knows, and lives by, is that if we look for a reason to say no to something, we will certainly find one. Without fail.
He taught me that the only way I’ll get out into the wilderness is if I prioritize it. And with that, I can say with 100 percent certainty that I have never once regretted saying yes to an adventure. I have never been disappointed I made a sacrifice in order to get out on the water or into the backcountry. I have never mourned the colossal effort I had to invest on the front end, or been overly remorseful about needing to reschedule a meeting. It is always worth it. The benefits are indisputable.
I am grateful that my dad has said “yes” for as long as I can remember. We have gone on countless epic adventures because we decided spending time together outside matters to us. It is not always easy, and I often need a gentle nudge from him. Still, most of the time, we make it happen.
So the next time an opportunity for an adventure arises: don’t look for a reason to say no because it is highly likely that you will find one. Instead, look for all the many, varied, and valid reasons you have to say yes.