Unlocking life achievements

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I’ve never been a “bucket list” person. I see the appeal of capturing life goals in lists, but I’ve not been someone who has done that to date. On the other hand, I think I’ve always been good about identifying things that I’d like to achieve – particularly in the workplace. Examples of those included gaining certain titles (first Director, later Vice President), leading teams of a certain size, and working internationally. Probably the most relevant life goal in terms of this blog, was my aim to achieve early retirement by age 50 – a date I’d originally set at 55, and then later reduced to 52 and then by 50 years of age.

On my daily morning walk, I found myself thinking about my last blog post, concerning my recent trend of taking long walks/hikes of up to 20 miles. Not being someone who views themselves in the slightest as athletic, these kinds of achievements were not something I foresaw myself targeting in years past. But here I am, feeling really driven to hit these targets and being highly motivated to do so, but without a clear view as to why. These seemed a topic worth exploring, and this article is an initial attempt to start on that process.

In recent events

As of my last article, I’d achieved my first 20-mile walk or “urban hike” if you will. In that case, I walked from my home to a grocery store the next town over, and returned back again in a single day. A week after that, lessons learned in hand, I set out to do it again. This time I had fancy new walking shoes (I’ve always hated spending money on footwear but believe me, I get it now), better socks, and a new route. That day, I ticked off yet another 20-mile walk, this time to a taqueria in a nearby town where I met my wife, Lorri for lunch, then walked home. My second 20-miler was easier, you won’t be surprised to learn. But reflecting on my goal I found I wasn’t done yet either.

I mentioned my interest in backpacking in the earlier post, and this being one of the motivators for me to take on these walking challenges. Discussing this further with Lorri, we decided my next outing should be some kind of multi-day solo adventure. After spending some time with Google Maps – where I plan all my routes (thank you, Street View!), I settled on something to meet this aim. I planned a two-day hike, targeting 17.5 miles on day one and 14.1 miles on day two, for 31.6 miles total. My my start and end points were each a >30 min drive from home, so this route would require a drop-off and pickup (my wife is very gracious), as well as an overnight stay at a motel – one conveniently located near a favorite brewery 🙂

Mission accomplished: but why?

To make a long story short, I achieved my latest goal! -and with two fewer blisters than the three I ended with last time! I think I know how to prevent the one I did get (I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic). So a challenge to address next time, it seems. But otherwise, this was honestly way easier than I’d thought it would be, despite it being the longest two-day hike of my life, and the first of those I’d done since I was at least half my current 48 years. I was also carrying more weight than usual given the overnight stay – about 13 lbs total between water, gear, and clothes. Sure, I was tired, my calves ached, and my feet hurt after the first day. But I was pleasantly surprised how well day two went once I got limbered up and accustomed to walking. The morning Advil assuredly didn’t hurt either, if I’m being honest.

Left image: Stats for day 1. Right image: Same for day 2
(Yes, I’m too lazy to fix the different white balance points!)

But the question I was reflecting on this morning was why this was important to me. To be frank – and I hope it’s not a letdown, I’m not certain I have the answer yet. Yes, part of it does involve an interest in backpacking. I needed to prove to myself that fundamentally, I’m capable of these durations + conditions to even consider longer trips. But that aside, what else is at issue here? Some of it may just be enjoying the idea of setting a challenge and achieving it. That’s a pretty nice rush, right? Doing so via athletic pursuits is rather foreign territory to me, to be truthful with you. I’ve always been pretty quick to give far less than my all to such pursuits so doing otherwise is definitely charting new ground for me.

Merely the latest in a list of items of interest?

I’ve written a lot here about the idea of time freedom. I’ve truly enjoyed this aspect of my current phase of life as much as I’d hoped I would. For me, it’s the best part of this FIRE path so far. But I didn’t go into this period with a long checklist of things I wanted to achieve. True, I did have some things in mind that I wanted to explore, while still others were added as I went. Thinking back over the past nearly two years, that list includes (but is not limited to – see this article for a laundry list!) things like:

That last one is pretty new so I haven’t written about it prior. I’m currently nearing completion of my WSET Level 2 certification in wine, and may proceed to the tougher Level 3 course. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a really fun part-time “job” working one day a week as a Wine Educator in a local area tasting room. I don’t need this certification to do that job competently, though it will make me better at it. Mainly, I just enjoy the content and growing my skills in wine tasting, evaluation, and general education. Perhaps this educational path will lead to something else, but I have no established plan to do so.

And maybe that last point is just it: I enjoy being able to set goals and achieve them at this point in my life, irrespective of whether I “need” to do them or whether I’m certain it will lead to something else of value. Perhaps this is just the “random walking” through interest areas that my YouTube partner in crime and I have discussed on the show before? I suspect this is the most likely explanation, but am not really sure either. I like it as a starting point in any case. If you have any other thoughts, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Lots of questions with few answers

What I don’t have for you, my patient readers, is a tidy way to wrap up this post. I’m not entirely sure why I continue to pursue these goals related to walking long distances. But I’m not losing sleep over that mystery. It’s been fun, educational, and I really enjoy the challenges (and achievement!) associated with it. So what’s next? I’m planning on doing a single-day marathon-length walk soon. It’s pretty exciting gearing up to do these walks, I must say. And maybe that’s also part of it – the pre-work and anticipation about whether I can achieve the next milestone is pretty great!

Lacking better ideas on how to close, I thought I’d share a few of the photos I took with my phone on my most recent journey. These are a great reminder to me that I live in a beautiful part of the world and these walks are a wonderful way to experience the area. I hope you enjoy them. Thanks as always for sharing your time with me! Mahalo 🙏

4 Replies to “Unlocking life achievements”

  1. Hi Jason, those are some serious hiking distances for just getting started! You sound like you’re handling them rather well. Congrats. Beautiful scenery too.

    I think the reason this appeals to you is not terribly hard to guess at. It’s an accomplishment just like the prior pursuits in life that have attracted you – most of which have been of an intellectual nature. Physical achievements are satisfying too! Maybe you’re just having a minor epiphany about that.

    I have been running for 10 years. But guess what? I started at age 45 after never running more than an odd sprint since high school. I “hated” running. Between running and road cycling, which I discovered at age 43, I am now permanently addicted to near-daily exercise. It was a transformation. And it falls into the “never would have bet on me ever doing that” category.

    Physical activity – especially the difficult and/or painful kind – teaches all kinds of things about one’s character, patience, and resilience. And interestingly, working to extend my running and cycling endurance even had unforeseen effects on my professional life. Perhaps you’re just getting started on what will reveal itself to be a lifelong endeavor. Happy trails!

    1. Thanks! To be sure I’ve been doing 3-mile walks basically daily since COVID lockdowns first started. And prior to that I was doing them at at least weekly. So my starting point wasn’t zero but these long hikes are definitely a new thing. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

      I think you may be right – that’s at least part of it. I guess I never really thought consciously about most of the workplace achievements but clearly there were positive “bumps” for my brain to enjoy all along the way. Now that those aren’t happening regularly by going through my daily routine, these are filling the gaps, I suppose.

      Nice work! That’s a great example, thank you for sharing it. I’ve always “hated” running. When I was in the best shape of my adult life about 17 years ago, I got into a regular running habit. But the wife has bad knees and isn’t suppose to run. And since I didn’t like it that much anyway I stopped as well. I do have the idea that I may not be permanently done with it so perhaps it shall resurface. For now I’m really enjoying walking/hiking vs. my memory of what running was like 🙂

      Also excellent points! I shall definitely keep them in mind. Thanks again for weighing in!

  2. “And maybe that last point is just it: I enjoy being able to set goals and achieve them at this point in my life…”

    Nailed it. I think all of us have an innate need to feel a sense of accomplishment. While work fulfilled that need for years, retirement is the time we need to identify those goals/achievements for ourselves. Ironically, a friend and I also have a “walking goal” this year – to hike the 90+ miles of the Benton Mackeye Trail in Georiga (it’s a total ~300 mile trail from GA to The Smokies). To date, we’ve completed 22 miles, only 70 more to go. 15 more miles planned next week. A fun challenge, and isn’t that really what it’s all about?

    1. Thanks, Fritz! Yes, I think you’re spot-on. I expect you’ve thought more about this than I have and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Looks like you’re on a great trajectory to hit your own goals! I look forward to hearing about your journey.

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