I quit my corporate job, a year ago this week, to go my own way. After 20+ years of work in the software and internet industries, I was bored with what I was doing and I couldn’t see that my work was having any positive impacts on society at large. See my post Hiking My Own Hike from last year for the nitty gritty.
I decided that I needed to do something pretty radical to add some spice back into my life. Outdoor recreation and blogging about it on Section Hiker had become a refuge, so I decided I’d have a go at making a living as an outdoor writer and educator. I was ready to trade income for the ability to have a direct and positive impact on other peoples lives. That may sound hopelessly romantic, but I was raised in an era and a home where service to others was encouraged and I married into a family with the same values.
Having more time and greater freedom to do what I want (as long as I get a note from my wife) has made all the difference. In addition to my writing here, I’ve been able to do more public speaking about hiking and become much more active as a leader and instructor with several hiking clubs and organizations. These activities are especially rewarding to me because they help me see what people want or need to learn to become more self-sufficient and confident in their outdoor skills. It’s too easy to lose touch with the beginner’s mind when you become a pundit and don’t have regular one-on-one contact with your audience.
On the business end, I’ve been more successful this first year than I could have expected. I’m definitely hustling to make ends meet, but there is a certain satisfaction in building a business and good business relationships from the ground up. On the flip side, my wife and I have made substantial changes to our spending habits and lead a much simpler and frugal life, like going to the art museum on the weekday nights when it’s free and stopping our cable TV service. I even worked out a work-study deal with my yoga studio, providing maintenance work in exchange for unlimited yoga.
With all of this free time on my hands, you’d think that I’d be spending even more time hiking each year. Surprisingly, that hasn’t happened because I am married to the same woman and maintaining that relationship takes as much work and attention as it ever did.
What has changed is the quality and duration of my trips. Instead of hiking every weekend to get away from work stress, I’m taking fewer but much longer trips and spending more time savoring destinations than blowing on through. That means stopping earlier in the day to camp at a picturesque location or practicing my fly fishing when I come across a nice stream. I never would have expected that last year, but not having to rush through a hike, or life, is a great thing.