M Field Notes of a Family Man: How to Nurture Your Family and Your Backpacking Obsession

by Jeremy Pendrey

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Article Summary:

To backpack more, you need capital. I don't mean cash. I mean family capital. Let's call it "adventure equity." This doesn't mean tit for tat. No saying "I'll watch the kids tonight while you go to book club if I can backpack this weekend." Support your family members unconditionally in achieving their goals, and the capital will build on its own. Here's a simple test to see if you have built enough adventure equity to go backpacking for a long weekend: When you back out of the driveway with your loaded pack in the trunk, do you feel like you're getting away with something? If you do, you haven't built the equity, and you shouldn't go. I've learned this the hard way.

Build adventure equity by seizing opportunities to contribute time and effort to your family. If your spouse wants to arrange a weekly night out with friends, no problem, offer to watch the kids. If she's on business travel and wants to stay an extra day and see the sights, don't complain. Rearrange your schedule so she can. If she's going to be home late from work, have dinner ready. If there's a plumbing leak, fix it before any nagging starts. If your son's baseball team or daughter's swim team need volunteers, help out even if it requires a lot of weekends that (cringe) could be spent backpacking.

I've recently embarked on the biggest adventure equity builder yet. My wife has gone back to graduate school. So I've taken on much more of the responsibilities at home. But it took some effort for me to see this change in our family as an opportunity. At first, I thought, oh no, there goes all my backpacking trips. But then I thought, do what needs to be done, and you never know, next summer . . . maybe the JMT.

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