By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder
In recent years, we've been making a conscious effort here at The White Coat Investor to make the blog less about me and more about you, the reader. However, some of the long-term readers seem to miss me a little bit. In our most recent survey, we had a lot of people ask if I could write more about my adventures and vacations. Now, I love writing about that stuff, and I actually do write about it. It just doesn't get published here on this financial blog. The staff tells me it reads too much like a humblebrag. So, I'm not going to tell you about all of the great adventures I've had in the last year, but I am going to teach you how to add some adventure to your life.
Before we get into it, a bit of a preamble seems appropriate. Having adventure in your life requires a few things that not everybody has:
- No responsibility (or at least good people to cover your responsibilities)
Without at least a little bit of all four of these ideas, you're going to have a really hard time doing much adventuring. There were long periods of my life when I did not have much money or time. There were also periods where my responsibilities did not allow for the sorts of things you're going to read about. I have also been blessed with excellent health, and frankly, I spend a lot of time and effort maintaining it.
Now, with that acknowledgment of privilege out of the way, let's get into it.
I've had a number of people comment to me in the last few years,
“You're going on another vacation?”
I then have to explain to them that
“It's not a vacation, it's a lifestyle. I set my life up this way on purpose.”
I discovered in medical school that I had a wide variety of interests. Medicine was just one of them. And no way was I going to sacrifice the rest of them on the altar of medicine. I hope my obituary says I lived a life of service and adventure. I do like serving others—through medicine, through my work here at WCI, through coaching, and through volunteer work. But I also agree with the Hunter Thompson quote:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!'”
How to Add Adventure to Your Life
Whether you are interested in adopting a similar lifestyle or just adding a little more adventure to your life, here are 10 tips to help you do so.
#1 Get Some Money
Some of this stuff can be surprisingly cheap, but most of it costs a fair amount of money. Our lifestyle is hardly out of reach for most doctors, though. We spent just over $200,000 in 2021, and that was without trying to be frugal at all. It's mostly just a result of taking care of business early in my career. When you don't have any payments and you're already done saving for retirement, you can blow your earnings on heli-skiing, scuba diving, and $500 oars. Follow the rest of the advice on this blog, and get yourself some money.
More information here:
#2 Get Some Time
You know what people who figure out how to get some money have a really hard time with? Getting some time. It's apparently really hard to let go of a little bit of that money and exchange it for more time. But it can be done. How? By saying “No.”
“No, I'm not going to work any more shifts.”
“No, I'm not going to take any more call.”
“No, I'm not going to go another year without using my PTO.”
Just do it. Find the time or you'll find yourself sitting on a pile of money in your 60s and 70s wishing you had and no longer having the physical capacity to do so. In my case, I steadily cut back shifts in the ED while hiring assistance at WCI. Over the course of about five years, I went from having two full-time jobs to spending 18+ weeks either under the stars or out of the country.
More information here:
#3 Buy Some Disability and Life Insurance
While it is more common to have exclusions for your disability insurance or to be denied life insurance due to medical problems, dangerous hobbies cause similar issues. If you rock climb, mountaineer, scuba dive, skydive, or fly private planes in the 6-12 months before applying for insurance or plan to do some in the 6-12 months afterward, you are likely to have that excluded from your disability insurance policy. You are also likely to pay dramatically more for life insurance (if companies will issue it to you at all). Buy insurance before you get started with your adventures.
I also always find it fascinating what they don't ask about. Apparently, all of these are fine:
- Big wave surfing
- Backcountry skiing
- Cliff jumping
- Road biking (by far my most dangerous hobby)
- Mountain biking (I have three friends who have broken their necks doing this)
#4 Get Some Skills
Most adventures require a certain set of skills. You can often bypass many of them by hiring a guide, but that also means you're usually getting a watered-down version of the real thing. So, go get some skills. Get PADI certified for scuba diving. Take an avalanche or canyoneering course. Ask competent friends to take you along and teach you the ropes (although remember the most dangerous thing outdoors is being a beginner led by a beginner).
#5 Get Some Gear
Most outdoor adventures require some gear. Buying gear represents a commitment that you're actually going to use the equipment and do the activity. Without the gear, you almost surely are not going to go do it. You don't necessarily need everything to get started, but how are you going to take a rock climbing class or go out with friends without at least a harness, shoes, and helmet? Buying gear signals you're serious about it, and it will cause you to be invited along much more often.
More information here:
#6 Make Some Friends
Speaking of friends, most outdoor activities are not done alone. If you like doing this stuff, try to find other people who like doing it, too. Be the person who is easy to invite and hard to leave behind. Offer to help in any way you can. Respond quickly to texts and emails. Pay your way quickly. Offer to drive. Bring food and a six-pack. Do all you can to say yes and not bail out at the last minute. Do more than your share of the scut work inherent to any adventure.
#7 Plan Some Trips
I'll let you in on a little secret. There are a ton of people out there who will go out on an adventure if they are invited on something that is already semi-planned but who will never plan it and invite others. I'd guess the ratio is at least 10:1 and could be closer to 20:1. So, be the one. Be the one who figures out the permit system and applies for a permit. Be the one who figures out the logistics behind the trip. You don't have to be the expert. There are a lot of people without the drive or skill set necessary to put a trip together. I'd guess I have to plan about half of the adventures I go on. It would be a much higher ratio without Katie. Of the trips I did this year, I was the main planner or a significant secondary planner on all but three of them, and Katie did two of the other three.
More information here:
#8 Say Yes
I'm sometimes amazed at how many people tell me no when I invite them on the trip of a lifetime. As I write this, I'm planning a canyoneering trip. We'll have 10-13 people there. But I probably invited about 25. If you want to go, it's never going to be convenient. You actually have to prioritize it in your life. There are always going to be times you can't go. But if you usually say you can't go, people are going to stop inviting you.
Don't be scared to have a new experience and learn some new skills. The more you try, the more the skills you already know can be applied to the new situation. Take rappelling, for instance. It's a skill common to climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, caving, and even some backcountry skiing. Might as well learn how to do it. How about swimming? Hard to do much scuba diving, canyoneering, rafting, or kayaking without that skill.
#9 Learn to Tolerate Suffering
Almost every fun outdoor activity involves a little suffering at some point. In canyoneering, you're always either too hot or too cold. You're loading a boat every morning, sleeping on the ground, eating dehydrated food, pooping in a bag, dealing with sore muscles, or walking around for hours with a heavy pack. All of that is often the price of entry to an incredible adventure.
#10 Find a Balance
Adventure trips can be done by yourself, with friends who also love the activity, with your partner, and with your kids. Find a balance between those trips. They are all enjoyable for different reasons, and after a while, you realize that it is the people you are with that often make the trip.
You only get one life. You can do whatever you want with your money and your time. If you can relate to John Muir's statement:
“The mountains are calling and I must go”
Then I suggest you create some space in your life for adventure.
What do you think? What is your idea of an adventure? Do you like to find outdoor adventure in your life? How do you find the time, energy, and money to do it? Comment below!