Hi there! You may not know me - I'm Mika, I'm Gilad's wife and co-founder of the company. Mostly I stick to the background around here, and I'm not exactly what most people would call "outdoorsy." So what might I have to say that could be of interest to you, Cnoc customer and/or savvy internet searcher of interesting outdoors things? Well, I have a partner who is about as outdoorsy as it gets! And I have a perspective that might be of interest to any outdoors adventurer in that I can commiserate with your loved ones.
For context - I have been going on outdoors adventures since the early days of my relationship with Gilad, so I know fairly well what I'm doing by now, but I never spent a significant amount of time in the wilderness before that, and I still only do so when I'm with my husband and/or kids. I don't spend time thinking about my gear. I have no idea what my pack weighs. I usually don't know what route we are taking, even when we are on the trail. None of that is important to me. I'm going to spend time with my loved ones, because for my partner, being outside is everything.
Which brings me to what I thought I'd talk about today - what it's like to be in a relationship with someone who loves/breathes/needs outdoors adventures, and maybe to give a little advice on how to deal if you have such a partner. You all know Gilad as the guy who makes super cool gear; but he is also the guy who cannot live without going outside. Seriously. If too much time passes without him going on at least an overnight, he gets cranky, impatient and a general displeasure to be around.
Back when we were younger and free of responsibility, this wasn't a problem. Mostly we would go together, or he would go by himself or with friends, for as long as he could get time for. But as time passed our careers progressed, and taking time off became more complicated. And then when we had kids, backpacking became an even bigger challenge.
With a lot of planning and effort, we have been taking our kids on outdoors adventures since they were babies. But these trips don't happen as often as my husband needs outdoors time. And we don't get to cover the distance or go as hardcore as he would like. Which presents a conundrum: how do we balance my husband's need for wilderness adventures with modern Western life restrictions of children, home and careers - especially when I don't have the same burning passion for the outdoors?
This is a question we have been working to solve for some number of years. We have come up with a structure I have decided to share with you all, on the off chance it might help another couple. This is particularly topical since Gilad is (at the time of this writing) on the PCT with our 7 year old and as a neurotic mother, I can tell you that this is not something that would have happened without a HUGE amount of planning.
I hereby humbly present the stages of supporting your outdoorsy partner:
The first thing to do is recognize that this person needs time outdoors. We are not talking about people who enjoy a nice hike, we are talking people who have a deep, primal need to go outside. They need to sleep in the dirt (figuratively, of course), take control of their own survival, walk until the point of exhaustion - you get where I'm going, here. They may be obsessive - er, particular - about their gear. They love maps. They plan routes with love. They might write guides about some of the more obscure thru hikes they have done. They might start a gear company...
The next step is to accept that this person's need for outdoor activity is a fact of life. It has nothing to do with you, or how much they love you. When my husband doesn't get time outside, he is not the best husband, father, professional or human that he can be. I accepted this a long time ago. He was like this before we met, and he will be like this until the end. It is important to accept this, so you can move on to the next step!
This part has a few sections. If you realize that you have a partner who needs to go outside, and you accept that you need to fit this reality into your life, the next thing to do is create the parameters that will allow them to go out as often as they need (this will be different for each individual, and of course must be reasonable within your lifestyle constraints).
Gilad and I decided that he would get at least one overnight a month, and one longer trip per year. This is what works for our family setup. I agree to support this. The fact of the matter is that he doesn't go this often these days, but he has in the past and when he gets to the point where he wants to again, he will. For the record, these don't have to be solo trips. During the summer he often will take one of the kids (we're working up to both of them), or we will all go as a family. This trip with our daughter on the PCT? We have been planning it for 2 years.
We also agree on the timing a few weeks ahead - sometimes he will go mid-week, when I have school as an assist with the kids (even virtually, this past year plus), who are young enough to miss him a lot and not quite understand how soon tomorrow is.
Finally, he goes. The kids and I are partying. But Gilad has a Garmin InReach with him, so we can track his progress, exchange messages even when he is completely off-grid and I have sneakily forced him to have a way to call for help if needed.
Did you notice earlier when I mentioned that I never pay attention to the map? When my husband goes out without me, I have all the information I need to know where he is. It makes me feel better, and of course it is good practice to have someone in civilization know where you are generally going, when you go out to the wilderness.
5. While he's gone
When he goes, Gilad has promised to be in touch. He sends regular text messages and if he has service, we might get a rare treat of a phone call from the trail! This doesn't happen often and a lot of time he wants to disconnect so that doesn't happen, but it doesn't take much effort on his part to send a message.
Relatedly, I respond to his messages to let him know that all is well at home so he doesn't worry. But that's it!
A very important component of this stage is trust. I trust my husband to be the true outdoorsman he is, and he has committed to being a responsible user of the wilderness. This means that if conditions are not safe, he comes home. If something goes wrong, he comes home. If the weather takes a turn that he is not prepared for, he comes home. The point of these trips is not to get away from his family; the point is to fill a cup that can't be met in daily city living.
6. When he gets back
A critical part of this whole setup is when my intrepid traveller returns. When he returns home, he is an active and involved member of our family. He is happier, more patient, more present and generally a nicer person to be around.
He is not cranky about being back in civilization, though he could easily decide to be that way. But he decided a long time ago that he wanted to have a life that includes a wife and kids and career and all the things that go along with it. So, he enjoys his wilderness adventures and he also enjoys domesticity.
Many people who really, truly love the outdoors, don't get to go outside as much as they want or perhaps need. I want to get the best of my partner, and so we have worked hard to make it so that he gets outside regularly. But I know that this means that when he is home, he is happy to be here. If that didn't happen, what would be the point of all of the trouble?
Being with an outdoors-loving partner isn't going to be for everyone. Generally, I would hope that you know the person you commit to, and are prepared to accept them. Back to my point: I knew who Gilad was by the time we decided to stick with this life together, and I knew that the outdoors was going to be a big part of it. As we settled into domestic life (careers, family, etc), it became clear that we were going to have to make Gilad's outdoors time a priority, or it wouldn't happen and I would be stuck with a grumpy grumper who grumps.
The steps I outline above are integral to my family's happiness - each of us individually, and as a unit. I'm sure it will change over time, but the core concept probably won't. I hope some of these ideas are useful, or at least thought-provoking. Thanks for reading, and see you on the trail!