MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 313
edited May 2023 in EXPERT ADVICE

Words and Photos from Peter Bugg @bugglife

Hello, fellow Adventurers! Do any of you have non-adventurous, or less-adventurous significant others that you would like to nudge outside of their comfort zones? After almost 17 years with my lovely-but-safety-focused wife Melissa, I’ve picked up some tips that may help you convince your partner that joining you on an outing will be a worthwhile experience. 

Take an incremental approach. For some, a six-mile hike might feel like easy pre-breakfast mileage. For others, it will be something that they have to train for. When I started getting Melissa outside of her comfort zone, it wasn’t about physical fitness as much as comfort off the beaten track. After some trial and error, we have found that it’s easier for her to wrap her head around a few shorter hikes as opposed to one bigger one, even if the mileage isn’t significantly different. This works especially well when we are going to new places - it allows me to get an overall sense for the location, and start mentally planning longer, more intense activities I would do without her. 

Create a detailed itinerary so your partner will know what to expect. Our first true outside adventure together was in 2010, when we lucked out and scored permits to see The Wave on the AZ/UT border. Beautiful pictures online had convinced Melissa it would be worth the effort, but she still didn’t know quite what to expect, which made her uncomfortable. A combination of research and experience allowed me to put together a door-to-door timetable of the trip which was very helpful. After reviewing the schedule, everything looked good, but we were getting home a little late for her taste, so we ended up waking up an hour earlier to adjust. Everything went well, and I’ve convinced her to join me on a few more outings since then. 

Know their physical limitations. When we visited Australia in 2014, one of my bucket list items was to hike around the base of Uluru. It’s about 6.5 miles, and was very hot, but it was also a flat, smooth trail. Living in Phoenix has helped us adjust to the heat, and the distance wasn’t an issue, especially after having hiked The Wave, which required much more up and down. So, with an early wake-up call and the knowledge that this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we were able to beat the heat and enjoy an otherworldly landscape. 

Find out their additional comfort parameters. I understand Melissa isn’t going to go on a 10-day backpacking trip with me, which is a bummer, but doesn’t mean we can’t figure alternatives that will work for both of us. After some gentle prodding, I got her to share her biggest deterrents. She will not sleep or go to the bathroom outside. Those are big limitations, but they still leave us with some options. Regular bathrooms along the trail and cabins at Phantom Ranch (combined with advance planning and significant luck) allowed us to spend two nights at the bottom of Grand Canyon in 2019. 

Admit when it’s hard. When the going gets tough, I think a lot of us have a tendency to try to encourage our partners with platitudes like “you can do this,” or, “almost there.” A few years ago in Southern Utah I admitted, “If I had known it was going to be this difficult, I wouldn’t have suggested this hike.” It wasn’t the mileage, it was the off-camber walking and constant route finding. Owning up to the difficulty was much more helpful and validating than a pep-talk, and we were able to get through the day without any hard feelings or resentment. I also learned the importance of checking trail conditions beyond distance!

Different activities. While I enjoy doing almost anything active, I am most comfortable on my own two feet - walking, hiking, running, and otherwise perambulating. I will try other modes of transport including boats, but the additional variables of wind, tide, current, chop, and more all make watersports a bit more outside of my comfort zone. However, Melissa really likes the water, and she enjoys kayaking more than walking. As a result, we have now done a few guided day-trips that have satisfied both of our desires, and we have another one planned for later this summer that I’m looking forward to.  

Change of scenery. Once you have a few lower-key adventures under your belt, sometimes shaking things up by going to a different culture or environment will inspire your cautious partner to try something they would never subject themselves to on their home turf. Spending a night in a sleeping bag in freezing temperatures is not something Melissa would sign up for under most circumstances, but she was able to lean into the cold during a winter trip to Sweden, and a night in the Ice Hotel convinced her to give it a shot. We made it through the night, and while more glamping than camping, it still satisfied my desire for new experiences, and provided enough amenities for her to appreciate the unique opportunity. 

Peer Pressure. This is probably a last resort, but it’s been successful for me. There are things my wife is willing to do for her mother that would be a harder sell if it were just me trying to convince her. Trekking on an active volcano? Much of the adventure was the boat ride from the mainland, and the hike was gentle enough for my mother-in-law, so we were able to convince my wife to join, and it was one of the highlights of the trip! 

While not everything will work for everybody, I hope these can help you convince your loved-ones to try something new and give you the opportunity to connect outside in nature. 

How about you? Do you have any tips or tricks to add to the quiver?


  • mgatrost
    mgatrost Member Posts: 1
    edited July 2023

    I wish I’d given this some more thought before I convinced my then girlfriend to do her first overnight backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. I thought The Hermit Trail would be fun, but instead it wound up being a 12 hour ordeal that she never got over. What I learnt was always try and see it from their perspective before promising it will be fun.