8 Ways To Get Outside More in the New Year

Long-distance hiker and urban adventurer Liz Thomas shares tips on living a more active life.

At the end of every year, we find ourselves looking back. Where did the time go, we sometimes wonder. Summer and fall seem to evaporate as soon as they’ve begun, and with them all the time we thought we had. Next year, we promise ourselves. Next year we’ll squeeze in that backpacking trip, that climb, or that epic bike tour.

But how do you make sure this year is that next year? For advice, we sat down with Liz Thomas (trail name: Snorkel). Thomas is a record-setting thru-hiker and has completed over 20 long-distance trails, including the “Triple Crown” of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail, and a number of original urban thru-hikes through major cities across the U.S. She’s also the author of Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike. Over the last few decades, she’s made a career out of finding adventure anywhere.

Here are her tips for making 2022 your most adventurous year yet.

1. Make a Mini Bucket List

“A little bit after the holidays at the end of the year, I sit down and get a mini bucket list going,” Thomas says, which is a great way to organize dreams and goals for the upcoming year. Grab a sheet of paper and jot down three to five adventures you want to prioritize.

2. Lock Yourself In

Sometimes dreams slide to the backburner when everyday obligations pile up. But the best way to adventure more is to be resolute about making time for it, Thomas says. “For me, getting stuff on a calendar way in advance is a way to get out more,” she notes. “If you can put a deposit on a campground or hotel early, do it. The more you lock yourself into a trip, the more likely you’re actually going to go when the time comes.”

3. Loop in Some Accountability Buddies

It’s easy to bail on yourself. It’s not so easy to bail on friends. So, when you’re excited about trip planning in the beginning of the year, contact a few of your favorite adventure buddies and get some PTO on the calendar together. Plus, “planning as a group can get everyone super excited about an adventure,” Thomas says—as high collective psych is the best form of accountability.  

4. Explore Your Neighborhood

When time is tight or the weather turns in the mountains, it’s time to open your eyes to the limitless adventure to be found close to home. Look for local parks you’ve never visited, concoct some new bike routes, or make like Thomas and plan an urban hike. “One of the things I really love about urban trips is that even on the streets you might drive a lot—it’s a very different experience when you walk them,” she says. “Walking, you see so many things you’d never noticed before. You see how all the streets and paths are connecting.”

Liz Thomas walks around the city in front of a mural Photo: Liz Thomas

5. Invent a Crazy Goal

Not feeling motivated to wander aimlessly around your city on a chilly day? That’s normal, but there’s an easy fix. “Especially for urban adventures, there’s a lot of opportunity for getting super creative with it,” Thomas says. “One of my goals one year was to walk to all the breweries in Denver.” (There were 65). She’s also done all the public stairs in San Francisco and Seattle, and hiked to all the new playgrounds in New York City. Some other ideas: Summit all the mountains past a certain elevation in your state, pick 10 new lakes to visit, or spot 20 new birds.

6. Switch It Up

It’s easy to get burned out on an outdoor activity if it starts to feel like a chore. So, when fast training hikes become a drag, Thomas keeps things interesting by changing up her goals. Maybe that means skipping a training day and taking a newbie out for their first hike instead, or defining success as visiting a new place instead of logging mileage. “I think switching your goal can turn it into a whole new sport in some ways,” she says.

7. Find a Group

Getting involved in a hiking, climbing, biking, or birding group is a great way to find your stride, meet new adventure partners, and keep the outdoors as part of your routine. “Many regional parks or county parks have walking groups that get together a couple times a month,” Thomas suggests. Many cities also have climbing, mountaineering, or running clubs.

8. Build Adventure into Your Everyday Routine

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to quit your job, travel the world, or overhaul your life to find adventure, Thomas says. Instead, look for little ways to explore more amid your existing routine: “Maybe walk to a coffee shop you might otherwise drive to for a meet-up with a friend,” she suggests. “We think of fitness as this thing we have to be hard-core about, but really, it’s all about finding ways to get out and move a little more every day.”

  • Learn more about Thomas and her urban thru-hikes at eathomas.com

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.