6 Tips for Planning Stress-Free Family Trips

Photo via Pexels

If you’re thinking about booking your first big family vacation, you might be worried about dealing with stressful situations on the road. But traveling as a family does not have to cause you anxiety – with the right approach, it can be a lot of fun, especially with expert advice from The Action Story! Here are a few guidelines you can use to map out your family trip.

Head to Washington, D.C.

Wondering where to go for your family trip? You might want to plan a vacation in Washington, D.C., where you’ll find lots of activities for kids and adults alike. If your children are school-age or older, they’ll love D.C.! You and your family can learn all about the history of the United States in this city. Where the Wild Kids Wander recommends visiting the free Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall or venturing outside of the city to check out Mount Vernon. You could also take a tour of the White House!

Book a Trip to Houston

What if you’re too far from Washington, D.C. to make a family trip feasible? Consider heading to a city like Houston, Texas instead! There’s plenty for families with young children to enjoy in Houston, like visiting the Space Center, the Children’s Museum, or the Downtown Aquarium. And if your children love sports, you could also get tickets to a baseball game at Minute Maid Park!

Check out New York City

The city that never sleeps has something to offer everyone. If you enjoy the arts, there are the theaters of Broadway and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you’re set on singing “Take me out to the…Yankees game!”, there are plenty of tickets available online. You can also enjoy the hundreds of delicious restaurants or take in a day at Central Park.

Create a Packing List

When you’re traveling with young children, you definitely don’t want to leave anything they need behind! If your children are older, you can encourage them to pack up some of their belongings on their own. You can even give them their own special backpacks for the trip! Family Vacation Critic recommends putting together a comprehensive packing list ahead of time with essential categories for different items, like first-aid gear, outdoor equipment, toiletries, clothing, and entertainment.

You can even bring your favorite four-legged companions. You can check out information on the best cat backpacks that make traveling with your cat easy.

Book Accommodations

If you’re traveling as a family, you’ll want to book spacious accommodations well in advance. Trying to find accommodations might leave you with few options, and you want to ensure that your whole family will be comfortable during the trip! You can look into hotel rooms or rental homes. By renting an entire house, you will have access to a kitchen, so that you can cook meals for your family and save money.

Pick Out Kid-Friendly Activities

What will be on your itinerary for your trip? This all depends on your kids’ ages and interests! Traveling with children who are in kindergarten or older opens up lots of possibilities. You could visit zoos, aquariums, national parks, beaches, museums, theme parks, and more. Just don’t try to squeeze too many activities into one day – that can quickly get overwhelming for kids. Leave a little downtime in your itinerary so that your family has plenty of time to eat and rest up between activities. You don’t have to see every attraction in the city – just choose what your kids will be most interested in!

Making big plans for a family trip takes time and thought. It can be a big undertaking! But if you’re willing to put a little extra effort into the planning process to iron out key details in advance, you can book a trip that your family will remember forever!

Interested in learning more about potential travel destinations? Check out The Action Story!

Weekend Trip Guide: Enjoy Yourself While Staying on Budget

This is a guest post written by Henry Moore. Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. 

Experts agree that a vacation can benefit your mental health. You may find that you experience less stress, increase your productivity and sleep better. You do not have to vacation for weeks or months, however. Sometimes, you need to find yourself somewhere to spend the weekend away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Looking for budget-friendly ideas can help you find a vacation spot you return to every year. The guide brought to you by The Action Story can help you find a place that’s fantastic and budget-friendly.

Ideas for Budget-Friendly Destinations Ideas

Think about destinations where you can spend little money. For example, bike rides through Utah’s most challenging roads may give you a sense of freedom without a high cost. There are various ways to relax and enjoy yourself without spending a lot of money.

Camping, for instance, doesn’t involve expensive hotel or restaurant costs. Some campsites are free, whereas others cost much less than other options. In addition, you bring your food to prepare for the trip. Other ideas include:

  • Visiting historic sites and museums
  • Attending festivals in your local area
  • Touring wineries or breweries

Outdoor excursions tend to cost less and can also be more healthy. If you need to destress on your vacation weekend, the outdoors may raise endorphins and leave you happier.

Ways To Break Away From Work

Before you leave, tie up any loose ends at work. For example, if you have a business, you may want to designate someone like a registered agent to help your business run smoothly. Outline major decision-making processes for your registered agent to ensure that you do not have to worry if anything serious like a tax notification or lawsuit pops up without you.

You should not have to worry about work while on your weekend getaway. This is your time to decompress, so have a game plan before the weekend. Try to anticipate any issues that may arise and create a strategy for others to handle them if necessary. If you have a boss or supervisors, allow them to know your plans. This keeps him or her from trying to contact you over the weekend.

When on vacation, you have an opportunity to reset your body and live in the present. Sometimes you’ll find that you return to work with less burnout and more creativity than before. Do not worry about your workload piling up in your absence; you deserve the break.

Deals To Keep You Under Budget

There are various ways to save money on any trip. If you plan to leave the country, go somewhere where you can stretch your dollar further. Additionally, look for cheap travel deals. Sometimes you may find flights to other states or cities to enjoy on short notice. Do not spend extra money on drinks or dessert if you want to eat out on your trip. Instead, seek grocery stores for more expensive items.

When it comes to packing, try to stay light. Some buses and airlines will charge you more for too much luggage. If you have heavy items, exchange them for lighter ones. For example, you may want to choose travel-sized items or find items that serve multiple purposes.

If you want to plan a weekend getaway, there are various ways that you can save money. You do not have to choose expensive hotel rooms or expensive entertainment. Planning a short vacation can significantly reduce your stress levels and benefit your health.

Finally, if you are looking to travel internationally on a budget with little hassle, consider the ivisa program for your global entry needs.

Recreating the Past

Most people who live in Chicago’s Northwest Suburbs, where I spent part of my childhood, are excited by the prospect of the Chicago Bears moving into Arlington Park. For me, the move is bittersweet. Arlington Park is one of those places of personal significance. It is the first place I ever gambled. Gambling would become a significant component of my life’s experience, with more betting on horse racing, and then, when I turned 21, games like black jack and craps.

I still remember all of those summer afternoons watching horses race on that track. I remember sitting in the stands cheering on whatever horse I had bet $5 on as they came around the curve headed towards the finish line. I remember seeing the official results post on the scoreboard at the end of every race, indicating what I had won, or what money I would have won had I made a better bet. I even remember hearing the occasional train pass by and the energy of the crowd when there was a particularly exciting race, or when someone had to make a bigger bit on something like a trifecta and won.

My April 2022 trip to Chicago brought me back to three past periods of my life.

My parents still live in the suburban home I lived in from age 11 to 17, where I learned how to work for a living, pack my schedule with activities and, of course, gamble. Experiencing the Easter holiday with my niece and nephew, ages 5 and 7, reminded me of my earlier childhood, and what holidays mean to children. Finally, the trip included two trips into Chicago, where I spent my late 20s.

In any experience like this, it is tempting to expect the same experience we had in the past. It’s tempting to get nostalgic. It’s easy to envision watching the same Easter movies I had watched when I was a child, frequenting the places I loved in my teenage years, like the Arlington Park Racetrack, and frequenting the same bars and restaurants I loved when I worked downtown as a young adult.

However, like the racetrack, which will soon appear quite differently and likely be packed with football fans, the experiences are not likely to be the same. The kids have new things the love to watch, different activities and different preferences (I’m a Cubs fan).

Establishments close and new ones open up.

Punch Bowl Social actually opened its first location in Denver in 2014

And the overall situation we find ourselves in will inevitably change.

This is the only place I saw gas over $5

However, specifics like places, activities, prices and colors do not need to change for the experience to be different. Life’s experiences and the way we progress as human beings are inherently going to change our perspectives. Even if everything I did on this trip was exactly what I had remembered, a decade, or two, or three worth of life experience would have caused me to see them differently. I noticed this for the entire duration of the trip.

One of the most beautiful things about the experiences we have early in life, as children, is the fact that we often have no prior experience to compare them with. This is why children tend to watch movies, listen to music and take part in activities with an open mind. In adulthood, especially as we get older, it is tempting to compare any new experience with one from the past. We compare today’s music to the music of our adolescence. We compare the movies our kids watch with the kids movies of our childhood. And, we compare trends in things like fashion and lifestyles with the trends that defined our formative years.

However, to give ourselves the full opportunity to really enjoy the experiences we have in adulthood, we should temper the urge to make these comparisons. The experiences we have today do not owe it to us to live up to something that happened in the past. They are going to be what they are and only when we minimize the attachment to having the same experience we had years ago can we full be in the moment and enjoy what is in front of us for what it is.

Places Extroverts Love

It’s been hard to know what to expect the last two years. First, places that are typically lively, full of people, full of life, suddenly became empty as the pandemic shut down businesses and places of gathering.

Then, for nearly two years, our experiences became variable and inconsistent.

It felt like the whole world was suddenly subject to mood swings that are impossible to explain or predict. Maybe we are still in this period of uncertainty, but I was pleasantly surprised by the energy levels on my last two trips.

The last weekend in March, Moab was quite lively.

The town was busy! There were a lot of people out and about, walking around and having experiences. Traffic actually made it quite a challenge to make a left hand turn. People all seemed lively. The energy was just great!

The same can be said of Chicago a couple of weeks later.

The energy, the spirit of the big city could once again be felt both on a Thursday evening with horrible weather and a Saturday night with better weather. There were a lot of people, out in groups, in the bars, as well as along the street where there is typically a lot of nightlife. It felt good just to know these places are back!

These places could hardly be any any different. Chicago is a city of 2.75 million with many skyscrapers and what can seem like endless unique neighborhoods to explore.

People who visit come for a truly urban experience, doing things like going to museums, summer festivals, professional sports or visiting friends and family.

Moab, by contrast, is a town with barely over 5,000 residents adjacent to two National Parks.

Most of the people one would encounter here are tourists who came to explore the outdoors. Moab is known for Jeeping, mountain biking and hiking among other activities.

These settings, while different, warmed my heart in a similar way. There is something about seeing people out and about, interacting with each other, interacting with the world, and doing so in a way that feels joyous. It is the combination of joy and crowds that extroverts have missed so much over the past couple of years.

These recent experiences have demonstrated that there are often multiple ways to obtain the same underlying feeling, and maybe it is a good idea not to get too attached to one specific experience. There are often circumstances that require versatility. Sometimes the weather is not what we were hoping for.

Other times it’s our schedules, our health, someone else’s needs or just plain bad luck.

When this happens it is helpful to know that sometimes a different experience, but one that is feasible given whatever our circumstance is can be a really good substitute, providing almost the exact same underlying feeling we are looking for. So far this spring, I have been in lively joyous crowds both in a tourist destination surrounded by people on vacation and in a large city surrounded mostly by people who live there. Next time we find ourselves disappointed by not getting the exact thing we want, maybe we should try to think about the underlying reason we wanted it and try to find another path.

The La Sal Mountain Loop – Among Utah’s Most Challenging Road Bike Rides

When people think of Moab, they do not often think of road biking. My day started out at Chile Pepper Bike Shop, where I watched vans depart with groups of people and rented mountain bikes as I got my bike prepared for this ride. These vans could have been going anywhere, as the options for mountain biking in the area seem endless.

Moab is surrounded by all kinds of magnificent scenery, from the La Sal Mountains, to the unique natural features in the National Parks, the beautiful rock structures and the Colorado River Valley. I wanted to experience it in a way one can only experience a place using their own power, on the seat of a bicycle.

The La Sal Mountain Loop Ride is a 62 mile loop that can be completed in either direction out of Moab.

Trusting my instincts, I decided to start the day headed South out of town. The climbing starts immediately, headed towards a development area called Spanish Valley.

By the time I had reached the end of this area, I had already climbed over 1,000 feet (300m) in elevation. This is where the challenging part begins.

This ride was even steeper than I thought it would be. Before I knew it, I was overlooking the town from above and viewing the rock structure that follows highway 191 from a whole different vantage point.

A couple of switchbacks later I was nearly 2,000 feet (610 m) above town, at an elevation just over 6,000 ft. (1.85 km).

I passed by a couple of campers who yelled out some words of encouragement that reminded me of last year’s Ride The Rockies event. I responded that I still had a long way to go, as I knew the ride topped out over 8,200 ft. (2.5 km).

More exhausted and dehydrated than expected, that one moment arrived. Anyone who has ever done anything challenging knows this moment all too well. It is when we receive some kind of a reminder that there is always the option to quit. The reminder can often come unexpectedly, or in a form so subtle that it is hard to see why this temptation to quit has suddenly entered the mind. For me, it was a road sign near where my camelback unexpectedly ran out of water.

This sign reminded me that in terms of distance, I was still only 1/3 of the way through the ride. It also reminded me that I could turn around and get back to Moab without having to do any climbing. It would all be downhill.

Although it was almost too convenient not to turn around I pressed on. Snow began to appear more and more on the side of the road despite the temperature still being around 60°F (15°C) at this higher elevation. The relatively cooler air did make the ride a bit more pleasant

After a few more rolling hills and climbing another several hundred feet, suddenly it was there, the view that made the whole thing worth it. The La Sal Lookout Point. The highest point of the ride. This moment was kind of like the inverse of the moment where we are reminded we can always quit. It’s the moment where something appears, reassuring us that it is all worth it. It’s that reminder we get about why we took on such a challenge in the first place.

The entire Castle Valley suddenly appeared like a scene out of a western film. It is the kind of place the Native Americans have tons of stories about, explorers used as landmarks and office workers filled with wanderlust go to in order to feel truly alive and connected to a planet larger than their 6 by 9 cubicle and 1,000 square foot apartment. Just looking onto the horizon makes a story come to life, about people, nature, history, hopes and dreams.

My instinct to ride this loop in the counter-clockwise direction proved to be the right instinct. I would have this view for my entire descent, gradually getting closer and closer to these iconic rock structures.

Until, I was finally in it, at the base, in the Colorado River Valley.

The final part of this ride, along highway 128 headed back to Moab is a bit busier than the rest of the ride. This scenic highway following the Colorado River is full of resorts like the Red Cliffs Lodge.

Campgrounds and access points where people visit beaches or pull their rafts in and out of the water.

Luckily, the last few miles of the highway have a bike trail, which connects back into town.

Oddly enough, this bike trail was the only point along the entire ride where I encountered another cyclist. After all, while this is an amazing ride, and there are other great places to bike around Moab, Moab is still primarily a place for mountain biking. When we trust our instincts, are not afraid to go against the grain a little bit, and persevere through some challenges, it often produces amazing results.

Less Than Ideal

At Keystone Ski Resort February 15th, 2022

February and the first half of March are typically seen as the most ideal time for skiing in North America. Weather varies quite a bit from year to year, but by February a significant snowpack has typically developed while the unpleasantly cold and windy conditions common in January start to become somewhat less likely. It is why ski trips are most commonly planned for this time of year.

However, reality often does not match expectations.

Along highway 285, Feb. 27, 2022

Both the complex systems that govern the atmosphere and the ones that govern human behavior contain a great deal of variance. It can be, at times, frustrating when experiences do not match expectations. However, this expectation is part of what makes life so beautiful. Imagine what life would be like if every event, every experience and every activity matched expectations, exactly. There would be no surprises. In some cases, there would be no hope.

The last couple of years have been rough. Patterns have often emerged that shut down multiple possibilities all at once.

In Colorado, snow this year has often fallen in the wrong place, making both the conditions at the ski resort, and activities like hiking and cycling on warmer days less than ideal. This feels like a metaphor for the general human experience over the past two years as new variants of COVID often emerged right around holidays and the most recent waning of the virus related worries is now coinciding with new geopolitical threats and economic worries.

I know, this is not expensive for some places, but for the U.S.A it’s quite a lot for a tank of gas

Perhaps, at this point in time, the worst mistake that can be made is waiting for exact right moment, the perfect conditions, before doing anything. It is for this reason everyone seems lonely and culture feels so stagnant. Any reason can be found to declare that a specific moment in time is the wrong time for a new initiative. The past couple of years have just been a more extreme version of it.

Yes, there is a lot of uncertainty. Many of these experiences are ones certain segments of humanity have not experienced for quite some time. Most people were not alive the last time anything remotely like this happened, and a lot of people do not know what to do at all. But, the stagnation that comes from waiting for that one moment where everything is perfect has the potential to make things far worse.

A lot of people are waiting for the ideal time for everything from starting a new venture, to taking part in their favorite activities and/or reconnecting with those they care about once. However, when that theoretical ideal time comes, a new form of less than ideal will present itself, crowds.

The true opportunities lie not in waiting for the outside world to present a perfect situation, but in finding a way to manage a less than ideal situation.

Homesteading in Southern Colorado

Location undisclosed

I did my best to keep up, as Homesteaders discussed things like tools, setting up electrical systems, building wells, cultivating crops and guns and ammo. Much of it is just to build many of the conveniences we in the city take for granted, like plumbing, food, running water and heat. All of our homes have complicated systems of electricity, water, piping and plumbing, which enable all of the conveniences of modern life. I know nothing of this world. It is all a part of this nebulous category of things that are somehow taken care of with the money we shell out when we buy our homes and pay our monthly bills.

When I entered this place, one of the first things to cross my mind was the fact that the nearest sushi restaurant is over an hour away. This, as well as many other conveniences and sources of excitement that define urban and suburban living are not easily accessible.

The concept of “homesteading” makes me think of the 19th century, when pioneers were settling vast unsettled parts of the country and President Lincoln signed The Homestead Act. What would make people decide to do this in the 2010s and 2020s? Could it be the sky high housing costs in many of our cities? Could it be something else? The homesteaders in Colorado point to a couple of other factors.

1. Energy and Lifestyle

I heard talk of not liking the energy of big city life. The city is full of pressure. It is fast paced. This appointment at 10, this meeting at 2, pick up the kids at 4, etc. Here, the day of the week and even the time of the day are far less significant. Alarms are not set. People don’t set aside a specific time to meet up, they just come by and see if their neighbors are home. It can be relaxing but certainly requires a different frame of mind. It requires abandoning concepts ingrained in modern life such as maximizing the number of tasks performed in a day.

2. The Necessary Skills for Life

For decades, the skills needed to build and upkeep our homes and other structures, often referred to as “the trades”, have been held in lower regard than most corporate jobs. These skills have become somewhat of a lost art. Recent shortages in “skilled trade labor” serve as a reminder of how important these skills really are. Homesteaders here mention preserving these lost skills in an era of desk jobs and specialization.

3. Society is Fragile

There was also talk about how fragile our society is, and what happens if we experience a collapse or state of emergency. Culture does periodically collapse. In Western Culture, there are two prominent examples of times when some combination of mis-trust, mis-management and mindless destruction lead to a fairly advanced era being followed up by a darker age. The first one was when the Bronze Age collapsed around 1177 B.C. The next is the fall of Rome, just over 1500 years later.

1500 years later, could another collapse be possible? There are plenty of legitimate reasons to be pessimistic about the future [1][2]. There are also plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Regardless of what is to come, it is probably a good thing that a significant portion of the population is interested in learning these skills.

Life here feels like life as it was two hundred years ago with the aid of some new technology. The focus is on more basic needs like food (agriculture) and shelter (building). New advanced technologies, like efficient solar power conductors and extremely accurate scopes on rifle guns, still make it feel clearly easier than 200 years ago.

As is the case whenever there are options, there are trade-offs. In the city we have pressure, pressure to perform for our organizations, pressure to earn enough money to pay our mortgages or rent as well as buy food and all the things we want. There is the need to maintain a certain status in our chosen communities and a need to plan around things like traffic patterns, our schedules and anticipated crowds. However, there isn’t the need to worry oneself with how we get our food, water and shelter. There is also the opportunity to have a more significant impact on people, our society and our culture. It is this burning desire that will likely keep me in cities for the foreseeable future.

However, if there is one thing our current era of division and isolation can teach us, it is to stop looking at all people who make different choices based on different preferences as enemies, or threats.

Our differences make life more interesting. It is a big part of what makes travel worthwhile. If everywhere began to look and feel the same, something would certainly be lost. I do not expect a new dark age to descend upon us. However, regardless of what happens, I think it is a good idea not to piss off the group of people who know how to make our systems of food, water and electricity work.

Guest Post: The Busy Person’s Guide to Improving Your Health

This is a guest post written by Henry Moore. Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. 

Image: Pexels

Let’s face facts; life can get a bit hectic. Juggling professional and personal obligations is difficult for many people on the best of days. If you add in the occasional dose of the unexpected, it shouldn’t be a surprise that healthy living falls by the wayside.

Usually, people make unhealthy choices out of convenience. It’s easier to stop for fast food than it is to cook a fantastic meal. We get it. The thing is, if you approach wellness the right way, it’s just as easy to work into your life as anything else. If you want a straightforward strategy that can work for nearly anyone, The Action Story presents a quick busy person’s guide to improving your health.

Hour-Long Workouts Not an Option? Embrace Short-Interval Exercise

When you’re rushing between work and home, the idea of heading to the gym for an hour-long sweat session might seem impossible. Similarly, getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise for 60 minutes before heading to your work might not be practical. Luckily, neither of those is a necessity.

Yes, just as the American Heart Association explains, it’s true that adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week to support good health. However, you don’t have to use long workouts to reach that target. Even 10 minutes here and there can do the trick as long as you get into moderate-intensity territory every time.

So, don’t focus on carving out big chunks of time. Instead, squeeze in 10-minute sessions two or three times per day throughout your week. That way, you can hit the target without derailing your life.

Need to Fight Fatigue? Get Your ZZZs

When it comes to wellness, you can’t underestimate the power of shuteye. While you’re sleeping, your body does amazing things, like repairing tissues, replenishing energy, and some serious mental organization.

Quality sleep needs to be a priority. For adults, that means getting at least 7 hours of ZZZs each night.

Additionally, you want to create a functional bedtime routine. This includes forgoing caffeine and alcohol late in the day, saying “no” to electronic devices, and taking some time to relax. That way, when your head hits the pillow, you’ll be out like a light.

If you constantly have trouble falling or staying asleep, or you never seem to wake up feeling rested, the CDC notes it’s possible you could have a sleep disorder. If that might be the case, see your doctor right away. Then, they can discuss your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that will help you get the rest you need.

If your living arrangements aren’t conducive to getting as much quality rest as you need, look into moving to another location. Maybe it’s an apartment on a quiet street. You have plenty of options available in the area; in fact, you have your pick of nearly 5,000 rentals in Denver, CO. Search online and use Apartment List’s map to find the right neighborhood for you.

Need a Change of Scenery? Take a trip!

Sometimes simply getting away on a short trip is enough to get you out of a rut. It could even be a weekend getaway, a good option if you don’t want to use up your workplace’s vacation days. Explore nearby towns and destinations, and consider getting in a little exercise with a hike in a park you’ve always wanted to check out. The possibilities are endless in locales throughout Colorado, a region known for its outdoor adventures.

Job Got You Down? Make a Change

For many people, their jobs are a source of constant stress. When you aren’t inspired by your work, feel bored every day, or start seeing signs of burnout, it’s normal to feel a bit miserable. Similarly, if your workplace is toxic, you might experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, making a tough situation harder.

In any of those cases, a career change might be your ideal solution. Heading toward something new might brighten your mood and reignite your passion. That’s all outstanding for your wellbeing.

Alright, changing jobs doesn’t sound like a simple way to improve your health. But in reality, it can be if you use the right approach. By enrolling in an inexpensive, flexible online degree program, you can start a new chapter while maintaining a ton of flexibility, allowing you to maintain a balance while you get on the path toward a brighter tomorrow. Whether a job in IT is your dream or you prefer something in the medical field, there are schools with programs that can make it happen.

Living busy is commonplace these days, but that doesn’t mean you need to live unhealthy. Snag a workout here and there, make sure you go to bed when you should, and if your job isn’t conducive to happiness, give it a refresher. With just a little tweaking, you can ensure that living full days goes hand-in-hand with living a long, healthy life.

A Social Contract for 2022 and Beyond

To live in a community, a culture, a society or a nation….

What do we owe one another?

What is our obligation to one another?

How much must we do for the common good rather than pure self-interest?

To what level is it necessary to defer our best judgement to “the group” for a functional society and community to prosper?

The debate about this is likely as old as civilization, it is at least as old as Ancient Greece. The result of these discussions is often referred to as a “social contract.” A Social Contract includes both written and unwritten rules to live by. For example, nearly all places in the world have laws against theft. However, all cultures have unwritten rules around things like acceptable attire, punctuality and relationships. Where I live it is almost rude to show up at a party that starts at 7:00 right at 7. Showing up at 8:30 is normal. But, the same is not true of meetings.

In this time of isolation, it becomes necessary to revisit the social contract.

Recently, those who share my concern about how lonely people have become have taken aim at our culture of rugged individualism. Unfortunately, some manifestations of this criticism have missed the point. Outside of immature insecurities, a person being true to themselves does not prevent them from interacting with others. Our constantly-connected world has increased conformist pressure. This has not lead to better human connections.

Most debates regarding the social contract involve people advocating for less or more of it on two dimensions.

  1. Shared Resources

This is your standard debate between laissez-faire capitalism and those who argue for the redistribution of resources, at one level or another, from the wealthy to the poor. However, it can also take on a non government related form, such as the expected shared resources among certain faith-based groups (ex. tithing) or the way people tend to think more positively about people who give back.

2. Behavioral Expectations

Behavioral expectations can be coded into law but are often enforced through other means. An example of this nearly all people have experienced or observed is a high school group not inviting a person to parties or other social functions based on their preferences and behaviors. Adults do this as well, as it is currently common for people to pressure one another to conform to behaviors deemed consistent with their race, age, gender, political affiliation and line of business.

Many who have become concerned with the negative impacts associated with loneliness have advocated for a stronger social contract. However, the focus has continued to fall narrowly along the lines of the two axes which have been the focus of debate for at least 100 years. Thus far this young century, there has been no shortage of ideas and actions taken to enlarge our social contract on these two axes. Yet, loneliness is even more prevalent than it was in 2000. Sharing resources can only make someone less lonely if they do it through means like sharing a meal together. One person having less and the other having more makes neither of them less lonely if they are still apart. Forcing people to use the same verbiage, wear the same clothes, listen to the same music and frequent the same stores just makes more people boring!

So, what do we owe one another?

Is there a new way to look at the social contract?

Yes, there is. No man is an island, no matter how desperately we want to be one. There is a common prosperity. It is improved whenever people are encouraged, listened to, empathized with and appreciated. It is improved when people are able to be their more authentic self and therefore more productive. It is improved when people share meals, experiences, laughter, dancing and even sadness with one another. It is improved when people have someone to confide in during tough times.

A new social contract requires rethinking power and priorities.

There are a few things we can all agree, universally are harmful and need to be punished, such as murder, theft and blocking traffic. However, we have also often felt the need to “punish” people for things that are not really harmful, like dressing differently or choosing different manners in which to orient their lives. Our predominant work culture has lead to depression among people who are naturally “night owls”. The most recent iteration of this is what we have begun to refer to as “cancel culture”, which has “punished” numerous people for actions that are not actually harmful.

Meanwhile, there are actual harmful behaviors that have historically been ignored that need to be considered when discussing our future social contract. Many people have mistreated their employees, manipulated people or completely disrespected people’s time without suffering any consequences.

So, what do we “owe” each other?

We DO NOT OWE each other…

  • A repression of our authentic selves to avoid making someone uncomfortable
  • Restrictions on behaviors that don’t actually harm anyone
  • Significant amounts of our resources transferred to a central authority

We DO OWE each other…

  • A service each and every one of us can provide for the good of our communities and nations
  • Building communities, being present, listening and understanding, being respectful and encouraging one another
  • A focus on our common humanity and giving all people a fair chance
  • Striving, always, to be better human beings

If we focus on the right axes of our social contract, we can revive our communities and reduce the harmful impacts of isolation WITHOUT sacrificing our freedom. In fact, we will be more free and seeing someone radically different from us will no longer threaten us.

When the Next Season is Late to Arrive

The Middle Fork of the Platte River 10,000 ft. (3km): Sunrise December 4th 2021

Life is full of patterns, rhythms and cycles. We anticipate them. We prepare for them. Depending on the cycle sometimes we dread certain phases. At other times, we eagerly await them, desperate for their arrival.

Sometimes, as is the case with events like the sunrise and sunset, we know exactly when something is going to happen.

Seasons, like many of life’s more puzzling cycles, can be unpredictable. This year, in Colorado, winter is late.

Temperatures over the past months have been about 7°F (4°C) above average. Basin-wide snowpacks are about half their average amount. On a weekend I expected to be at the ski slopes, instead, I was hiking.

Temperatures warmed into the 50s (≈+13°C), which felt warm with no clouds or wind at a high elevation. The vibe, reminiscent of a totally different time and place then early December in the central Rocky Mountains, was impossible to ignore.

The sun kissed the entire river valley in a manner that made it hard to believe that this is really December.

Meanwhile, rather than airlifting skiers to hospitals after injuries, emergency management personnel were evacuating homes and trying to contain a wildfire.

Some welcome the continued warmth, and love the fact that they do not yet have to shovel snow and put on winter boots. Others are frustrated, losing patience, or even fearful. The weather is something that can be predicted fairly accurately about a week out and prepared for. However, like nearly all of nature, it cannot be controlled.

The weather may be one of the clearest and most present examples out there of that which we cannot control. As is the case with a lot of what life will hand us, we can only control our reaction to it. I was bummed that I was not skiing, as I had previously anticipated. However, when that door closed another one opened.

We hiked

We saw some places appear in a totally different light

And, I got to awkwardly combine holidays while wearing this strange Krampus t-shirt.

When seasonal shifts in weather arrive early or late it can be frustrating. However, this frustration can sometimes pale in comparison to unexpectedly early onsets or frustrating delays in other areas of life. Almost everyone can relate to having to wait longer than expected for a new career opportunity, to find a good relationship, or for a loved one to correct problematic behavior. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine too many people who haven’t been blindsided by an unexpected and unwelcome change.

The same way snow sport enthusiasts in Colorado are eagerly awaiting an overdue change in seasons, millions, possibly even billions, of people are eagerly awaiting what feels like an overdue change in our overall situation. The virus and the fear that goes along with it is still causing some restrictions. Most people seem tired of our partisan divisions, lack of human connections, excessive screen time and work culture that doesn’t make sense. Yet, like the onset of winter and our emergence from the pandemic, progress feels quite slow. Sometimes things go into reverse.

The timing of cultural shifts is harder to predict than weather patterns. There is no snow now, on December 5th, but, there will certainly be snow by February 5th. Shifts in the circumstance in our lives can arrive tomorrow morning, or never arrive at all. At this point, all we can do is hope and try to find the right balance between optimism and realism, between focusing on what we can control while trying to affect our surroundings, and accepting our current reality while trying to create a better future.