I look at each day as an adventure. A chance to start fresh, to experience new challenges, and to see what life has in store. I’m a positive person doing what I love and content with my choices.
Despite all this, there are times when I wake in the morning feeling full and accomplished, but not quite whole. Often when I dig deep for the reason, I realize I’ve been working in solitude far too long. I miss the boys—my best friends.
As the years have passed, quality time spent with my best friends has diminished drastically. I’ve followed my dreams, travelled the world, built a relationship—and a house, but I haven’t spent nearly enough time with the guys, and this weighs heavily. I’m embarrassed to say it’s been almost a year since we last adventured together.
More often than not, when one of us sends out an invitation to meet up with the guys, it’s met with the same excuses: “I don’t have time,” “the kids have soccer,” “I can’t afford it,” “my wife won’t go for it.” Not that the excuses aren’t valid, but when did time with the guys become our lowest priority?
I’m the first to admit that, sometimes in the past, our boys’ trips have pushed the envelope a little too far—okay, way too far. We’d get home exhausted, needing another vacation to get over the vacation. So, going away with just the guys doesn’t usually go over so well with our significant others.
I can appreciate why our partners and wives disapprove. They’re picking up the slack while we’re away, and sometimes they’re feeling some jealousy. Convincing them these trips are important is never easy.
The pushback is real, and my favourite line, “This will give us a chance to miss each other,” never gets taken too seriously. For this trip, I set a goal to help our partners understand why guy time is so meaningful, so therapeutic, so necessary to our lives.
When I determined to plan a guys’ bikepacking trip, I decided to convince my friends so thoroughly in the merits of our adventure that they’d have to abandon their typical excuses. This trip had to be something simple, yet exciting and challenging enough to get them pumped and uncomfortable. Somewhere close we could get away to and get lost in—just for a while.
I needed something cheap and manageable, and I was determined to have it all figured out ahead of time. It definitely had to be something physical enough to discourage any late-night shenanigans, so we could get home feeling happy and exhausted from the exertion, not the party.
After a couple of pints with one of the crew, we settled on a weekend away to Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state. Just three hours from Vancouver, the island is packed with bike trails and lakeside camping. How could they say no?
There’s something about an ice-cold beer and a campfire that creates the perfect setting for a guys’ group therapy session.
It’s not often we get to vent without being judged. To stretch our legs and our minds as we talk about the good stuff, the stuff we only talk to other guys about. Sometimes it’s the tough stuff: anxieties and fears that are robbing us of sleep. And sharing this with friends brings validity and depth to the individual lives we’re all leading.
We laugh—deep belly laughs—until we’re too sore to continue, and we get real in a way that we haven’t since the last time we adventured together. And as the night flies by, faster than any of us want, it’s comforting to know that we’re all facing similar challenges in life. We all wonder why we don’t do this more often. As the black of night fades into the pale greys and blues of early morning, we’re content we’ve unlocked the secrets to life, as we stumble to our tents and into sleep. We know now that whatever happens when we head back home, we’re going to be just fine.
As day breaks, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee drifting through camp is just enticing enough to coax the guys out of their cozy sleeping bags and out into the cold, crisp mountain air. Shaking off the remnants of the night before, we open up the Trailforks app [mountain bike trail maps] and plan our bike routes for the day.
I’m not nearly as experienced as the other riders, so the butterflies in my stomach are now in full flight. This adventure is about to get real, and I realize this uneasy, yet exhilarating feeling deep in my gut is what I’ve been longing for all this time.
Pushing the limits
This discomfort is a feeling I enjoy to the fullest: If I’m not sweating with the discomfort of a new challenge, I don’t feel as satisfied when I’m done. Watching my buddies fearlessly rip through the trees, handle bars and bike wheels turning in expert precision, inspires me.
Even if I’ll never be as skilled as they are, I take pride in trying my best and accepting the challenge. There’s no doubt I’m riding harder than I would on my own. Overcoming my fears on this bike and on this mountain brings a unique and exhilarating euphoria.
My legs are burning, my body fatigued, but I’m grateful for the day we’ve had. As we head back to our soggy, rain-soaked camp, we banter about the new legends that have emerged among us, who’ll be talked about for years to come.
Adrenaline is running high, and we’re already planning our next journey. We vow to do this more often, to make more time for each other and more memories together. I feel empowered with the knowledge I have a crew that will always have my back.
Feeling whole again
When we leave this beautiful west coast island—full of joy and peace—we realize our adventure was something we’d been yearning for and needed more than we knew.
Although we were gone only a few days, a lot has changed for me. Recharged with a new sense of purpose and enthusiasm, I feel ready to get back to life—whatever comes my way. I feel whole again. Oh, and I appreciate home a lot more now than before I left!
Scott Yavis is alive’s creative director and photographer. This is his 22nd summer working at alive. @scottyavis