August 31, 2010

Dating in the Outdoor World.

Like Putting a Wild Dolphin in Your Swimming Pool.

Dating in the outdoor community

Long Distance Relationships and the Outdoor World.

The last two years have been a constant flow of train tickets, airline reservations and road trips. Getting from A to B has been more of the point then the means to an end these days and it fits along perfectly with my need for constant change. Sometimes, all this jumping around can be a little too stimulating and I find myself looking for something familiar.

I usually resort to my most hidden and shameful vice as an outdoor videographer – romantic classic films. Crawling into a small comfy space in my airstream, I open the lap top to Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and other Jane Austen-type stories that brings me to a time and place that is so distant but familiar.

Its hard to imagine a time before cellphones, email, facebook, and (creepy) tracking devices  that keep us in constant contact with the world around us. It always fascinates me in 19th-century tales where women and men would go years without seeing each other. A very thought-out piece of snail mail (did you know we can still send mail by post!?) would come into their longing hands every so often. And news of their love’s whereabouts were passed on from the hired help bringing news in from town.

Long distance relationships are not just a thing of the past. I know many couples working through distance and keeping their relationships strong. While working a nine to five or going to school in two different cities is one thing, dating in the outdoor world is a whole different bag.


I’ve met people that work for the National Parks that will go long periods of times without connection to the outside world, let alone seeing anyone at all. There are the mountaineers that don’t have the cell phone service to call their loved one, let alone give updates of their wellbeing on a regular basis. Six months with just a handful of quickly written emails that show traces of a foreign keyboard is the normal form of communication for many couples I know where one or both parties are exploring the world for work or pleasure.

Its not easy, and added on to missing your Other is a bit of fear for their safety. And with no room to complain in fear of ever discouraging adventure, there is a counterintuitive support effort in making these times apart a reality. It would be like caging a bird or capturing a wild dolphin and putting them in your swimming pool to ever go against the outdoor passion of your loved one.

Like putting a wild dolphin in your swimming pool

The classic romantic love shares many similarities with the outdoor-world relationship. Status updates come in the form of friends who have seen the adventurer on their route. The reliability of 1700s post is about the equivalent of internet service in a tiny mountain town in Peru. And with stoic resolve, women and men in both time periods have waved at the doorstep as their loved one drives away in horse buggy or sprinter van.

Maybe that is why I resort to the classic romantics as my familiar piece of escape from reality. As a traveler, an explorer of life, this touch-and-go does a number on your heart, and goes against the normal urges of having a partner by your side. Unwilling to sacrifice my passion for exploration for “settling down”, I understand the frustration from both sides.

I feel like I often see some “vagabondish” friend whimsically looking into the distance and quietly saying that they are searching for that special person that will travel with them. But then who wants to be the one dragged around? Although, if you share an outdoor passion such as climbing or skiing and are at a similar skill level, you can both explore—together.

Amber and Matthew on the last pitch of lurking fear on El Capitan.

I could name six married couples off the top of my head that have amazing relationships somewhat due to the fact that the “settling down” doesn’t have to happen for them. They explore together. This probably wasn’t an option for a lady in Jane Austen’s time. Thats why I’m glad that these films are just an escape, and I know, from seeing it work with my own eyes,  an outdoor-enthusiast relationship is very possible in this day and age.

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