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Time with others, collective ritual, and an invitation to join me this Fall or Winter
Much of my marketing and consulting work over the past 10 years has been with doctors, and I’ve noticed that many of them have a ritual: once a year, they get together with the other doctors with whom they endured residency training, and they do something epic.
One doctor I worked with goes to northern Alaska each year to salmon fish. They flash freeze the fish they catch, and then ship it all to their respective homes across the country, to be eaten throughout the year. Another doctor I worked with gets together with his residency friends each year to go heli-skiing. And so on.
Most of these doctor ritual trips I’ve heard about last a week. It’s all the time they can spare from busy careers and family life—but they protect that time fiercely. It’s a ritual. It brings them together, at least once a year, with a group of friends all bonded by the intense training of residency.
I’ve been location independent for much of the last decade, while also earning enough money to take almost any trip I’d want (thankfully my tastes don’t necessitate a helicopter rental, but rather a modest investment in gear followed by setting up camp at a crag or a windy beach). The problem I’ve had isn’t time or money. It’s having other people with time and money.
As I’ve gotten older, this has begun to sort itself out; more and more people in my life are carving out the time to devote to climbing or kitesurfing, and also have the money to take those kinds of trips. My friend from Ottawa who I met on a kitesurfing trip eight years ago is well into a career that now allows him to work remotely for much of the year. Thus, when I invited him to come to La Ventana with me this winter to kitesurf, he was all for it (after some assurances about the quality of the wifi). Another friend is going to use a healthy chunk of his vacation to join us as well. Then, there are the friends I met there when I went in March, who I know are planning to go back for most or all of the season.
So, maybe this is the start of something.
Time management and collective ritual
There’s a book I think everyone should read, which, despite its title, is actually about some of the deepest questions about what it means to be human. Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals is not about productivity per se, or even really about time management.
Rather, it’s about being mortal, and how to cope with that fact. Specifically, how to cope with our limited time on this Earth. And, how to accept the reality that we will never get to do everything it is we want to do during the roughly four thousand weeks we’ll be alive.
Burkeman has also created a series of podcast episodes around those topics (they’re part of Sam Harris' Waking Up app), one of which got me thinking about the doctors. And my ears really perked up when Burkeman mentioned digital nomads:
If you’ve spoken to actual digital nomads or if you’ve tried it yourself, you’ll know that perhaps the single biggest problem with that lifestyle is one of intense loneliness. As a solo traveler, it’s just inevitable that you’ll end up doing most things on your own, or alternatively, maybe socializing with near strangrs.
To be a digital nomad is to put yourself outside of the ordinary rhythms of collective life…
In achieving that kind of near-perfect freedom over how you use your time, you actually put certain important kinds of human experience beyond your reach.
The important human experience he’s talking about is of course time with other humans: close friends, family, and loved ones.
As Burkeman notes, time itself is a “network good,” meaning it becomes more valuable the more people have it free all at the same time. There are studies from France and a number of other European countries, where the entire population essentially takes a collective Summer holiday, about just how much that shared time off increases contentment and satisfaction—or, happiness, if you will.
For my part, I always think of the last scene of Into the Wild, in which the ultimate philosopher vagabond Chris McCandless scratches his dying words into the side of the bus just before he dies alone in the Alaskan wilderness: happiness only real if shared.
We shouldn’t, any of us, including digital nomads, including myself, have to reach the end of our lives in order to finally understand that truth—or act on it.
Burkeman’s words also got me thinking about my Ottawa friend and my upcoming trips to New Hampshire for climbing and La Ventana for kitesurfing. I realized that both of those trips are ones I would consider repeating every year, at the same time of year. In other words: a ritual.
I’ve already spent at least part of the last three Falls climbing in New Hampshire, where the temperatures dip, the humidity vanishes, and the leaves turn the entire climbing area into a glorious pastiche of oranges and reds.
Meanwhile, last winter, despite some hiccups in my trip planning, I found a great community of kitesurfers in La Ventana, which is a little ways up the coast from Cabo in Baja del Sur. The wind is strong, the weather is beautiful, the kiting area is enormous, and the margaritas are fantastic.
I realized both these places could become simply a recurring part of my life. Every Fall, climbing in New Hampshire. Every winter, kitesurfing in Mexico. And, I would submit that if you’re into climbing, there are few better places to be in October than in New Hampshire. And likewise, if you’re a kitesurfer, there are few more consistent wind spots in wintertime than La Ventana (at least in the Western hemisphere).
But it’s not enough to simply venture out on your own. Every climber needs a belay. And every kitesurfer needs a launch.
And so, I extend my invitation: come climb with me (and friends) in New Hampshire this October, or come kitesurf with me (and friends) in La Ventana this winter. It would be great to expand the community in both places.
A few caveats:
- I can offer advice on where to stay and all travel logistics, but those things will ultimately be up to you.
- I can’t promise I’ll be climbing every day or kiting every day, but it would be great to know more people there, and get to know you all better
- The dates below are when I’ll be there; but of course, what you have the time and flexibility for is up to you.
Here are the details:
When: October 1st - 28th
Where: Rumney, NH (Mountain Project link)
When: January 6th - February 26th
Where: La Ventana, Mexico
Be aware, all the good hotels/airbnbs in La Ventana get booked early
Finally: I’m not offering housing or running a tour. This is about building a larger community of climbers and kitesurfers, and maybe—just maybe—some kind of annual ritual. Only the years ahead will tell. With that said, I’d love to meet up with whoever wants to join!
P.S. I’m not making any money from referrals to housing or kite schools or anything like that, but I do make money from this newsletter. It would mean a lot if you would subscribe and support the work: