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A Cup o’ Joe: Let the Outside In

Earlier in the year I sent a note to a group of parents with executive-level jobs with the following advice: “In these roles, the responsibilities are significant and the demands endless. Never forget to unplug, get outside, and enjoy quality time with the ones you love.”

Recently, I felt overloaded, on edge, too easily provoked, and overreacting to inputs. I knew I was running on empty and needed a recharge. But my schedule at work and the kids’ schedule at school didn’t allow for a weeklong vacation. I needed something that could happen in a day. I decided to take a step outside to take a step forward.

I live in Southern California. If you ask most people in SoCal where the nearest National Park is, most will answer Yosemite or Death Valley. But Channel Islands NP is one just a one-hour boat ride away and an absolutely perfect destination for a solo adventure day.

The Channel Islands are located off the coast from Ventura and consist of an archipelago of eight islands that stretch a total of 160 miles from the southernmost San Clemente to the northernmost San Miguel. I chose the largest one, Santa Cruz Island, for my visit as it has daily boat service and a multitude of activities. It is also the only home of a bird I hoped to add to my life list – the Island Scrub Jay, which is found nowhere else in the world. Due to the number of endemic plant and animal species that live there, the islands have been nicknamed the “Galápagos of North America.”

Over the course of the day, I explored caves while sea kayaking, went trail running, watched lobster divers, learned about the natural and human history of the island, met a bunch of like-minded people, and, yes, found my bird.

island scrub jay bird

humpback whale

joe at santa cruz islandchannel islands national park

After a full day of exploration and adventure, it was time to return home. The hour-long scheduled boat ride stretched to two and a half as we stumbled upon and then followed a large pod of nearly twenty humpback whales, which was surrounded by schools of dolphins, squadrons of brown pelicans, and flocks of countless other sea birds. It was a literal feeding frenzy, and no one was in a hurry to leave. The captain said she had rarely seen anything like it.

In just over 12 hours from door-to-door, I had an incredibly powerful experience. I attribute that to being unplugged, outside of my normal environment, and surrounded by nature. It left me recharged, more patient with others, and more creative in my problem-solving.

For those careful readers wondering how this fits with my advice to enjoy quality time with the ones you love, I’m happy to report that Mary and the girls will be joining me soon on a return trip to Santa Cruz Island for a family adventure day!

So for those of you with whom this resonates, who could benefit from an adventure day of your own (in whatever form is best for you), there is no better time than now. Block off one day on your calendar in the next 30 days and go. You’ll be glad you did, and so will the people with whom you interact on a regular basis.