So, if the word “shit” in the title didn’t dissuade you from clicking on this review, then you are ready for some good times! Author Brendan Leonard is a Colorado man, in his 30s, who is a bestselling writer and outdoor adventurer. He writes short articles, with a punch, on his web site Semi-Rad.com. He also does his own hand-drawn illustrations.
If you have any connection with the outdoors – whether you camp in the wildness for a month, or take a one-hour hike with your kids, you will “understand” and be entertained by his wry and witty comments on outdoor adventure. The basis of his writing covers everything from wildlife, to outdoor clothing, to tent etiquette, and simple rules for positive living. His method of telling stories is unique and fun, while still containing solid helpful material. The articles are so short you’ll never get bored; and they stay with you to ponder and be amused by long after putting the book down. I would almost recommend you read one a day – put the book by your breakfast table, or in your bathroom, or read it a lunch time. Here are some samples of the topics he covers:
His articles are almost all inspiring and encouraging. In “The Power of a Fear-based Fitness Plan,” he talks about “Commitment Remorse.” How many times have you committed to doing something, like hike a mountain, or run a race …say, for your fortieth birthday? Then shortly thereafter, you realize “now I have to do that!” But – people are counting on you – or you spent a lot of money on registration or equipment – or you really should be eating better and lose that weight anyway… Unlike buyer’s remorse which goes away in a few days, this lasts until the day of The Thing. You come up with lots of excuses to not do it, which you know are not fully true, like “I got busy at work.” You know deep down that this is the only way to trick yourself into getting fit and accomplishing something big.
In “Thirteen pieces of gear every all-around adventurer should have” he doesn’t rate brand names but gives genuine tips. A good foundation can get you going on a range of adventures. He looked back at what he missed when he started out.
Another inspiring chapter is “Love what you do, Even if you don’t ‘do what you love.’” This is a play on the traditional maxim “Do what you love.” While Brendan is doing something that he loves, he says, “I would also be lying if I said my job wasn’t ‘work,’ because it’s only great sometimes. A lot of it, like everyone else’s job, including yours, is bullshit I’d love to not have to do.” If you are not prepared to leave a job you don’t love, then learn to love what you do. Find some sense of happiness in your work.
“Rules for Dating a Dirtbag” – He starts out by fantasizing meeting a woman who loves to go backpacking, and would love to live in his van full of climbing gear. He said “Sometimes I say there is no better sound in the world than a beautiful woman laughing…at something I said… but I think the sound of a woman yelling ‘On belay!’ from 120 feet above me is even better.” (referring to a mountain climbing device)
Then he breaks the reality down. But what happens when they say “Go live your dream” and you leave for a three-month trip and forget what they look like? Or, you buy them an avalanche beacon for Valentine’s Day, and it doesn’t go off well. You want to be a gentleman, but you want her to carry her own rope …and the camp stove. He talks about a woman friend who dated an exciting sounding guy, but it turned out he was lying about his strength and endurance in the sport. “A lot of men she dated seemed to like the IDEA of being with someone who was a climber, but not the reality.” The friend admitted that she often found herself having more fun climbing with her girlfriends.
“Happiness is Your Backyard Trail” is a chapter that most people who regularly love to be in nature will most identify with. His favorite trail is Green Mountain. It is a 6,854 feet mesa at the edge of a Denver suburb, rising about 800 feet above the road, and near two freeways. “Calling it a mountain is a bit comical when you look at the range of peaks that rise literally right behind it…It’s not even the most famous ‘Green Mountain’ in the Front Range.” But he loves to run the big hill, with no trees, and has walked or biked it at least a thousand miles. There’s no breathtaking waterfall at the end. He takes the run on weekends or after work. He thinks that most people lie when someone asks what’s your favorite trail, instead of “the one we could walk blindfolded.”
Many of the chapters are hilarious, like “What was that noise outside the tent?” and “Out of Office Autoreply,” or “Ten Tips to Lighten Your Backpack.” For example, in “Twelve Ways to Make Friends at the Campground” he gives “opposite suggestions,” like arriving at the campground at 11 p.m. and using your car’s light beams to shine on the spot to set up, or bring along your “vocal, territorial, or nervous dog” and let him wander the campsite after dark, or use local wet wood to burn in your (smoky) campfire.
If you take only one bit of wisdom from the book, he suggests: “Do It.” Brendan starts early in the book with this philosophy by talking about a friend who asked him how he manages to do all those great outdoor things. His reply was that “if you start off a sentence with ‘I’ve always wanted to…’ you either (1) aren’t going to do it, which means it’s not really your dream, or (2) you just haven’t done it yet. Procrastination is fine as long as you’re 100 percent sure that you’re not going to die it the next year.” We get busy, we scroll our phone screens, watch TV, say “I don’t’ have time.” Instead, he urges you to dream big and envision yourself doing something amazing. “Enthusiasm doesn’t have to stand up to criticism. It doesn’t even have to really make sense. I encourage you to try…”