219 comments

It’s Winter… Get Out and Enjoy it!

MunetI’ve decided to grant myself the rest of the year off*. But don’t worry, I’m extending the same privilege to YOU as well.

As those of us in the North endure the coldest and darkest days of the year, everything seems to shut down. Some of this is a good thing – the holiday season brings with it plenty of time away from work and school. But some of it is rubbish as well – I am seeing drastically fewer bikers and walkers out there, and parents are even driving their kids to school to protect them from my area’s not-very-punishing winter.

Last month, a friend of mine reported his total biking miles to commemorate “the end of the biking season”, as if there were some imaginary and tragic season when we had to stop using our bikes. And at the risk of causing a domestic dispute, my own wife has started using the climate controlled motorized throne for her weekly grocery run, despite the fact that we live only 1.5 miles from the grocery store. Even YOU might find yourself spending more time indoors in the winter, taking shelter from the discomfort that lurks outside.

Beware of this tendency, for it is a perfect example of Bullshit Lifestyle Creep. You experience discomfort or inconvenience, and your efficient but misguided survival mechanisms kick in, gently nudging you to avoid the discomfort. You stay cozy inside, knitting on the couch or watching a quality series on Netflix, and the winter passes safely by outside your window. And you miss all the benefits she has to offer.

So in case you forgot, let me remind you: going outside is FANTASTIC. Especially in cold or rainy weather.

Sure, you already knew that a stroll outside on a beautiful day is a good thing. Everyone does that, and many of us fly great distances just to be able to have the experience during a Northern winter. But it turns out it is not the warm sunshine that is making that experience so worthwhile – that’s just the comfortable and convenient layer on top. The real benefit is just the fact that you are outside, walking, moving, and working on things as you are meant to be doing. And as it turns out, all of these things are possible in any weather, and they are even more rewarding in adverse conditions.

When you go out in cold and darkness, it is an adventure. You have to prepare in advance. It actually takes some brainpower to strategically design your outfit, because you could die if you spent too long out there without clothes. Do you need a hat? Gloves? Thermal underwear or a wind layer? A mobile phone and flashlight, just in case? Awesome.

You step outside and suddenly your world expands dramatically. There’s the black sky far above.

HELLO.”

Says the moon as it looks straight down at you. Do you realize that thing is 250,000 miles away? And yet it hovers perfectly in the sky, because it’s really whipping around your planet, held by a quarter million mile gravitational bungie cord. That is infinitely more amazing than whatever you were doing before you stepped out for this walk.

But wait, look at all those stars scattered everywhere else. Some of them are really planets in our own solar system – Venus is a big one at 100 million miles away, but the stars of the Big Dipper are 100 light years away, which is more like 590 trillion miles.  And yet there they are, presented for your amusement as you stand there to take it all in.

If you’re lucky, it is damned cold out here. The air bites just a bit at your well-protected cheeks and your mouth can shoot out a good 3-foot plume of steam when you exhale. You start to walk.

Nobody else is out tonight. As you travel down the silent street, you can see the ridiculous lights flashing in the window of every home and apartment. These suckers are all wasting away their precious time watching TV, while you are out here being alive. In our future Badass Utopia, this experience will be different. Everyone will be outside, reverently taking in the beauty of the night and the freshness of the air. Every night will be like a Midnight Mass, with the Cosmos as the host. But for now, you’ve got the place to yourself. You are the pioneer of the evening walk.

This meditative feeling you have is like hitting the mental reset button. All of your stresses, worries and bad moods become less with each step you take. If you do this often enough, they will be gone altogether. But it’s not just the machinery atop your neck that is getting a tuneup, the rest of your body is jumping for joy as well.

Every one of your physical systems is coming alive. Clean blood is circulating through, healing the pipes from the damages of sitting down too long. Fat cells are being drained and deflated, while muscles are pumping up. And the exposure to cold air is having mysterious positive effects on your metabolism and everything else, best summed up as General Badassity.

You might even break into a little jog at this point. The jog feels so good that you keep it up for a while. And just to prove you’re really alive you decide to SPRINT for this next little bit of your journey, just until you reach those two trees way up there. Everything is whipping by now – the air is roaring in your ears and your eyes are watering from the cold wind. You can think of those as tears of joy from your cardiovascular system. You run out of sprint power and return to walking, with heart pumping and steam drifting from all exposed skin, and turn back toward home.

As you return to your warm, bright home you are the hero. Alive, glowing, creative and invincible. You are a mysterious force to anybody who chose the wimpier path of staying inside or taking the car. You are someone who has finally figured out how life is meant to be lived.

Now grab a pen and paper and list a few additional ways you’re going to make your life better from now on.

 

*The Mustache family is headed to Canada for the holiday season until January 6th – Hamilton first, then Ottawa. That’s where you’ll find some real winter night walking weather. Maybe we will even get to band together for an evening walk. Stuff like this shows up on the Twitter feed if you want to click the follow button there. The stream is also presented at the bottom of the blog’s front page.

  • JeeMoney December 31, 2014, 3:40 pm

    MMM. I found your blog about a week ago and have been reading through it from the beginning pretty hardcore. Finally, after clicking “Next Post” non stop, today I finally came to a page where there is no more… While it is a bit sad to get to this point in the blog, I’m glad that I’ve finally caught up. Thanks for your blog, your insight, and the lessons. There are definitely points to take home from this and I will be working to downsize my life for starters. Will let you know once I reach any sort of Mustachian status.

    Reply
  • Darryl January 1, 2015, 10:18 am

    Just spent a week with the folks in the Interlake region of Manitoba. Down to minus 30 C at night with highs of minus 20 or so during the day for the most part. Enough snow out there to actually make it look like winter (unlike Ottawa right now – we came back to zero snow cover), and you can see all kinds of animal tracks. Went for a walk every day and loved it. Often went for a second walk at night. Few understand why I do such things, even my own family. Glad to see some others who get it. That cold, clean night air is a gift. So are the moon and stars. All 100% free. Nothing on TV can compare to that.

    Reply
  • Mike January 2, 2015, 1:23 am

    Hi Mr. MMM – Love this blog. Happened on it a few days ago and have read a bunch of your articles. I didn’t find anywhere any mention about taxes on the state (inc tax) / local (ie property taxes, sales taxes) levels as a determinant of where to live. The reason I’m mentioned this is obviously because it’s relevant to me (I mean why else do we talk about things if they’re not relevant to our selfish selves???!?!)

    We have a really unique situation. We’re in our 30’s with two young kids (age 3, 1) and managed to squirrel away over $3 Million in our retirement account with the help of a sh*t load of luck with our investments and now unfortunately literally 99% of our $$ is tied up there and the only way we can get it is by taking early distributions (and paying a 10% penalty to the Fed and 2.5% to the lovely state of California (both of these are just the penalties)). We know about the 72(t) plan to withdraw money penalty free but our monthly living expenses are out of control high (like $14k per month ($2,400 rent, $1,800 student loans/cc’s, $2,300 food, just for starters)) so we need a really high level of money to cover our costs. From what I understand the 72t uses your estimated death age and takes the number of years between now and then to calculate how much you can take out each year tax free. So for example, if you’re expected to die 40 years from now and have a $1 Million balance, you can withdraw $25k a year. In our case multiply it by around 3 and that is what we can take out. Only issue is our expenses are way way higher than that.

    After coming across your blog we’re committed to reducing our expenses excluding the rent/debt to $5,000 total. But even then we’re looking at $9,500 a month in after taxes that we need. That’s $114k in after tax expenses every year. Last year we paid 42% to fed/state so we would need to withdraw $196k a year to cover costs. So we would need to earn over 6.3% to cover these on our balance. Not a horrible hurdle but not quite the magical 4% to offically “retire”.

    Now if we decided to live in say Washington, we would “only” need $170k in withdrawals (would need 5.4% to cover costs). Almost there at the 4% rate and we could probably achieve that with some work. We’re trying to figure out what to do. Obviously tackling expenses is priority #1. Are there any tax loopholes we’re not considering? Should we pick up our family from southern California (where the rest of my wife’s family lives) and move to a state without any support system?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 3, 2015, 10:42 am

      I’d say just keep learning! You can easily cut your expenses much further – start by going for $3000/month plus rent. Food should be under $500. And spend a year to wipe out those student loans.

      Reply
  • e.gallagher January 2, 2015, 10:59 am

    In ’07 I set out every Sunday morning to walk the 3 mile loop around the marsh at a nearby state park on Lake Erie… weather be damned… 4 degree temps, the thought that if I slipped on the ice and broke my leg I might freeze before someone found me – none of that mattered… I was getting in touch with nature and my ‘inner cave man’… the gate (and park in general) appeared to be un-manned and I just assumed that the park was ‘open to the public’ during that time-frame… one morning I returned from the hike t0 find a ticket for $24 on my windshield… I of course paid it by mail and the following weekend, not having received my permit in the mail, and not wanting to eat another ticket, I skipped the routine that weekend… much to my eventual dismay, I never resumed the weekly trek… silly to think that one ‘stop sign’ derailed me from something so gratifying…

    Reply
  • Cassie and Britton January 2, 2015, 4:54 pm

    I tried to post this earlier, but will try again…

    You know, I suppose if you are stuck in an area that is cold, dry and dead this is probably the best way to think about it. That’s great that you can talk yourself into liking the cold. However….why not just live somewhere nice? Like, say the tropics?

    I mean, you are retired, after all, right? The brown, dreary, cold and windy winters of Colorado were one of the main major reasons we left. We loved Colorado in the summer…the biking, the walks, outdoor concerts, gardening, etc.

    But winter…oh man winter was a series of freaking cold days -so cold my nostrils and eyes felt frozen- and nights with the heater and humidifier running. We tried indoor activities -walking in the mall or treadmill- or struggle to try and convince ourselves that we were living our lives when we were actually just WAITING for it to begin again with summer. One or two months of winter…ok I can appreciate it some. But after 6-8 months of teasing warm and cold again, we realized that where we live says a lot about who we are and what our true values were.

    Here in the Caribbean we have no house heating or cooling, we have very little need for a vehicle, can grow food all year round, have Christmas on the beach, and the cost of living is still super low; we spend $40/year on property taxes (yes that is four zero). We can do nearly anything anyone else can do in the north, but in nice weather. From a Mustachian point of view, it makes so much more sense to go with the flow instead of fighting it or forcing it.

    But hey, if your shtick is doing it the hard way….by all means. Keep that furnace chuggin’

    Cheers from sunny Puerto Rico,
    Cassie and Britton -retired to paradise in our 30s

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 3, 2015, 10:05 am

      Sounds great, Cassie! I apparently live in a different Colorado than you.. Mine is sunny and warm almost year-round. Could be a difference in attitude as well.

      Reply
      • Cassie and Britton January 4, 2015, 8:07 am

        Changes in latitude, changes in attitude, man ;-)
        The point of my comment wasn’t to argue whether or not winter in Colorado was cold. I think you proved that by writing this post in the first place. (I mean, come on, there are frost precautions from about Oct 15 to Memorial Day!) It was simply to suggest that when you have ‘’made it’’ to the goal of financial and personal freedom, that where you live is a reflection of what matters to you.

        I have read posts where you rail on people for commuting: living outside of the town they work. They are wasting valuable life in a little metal box right? They are not spending time with the people who matter most and are instead driving. They are putting themselves into peril, daily. They are not exercising. They are wasting money and burning up the atmosphere.. And what is your suggestion to them? Either move your job closer to your house or move your house closer to your job.

        Well, that’s all I am saying with the climate. If you would suggest moving your entire life just for a job then why wouldn’t you think about moving for the more important values in your life? Especially if you are financially free!? If (as it sounds) you want to spend more time outside year-round, with family and friends, exercising, moving your body, growing your own healthy food and not in front of a tube or outside in physical danger of death, then just live somewhere that is year-round nice! It even costs LESS to live where it is warm!

        But maybe it’s just a difference in attitude…hmm sorta like people who “enjoy” commuting to work.

        Reply
        • Jim January 5, 2015, 8:26 am

          I am the only one who bike commutes in the building I work in, in Tennessee. Of the drivers, I have never heard one talk about “enjoying” their commute, but I hear many complaints, more often than not. Even a pleasant traffic free commute is not all that fun in a car.

          Reply
  • SisterX January 2, 2015, 6:33 pm

    Walking is one of my favorite pastimes. And since I live in Fairbanks…do I really need to say how much I enjoy winter walks? People tell me I’m crazy for walking even when it’s -60F, but I love the extremely cold days actually. It feels more badass than just about anything else I do. Plus, here a little walk both ensures that I get out to see the sun (a 15 minute break during the work day does wonders), thus getting a bit of vitamin D which many of us are starved for, and stave off the dreaded seasonal depression that so many people get. Whenever I hear of someone talking about their light boxes I want to yell, “Go for a damn walk!” Sure the UV generators are great as a supplement, but only if getting out in the actual daylight (yes, we do still have it here, if only for a couple of hours) and nature are far, far better than any simulated sunlight could ever be.

    Reply
    • Eldred January 2, 2015, 6:37 pm

      So if you’re covered from head to toe as protection against the brutal cold, how much Vitamin D do you REALLY get…? Just curious how you would get those benefits…

      Reply
      • Jeremy January 4, 2015, 6:16 pm

        Our bodies are much more photosensitive than most people realize; some examples of this are the rates of cancer in night shift workers compared to day shifters. There are other examples in the mammalian world, for instance the changes undergone by certain animals to develop a new coat colour like the arctic hare and certain species of weasels, this is brought about as I understand it, by the variance in the length of daylight. Also you may notice that your mood can be brightened in a dramatic and noticeable way when the sun returns after a week of overcast weather, in this case I’m commenting only based on my experiences, not from reading a study or anything like that, however if there is one out there I don’t think it would contradict my feelings. I can’t speak to how much vitamin d you could produce from minimal exposure, but from what I can tell there’s quite a lot of opinions and disagreement on this subject anyway. I would suggest that sister x is speaking mostly of her well being, not so much about scientific data.

        Reply
  • Jessilee January 3, 2015, 7:18 am

    I’ve been reading through every post from the beginning since October and I’ve finally caught up! Yes! Just want to say thanks, this mustachianism stuff has already been life changing for me even though I’m still in the escaping from a student debt emergency stage. Since I followed your advice this fall and started commuting by bike everyday, I’m surprised by how much more I am acclimated to the cold (in canada) than usual. At first I thought I would have to switch to public transportation for dec. jan. feb. But so far I’m still biking happily every day! Thanks again

    Reply
  • Steve F January 4, 2015, 8:09 pm

    Even though part of my business involves plowing parking lots, sidewalks and drive ways, I’ve personally avoided buying a snow blower because there is just something about doing manual labor in the cold, winter weather.

    Reply
  • Jim January 5, 2015, 8:22 am

    I was just in the upper midwest for Xmas and was impressed to see all outside walking and even one on a bike (with a facemask). Where I live in the South, the temp goes below 40, a very nice temp in my opinion, and forget it, almost no one goes outside. It’s actually worse here than when I lived up North, probably because our cold season is not as long.

    Reply
  • GetRichBrothers January 5, 2015, 9:28 am

    MMM,

    I read this post a few weeks back and was thinking of it yesterday morning. I live in Southeastern Ontario, Canada, and we just had a snowfall followed by ice rain. That evening I went out and shoveled the snow during the downpour because I knew the morning would be hell if I didn’t get the first layer off.

    Anyhow, I could hear a neighbour the following morning screaming and yelling and actually smashing his shovel he was so angry at how difficult it was to remove the snow. Comments such as, “I ****ing hate winter, I’ll never get to work!” and such were thrown out there.

    This all made me think of this post and this site generally as, a) This neighbour failed to simply plan ahead and make life easier the night before, b) Even if he waited until morning, he should have gone out an hour earlier to give himself time to leisurely remove the snow/ice and still get to work on time, and c) Choosing to reside in Canada and complain about snow is… I don’t have the words for it.

    Reply
  • Hunniebun January 5, 2015, 10:20 am

    We love getting outdoors in the winter and the only thing that keeps us sane is getting outside for at least 20 minutes per day, no matter how cold. However, with temperatures last night hovering around -45 C with the windchill, moonlights walks are not advisable, no matter how good your clothing is. MMM advice is sounds…but be careful if you live somewhere that is actually Cold (that is capital C cold, where losing fingers, ears and toes to frostbite can and does happen and where hypothermia can occur faster than you think). As an example, a friend was walking her dog one afternoon and the dog on the leash chased a rabbit, pulled her over, she fell down a ditch and broke her hip. She lay in that ditch for 4 hours before being found. Thankfully it was only -12 C and not the -45 we had last night, otherwise she would have likely died. Use common sense, dress properly and let someone know where you are going and how long you will be.

    Reply
  • Chris January 5, 2015, 9:04 pm

    I decided to give a go last week. I was off work for the holidays and decided to walk. I got in between a mile and a mile-and-a-half on five straight days. Each day was below freezing, and it did not kill me. It actually felt good to get the blood flowing on a brisk day.

    Reply
  • Trevor January 6, 2015, 9:20 am

    Great article! I live in Canada where winter can get really, really bad. I like to take my 2 year old boy for evening walks, carrying him on my back. When it’s -20 C outside, I really have to bundle up my little walking buddy. When it drops to -30 C, I have to leave my little buddy at home. Any exposed skin will freeze in about two minutes. As the saying goes “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear” – balaclavas are mandatory up here in the frozen wasteland. goggles or protective glasses are another must-have to keep the cold wind off your eyes. keeping your face covered without getting that buildup of moisture from breathing is a challenge.

    It takes a good 10 to 15 minutes to bundle up properly, but once you finally get outside, it is awesome. I think General Badassity increases by about 2% for every degree below zero. So walking in -30 C is a solid 60% increase. Surprisingly, I’m not the only one outside in this weather. A few others in my neighborhood enjoy it as well, which is great!

    Reply
  • Lee January 7, 2015, 5:34 pm

    There was a high of -3 with windchill something like -25 in Madison today and I was psyched to ride my bike to work. I WIN!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Jonathan January 8, 2015, 9:22 am

      Well done Lee! I have to fully admit that wimped out today in Lansing, MI. -17 windchill due to 25-45mph winds and I decided not to ride the 15 mile one way trip. The winds were far more intimidating to me than the actual cold. I need to get tougher.

      Reply
      • Lee January 8, 2015, 5:08 pm

        I would have wimped out for 15 miles too. My trip was only about 2 miles each way. ;-)

        Reply
  • Slinky February 3, 2015, 3:42 pm

    Personally, I think “It’s Winter, stay in and enjoy it!” Why fight what the season encourages? If I’m outside running around all spring/summer/fall, when else am I supposed to be inside working on inside projects? That’s not to say I don’t go outside or get any exercise. I just got back in from an hour at the park with the dog after already having taken a walk earlier and I’m planning on some yoga tonight and working on headstands or maybe the bird of paradise pose.

    My point is that I’d rather stay in and accomplish things than randomly wander around outdoors when it’s cold and dark anyway. We just got done repairing and painting the smallest bedroom in our house and moving things into that, and now I need to finish weaving some baby blankets and reorganizing a room upstairs so I can move the big loom up there and then move things into the living room and strip the woodwork and finish the insulated curtains for that room and…well, you get the idea. I’d rather work on projects where I have to be inside when it’s cold and dark than in the summer when I could be out planting a garden, fixing up the yard, replacing my gutters, smoking and grilling meat and relaxing on the patio.

    Reply
  • Krishanu March 4, 2015, 2:02 pm

    To all those who have said they love the walk/bike ride in below freezing temperatures, I pose you this question: would you still walk/run/bike regularly in 45 deg C to 50 deg C (113 deg F to 122 deg F)?

    If your answer is yes, bravo! If your answer is no, aren’t you just pretending to be badass, camouflaging the fact you just like the colder climate because you were born and/or grew up in such a climate?

    I agree with the sentiments of this posts. Enjoy your natural surrounding, even when it gets a a bit uncomfortable.

    I also remember the post from the summer of 2012 where MMM worked on his fence. (Even then he wrote, “Some days topped out at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37C)”, as if that meant a really hot day :D)

    My beef is with most of the commentators where riding a bike in -20 deg F is considered to be stoic, going on to heroic. Do it also at the opposite end of the spectrum, on a continuous basis, and then come and report.

    Having experienced temperatures, on a daily basis, at both ends of the thermometer, I would like to say something. I grew up Kolkata, India where summer temperatures routinely go beyond 40 deg C (104 deg F). Then I went to college in Nagpur, right in the middle of India, where daytime summer temperatures ranges from 45 to 50 deg C. And I played 90 minute of soccer in this summer heat with games starting at 3 pm in the afternoon.

    Cut to now. I live in Minnesota, USA. Just yesterday I shoveled my driveway for 20 mins in temperature of -10 deg F (-23 deg C).

    What is common to playing soccer at 120 deg F and shoveling snow at -10 deg F? The fact that you don’t really like (let alone love) doing either of these. But you do it anyway.

    Reply
  • jogoderic December 28, 2015, 4:21 pm

    What a fantastic post. I just moved to Reno, Nevada, and am experiencing snow and cold for the first time in a while. This post is a great reminder of relishing the cold and the experience of everything that nature has to offer!

    Reply
  • David Baker May 31, 2016, 10:08 am

    MMM, any advice on a weather resistant bike chain? I snapped two this last winter, mostly because I do not have a garage to store the bike in (or clean a bike in for that matter, and cleaning the bike outside in the Montana winter didn’t always happen).

    Reply
  • David August 15, 2016, 7:09 pm

    Being outdoors on a winter night is why I love working as a snowmaker at my local ski resort. Working that job is also why I don’t commute by bike in the winter. In a typical shift I walk 10 or more miles and cover another 6-7 miles sliding down the mountain on a butt sled. In between the walking and sliding I work with water, compressed air and 480 volts of electricity. After 12 hours of that I’m ready for sleep and riding a bike is about the last thing I want to do.

    Reply
  • Moof August 19, 2016, 3:38 pm

    Years back at my first job out in Virginia I was still modestly nuts. I moved there from Fairbanks Alaska, so the novelty of only a couple iffy months out of the year was still coursing through my veins. I road my bike into work much of the the time, and frankly those are some great memories. Even now I have never looked back and wished I had driven that day. I have looked back and wished I had replaced my spare inner tube first however…

    So there I am 5 miles into my 7 mile bike commute through 4 inches of fresh snow into the CIA of all places (stupid early career choice) and I pick up a honking nail in the rear tire. Crap. I can still see the look on the guards face as I come up to the gate pushing my now derelict bike, wearing a tattered t-shirt and cutoff sweats, through the snow waving my badge at him. At the end of the day I still have no patch kit, weather has melted much of the snow, but I am still 7 miles from home. So I dig through the chemical closet in the back of the lab I work in and use every manner to long expired adhesive and goo along with a big wad of duct tape to patch it. I ride home in the dark, never sitting down to minimize the abuse the crappy patch has to hold up to. Great memory!

    I will say that I despise blowing near freezing wind. Awful stuff to ride in, especially in the dark. No matter what you do you are soaked with either rain or sweat, or often both. I don’t like arriving sweaty and frozen where *on average* I am technically comfortable. Still better than driving though.

    Reply

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