My husband and I have a really bad habit: We’re “talkers,” not “doers.”
This means the bucket list we drew up on fancy paper and vowed to complete before we left our last duty station? Um. Yeah. About that: It kind of didn’t happen. Weekends were spent binging Netflix, drinking cocktails, and heading to the same old haunts (in order: Starbucks, Chipotle, our favorite local dive bar). And, okay, we had some baller weekends, but they weren’t spent making lifelong memories.
Let’s be honest, adventure is one of the biggest (read: few) perks of PCS-ing often. So, military spouse, it’s time to get out of your nest-bubble, come to grips with your new duty station, and make the most of it.
1. Go to National Parks
Even before I moved to the US, I was utterly in awe of the sheer beauty of this country. Silly as it sounds, I had a Pinterest board heaving with pictures of American National Parks — from the blasted alien landscapes of Anza Borrego and Joshua Tree, to the dense forests of Shenandoah. Coming from a small island where the concept of “wilderness” is relatively less impressive (or, at the very least, less vast), there’s something incredible about living in country where hundreds, if not thousands, of miles can remain perfectly untouched by human hands. Wherever you land at your next duty station, there’s a chance you’ll be close enough to an area of outstanding natural beauty, so take advantage of it! There’s always lots of organized fun to be had, or you could just pack a pair of hiking boots, grab a friend or two, and get out in the open air.
2. Hoard pamphlets
Inevitably, when you move to a new duty station, you end up accumulating a lot of flyers — the ones from that spouse event, activity fairs, local tourist boards, you name it. Typically, I would politely keep them all, stash them in a cupboard, find them a few months later, and throw them out all at once. Rookie mistake. Keep hold of those info sheets: The free guidebooks, the days out, the museums, and all that jazz. Organize them in a nice folder. Then, when you’ve got a free weekend and nothing to do, open that folder and find something fun to do.
3. Seek out local cuisine (and culture)
My best friend from our last duty station just informed me that I am missing out on a local cider festival this weekend, and I just about started crying. I had no idea that anyone on the east coast even made cider! Lesson learned: Keep an eye out for foodie events, wine tastings, “Pick Your Own” farms, and restaurants that serve up local-fave dishes. Everywhere you go, there’ll be a traditional crop, drink, or dish. Whether it’s a day out or a date night, it sure beats a movie and PF Changs for the umpteenth time.
4. Try some seasonal delights
In case you hadn’t noticed: It’s fall! And you know what that means? Time to get thee to a pumpkin patch. Well … not for all of us. I’m not sure how many miles we’d have to travel to get to a patch of grass at this duty station, let alone an entire pumpkin patch. That said, where we’re at, the weather is starting to cool off and it’s the perfect time to go hiking. Wherever you are, whatever the climate, there’ll be something seasonal to get involved with.
5. Go on a mini-vacation
Is your spouse home for a 96? Have you got a long weekend to make the most of? Let go of the TV remote! Fill (or at least, semi-fill) your long weekend with enough new experiences to make it feel like a holiday, even if you’re still returning home every night.. Yes, it’s easy to lapse into the couch potato mindset, but try and make the most of your time in a way that suits you. If you’ve got kids, take them outside for some good old-fashioned fun during the day. Or, if you’ve been saving hard in the rainy day fund, travel to the next city over and stay in a cheap hotel, then go to a concert and explore. Seizing the moment while you’ve got precious time with your spouse, or making the most of deployments with a handful of friends and family, is a wonderfully rejuvenating experience.
6. Take a class (or five!)
No, not the desks-and-deadlines kind. A couple of days ago, my husband came home from work and announced: “We’re going to learn to scuba dive!” — after he enrolled in a motorcycle course. No, the lesson here is not that my husband is Action Man (that could not be further from the truth), it’s that there are so many fun, active things you can learn if you put some research into it. Look around your duty station for what’s popular in your local area, especially at things you’d never have had the chance to try back home.
7. Take it in turns
Personally, I’m not super keen on some of the things I think my husband would go mad for: Shooting arrows, paintballing, craft beer. Or at least, I didn’t think I was, until I tried them. When your spouse is home, take it in turns deciding which bucket list activity you’re going to try next. Think Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, when they spend a day doing things that they’ve each never done before…but maybe leave the animal masks at home this time.
Calculate how many hours a week you typically spend, say, mindlessly watching television, and channel your energy into something more productive: Volunteer! Giving back to the community is fun and fulfilling, and you’ll meet a lot of great people along the way. Whether it’s an animal shelter, working with military families, or helping spread the word about a charitable cause, giving just a few hours of your time each week can be priceless.
What would you add to the fun/crazy things to do at your duty station?