Alissa moved from Canada to Australia and didn’t really know what was next. The next year was an open canvas which quickly turned into spending as much time outside as possible and defining her ‘opportunity costs’ to allow her lifestyle to flourish. 

Just over four years ago I did my first overnight hike, the Three Capes Track, and since then my priorities have shifted around how I spend my time and disposable income. When I first moved to Tasmania, hiking was my main hobby, but the more time I spent on this little island state, the more I realised how much it has to offer for other outdoor sports too.

The access to outdoor sports in Tasmania is unlike anything I’ve experienced, and I quickly embraced the lifestyle.


Why I Calculated the Opportunity Cost of Hiking, surfing, 4WD, woman loading aqua surfboard into back of 4wd at the beach

Settling quite well into the Aussie surfer image


First, I booked a surf lesson and fell in love with the ocean. So I bought a surfboard and wetsuit and spent evenings after work learning to surf with my friends until the sun set. Next, I went mountain biking on a borrowed bike and quickly bought an old rental bike. Then I reeeally liked mountain biking so I upgraded that hardtail to a dual suspension.

Read more: Mountain Biking Slang 101

After that, my housemate took me rock climbing and I surprised myself by enjoying that too. So I bought climbing shoes, a helmet, and a harness. Are you hearing ‘cha ching, cha ching’ in the same way that my savings account did? Yes, it hurt financially, but it all came back down to the opportunity costs I’d set.

What’s an opportunity cost?

Opportunity costs help us to understand the true cost of our decisions by acknowledging what we have to give up to get what we want. Think of it as what you’re willing to sacrifice (usually time or money) in order to gain something.


Learning Your Own Opportunity Costs

There are plenty of opportunity costs that come with living the granola lifestyle, whether you’re just dipping your toes in or it’s your full-blown personality.

Over the years, I’ve slowly found ways to determine my definition of success and happiness, and usually that means steering clear from drinking events, festivals, and eating meals out. None of this is to say that I don’t appreciate, or ever do, these things. I’ve just worked out my opportunity costs to spend most of my time without incorporating those activities.

I’ll easily give up a night of drinking in order to put some petrol into my car and zip out to the mountains with friends, I’ll still get the feeling of connection, just in a very different setting. I’m not a coffee drinker, but still I rarely get a takeaway hot choccy because I know the weekly add up of this can go directly towards paying for my national parks pass.


Why I Calculated the Opportunity Cost of Hiking, sleeping bags, hike-in camping, camping, tent, two hikers in sleeping bags on top of mountain with sunrise

This is a good one for the vision board


When hiking the South Coast Track, the flight from Melaleuca (where the track starts) to Hobart was $325. This is no small fee, especially for uni students and young professionals navigating the start of their careers, along with rising grocery prices, rent, and all of the other bills that accumulate with being an adult. Regardless, having spent so much time in Tassie’s Southwest National Park, I knew I needed to see this place from a new perspective, and that was going to be from above and with $325 less to my name.

Through various overseas trips that broadened my horizons, and periods of injury where the only thing I wanted to do was be out exploring, I knew that instead of having a healthy savings account, I would always keep trying to make getting outside a priority.

Financial Opportunity Costs

There are plenty of financial opportunity costs that come with getting outside as well.

When you first start hiking everyone says it’s so amazing because it’s a ‘free’ activity. Well, my bank account says differently, especially for backpacking and the extra gear needed to safely stay outside overnight. By the time you purchase a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, stove, boots, rain gear, thermals, and the other items that I consider necessities as well as the comforts, this activity isn’t so free.

You have to decide what you’re willing to give up in order to get the gear to say ‘See ya!’ to the city for the weekend. The more I learnt about where I could sensibly upgrade my gear and scour Facebook Marketplace for second-hand gear in near new condition, the more this helped with the financial burden of getting into hiking.

Pro tip: Try to break down the financial cost of a piece into how many days of use you’ll get out of the gear. Then it’ll start to look a lot more like six-dollars-per-day of use, rather than a whopping lump sum.


Why I Calculated the Opportunity Cost of Hiking, cloud inversions, mountain range, top of mountains poking through layer of clouds

Being outside isn’t free, but it does add a richness to life


There are, of course, longer-term financial opportunity costs that I’ve made while adopting this lifestyle. For a while, I was saving towards a tiny house, and now the more I think about that I chuckle. I don’t even know what country I want to live in long term let alone which town, or if I want a house or property to eventually build a tiny home at all.

So I quickly nixed that savings plan. I’m trying to take care of my future self, but I decided that while time was something I wasn’t going to get back, money would be. I try to use this thought process when making sacrifices and evaluating my opportunity costs. 

Sometimes I start to question these sacrifices when I want a house filled with prints, or pieces found at local markets. Things that belong in a home, not a backpack. But I don’t end up purchasing things because I just don’t have the space for them. 

There’s a constant mental tug-of-war with this lifestyle shift.

Time-Based Opportunity Costs

Opportunity costs can often come in the form of time management as well.

Sometimes the trade-off is giving up a lazy morning spent in bed to honour the discipline it takes to get up when your alarm goes off and slog up a mountain with cold fingers. But seeing an incredible inversion makes it all worthwhile.


Why I Calculated the Opportunity Cost of Hiking, mountain, inversion clouds, rocky mountain top peering through layer of clouds

A little bit of time-hacking and a view like this is definitely possible!


Other times the weather doesn’t play nice, and, as we say in Canada, leaves you ‘socked in’, meaning fully surrounded by clouds with no break or any chance of a view. That’s when the reality of the trade-off when you gave up your cosy bed earlier in the morning really sets in. 

My opportunity cost of being a weekend warrior, means weekday trade-offs. In order to keep the Sunday Scaries at bay, I give up weekday evenings to complete my weekly life admin so that come Friday night I can zip off, knowing that on Monday morning I’m not scrambling around and I can be in the right headspace to go to work.

The Noticeable Trade-Offs

There are so many opportunity costs out there. I found that the more I got into outdoor hobbies, the more I forgot about the ‘luxuries’ I was willingly to forego for time outside under the stars. When I first began shifting towards this lifestyle, there was a lot more friction in my decision making.

Firstly, I rarely buy new clothes. That means yes, I sometimes get tired of my jeans and the same few T-shirts I cycle through, but I know that it means I’m able to maintain this lifestyle I’m choosing to live. If this is a big jump, try negotiating with yourself and find less drastic ways to dial back your spending.

Backpacking has definitely given me a lot of perspective on human overconsumption and how little we truly need to get by, but when we’re constantly influenced by those around us, and it can be difficult to stay true to your goals.

I worked in banking and marketing for nearly four years, so a background of financial literacy and consumer behaviour is something that made this transition a little easier. I’ve been much better at setting and sticking to a spending plan in some years than others. There are times that I’ve definitely splurged on life and tried not to be too restrictive, while acknowledging the trade-offs.

Spending time outside doesn’t have to mean moving countries, working remotely, or living out of a van, it can still fit around whatever your lifestyle consists of. Depending on your access to local reserves or national parks, your willingness to crack down on your savings and really dial in your time management skills, although it might not look the same for everyone, I promise it’s manageable to make getting outside a priority! 


Why I Calculated the Opportunity Cost of Hiking, tent, camping, woman smiling while inside red and white tent

Our sacrifices are actually valuable opportunities


All of this is to say that, with each year that I get older, I’m watching others around me make different life choices, but I’m starting to find a lot more peace in my decisions. Peace in the number of nights I’ve spent bundled in my sleeping bag on an inflatable mat. Peace in knowing that my rain gear has kept me dry through all of the sideways squalls I’ve put it through. Peace in knowing the friends I’ve made get around this same lifestyle and share my passions. 

Peace in the most unlikely of places, but peace nonetheless, in a place where prioritising my mental and physical health, and a connection to getting outside, defines my life.