I strive not to sound preachy, so please bear that in mind while I expound on a topic near and dear to our family. That said, if you're already reading this site then I'm likely preaching to the proverbial choir. In that case, spread the word in a friendly, encouraging manner.
You'd have to be on a 3-year thru-hike to have missed the economic turmoil that has touched so many of us. (Actually, that point right there is an excellent reason plan a 3-year thru-hike!) :-) But seriously, when you look around and see tighter budgets, PDAs and smartphones pulling us into The Matrix, many families spending less time together than ever (ironically even when they're together), it all adds up to a problem. We're more connected than ever, yet somehow we're more disconnected than ever.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Luddite. I love tech. I'm a computer geek through and through. (When you're programming an Apple ][ computer in assembly language as a young teen, there's really no escaping it...) But every pendulum swings toward its limits. Somewhere in the middle is the route to a happy life balance. Just like a balanced diet leads to better health, there's no denying that a balanced life leads to greater happiness. All tech and no world is a malnourished diet.
The solution is simple. Get out, get away, together. An hour, a day, a week. With friends, family, or even solo. Better yet, all of the above. Fresh air, trail under your feet, sand in your toes, skipping rocks on a calm lake, building leaf boats with your kids and floating them down the creek. A quiet sunset breeze, roasted marshmallows over a glowing fire, stories, songs and jokes.
The best part is that it's nearly free! Get an annual pass to your national park system, or just head for the open national forests. Camping is often free, but even established campgrounds are a fraction of the cost of a musty hotel room. Once you've got your camping/backpacking gear, you're down to gas, food, and campground/permit fees(if any) for a great vacation! Craigslist.org or any of the discount supplier links on this site are a great place to start.
Friends/family not up for sleeping under the stars? Or is time too tight this week? Daytrip! Even if it's just a few hours at a picnic table under a tree while the kids play in the creek. I guarantee if it doesn't make you feel better, I will refund the fee you paid to receive this unsolicited advice. ;-)
But again we're already in agreement. Please help spread the word. Bring along a friend, relative or co-worker who's new and interested but not sure where to start.