5 Tips for Breaking Out of Your Tahoe Rut

Photo by: Heather Manwaring
Photo by: Heather Manwaring

5 Tips for Breaking Out of Your Tahoe Rut

—By Laura Van Antwerp—

Go ahead and answer the following questions in your head.

  1. Have you been feeling restless, confused, and frustrated with your life in Tahoe?
  2. Are you struggling with finding a sense of clarity about what you want to pursue?
  3. Are you involved in a love/hate relationship with Tahoe?
  4. Do you sometimes feel guilty for not appreciating Tahoe the way you “should”?
  5. Do you find yourself blaming your environment (‘”everybody here drinks too much, no jobs”,’ etc.) for your lack of progress?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then I’ve got good news and bad news.

The bad news is there’s a chance you might be in what they call a “rut”. Or, shall we call it: an overwhelming sense of stagnation.

The good news is you’re not alone in this plight, nor are you doomed to it forever.

This year especially I’ve noticed a shift. People are realizing they desire a greater sense of purpose beyond living life as Peter Pan in the Neverland of Lake Tahoe. The lifestyle they were loving is now beginning to feel tiresome and repetitive.

Turns out, YOLOing can get old.


Feeling stagnant isn’t a bad thing; it’s simply life’s way of nudging you towards change. And it doesn’t have to be some grandiose upheaval, like ditching town or quitting your job. Rather, it can be an accumulation of small changes, the kind you can do right here, right now—life tweaks.

But where to begin?

As with most things in life, real change begins with YOU, creating a shift in perception. Start there, work your way out, and you’ll notice everything around you transform.

Easier said than done, I know.

Here are five suggestions on getting started on your mental upgrade:

1. Stop trying to figure out your passion and start exploring your curiosities.



All our lives we are told to “FOLLOW YOUR PASSION” or “CONQUER YOUR DREAMS” which, when you think about it, is a daunting task when you STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOUR F*CKING PASSION IS! *sigh* What you would give for a just a taste of that clear sense of direction everybody around you seems to possess.

Original photo: Wikimedia Commons

Well I’ve got news for you. Your passion isn’t going to show up at your front door like some Jehovah’s Witness. Your passion will only reveal itself through the willingness and courage to explore your curiosities.

Just take it from the sage Liz Gilbert, who wrote,

 “ In seasons of confusion, of loss, of boredom, of insecurity, of distraction, the idea of “passion” can feel completely inaccessible and impossible. Curiosity is a lot easier to reach at times than full-on passion — and the stakes are lower, easier to manage.

“Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion.”

Think about a few things you’ve been curious about and poke at them. Take a class at the college. Buy a book on something that interests you. Ask someone to take you climbing or to a networking event. Hike a trail you’ve never visited. Talk to strangers.

Make an effort to explore beyond what you know!

2. Stop asking what Tahoe can do for you, and start asking what you can do for Tahoe.

Screen Shot 2016-09-23 at 10.12.12 AM

It’s easy to point fingers at our environment and spit blame like “There’re no good jobs in Tahoe, and that’s why it sucks here,” or “This town is full of deadbeats; all anybody does here is drink and party.”

At the end of the day, how you feel about Tahoe has more to do with how you feel about yourself than anything else. Whether you realize it or not, the world is our mirror.

dylThe people that are stoked on Tahoe are stoked because they made a conscious effort to build a flourishing relationship with their community and environment.

If you are hating on Tahoe for being a party town, it’s probably because you got sucked into Tahoe’s unseemly (and perpetually hungover) underbelly, and you can’t see beyond it.

If you think there are no jobs in Tahoe, it might be because you haven’t put forth enough effort to demonstrate exactly what you have to offer.

Instead of thinking about how much Tahoe doesn’t have to offer you, start thinking about what you have to offer Tahoe.

Ponder these two silver linings:

1. In a small community like Tahoe, it’s easier to network and get noticed.
2. Where there’s more opportunities, there’s also more competition. Moving to the city isn’t always the answer.

Once you start thinking about what you have to offer and how you can make an impact, you’ll be AMAZED at the types of friends, opportunity, and all around awesome things you attract.

3. Allow yourself to suck at something for a while.

Left: First attempt at climbing. Couldn’t even figure out how to put on the harness. Looked a fool in front of many. Right: Climbing in Thailand. Would have never made it here if I didn’t patiently suck for a while.


Feeling stuck or restless is a sign that it’s time to learn something new. You’re ready to navigate unchartered waters. Now ask yourself this: when’s the last time you allowed yourself to be terrible at something? Like, just totally suck?

‘Cause guess what: before you can be good at something you gotta be bad at it first.

Personal growth happens when you push yourself outside your comfort zone, and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being bad at something.

Think about every thing you’ve ever learned in your life. Learning to walk? I’m going to guess you weren’t running hurdles on day two. Your favorite sport? Had to start somewhere, right? Sex? Who knows, maybe you’re still bad at it.

The problem is, as we get older we become more fearful of looking like an idiot or not excelling at something right out the gate. Sure, it’s awkward. Embarrassing. Time consuming. Scary. Not fun. The list of excuses goes on.

Learn to laugh at yourself. The most awkward moments will make the best stories someday.

Don’t let your pride be your enemy. The sooner you get to being bad at something, the sooner you’ll get to being good at it.

4. Stop trying to convince yourself you’re satisfied where you are if you aren’t.

Screen Shot 2016-09-23 at 11.22.17 AM

I see this CONSTANTLY in Tahoe.

People outgrow their job/lifestyle/friends/boyfriend but feel the need to convince themselves it’s where they want to be to hide the fact they feel trapped.

They feel stuck in a job that feels meaningless or offers nothing in the way of growth or new skills, yet there they remain, trying to convince themselves they are doing great.

They stay in relationships they outgrew long ago, and keep trying to wear the damn thing like a ill-fitting crop top that should have been retired in junior high.

The list goes on and on.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with waiting tables or trimming weed. These are even great ways to make fast cash you can reinvest into something that lights your fire and fuels your future.

The problem begins when people create an imaginary storyline for themselves, one that paints a picture of their miserable future selves, paralyzed in a career they hate, single and lonely, missing the life they have now. Their momentum is stifled by an irrational fear of a future that doesn’t exist and MOST LIKELY NEVER WILL.


Look. What you’re doing probably worked out well for you for a while, but it’s ok to move on once you’ve squeezed that sponge dry. There are so many forms of badassery out there that you can WILL thrive in.

You’re not being asked to give up the things you love.  If anything, you’ll be asked to harness them in ways you never imagined possible.

5. Stick to something, dammit!


Bouncing from one thing to the next without any clear sense of direction can definitely lead to some major frustration. I get it. You don’t want to ball and chain yourself to something that isn’t fulfilling, or that you won’t succeed in, or that pulls you away from a lifestyle you love, and that’s why you have a hard time committing to anything.

But here’s the thing: it’s easier to stick to something when you commit to it for the purpose of learning. That thing doesn’t have to be your destiny, it just has to be your teacher.

Screen Shot 2016-09-23 at 11.24.07 AMFor instance, say you’ve always wanted to build a business or website or brand—maybe all three. Your natural tendency is to get really excited, begin, then as soon as you hit roadblocks or a lackluster patch, you tell yourself, “Damn, I’m not qualified enough to do this shit,” or “This is boring; I only like the fun/romantic parts of it.”


Don’t quit before the miracle happens.

Maybe your project will take off. Maybe it will fizzle off after a year. Maybe it will simply serve as the bridge to the next exciting in your life.

But no matter what, you can be sure you’ll gain a whole new set of skills and knowledge that would have otherwise never been acquired. Go in with the goal of growth, rather than ‘success’, and you’ll find yourself in a win/win situation.

Believe in yourself. You got this.

How did you bust out of your own rut? Share your wisdom and experience in the comments section below!

More on this topic


  1. Sometimes leaving makes you appreciate your current lifestyle and situation more and may clearly bookmark the end of a chapter in your life and start of a new one. I felt many of the same “rut” emotions after about 4 years in Pacific Beach, CA. Ocean front living, bartender, service industry network, partying, band roommates, surf, friends, etc. All the things that visitors would call the “dream” but eventually my rut forced the decision that PB will be there for me anytime and I left with my girlfriend to finally finish college. We graduated and within weeks went straight back as if it were our reward for finishing but less than a year later we were ready for other things. Our departure created a vacancy for somebody else to test the lifestyle that we thought would last forever and showed us that it was time for other places and experiences. Now When we get into a rut we quickly know its time to get away for a bit. Get stuck on a freeway, people watch on the vegas strip, go to a football game, try different food and generally accept that it’s ok to like other places for what they have to offer without feeling guilty that these aren’t the things Tahoe offers. But Tahoe is pretty awesome.

  2. I broke out of my rut almost exactly a year ago to move to the Virgin Islands and work in the sailing industry. Crazy right? I wanted to get out, start fresh, and try something completely different. The experience of moving to somewhere that didn’t know anyone, and start over in a new career field was something very exciting but vastly daunting at the same time. I worked at it for a year, climbed the ladder and started to get where I wanted to be in the company. The sad part was I gradually realized that it wasn’t the right choice for my long term. People on the outside looking in would say how I have the dream job to allow me to work on sailboats in the Caribbean all the time. “You have the best life” people would say.

    I realized I don’t like endless summer, I miss skiing and seasons and the lifestyle that I had back in Tahoe for six awesome years. The most important lesson I’ve learned by doing this is realizing what I want out of the place I live. I want the active outdoor lifestyle with people that share my interests. I’ve also realized the importance of being able to connect with your community on a higher level by being involved and working with like minded people. It’s helped me realize a new direction and now I’m packing up and moving, all over again, back to the west. It sparked new ideas to try bigger things related to the passions I have for the mountains.

    So here goes nothing. I’m going to just drive west and explore curiosities I have for new places and carve out a niche for myself somewhere along the line.

  3. Such a great article! I have a different experience I have lived here for 7 years now-moved here solely for my husbands job at Heavenly. I grew up in the Chicago area then graduated from CU Boulder lived in Vail, Sandpoint, ID, Jackson Hole and then here. I moved to South Lake sight unseen which seems crazy but I was like Tahoe-hey I got nothing to lose I heard great things. This place is really special and takes time to get to know. My favorite part of it is I keep meeting cool people (usually woman) that are like hey come hike, bike, snowboard, etc. There are so many options out there in Tahoe I feel it will take me a lifetime to get to know. New rides, new peaks, new friends-it is never ending. Business here is also good-I was a Realtor for a long time before starting over here in South Lake-starting over is really scary but rewarding at the same time. Now I am a successful Realtor and I truly get to play as hard as I work (thank you Apple and the Iphone). I honestly can’t imagine living in my home town doing the same job my whole life-my rut would be a grave dug balls deep. Transition here is easy if you are in it for the long term-people are awesome and crazy (keeps it interesting) and so welcoming. I get into ruts which I actually find comforting by getting used to the usual-stand by mountain bike rides, Lola dog walks, etc. Tahoe is as challenging as you want to make it-the work adventures are here if you are willing to look, learn and listen. Tahoe is not a typical mountain town as you have worldclass recreation(duh) but 13 million people down the hill in the Bay area that spend their $ here year round. Most mountain towns are sound sleep many months of the year. This is both good and bad as locals know firsthand but our breaks are easy to obtain by just escaping and turning off of HWY 50. My goal for the next coming year will be to do as many new things as possible here in Tahoe-I am already exited about it. The pure form of Vitamin D is a drug of amazing power as little sleep is needed in these long Tahoe summers. Wait to winter and then its Vitamin P and I get to learn all about my new mountain!!!! I am thankful for my life in Tahoe, Jennifer


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