November 25, 2016

This Holiday Season Opt Outside Instead of Shopping.


Every year it seems like Black Friday starts earlier and earlier.

Then there’s Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday—and honestly, I can’t even keep track of all the shopping we’re “supposed” to be doing and all of the alleged “deals” we’re supposed to be taking advantage of.

My email inbox is jammed with subject lines promising big savings. My real mailbox is clogged with catalogues and flyers trying to lure me into buying and buying. Stores open on Thanksgiving afternoon now, and stay open all night long. Shoppers line up outside of retailers instead of relaxing after Thanksgiving meals with family and friends. And for what?

Personally, I hate Black Friday and holiday shopping in general. It’s a huge scam designed to part people with their money and trick them into buying a bunch of junk they don’t need for themselves and their loved ones. Besides that, it’s stressful.

No one’s really getting a bargain. Black Friday is an illusion—and to me, it’s simply not worth the traffic, the crowds, the sense of competition, the clutter. I’ve always said you save more money by not buying anything, anyway.

I would rather go outside.

Last year, my family and I started a new tradition. Instead of the hassle of malls and parking lots and traffic jams, we’ve chosen to spend the day outdoors, reveling in the majesty of nature, living out our belief that experiences are more important than things, and people are more important than stuff.

We were inspired by the giant outdoor retailer REI and their #OptOutside campaign. The store even goes so far as to close all of their locations on Black Friday, potentially losing millions in sales, just to encourage their customers and employees to get away from the mall and out into nature for the day.

REI’s Vice President of Public Affairs, Alex Thompson stresses the importance of “trails not sales.”

But it’s not just REI—most state and national parks have waived their entry fees on Black Friday and for the whole weekend! That’s my kind of holiday gift.

Imagine breathing in the fresh, crisp, fall air instead of a stale, stuffy mall. How about real, fragrant pines instead of artificial garlands of fiberglass greenery?

Last year, my brother and I spent Black Friday in a wildlife preserve where we delighted in watching actual, living deer. Those were way more interesting than animatronic reindeer displays with neon noses. Listen to the birds and the hush of the breeze rather than the din of cash registers. Miss the Christmas music playing in stores? How about singing your own?

The greatest gift you can give others is meaningful human interaction. Sure, I guess that could happen in a food court or a big box or maybe even in gridlock, but more vivid memories are made in the peace, the beauty and the quiet of a natural setting without so much aggravating distraction.

But even if you don’t have a companion to come with, give yourself the gift of getting away from it all.

Our bodies, minds and spirits are at their best and healthiest when we are calm, when we commune with the natural world, and when we get some exercise and have fun. No one’s going to get that having a fistfight over the last, must-have toy on the shelves of a crowded suburban Walmart.

This holiday season, take REI’s advice, and Opt Outside.

Our natural wonders truly are our greatest gifts, so give yourself the permission to end the holiday shopping madness, stress and strain and take a hike, go canoeing, sit by a waterfall, rest beneath a tree, have a picnic on the beach,  play in the leaves, go bird-watching, or whatever brings you peace and joy.


Author: Victoria Fedden

Image: YouTube still

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

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