Opt Outside

Photo from the same location back in 2013. There was more snow this year.

Photo from the same location back in 2013. There was more snow this year.

This year, REI made waves by announcing they’d give workers the day off for Black Friday and encourage them to spend time outdoors as part of their #optoutside movement. I decide it was something I'd like to support, so I made my own plans.

At first, I planned a big hike to the Diamond Fork Hot Springs, but snow and very cold weather quickly withered my bigger ambitions so instead I went with a much simpler walk with a friend at the dike around the Provo Airport. It was a simple walk and not too long, but a great place to talk while enjoying the white mountains surrounding Utah Valley.

With the right gear, the cold wasn't much, and it was a great way to get outside and get some exercise, even on a very cold day.

I think #optoutside is a great idea, if followed for the right reasons. It’s a chance to take a step back from the frenzy of the holiday shopping that so many places promote. And if you take a step back, you can ask some of the bigger questions that so many might miss.

Is it things that really make us happy or connections and experiences? Thanksgiving night, I had a chance to do a little side job as crowd control at a local retailer. Everyone seemed happy with their new electronics and toys, but will those be the things they tell friends or family about in a year, two years, or five years down the road? Perhaps some of the gifts people bought will be part of the memories and stories they will share, but it depends a lot more on the people giving and receiving the gift than the shiny new thing they got at a crowded sale.

It would be easy to follow the #optoutside idea for a day then set it aside, but what if we made it something more? At it’s core, it’s about setting aside what's become accepted as normal or even exciting and focusing back on the essential source of our traditions or passions.

Even with Black Friday over, there’s still plenty of time to choose to #optoutside. If Christmas feels too rushed or commercial, what could you opt out of to return it to that simpler time to connect with family and beliefs? What sort of gifts could you give or receive that might bring back the wonder and excitement you once felt? What other habits, attitudes, or events might be worth opting out of during the year to take a step back and see the bigger picture?

For many, #optoutside is just a trendy hashtag, but if followed for its true purpose, it could become a welcome relief from the normal and commonplace while we pursue greater things. It’s a chance to do things that are worth doing, rather than just do things because they are what others say is usually done.