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Back in 2015, outdoor gear retailer REI blew everyone’s minds by doing something crazy to the holiday gift shopping world: they shut down their website and stores for the day after Thanksgiving and suggested everyone “opt outside” instead of going shopping.
Maybe it was a brilliant publicity move. Maybe it was driven by a core conviction. But at the time it was the first time it had occurred to me to make being in nature a part of our annual holiday season tradition outside of a turkey trot, family football game on the lawn or, when I was a kid growing up near the beach, pre-dinner walk down the waterfront to get us out of my mom’s hair. Opt outside instead of shopping? Insane.
Fast forward to this year, and spending time outside daily has made me a much different person than I used to be. Or, rather, I’m the same person but with wildly different priorities. I actually WANT to be outside. I actually ENJOY heading into nature.
That means that instead of adding taking a walk to our holiday plans as an afterthought, we’ve started to create traditions for the holidays that are built around heading into nature. Last year we tried something new, and I told you about it in a podcast episode. Rather than going to a friend’s home for Thanksgiving or welcoming friends to our house, we booked an off-grid public use cabin, packed a Thanksgiving meal in the car and drove to spend the weekend camping in a one room cabin around a wood stove without electricity or plumbing in very, very cold temperatures.
For those of you who have never tried this, that probably sounds insane. And I will admit that even though we did this last year and thought it was great, and even though I know it was fun, it also sounded insane to me as I got ready to go this year. Why in the ever loving world was I going to all this trouble to pre-make pies, source a turkey dinner that would be easy to reheat, and gather instant mashed potatoes and canned veggies? It would be so much easier to just, you know, stay home and NOT have to wander to an outhouse to use the bathroom in temperatures around 0.
And then I went there and I remembered why: because it was amazing. And because the effort is totally, 100 percent worth it.
This year’s cabin selection was within snowball throwing distance from the parking lot, meaning we didn’t have to ski anything in, although I do enjoy being further removed. We arrived to find the cabin already warm, thanks to a very recent previous user leaving hot coals going in the wood stove. So we unpacked and, while the kids broke out a card game, went for a pre-feast cross country ski. We then had dinner heated by camp stove, feasted, played board games, skied again, this time under the stars, played more board games, and finally bedded down for the night. The next day was more of the same, and we opted to head home rather than tend a wood stove overnight as temperatures outside dipped well below zero. We’re adventurous, not silly.
This is the second year in a row we’ve taken our feast to a public use cabin, and I predict that we’ll do it again in 2022, too. Some traditions are really worth the effort.
But just like all outdoor time, it comes with pros and cons. Even in ideal weather, you have to make an effort to do something outside instead of inside, away from the convenience of home. You have to WANT to do it. You have to try. And you have to ignore that little voice inside of you suggesting that it would be just as good to stay home and watch a movie as it would be to hop out of the cabin for a quick ski.
And that’s why it’s an art. It’s an act of convincing yourself that the extra effort is worth it. I hope that my kids grow up remembering these times we did the thing that was a little uncomfortable to create a memory or a special family tradition that was worth repeating. I hope they remember the Thanksgiving game nights punctuated by cold trips to the out house and putting more wood on the stove. It’s not everyone’s ideal, but I am convinced that the effort is worth the benefit.
Sometimes the effort needs a little extra push, though. Sometimes you need to push yourself through an act of commitment. I still find that to be true on many days of my outdoor habit, when I just really don’t want to go outside. Committing to you that I go outside every day no matter what gets me going.
And that’s one of the reasons I have just launched the Humans Outside 365 Challenge kits — to give you that little extra boost you need to commit to creating and keeping that outdoor habit all year long, for 365 days. You can learn more about the kits at Humansoutside.com/challenge and register for the tier that fits your needs. I spent a lot of time creating these, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Of course you can see my outdoor time still on Facebook and Instagram, and I want to see yours, too. Find mine @HumansOutside and tag yours with #humansoutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.