I’ve never been a huge shopper, for a lot of reasons. But a big one is that I have a hard time with crowds. Needless to say, I don’t rush to the mall on Black Friday.
There’s a pretty good chance that I’ve blown the whole thing out of proportion and that my anxiety has made every crowd I’ve ever been in feel a thousand times bigger than it is, but I also know myself, and regardless of how BIG the crowds are, there’s still a crowd. So yeah, don’t try to convince me otherwise.
But there’s one place I will rush. Open spaces.
I’m sure you’ve heard of REI’s campaign to #OptOutside on Black Friday, where instead of having a giant blow out sale they actually CLOSE the store and give their employee’s a PAID holiday and encourage them to go OUTSIDE instead of stand in lines and CONSUME more stuff.
This was only their second year with the program, and it has been estimated that over SIX MILLION people followed them to wild spaces across the country.
I love this. I love nature. I love paid holidays. I love bonding with friends and family over a day of adventure. I love clearing my mind. I love NOT shopping. Finally someone is doing it right.
What were you doing at 6am on Friday morning? Getting ready to go to your retail job? Winding down from a night of crazy deals? Fighting in the parking lot about who rear-ended who?
I was lacing up my hiking boots and watching the sunrise. Bob Seger was playing on the radio and my dog was sitting in the passenger seat filled with excitement of where the day would take us. The air was crisp, I could see my breath, and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. I was tired, yeah. I’m awake at 6am for god’s sake.
But I was at peace. I hadn’t even gotten out of my car yet, but serenity, calming winds, and birdcalls were begging me to join them.
While you stood in line and fought for the best deal on the newest television Best Buy has to offer I hiked nine miles with my best friend and didn’t spend a dime. When you got home and needed coffee or a nap to continue with your day, I easily transitioned into my next task- putting up the Christmas tree.
Why do we value so highly the activities that bring out the worst in us? No couple comes out of IKEA having not endured a spat, no mother and child leave a Wal-Mart without arguing about the necessity of owning the latest, greatest toy.
I want to disassemble the belief that shopping is a bonding experience. I want the next generation to lace up their boots, paddle a canoe, and learn to swim before they’re set in front of a game console for the majority of their formative years.
Being outside matters. Natural experiences mean more than a good bargain. The outdoors matter more than capitalism.
Maybe it’s extreme. Maybe REI will be out of business in five years because of their interest in employee morale and lowering consumption. But at least they made a stand. And so did six million other Americans. As did I.