No Backpack Is Complete Without a Kid

Don’t just #OptOutside this Black Friday. Bring the family.

We spend a lot of time at work. We don’t spend enough time outdoors. And when I say “we,” I don’t just mean adults. As the National Recreation and Park Association reports, children spend as little as four to seven minutes outdoors every day. As the parent of a two-year-old, that fact is a little frightening. But I also view it as a challenge to overcome.

I live in Seattle. I’m lucky. At home and at work, we place a huge amount of importance on going outside.

Taking time to be outdoors is like the ultimate therapy session. I find that’s when I’m the most clearheaded. I might be on my bike or I might be in the mountains, but that’s where I think the best. I try to spend at least one of my days off every week going on an outdoor excursion. I often joke with people that I dabble in all things outdoors—but I love hiking and biking, especially with my two-year-old.

Some of my favorite things to do outdoors include plopping my kid in my backpack and going on a hike with him and my wife, or sitting him in a bike trailer and going for a nice long ride. It’s something so simple, but so remarkable. It’s just the three of us, exploring new places and grabbing some sunshine together.

What matters most to me is I am raising a little guy who is engaged with and cares about the outdoors. And it’s amazing to see. It’s a value that I’ve tried my hardest to instill in him. When he begs to go to the park or on a bike ride with me, I know I’ve done something right. And it’s great because he’s a different kiddo when he spends time outside. The outdoors isn’t just therapeutic for us adults.

I manage one of REI’s Seattle stores. When I first heard we were closing for Black Friday, I was in tears. And not just because I get an extra paid day off and an excuse to #OptOutside. (If this sounds like an overreaction, I can assure you I wasn’t the only one. I have the pictures to prove it!) I get to spend more time with my best friends.

I’ve seen my fair share of Black Fridays. With all the energy necessary for having a successful sale (signage, pricing, displays, inventory), mental preparation for the big day often bleeds into Thanksgiving Day itself. Black Friday is demanding for both retailers and shoppers. It makes Thanksgiving feel truncated—a day that should be centered on family, gratefulness, and giving back ends up often overshadowed by preparing for the big sale that follows.

What I love about this decision by my employer is that my kiddo and I can finally and genuinely spend all of Thanksgiving together—and outside no less! Because I don’t have to think about opening the store, I’ll consider going farther, spending longer on the trail. We may even venture out to the North Cascades (Mt. Pilchuck is one of my all-time favorite hikes). Or we’ll be spending some of the day stomping around Wallace Falls.

If you want find your own adventure, REI guides have picked out trails all across the nation. Many of us will be gathering there in an unofficial capacity (part of the work-life balance at REI happens naturally, because many of us love the same things we sell every day).

So, if you’re planning on opting outside this Black Friday, do whatever brings you happiness or a sense of calm and centeredness. Go to a place that brings you energy and gives you an environment to be happy, whatever that may look like.

It may be a long mountain-bike ride, or paddling on the Puget Sound. It could be getting out on a road bike and riding the Burke-Gilman trail, or, like me, going on an adventure with your child. Do whatever you enjoy the most…outside.

And if you do #OptOutside on Black Friday, I challenge you to spend a little bit of time reflecting on where you are in life, what you want, and what you’re looking for in the rapidly approaching new year—anything other than what you’d consider work. Use it as a day to make a conscious decision to reconnect. Maybe it’s an opportunity to tune out the noise and spend more time with your kids, your friends, your loved ones, or yourself in the outdoors.

Imagine if that’s what our kids grew up thinking Black Friday meant.