Students choose to #OptOutside for Black Friday

I wanted my Black Friday this year to be different. There’s nothing inherently wrong with shopping on Black Friday. Thanksgiving is over, and people are ready to prepare for Christmas. Many of them make it a family tradition and all venture out as one large tribe.

I’m not a big Black Friday shopper, and if I do go out, I usually go to very obscure small businesses like guitar shops and soap boutiques. I have worked retail on Thanksgiving night through Black Friday morning, though, and that year I didn’t see many people who were sincerely having fun or enjoying family time while they shopped for amazing deals.

I wanted to make my holiday different by participating in #OptOutside, REI’s campaign that encourages people to consume less possessions and more nature. This is REI’s second year implementing their campaign, which has become a nationwide movement. They have led the way by closing their doors on Black Friday and paying their employees to take a day off to spend time in nature with their families and friends.

I was able to spend nearly all of my Black Friday outdoors, in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire, and it was the best Black Friday I’ve experienced yet. Although I love Minnesota, a change of scenery allowed me to breathe and briefly escape my swamp of final projects for this semester. Freshly fallen snow made the pines even more magical for a family hike beside Smarts Brook. Our trail up an old drainage ditch led us to a giant boulder that is obviously a favorite place for rock climbers, due to the old chalk smudges all over it. I made a mental note to come back in the spring. After an hour-and-a-half of hiking and snowball fighting, we returned to the house breathing hard and red-faced. I had worn too many layers to be hiking uphill both ways.

It wasn’t time to collapse beside the TV yet. We only stayed long enough to cram our faces with Thanksgiving leftovers before heading back out into the elements to work on a few outdoor projects. Shoveling wheelbarrows full of dirt in the cold rain may not be as enjoyable as sipping peppermint mochas and browsing through clearance racks, but it did burn a few calories. After about two hours of that, the whole family returned to the house to sit by the fire until it was time to head back outside for a second Thanksgiving celebration.

The patriarch of the family had prepared an outdoor activity that divided everyone into three teams of five. It began with a photo scavenger hunt that sent us all over town. When we returned to the house hours later, we were soaking wet, exhausted, and it was pitch black outside. We finished the challenge by building a catapult and firing pumpkins down a hill in the yard.

At last it was time to eat cheesecake and collapse on the couch. I was exhausted, but my exhaustion was the content kind that left no room for stress. I’m already behind on buying Christmas gifts, but… whose rule book am I following for Christmas anyway? The hours and memories created with the family were priceless. I’m already looking forward to next year’s #OptOutside challenge.

How did other MSU students #OptOutside?

“I went to Afton State Park with a friend and hiked five miles. The park was packed!” – Taylor Heid

“I went climbing. It was climbing in a gym, but that is WAY better than nothing.” – David Childers

“I played in the prairie with all my puppies and drove the Jeep around.” – Greta Wintersteen

“I went hiking around Ladybug Lake!” – Carly Hopper

“I worked the majority of the day but I still went on a family walk – 5 miles – with my mom, two siblings, and dog.” – Mariah Schwecke

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