Meatless Picnics & Personal Firsts – My #optoutside Story

Meatless Picnics & Personal Firsts –

My #optoutside Story


Growing up in Colorado, I’ve always felt a special connection to the outdoors. Back then, it was simple. My parents, siblings, a sherbet orange Chevy station wagon and a picnic lunch. Almost every weekend. We would load up the crew and head to The Garden of the Gods, Lookout Mountain and other breathtaking picnic spots across Colorado. Cheese sandwiches (we were raised vegetarian) tasted the best in mountain air!

Opting outside, hiking trails, walking in streams and playing with dirt, sticks and rocks were so easy in the early 80’s. We weren’t distracted by Facebook notifications, chat messages, text dings and hours of pinning. Even when the first Nintendo system graced our house in 1987, we would still pack up the wagon on the weekends and go on an adventure.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the connection. Or at least the family adventures had stopped. I think I can peg it to high school. The time-consuming pressures of homework and new-found socializing took over. It wasn’t until the summer before my freshman year at the University of Colorado Boulder that I reconnected with the outdoors. I pushed myself to go on a 3-day camping trip with complete strangers. The decision to choose a new adventure was easy. But as an introvert, choosing to do it with people I had never met wasn’t. I was headed to a large school where only 1.5% of the population looked like me. At the time, there was a multicultural outdoors club and I happened to see a flyer promoting their back to school camping trip. Prior to this I don’t think I ever remember actually camping as a kid, just the picnics with the cheese sandwiches. It’s possible that it’s one of those childhood memories that I subconsciously erased (we all have those). And because of this, I marked this trip as my first!

This first lead to many…my first outdoor rock climb, my first time bouldering, my first hike at Chautauqua in Boulder, my first climb of the Flatirons, my first time white water rafting and eventually my first 14er.

A couple years ago, not long after REI announced plans to close its doors on Black Friday and challenged us all to join in and get outside with family and friends, I participated in my first #optoutside. To make an intentional decision to resist the commercialism of Black Friday and enjoy the peace of the outdoors instead was a compelling ask. In a way, it forced me to remember the 10 year-old girl sporting cornrows and a pink retro OshKosh B’gosh jean jacket while taking in the incredible views of Red Rocks.

REI’s #optoutside initiative also encouraged me to look at my own kids and evaluate my parenting practices. Raising teenagers in this day and age can be challenging. I’m not the best a limiting their screen time like other parents. The handy “ticket system” that I put into place lasted a week. And the brilliant idea to do “No-Technology Thursdays” each summer wasn’t very popular. For them, everything revolves around technology. Their phones, their friends, their shows, even their school work.

Technology is a force that we must balance, negotiate and reason with everyday. But on Black Friday, November 23, no negotiations will be made. Kids, we’re going on an adventure!

Olivia Omega, Brand Specialist, Camber Outdoors

Formerly the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC)


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