This post is sponsored in partnership with REI.
After 2.5 years on this journey to all 417 National Park Service sites, I am thrilled to announce that I've partnered with REI to share reasons why their #OptOutside campaign is so fitting for my project. Beyond just getting outdoors on Black Friday, #OptOUTside ;) has many relevant ties to what my national parks journey has become, and I'm excited to share those with you over the coming weeks.
So stay tuned to this blog for updates on how to best #OptOutside this holiday season and beyond, and join me on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where I will be giving away four $50 REI gift cards to help you be better equipped to #OptOutside!
Whether you're looking for inspiration to conquer metaphorical mountains that have kept you from enjoying the outdoors, or some new shoes to climb those actual mountains, I invite you to join me as we add to my journey, an opportunity to #OptOutside.
Reflecting on the differences between my most recent Shenandoah National Park visit and my first in 2014. Last time I paused on this rock, the idea of visiting all the National Park Service sites wasn't even a distant glimmer of reality. Yet even before setting out on this adventure, it was important enough for me to #OptOutside that I built time into my schedule to escape the city for some leaf peeping.
Unfortunately, when I went in 2014, I was about two weeks too early for peak colors. And now, arriving two weeks past that date, I'm still about two weeks from peak color change!
But it isn't just the views that matter. It's taking the time to do one of "those things I really should do" that we so often put off because the normal stresses of life get in the way. And I'm not immune to that. On the day of this 2018 hike, I almost stayed home. Thinking "I'm so behind on my emails, I should just stay in and work." And "The weather today isn't perfect. Is it really worth driving 1.5 hours each way?"
Yet both times I had friends planning to meet me at the Old Rag trailhead. So I went. And both times ended up being entirely worth it. In 2014 a chance to reconnect with my best friend as part of an annual joint-trip. And in 2018, the opportunity to hike with Washington D.C.-area friends I hadn't seen since living there years earlier.
And the weather I was worried about...ended up being perfect. The temp became so ideal in fact, that wearing a t-shirt and shorts all day I was never too cold or too hot.
A lot better day than sitting inside behind my Inbox.
What's an outdoors activity you "really should do" you could plan on taking care of this upcoming #OptOutside Black Friday November 23?
I always keep a pair of light gloves in my hiking day pack, in case I come across somewhere I need to get on all fours. I like having my “go bag” ready so whenever I pull up at a park and need to bust out of the van after a long drive, I can do so. What’s in your go-bag? What’s your favorite activity to bust out of your life’s “van” for a break from the loop? Tell me in the comments and one winner will get a $50 REI gift card sent directly from me, so you can upgrade your gear in time for #OptOutside day on November 23!
Y’all know I’ve been carrying this rainbow flag with me to every national park around the country, to encourage the outdoors community to better reflect our beautiful rainbow nation of people. By including me in this #OptOutside campaign, REI has for the first time in the history of the outdoors industry featured an out gay man as part of a campaign.
But it’s not an “I” moment; it’s a “WE” moment.
Because your positive notes, support, and good energy are what have kept me going when the road got rough and I wanted to throw in the rainbow flag…er, towel.
So to say "Thank You" for being the force of nature you are, I invite you to join me for Black Friday November 23, no matter where you are, and take a picture with a rainbow flag, rainbow apparel/flair/stickers (if you need something, my “Pride Outside” swag is available here), or maybe even a real rainbow if you get lucky! — No matter whether you’re someone on the queer spectrum or a straight ally, you’re invited to join.
To enjoy time outdoors doesn’t mean you have to be an ultramarathon runner or hike a 14er. Both my college degrees are in singing (and as a male soprano, no less!) and yet I dedicated 3 years of my life to exploring America’s natural wonders. Just like the full parking lot that greeted me at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park--where Rangers said it’s often packed with locals doing a daily run, walk with their dog, or pause on a bench, you too can have an #OptOutside moment whether you fit the outdoors stereotype and live in Colorado, or are a singer from an urban center.
My yoga-teaching sister Rachel Meyer Yoga often reminds me that yoga isn’t just about poses, but about making a positive activity a constant. A practice. Even just turning off technology for a moment every day and getting outside can be a practice. And no matter where you live or what your job is, you can offer yourself that respite just like the Guilford Courthouse visitors. Setting aside some screen time, for some green time.
Win a $50 REI gift card! One week from today is #OptOUTside day!
A reminder to tag/message me your rainbow photos and not only will I put my favorites on my Insta Story, but the best photo will receive a $50 REI gift card + a special surprise from me and REI provided specifically for this community.
Do you know what you’re doing for November 23? Leave me a comment with your plans so I can be on the lookout for your pictures.
11/23/2018 - #OutOUTside Day!
“Double-Rainbow all the way across the sky!”
“Triple-Rainbow all the way across the dune”?
#OptOUTside TODAY, November 23, and email, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter me your rainbow-inclusive photo or video to win a $50 REI gift card, be featured in my Insta Stories, and get one of these REI rainbow logo stickers!
May the best rainbow moment win! Go forth and #OptOUTside!
Thankful to live in a country with such diverse climates that on the day after Thanksgiving one can be sitting on a beach or snowshoeing across a mountain! A huge thanks to all of you who shared your #OptOUTside experiences this year--even some outside the USA!--connecting this community across borders through our shared joy. No matter where you live, whether it’s all one climate year-round or you get every season, there are so many options to #OptOutside, and I loved seeing all the ways you chose to break the loop by shaking it up outdoors!
Basking on the Cape Lookout National Seashore giving thanks for REI’s LGBTQ+ inclusion during this #OptOutside season. To be part of this historic moment, you can have one of these exact stickers! 🌈
1. I’ll be giving away REI rainbow-logo stickers at all my speaking engagements in 2019, so come say Hayyy 👋
2. REI will have a presence at multiple Prides around the US in 2019. Watch for their contingency to get stickers and more! 🏳️🌈
Either way, get some swag to help show your support for the LGBTQ+ community in the outdoors and keep the #OptOUTside spirit alive until next Black Friday!
Did you know every single U.S. state and territory has a national park? You don’t have to live in the west to #OptOutside any time of the year. In fact, we have public lands run by multiple agencies beyond just the National Park Service, many of which offer free camping and free admission, and as of this October 2018 any bookable campground on any public land can be reserved all at www.rei.com/campgrounds through a partnership with Rec.gov! Standing in the Colonial National Historical Park in Jamestown, Virginia, I’m reminded of the nearly 400 NPS sites I’ve visited in the past 2.5 years and how lucky I am to live in a country that preserves our most exceptional places.
I encourage you to look in your own backyards for opportunities to #OptOutside year-round, and join me in continuing to explore the amazing places America has to offer!