Why I Chose to #OptOutside this Black Friday

When I’m traveling and people find out I’m American, one of the first things they usually say is: “Oh, America: Black Friday!”

I’m not sure why this event has managed to attach itself to the American identity, but I’ve had enough foreigners ask me about it that it clearly has. The rest of the world sees us as capitalism-crazed lemmings; people who will jump out of bed at 5 a.m. for anything, as long as the discount’s high enough.

And maybe that’s true, for some segment of my countrymen. But that’s not MY America. The same way the extreme Islamic clerics don’t represent Nouman’s Morocco, the homophobes in the streets don’t represent Iuri’s Brazil, and the Brexiteers don’t represent Sean’s England. Black Friday shoppers don’t represent MY America.

You can’t (successfully) stereotype people of any country — but the US, even less so. As I tell people when they ask about my home: there are many Americas.

And in my America, we #OptOutside.

While everyone else got up at 5 a.m. to snag #dealz, we got up at 5 a.m. to go snag some early-season ice climbing at Hidden Falls, in Rocky Mountain National Park. Find a different side of America, below the jump.

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Catching Up on Colorado

Colorado flag graphic high res

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably realized I’ve been home for a bit. Home for me is Colorado, USA. Colorado’s one of the hottest states in the U.S. at the moment; one of the top places young people want to move. The migration is major, bringing both skilled and unskilled workers in large numbers to my home.

I can’t blame them; as I tell my friends and family when they ask about my travels, I’ve now seen a lot of places around the world. And the more places I see, the more convinced I am that Colorado is one of the better ones.

Here’s why I believe that:

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The Day We Climbed Long’s Peak

My good friend and climbing partner Meg was in a serious mountaineering accident last week. She was struck in the head by falling rock while attempting to climb Martha’s Couloir on Long’s Peak, a mixed ice and snow route. Her helmet saved her life, but by all accounts from those back home, she faces a long journey to recovery. Meg’s a strong person; the strongest I know, probably. But a traumatic brain injury is not a small thing.

When I saw the news on Facebook, I felt powerless. Here I was, halfway across the world in Morocco, while a good friend lay in the hospital on the verge of death. Had I been in Colorado, I might even have been on that mountain with her. I felt guilty.

My first instinct was to see how I could help.

I have a platform here, an audience that cares about what I have to say. I dashed off a post about the accident; imploring people to donate to the GoFundMe her family had started to pay for the sure-to-be-staggering medical bills. It felt good to be doing something. I was even going to send a message to my neglected e-mail list. I might lose some subscribers, but someone would probably donate. I wanted to help. I almost pulled the trigger.

But then I hesitated. Something didn’t feel right.

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Rif Mountains Chefchaouen

I went for a walk in the mountains. Here in Chefchaouen, mountains rise right outside of the town—their powerful presence is a big part of why I have lingered in this sleepy Moroccan pueblo for so long. Mountains have always been where I find my peace; where I find my best self. Meg, I know, is similar.

I walked out of town, accompanied by a new friend from the hostel, doing her best to distract me from my morbid state of mind. Admirable effort, but I still found myself thinking about the times Meg and I had shared together as climbing partners. I thought about the reasons we go into the mountains. I thought about why we do these things which we know could kill us. And I thought about what Meg would want.

Here it became clear to me, the story of a broken person in need of help wasn’t the story she would want told. That’s not Meg’s story. I wouldn’t dare to write it.

Instead, I want to tell the story of the day we climbed Long’s Peak.

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A Taste of Colorado: A Day Rock Climbing in Eldo

Eldorado Canyon State Park is one of Colorado’s premier climbing destinations. Nestled in a hidden little valley just a few minutes from the edge of Boulder, Colorado, Eldo is a spot most people will never have reason to visit. Unless you’re a rock climber.

If you’re a climber, Eldo is a Mecca.

I spend a lot of time on the road. This is, after all, a travel blog. But I can never spend all my time abroad — the pull of home is too strong. And climbing, for me, is a huge part of that pull. I don’t write about it much — but the fact is, climbing is just as exciting as anything I do abroad. (And I have not been that successful at climbing while on the road). So today, we’re going to take a look at one of the reasons I love my home so much, and why Colorado is a premier travel destination for many adventurers.

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This Is Youth and Meg of the Mountain Climb a Mountain

Climbing snow on Long's Peak Cables Route in early July

Hey friends,

Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that in addition to travel, I have another passion: climbing. (For more context, see one of my favorite essays I’ve ever written: ‘Work the Problem.”) The “Pieces of Life” feed is a pretty solid example of this: it alternates between climbing pictures and travel pictures. The two don’t mix, they come in blocks. A month of climbing photos, then a few months of travel photos. Then back to the climbing. Then more travel. Etc.

The night before I left Colombia, I met an American expat for drinks. Happy for a friend, he kept buying me rounds. Uneager to leave Colombia, I kept accepting. Together, over the course of what was supposed to be just a quick get-to-know-you afternoon, we drank 26 beers. Our pyramid of empties filled the tiny table.

I traveled home the next day: 12 hours, three airports, one hangover. I arrived in Colorado late on a Saturday night. The next morning, Sunday, I was in Boulder Canyon, climbing. Leading 5.10d and 5.11a, although certainly not elegantly. Most people wouldn’t do that.

I wasn’t speaking Spanish, but I was speaking a language I loved — climbers have a language and a diction all their own. Kneebars, cams, handjams, crimps, onsight… words I loved hearing almost as much as chevere, súper, and ciao.

Ever since returning home from Colombia, I’ve been climbing a lot. I find this is the most effective way to fight the post-travel depression that always sets in when I return from an extended jaunt abroad. Luckily for me, home is Colorado, where amazing climbing literally comes at you around every corner.

While I’ve been doing a ton of climbing, I realized I haven’t written much about it. So today, I figured I’d give it a go.

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