My #OptOutside Top 5

By: Jessica Allen

November 19, 2018

Category: Recreation

The Friday following Thanksgiving is the day that my family feasts. Food and family hold nearly equal importance for the gathering, so we need extra time to prepare the meal. After traveling across the country to converge at my parents’ home, we drop our bags on Thursday and spend the majority of the weekend in the kitchen cooking, eating, and laughing. 

While #OptOutside is not something I’ve been part of in the traditional sense (ditching Black Friday deals for outdoor adventures), #OptOutside is my lifestyle. My family grew up in the outdoors — climbing trees, building mudball-resistant fortresses, blazing trails, re-purposing our Barbie pool as a critter container — the list goes on. We grew up to be climbers, runners, skiers, backpackers, paddlers, campers, etc. We’ve always been hooked.

In reflecting on this, here are my #OptOutside Top 5 that matter most to me about this movement:

1. #OptOutside on the Regular

We all have our different schedules and priorities when it comes to our time outdoors. Setting aside designated time helps you integrate the outdoors into your regular lifestyle and the benefits can be huge for your mental and physical health. 

Maybe you head outside first thing in the morning around the neighborhood? Or after dark to avoid the scorching heat? Lunchtime strolls, breaktime burpees, hammock siestas, dog park jaunts? Family cook-outs, paddling excursions, bird watching, flower photography, bike cruises, or meditative moments? 

Perhaps you’re a weekend warrior, backyard camper…or glamper? Or, just maybe, you’re one of those rare folks into extreme expeditions for weeks on end. Anything goes, but it helps to do it regularly — it’s not just one day of the year.

jessica and her dog Jasper at sunset
My dog Jasper and I enjoying a vineyard sunset.

2. Inviting New People

What I admire most about the #OptOutside movement is that it has created an accessible community platform for sharing our experiences – and inviting new people to our most beloved spaces. It’s a reflection and invitation wrapped up in a stunningly simple hashtag. 

Plan something simple (or something extraordinary!) and invite someone to join who hasn’t participated in #OptOutside before. Hammocking at the local park? Paddling for the first time? Picnic at a beautiful spot? Visiting a new park? The OPTions are endless!

3. Less Stuff, More Presence

The #OptOutside movement is an amazing showcase of our conscious, collective choice to take a step back from our global culture of consumerism and just. be. present. It’s a movement that impacts every day of our lives, not just Black Friday. 

We do not need the latest and greatest gear to enjoy the outdoors. Buy used. Borrow. Make due with less. Use it until it falls apart. Challenge yourself to be mindful of the delicate world of natural resources that make our daily products possible in the first place. It can be the first step toward living more simply.

4. Bring it to Work

I feel lucky to work for an organization whose mission embodies the #OptOutside movement. Three Rivers Park District invests in the community’s active lifestyles by creating and preserving outdoor spaces and programming for everyone. 

As a fundamental piece of the organization’s work, we also invest in the active lifestyles of our fellow employees. It’s imperative that we remain in touch with the areas we work to preserve, maintain, and teach about. 

From family events, to the friendly volleyball tournament, to the team races, park tours, program shadowing, and regular bike commuting, there are many ways for Parks employees to #OptOutside together. I appreciate that. How can you bring #OptOutside to your workplace?

andrea and jessica celebrating biking in the rain
This past summer, my coworker Andrea and I biked through heavy rain during our commute home.

5. Reflect for the Future

However you choose to #OptOutside, when you reach for your phone to enter the hashtag, take a moment to truly notice where you are. Who you’re with. Take a deep breath, unplug a little bit longer, and remember why we #OptOutside. 

Remember that we are sharing our stories to help preserve these spaces for future generations. Remember that we don’t need much stuff for an adventure. Remember that our stories invite new people to the wondrous outdoors. 

Remember that our relationship with nature transcends the world’s obsession with products. It is medicinal, it is inspiring, it is challenging. 

#OptOutside, we’re in this together.

About the Author

Jessica with her dog's head resting on her shoulder

Jessica Allen is the Coordinator of the Outdoor Education Department at Three Rivers. She is passionate about preserving natural spaces and empowering the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. She has coached climbing and college prep (separately), spent summers with the Forest Service and BLM, guided young people as a naturalist, and developed a variety of recreation education programs and events. Outside of work, Jessica enjoys long dog walks, rock climbing, cycling, world-wandering with her husband, spending time with family, and collecting new winter rec activities (although she’s a summer gal at heart).

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