5 Reasons You Need to Shop REI This Holiday Season

Just Don’t Plan on Doing it Black Friday

This week, outdoor retailer REI announced they’re offering a tempting alternative to Black Friday shopping.  But they’re not going to help you do it.  Directly, anyway.  Check out this video:

Yes, you heard that right.  This Black Friday, REI will close all 143 of its stores.  It’s a unique and surprising move given the busy holiday shopping season.  And it’s exactly why I’ll be shopping there this year.

Most people have seen news footage of the shopping mayhem on Black Friday.  You may even have been in the frenzy yourself.  I’ve heard several people say “I’ll never do that again,” after braving the crowds.  None of them talked about how much money they saved, how much they bought, or how happy they were.  But the misery of traffic and crowds?

There are stories aplenty.

REI Swims Upstream

REI isn’t just closing its retail locations that day.  They won’t even process online orders until that Saturday.  Better yet, it’s a paid day off for all their employees.  REI encourages them to “opt outside,” and they’re hoping to start a new Black Friday tradition that offers a much different alternative to shopping.

In case you’re worried you won’t find great deals from REI this season, relax.  They’ve promised to offer sales all shopping season long, just not Black Friday.

Here’s why I plan to support REI this holiday season – and why you should consider shopping there too.

  • They take care of their people. REI may be closing Black Friday, but they’re still paying their employees.  This is a company that understands how to keep their people happy and healthy.  They’ve been on FORTUNE Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For every year since the rankings began in 1998.
  • Their people take care of you. There’s a secret in retail: take care of employees and they’ll take care of customers.  Every employee I’ve met at REI has been happy and helpful.  Try to say that about those working Black Friday this year.
  • They have your vision needs covered. Whether your eyes need photochromic snow goggles or waterproof binoculars, REI delivers.  They also sell activity-specific sunglasses.  Just remember the best sunwear is fit by a professional, so I don’t suggest buying sunwear online.  If you do choose this option at least have it fit in an REI store.  Bonus: getting outside is a great way to enhance your visual lifestyle.
  • It’s not about the money. Black Friday is consistently one of the top 10 selling days for REI every year.  So closing that day shows they’re taking a path that isn’t defined by cash.
  • REI has clearly defined values (and they live by them). Instead of making decisions solely on profit, the folks at REI have a core value that “a life outdoors is a life well lived.”  They’re not just asking about profit.  They’re asking how they can get you and I outdoors.  Which means, they’re really asking how they can make our lives better.

If you’re shaking your head at the annual Black Friday spectacle, maybe it’s time to start a new tradition.  And when it comes time to do your holiday shopping, consider REI.  They’ve just proven they’re a company serious about your outdoor life.

Question: What are your Black Friday plans?  Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages.
Note: Other than being an REI member, I have no finacial relationship with the company.  I wrote this article because I love REI and their products, and I was pleasantly surprised at their awesome Black Friday decision.

8 Reasons You Need to Ride the Virginia Creeper Trail

Plan an Easy Day of Outdoor Adventure

It isn’t often you feel like you just lived the perfect day.  I had one of those days last week, riding the Virginia Creeper Trail.

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Rail to Trail

The Virginia Creeper Trail is a nature trail for use by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.  Originally a line for the Virginia-Carolina railway, the trail now boasts nearly 34 miles of gently sloping pathways and breathtaking scenery.

My family and a few friends rented bikes for our trip (although you can bring your own).  Our outfitter, Adventure Damascus, was laid back yet professional.  Our bikes were in great shape, and were loaded on a trailer for us.  We were shuttled to our starting point by a pleasant southern lady who was quick with both encouragement and charm.  We set out on our bikes as soon as they were unloaded.

We then proceeded to have one of the Most Memorable Days Ever.

Honestly, I was surprised.  I love getting outdoors, and I enjoy biking.  But I never imagined the experience would have been as grand as it was.

The Vision Connection

If you’re living the visual lifestyle, you know that taking a break and getting outdoors are two helpful concepts.  Here are 8 reasons you need to try the Virginia Creeper Trail yourself:

It gives you a break.  If you work hard to stay productive, a break is a great way to keep you on track.  See this post to learn more.

It gets you outside.  Like taking a break, getting outside can help you stay productive.  Even if you’re already outside a lot, changing the scenery can really reset your focus.

It stimulates your vision.  The sweeping vistas we saw were incredible.  So much so that I’ll probably take some of my photos and hang them up as art.

It’s something different.  Unless biking is your job, a trip down the Virginia Creeper Trail will be a new experience for you.  In the words of productivity expert Eben Pagan, “Novel experiences renew mental processes and foster thinking and creativity.”

The food is great.  After miles of riding, the quaint atmosphere and home cooking at the Creeper Trail Cafe offer a pleasant rest and a delicious lunch.  If you’re not hungry then, ride on to Damascus, where several eateries are available.

The people are great.  I had a fantastic time with my family and friends.  But the personalities don’t stop there.  Our adventure company employed several helpful and friendly people.  And judging by the map at the cafe, you’re likely to meet people on the trail who are from just about anywhere in the world.

You’ll make great memories.  Riding the trail is an experience I’ll never forget, and I’m sure I’ll do it again soon.

It’s easy.  If you’re thinking miles of biking isn’t for you, the section we rode was almost entirely downhill.  In biking vernacular, this is a beginner trail.  If you can ride a bike at all, you can ride this trail.

If you’re anywhere close to the Virginia Creeper Trail, you owe it to yourself to ride it.  And if you live too far away, don’t worry.  There may be another trail closer to you that you can try.

The point is getting together with family and friends for a unique and beautiful outdoor experience isn’t just good for your vision.  It’s good for the soul.

Question: Have you ever hiked or ridden a trail near you?  How did it go?  Feel free to answer here or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts.

4 Reasons You Don’t Want an Adult Coloring Book

A Different View of the Adult Coloring Craze

In my last post, I gushed over the reasons you should join the adult coloring book craze.  But they’re not for everyone.  To be fair, today I’ll offer a different perspective, with a nod to those of you who may have flipped through one at your local bookstore but decided to pass.

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Not for Everyone?

You may have noticed the adult coloring book trend has grown quickly.  Does that sound exciting to you?  Or perhaps even a little intriguing?  If not, then the newly popular phenomenon may not be for you.

Like most trends that have passed the tipping point, adult coloring books have their critics.  While some complaints are merely sour grapes, others are legitimate concerns about how much energy is being invested in the adult coloring book movement.

The Downside of Coloring

Here’s a look at why you may not want to get yourself an adult coloring book:

They’re complicated.  Many adult coloring books seem overly complex.  Even the simpler ones look like they could take an hour or two to color a single page.  That would mean several hours to make it through the entire book.  Some of them are so detailed it looks like you’d never get finished with a single page.  Where’s the fun in that?

They’re disengaging.  Although they can bring out your artistic side, coloring can also be used to avoid facing problems or getting together with friends and family.  In this sense, they can be compared to vegging out with the TV or the internet.

They inhibit creativity.  Some critics insist that coloring is too simple.  If the picture has already taken shape and just needs to be colored in, it can be argued that personal creativity suffers.

You expect too much.  It’s common for trends to over promise and under deliver.  With the promises of art therapy, creative breakthroughs, and connecting with friends, it’s possible you’re wanting more than a simple coloring book can give you.

The adult coloring book trend is in full swing.  But they’re not for everyone.  In general, I believe it’s a good thing, at the very least for stimulating the eyes, vision, and eye hand coordination.  For more reasons, see what I listed in my last post.  Regardless, consider what you really want out of coloring, and whether or not it can actually deliver.

If the thought of coloring still makes you feel good, then go for it!  Even if you decide it’s not for you, you’re only out a few dollars and a little time.  And if you love it, you may have just discovered a hobby that you’ll enjoy for weeks, months, or even years.

Question:  What are your thoughts on the adult coloring book trend?  Feel free to comment here or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages.

See also: 9 Reasons You Need to Join the Adult Coloring Book Craze