OR & Hospitality ~ Out West

Part of the Big Sky Big Dreams blog series.

Coming to you from the official, limited access, press room (no joke) at OR. I'll explain what all this means below.

Damien is doing reports at Outsideways of our trip out west. This past Sunday he published a report of the first five days. It's good.

I'm glad he started the trip log because it's been so hard for me to pull together my thoughts during this past week.

Now that we are at OR I have a few minutes here and there (in between walking around with Damien, taking photos, scoring reviews and giveaways for you all, doing video, sampling products, meeting retailers and manufacturers) to sit down and reflect on our trip.

I'm not sure where to start so let's begin in the present and work backward.

We are now at Outdoor Retailer (OR), the main anchor for this two week trip. I know FIMBY readers aren't necessarily big gear junkies and in-tune with the outdoor industry. So I'll provide a short summary.

OR is the biggest outdoor industry related trade show in North America. Anyone who wants to meet with suppliers, manufacturers (Damien's minimalist shoe connections for example), and get connected in the outdoor industry comes here. So we're here.

Officially we're "Working Media".

Our writing and photography for Backpacking Light gets us in as media reps. We are working the minimalist footwear and family outdoors angles for BPL, Toe Salad and ADVENTUREinPROGRESS. I feel so... professional. I even have business cards (eek!).

I'm hoping to check out the skin care scene (sunscreens, bug repellents, etc..), natural products, and women-specific hiking/backpacking products for the FIMBY angle. I'm also here as Damien's partner in life and business. Wife, mother, homemaker, homeschooler, outdoorswoman... writer, and photographer (I even have the media badge to prove it).

Outdoor Retailer here I come.

OR is in Salt Lake City, Utah. I've never been to Utah before. Driving through the mountains into Salt Lake City was a bit, well... overwhelming.

Two million people strung out over the Wasatch front. Nearly four times the population of Wyoming in this one long strip. Two times the population of Maine. You get the idea. Needless to say I'm doing the navigating and I'm leaving the freeway driving to Damien.

But really I'm not here to talk about Utah. Let's talk people.

I'll start with Emily and her family. Emily blogs at Abide With Me and has been hanging around FIMBY since early this year. Once she started commenting I got to know her and likewise followed her blog.

Emily's family is hosting us for our first three nights of OR. We've pitched a tent in their backyard and are making a not-too-bad commute into Salt Lake each day.

Emily is as sweet in person as she in online. She's a mother, homemaker and until very recently, homeschooler. So basically we relate on all those levels. She gardens and cooks vegan also.

Meeting Emily in person is hard to describe. We've only communicated online, via blog commenting and e-mails, but in person it's like we've been friends for a long time. I lack the words to describe the joy in meeting online acquaintances and discovering they are better in person than you could ever imagine. That is a common theme to this trip in in fact.

The best things in life aren't things at all. The best things in life are people. And perhaps a heaping plate of veggies.

Emily and her family have been incredibly gracious. And she's a great vegan cook (did I mention that yet?). You can read her perspective of our in-person meeting on her blog.

Before arriving in Utah we spent two nights in Jackson, WY.

Wow. I've never been out to the "American West" before and I have been in awe for the whole time as we drive through mountain range after mountain range. The big draw of Jackson of course is Teton National Park. Damien backpacked through the Tetons last fall and fell in love with these mountains. Understandably.

Unfortunately, the worst weather day on our whole trip was one day we set aside for a long hike. The Death Canyon in the Tetons.

We didn't let rain stop us (ok, I complained a bit to start but the hike was very worth it). We didn't make it as far as Damien wanted to take me (didn't want to be on a mountain top during a thunderstorm) but it was jaw dropping nonetheless, even with all the mist and rain.

And what about the people of Jackson, Wyoming? Specifically our hosts? Amazing, yet again. For our two nights in Jackson we stayed with the grandparent's of a friend we met at Bates. This friend is a student that Damien and Celine first met when they took Wilderness First Aid. She became our friend and now we're "please come again" friends of her family.

Don't you just love that? Both the friendly invite and the moose in the yard.

I'm going to take a moment out of this trip log to talk about hospitality. In two words - practice it.

For years Damien and I have shown hospitality to family, friends, and strangers alike. The craziest was when I invited a couple I met on the bus and had known for all of 5 minutes to come stay out our house. That turned out to be one of the coolest hospitality encounters we've had.

We've never regretted showing friendship and hospitality, (ok, there was that one time almost fifteen years ago when our drug-addict friend showed up at two am asking for drug money, pushing the bounds of hospitality just a wee bit too much) opening up our home for people to eat and sleep.

This is where I say "what goes around comes around" though that is never our reason for providing beds and meals to people. We feel called to do that as followers of Christ and meeting and serving people this way is just part of our family mission. We don't do it to get something, except maybe friendship.

But this trip we have been given back in spades what we have given others. I've been humbled by guest beds, morning smoothies, fluffy towels, space to pitch a tent, a complete guest house, airplane rides (more on that in my next post), open doors and open fridges. Open hearts.

Hospitality to travelers. It's not about having a guest room, a perfect house, or even cooking a meal. It's about sharing what you've been given.

Thank you. Many times over to each of those families who have hosted Damien and I on this trip. We haven't spent a penny on accommodations for our two week trip.

...Back to the trip. So we stayed in a guest house in Jackson and loved having a dry home base (as opposed to a tent) during those wet days.

We also loved our trip to the barber - both of us. Who knew that women can get hair cuts at barbers (for much cheaper than a "salon")? Oh my goodness, that was so much fun. To chin wag with both the locals and tourists at the Teton Barber, downtown Jackson, WY. Highly recommend the experience. The first "real" haircut I've had in years. Usually Damien just buzzes my hair with his clippers.

This is getting insanely long (like who wants to know about going the barber anyway??). I realize I need to publish the first part of our trip to Montana separately.

I can't wait to tell you about that. Hospitality, Big Sky country, a 4-seater plane ride, meeting Gadanke and more wonderful people (the people!) and the food co-op in Bozeman all await having their story told.

Hopefully I'll find a few minutes in between all the comings and goings here at OR to tell that story.

Oh, I wanted to tell you that I was guest "list" interviewed (if that is such a thing) over at se7en recently. Click over to read my list of se7en + one things I love about summer.

Being with my husband on this amazing trip is definitely something I love about this summer!

« Fifteen ~ This Adventure called Marriage
Big Sky ~ Big Dreams (I love Montana!) »
  • se7en

    se7en on Aug. 5, 2011, 6:31 a.m.

    Your summer looks very like our winter!!! This is so cool to take a trip and meet best blog friends a long the way!!! If you are ever in Cape Town we would love a visit!!! We don't have moose in the back yard but we do have serious mountains and baboons and whales and penguins!!! Enjoy your break, I loves reading about it and thanks again for you fabulous list!!!


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 5, 2011, 2:44 p.m.

      Se7en, you might be interested in this... at the industry party last night we shared a table with the buyers for a South African outdoor store, Cape Union Mart. I thought of you in SA.


      • se7en

        se7en on Aug. 5, 2011, 8:59 p.m.

        No ways!!! It's my kids favorite store I have spent years of my life in there looking at all sorts of wonderful outdoor goodies and gadgets!!! I think you just had our dream dinner dates!!! Have a fab weekend!!!


        • renee

          renee on Aug. 5, 2011, 10:06 p.m.

          Too funny! I looked through their catalog. They have quite the stores with climbing walls and rain rooms and cold rooms, etc..


  • Hillary

    Hillary on Aug. 5, 2011, 1:01 p.m.

    HOw do I begin? I can't really comment on everything b/c I'm on my mobile but AWESOME and inspiring. Love your mini business cards with your Photos on them!


  • Tsh @ SimpleMom

    Tsh @ SimpleMom on Aug. 5, 2011, 3:46 p.m.

    "Hospitality to travelers. It's not about having a guest room, a perfect house, or even cooking a meal. It's about sharing what you've been given."

    Yes, this. This is what we're all about, too, Renee. We have a tiny house, but absolutely LOVE it when anybody stays with us. We've been a guest many times and hosted many times, and there is something sacred and special about those encounters. Like breaking bread together.

    How far west are you traveling? Let me know if you eke over to Oregon at all.

    We went to most of those places you've described last summer. Unbelievably beautiful, isn't it?

    And I'm so glad you met Katie!


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Aug. 5, 2011, 4:10 p.m.

    Such a fun trip! Hospitality rocks, thanks for reminding all of us.

    And I just LOVE this sentence: The best things in life aren't things at all. The best things in life are people. So TRUE!


  • Nola

    Nola on Aug. 5, 2011, 5:10 p.m.

    How interesting to read about your trip! I liked all the little details like going to a barber (we always went to barbers as kids and I have very long hair and always have...they always cut it for me...but its not hard to cut, my husband does mine now and I do my girls' since its not styled...anyways...much cheaper at a barber and even more at home!)

    Aren't the mountains wonderful? I miss them. If you're ever travelling in Canada you should let us all know on your blog. We have good hiking in Ontario. I'm focusing on trying to get back into it somewhat but the stage of life/health/now pregancy and money are factors. However we are trying to do what we can and at least I am happy that we are doing something towards my goal. I used to do a ton of hiking/backpacking etc. as a late teen/early 20's.

    I really need to work more on being hospitable. Its one thing that I totally am NOT good at doing. I used to do it more before we had kids. I grew up in a home where we NEVER had people over and my Dad spoke openly about how he hated it. So I think some of that sunk in. However now as a Christian I know its also part of the way things should be, and I don't want my kids to get that sort of attitude. Sometimes its so hard to reach out and make the first step. I find at least where I live people don't reach out to one another (even at church unfortunately) and so I have to force myself to take the step. I've been thinking a lot about hospitality over this summer and this gives me another reminder. As soon as I am over my first trimester later this month I will have to make that a priority for the fall. Right now no one wants to be around me during a meal, believe me! :)

    Sometimes you can just tell with people if they give a good vibe or not. A few times I have met people that gave me a creepy bad vibe, however others around me did not get that feeling. Both times later I was proved right and the person was not as they seemed and definately not someone I wanted to be around. Its very interesting to read the story about the people you met on the bus. I've met neat people on buses and trains too but never had them over. It sure makes a long trip go faster too!


  • Francesca

    Francesca on Aug. 5, 2011, 7:10 p.m.

    what an amazing trip Renee, and what an amazing occasion to meet with people and celebrate your anniversary - moving, and moving on was a good thing! Happy Anniversary, and happy traveling!


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Aug. 6, 2011, 2:24 a.m.

    Oh, I so wish we could have met you somewhere in UT but, it's way too far right now for us. LOVE all your photos, especially the driving photos! :) When I go on road trips, I take a lot of photos from my car while driving. It's hard not to. I also wanted to say that my daughter really wants some of the shoes for Christmas. We'll have to talk. I'm glad you're having a good trip. Thinking of you. xo Kyndale


  • Granola Girl

    Granola Girl on Aug. 6, 2011, 6:31 p.m.

    Going to the OR as press/media would be pretty cool. Jules always went as a buyer and it has quite a different feel when you are making big money decisions and having to sit through clothing line presentations.

    I'm glad you are having such a great time visiting all our mountains out here. They are such a different feel than the east coast mountains.


  • Tammie@SimpleHealthyTasty

    Tammie@SimpleHealthyTasty on Aug. 9, 2011, 4:49 p.m.

    Oh man what amazing pictures!!!! The only part of Montana I have been to is the West Yellowstone side which is amazing. I want to visit more of Montana. I hear you about the freeway along the Wasatch front I convince Ryan to drive it instead of me every chance I get. ;)


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