Creating barriers to an outside world
It seems more and more each day we stray from a place free of judgment and acceptance. We now live in a preconceived idea world of what a person should be wearing, saying, and doing depending on the situation. We fail to realize that each person comes with a different history and maybe heavier baggage than ourselves.
Seeing this first hand and also being culpable of it, we judge a person within the first 10 seconds of meeting them. We then compartmentalize them in our head under a category that seems fit based on our knowledge created and implanted by the media and today’s social norms.
Nowadays, in order to fit in while playing sports, going out to the bars, or practicing any hobby, we feel the need to abide by these imaginary standards, to have the latest gear or look a certain way.
These past few years that I’ve continually become more involved with the trekking and hiking community I began to notice the same thing. Like every consumer industry, outdoor companies continue to roll out new products every year, each time costing more than the previous, and we, working individuals, who get a yearly raise in line with inflation in order to continue to stay afloat, buy the gear.
We buy this gear not only because, yes sometimes the quality, design, and overall function of the equipment might be better but also, to fit in within the industry. To subtly show it off, hoping people will recognize it’s the latest model. In order to subconsciously get a dose of dopamine, a boost to our ego while our wallets continue to take the hit.
Through my process of getting ready for the PCT, I have noticed this very clearly. And yes, I too also bought the latest gear justifying it to myself by saying “I’m gonna be living and using it for the next 5 months, so I might as well splurge”. Although, there is some truth to that (you don’t want your equipment failing you when you are days away from civilization with limited resources) there also needs to be another option.
Parallel to this modern-day consumerism culture, we also have people trying to do the opposite. Thrift stores, second-hand gear, and facebook’s marketplace are great examples. Buying second hand or off-brand gear does not mean it’s worse in any way. It’s a completely logical way of buying the proper equipment to do something you love without having to pay off your credit card for the next 3 months.
When we put so much emphasis on the type of gear, the brand, and prices, we unconsciously begin to exclude people, we create a mental barrier to entry for some people. Making them think that just because they don’t have the latest gear they can’t enjoy the activity they might want to try.
Preparing for the PCT has definitely shown me this side of the hiking community. This ugly unconscious side that every industry has… Although we can’t change industries or suddenly stop buying equipment, what we can do is become more aware. As David Foster Wallace mentioned in a commencement speech “It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness” He goes further to say that the real world does not improve with just the knowledge we learn in school, it improves by us becoming more aware of what really matters around us. That awareness consists of looking at things from a different point of view. A point of view that does not assume or make judgments based on the physical aspects we see, but rather on the interactions we have.
So next time you’re hiking and you meet someone, rather than asking about their gear right away, ask them anything else… really, there’s like a million other things you can ask.
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