I have no proof, but I’m fairly certain whenever a child is born in Vancouver that the parents are required to sign a legally binding contract, which obliges them to freely use guilt as a means of making their offspring go outside and enjoy the outdoors. “It’s such a beautiful day. Why aren’t you outside taking advantage of it?” Those words have haunted me for years, especially when it’s sunny and I happen to find myself indoors. The excessive year-round rain does nothing but reinforce the guilt by placing far too much emphasis on those too-rare sunny days. The contract, at the root of it all, likely stems from the deal our ancestors made with the devil in order to inhabit this truly majestic city. And who can blame them? With the ocean, the mountains, and the climate — what more could you ask for?
Well, one thing, actually: that I’m left to enjoy our bounty as I see fit. You see, although rare on the West Coast, I’m what is known as an outdoor unenthusiast. For years, we were rumoured to be nothing more than an urban legend in these parts. The majority of the population refusing to believe there could possibly be anyone in this city who does not embrace an outdoorsy lifestyle. It has taken time, but finally I’m comfortable enough to admit it openly. My name is Sara and I’m an outdoor unenthusiast.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate being outside, per se. I simply prefer to enjoy it from the patio of a favourite café or restaurant, while reading a good book or enjoying a friend’s company, instead of from the seat of a mountain bike on some North Shore obscure trail, or when I’m laced into my near-death-experience-inducing-booties-on-wheels, also known as rollerblades. Does that make me a pariah? Am I but one step above a smoker on the echelon of life?
This seems to be the consensus among outdoorsy-types when they are faced with my choice of lifestyle. They can’t seem to comprehend it. Now that I’m an adult and no longer have to abide by my parents’ rules, you would think I had escaped the guilt trip, not so. Avid outdoorsy-types are constantly trying to push their fleece-clad Gore-tex wearing lifestyles on me. If I’m at all unreceptive, they shower me with the same guilt I had to contend with as a child, except that their version has a twist. Not only do I have to be outside when it’s sunny, but I also have to engage in some sort of activity. Not just any activity (apparently, window-shopping and latte drinking don’t count), but one that may very well be featured in the X games. When I tell them I’m not the least bit interested in spending a glorious sunny day kayaking around English Bay, or doing some crazy activity that involves strapping myself into a harness, like rock climbing, I get unwarranted looks of disbelief and pity, as though I’m misguided or even possibly a bit simple for eschewing this essential facet of Vancouver life. In fact, it’s very likely I’ll be pelted with half-eaten Power Bars next time I walk down the street for writing this. And surely, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I’m tired of the charade.
Admittedly, my stance is not a popular one in the current climate of an expanding obesity epidemic. Don’t get me wrong. I do value exercise. While this article may leave you with the impression that I lead a sloth-like existence, that is not the case, I’m actually in fairly good shape. Cardiovascular exercise and weight training are my friends. I simply don’t want to be force-fed a lifestyle that doesn’t interest me, and I know for a fact it doesn’t interest me because I have tried it on for size and found it to be ill fitting.
In the past, I’ve done my fair share of hiking, biking, snowboarding, rollerblading, kayaking, and rock climbing. Even when I made a concerted effort to embrace the active outdoorsy lifestyle, it was clear we were incompatible. Snowboarding and I were a mismatch from the beginning. This became increasingly clear when I began to spend more time exploring the nuances of après-ski and chalet life than I did in the snow. Why would I want to spend my time out in the cold waiting in endless chair-lift line-ups when I could be in the chalet drinking hot chocolate? The relationship officially ended when my knee gave out as I unsuccessfully attempted to land a jump and, as a result, found myself on crutches for the better part of a month. Oh, how love gone wrong hurts! With rollerblading, a more recent casualty, I tried really hard. I wanted to make it work, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Case in point, one broken arm and severe road rash on my right buttock. The scar remains as a daily reminder of why I gladly gave my rollerblades away. As for hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock climbing, I never had strong feelings for any of them. It was all pretty casual, and as such I felt absolutely no remorse in cutting them out of my life without warning.
As soon as I rid my life of these unfulfilling relationships, I was infinitely happier. Relationships built on guilt are never healthy. Now, I’m completely comfortable admitting that I’m an outdoor unenthusiast. In fact, I’ve come to embrace it. You can be sure the next time I decide to stay indoors and enjoy a sunny day through my living room window, I won’t feel the slightest bit guilty, even when I hear the odd Power Ba bounce off the glass.
Sara Kinninmont lives happily guilt-free in Vancouver.