Damon Yeh: Limitless Sides to Outside

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There are so many ways to enjoy time outside. This is one of many unique stories we’re sharing as part of our effort to highlight the Limitless Sides to Outside.

I didn’t grow up being an avid outdoorsy person. It wasn’t until college that I went on my first camping trip. From then on, I have been actively pursuing outdoor adventures and environmental conservation. First and foremost, I consider myself a climber, but I also enjoy hiking, camping and backpacking. What I love most about the outdoors is the feeling of self-reliance, having the skills and technique to climb a 1,000-foot wall or spend three nights in the backcountry. I also very much just appreciate being in nature and watching natural history unfurl.  

I am writing this amidst a national crisis of increased hate crimes against the Asian American community. Sadly, the increase in violence highlights the fact that there is still a lot of progress to be made towards a more civil and inclusive society. The events of last year have definitely made me take a step back in my outdoors pursuits. Recreating outdoors seems trivial during these times when so many issues need to be addressed. I feel a sense of guilt for going on a climbing trip when there is more to be done to fight for social justice. I also have a heightened level of anxiety with traveling these days due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the violence against Asian Americans. I can’t help but be concerned about how I will be treated while on the way to the crag or the backcountry. So far, I haven’t traveled too far from home, and my partner and I keep very much to ourselves when we go on trips.  

Being Asian American, specifically second generation, means being caught in between two worlds. On one hand, our “Americanness” is always being questioned as we are frequently asked, “Where are you really from?” On the other hand, we have lost touch with our heritage and are considered “too Americanized” by our own kin. There is constant pressure to uphold the expectations of our parents but also to attain our individualism, something that is so lauded in American society. It can be a very lonely plane of existence when you feel like you never quite fit in.

For me, rock climbing played a big role in helping me find my identity and my community. I created the @AsianBoulderingCrew Instagram page to enable Asian Americans across the country to see each other and know that there are folx like them with similar ambitions and challenges. I want to encourage them to pursue their passions and achieve their highest potential, whether in climbing or in other pursuits.  

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