We sat down in Los Angeles with REI members Yolanda and her daughter Stacey to find out what drives their passion for the outdoors.
Why is “outside” important?
Stacey: Los Angeles is a very busy city and sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of what’s surrounding us. I think it’s important to step away and reconnect with what is natural and organic.
How did your love for the outdoors blossom?
Yolanda: I was brought up in the traditional Hispanic culture of the ´50s, learning cooking and cleaning. I didnʼt get introduced to the outdoors until college when I was discovered tennis.
When my first child was just two years old, a friend introduced me to personal watercraft racing. Thatʼs when I discovered that really anybody can do anything, and I entered my first race ever. It was so memorable. After I took off from the shore, I saw a single dolphin following one female racer, jumping in and out of her wake. Suddenly, the fog came in and I was alone in the middle of the ocean. And thatʼs when I saw it: a huge whale, barnacles on the skin and all. I looked it in the eye and we had a moment. Then I freaked and gassed it around that huge beast.
Who inspires you to get outside?
Yolanda: Itʼs within me. Itʼs a love of life. Because I wasnʼt introduced to outdoor recreation until I was older and had a family, I didnʼt get burned out. Everything is still very exciting for me.
Stacey: My inspiration is my mom. I see her riding her bike or going for a run at 6am, for fun. As a child, I could never understand it. But at age 25, I do.
What do you get out of being outside together?
Yolanda: I love that I know my daughter is staying healthy. Sheʼs getting the medicine that the doctor canʼt prescribe. Life is busy; I donʼt always get the chance to hug and kiss my kids because one of us is always rushing out the door. When I am outside with them we connect and communicate without any distractions.
Stacey: As a kid I loved just knowing my mom was there. It was the classic case of “Hey, mom, watch this!” She might reply with, “Now try it standing on one foot!”
Why is it important for mothers and daughters to share the outdoors?
Stacey: I think it’s important because outdoors you are essentially equal. A couple of years ago, I took my mom on her first camping trip since I was a kid. She was shocked that I was making her meals and cleaning up the camp kitchen. Iʼll never forget that trip because we connected on a different level. Just last week I splurged on a road bike so I can do a race with my mom. Why? Because my mom is getting older and if I wait, I may not have the chance and what a terrible regret that would be.
In whom are you fostering a love for the outdoors?
Yolanda: At my gym Iʼve formed a group of people aged 40 and older with a very similar cultural upbringing to mine. They donʼt think they can be athletes because they are exploring a world they never thought they belonged in. These people are the working class, and I understand that, so I give them goals they can achieve. Then they triumph.
Stacey: At REI I love talking to customers and seeing them reach that aha moment when the gear they are about to use is no longer a confusing contraption. I came to REI as a classic car-camper. I was very intimidated, but once I just got over that hump, I realized that I can do anything that others can; all I needed was knowledge. If I am able to do that for someone, I am stoked.
What is your favorite piece of gear and what’s the story behind it?
Yolanda: My bike, hands down. It’s totally the wrong size and too slow for the racing I want to do, but I love it. It was very expensive and an accomplishment for me to buy it. It’s outdated now, but out of all my gear, it holds the most sentimental value.
What does being an REI Co-op member mean to you?
Yolanda: Being a member, I know I can trust REI to provide me with quality products and the expertise to select those products. Since I canʼt afford a lot of gear, the gear I do buy needs to last.
Stacey: To be a part of a company that shares your same values and ethics is magical. Iʼm a huge fan of what REI does with stewardship, outdoor education and outreach programs.
What advice do you have for getting your family and others outdoors?
Yolanda: My advice would be to start slowly. It could be anything outside, like walking the kids or dogs around the block. Showing kids how to enjoy life out in nature helps them learn how important it is to care about themselves and others.