Phew! Now that the holiday roller coaster is mostly over, we have one last little hill then slide into a summer of simplicity!

Valentine ’s Day is such an odd duck: either people love it or hate it. Personally, I see it a lot like Christmas and think that we have fallen into the consumer trap of our affections having a price tag. After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo), and not buying anything new for several months (except that one running skirt at Christmas) and counting, I have shifted my view on stuff: hopefully for the best. I am putting less value on things, and more value on experiences. So, being a baller on a budget, I look forward to VD not with ribbons and bows, but rather with laughter and views.

Some of us are romantics at heart, and others are more of the practical sort. But in nature, there is a little bit for everyone. It doesn’t take a creative genius (though Pinterest and Google sure help) to think of something romantic to do outside. Though, depending on your location, it can take a little extra pre-planning. For the hopeless romantics, a beach-side dinner complete with candles stuck in the sand and an adorable blanket thrown over a piece of drift wood can be a memorable setting. But let’s not forget the snow bunnies! Looking back years ago, my friends and I still reminisce nostalgically about digging little holes in the snow so we could recline back in comfort in a large open meadow, each person bringing their own favorite thermos of hot tea and bottle of wine to share, while bundled up tight we watched the stars, told stories, and hoped for the northern lights. No, we don’t have anything to tangibly show for it, but that was a night we have not yet forgotten.

And for the practical person in your life, consider it an opportunity to burn some calories before you feast on a glorious meal. A cross country skiing date or a trail walk or run will help offset that bottle of wine you paired with dinner and get everyone in the mood to enjoy some hot (or cold) food. Nothing makes food taste better than an elevated heart rate! And like anyone will turn down an ACTUAL excuse for that extra glass of beer.

But all of this aside, experiences are something that you can’t buy in the store. It’s something that no one will ever share but you, and something no one will ever appreciate more than you. So instead of buying something from the store (unless it’s a plane ticket or a guided adventure), consider something that really will be just as unique as you are.

And for the single peeps this time of year, take yourself on a date! Because you are pretty fabulous and have every reason to celebrate how awesome you are.

Courtney Wendel has lived in Juneau since she was a year old. She has a twin brother and an older brother, and learned to enjoy the outdoors at a young age by following the boys into mischief. Graduating from JDHS in 2006, she attended UAS to receive her Literature of the Environment, BA English degree. When not at work she spends most of her time on the diverse trail system hiking, running, or camping with her spotted pooch and adventure buddies.