How do you get out when you’re all boxed in?

I mean that in both a figurative and a literal way.

This last week, two fierce snowstorms pounded Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, stranding us in our cabin. But we weren’t the only ones boxed in. As I launched my latest syndicated column, I also encountered so much inside-the-box thinking, it made my head hurt. Linear thinking can be safe, but it can also affect your success as a consumer.

All boxed in? Here's how to get out

Iden and Erysse Elliott get cabin fever in Huntsville, Utah.

Boxed in by a snowstorm with no way out

Last week, it snowed. A lot.

It started with a midweek blizzard so fierce that I canceled our planned trip to the grocery store in Eden. Snow poured from the heavens and then a gust of wind from the reservoir propelled the frozen precipitate horizontally. With sub zero wind chill and almost no visibility, I couldn’t drive.

Then it snowed again, and again. Last night, we got another few inches.

I love snow and I love covering the fallout in my stories, but winter weather means spending a lot of time indoors. My kids were starting to bounce off the walls. Cabin fever!

My contrarian advice for the kids: “Get out.” Yes, it’s cold out there, but it’s also beautiful and you won’t feel like the walls are closing in on you.

All boxed in? Here's how to get out

A lone sign next to the reservoir. Today is no beach day.

All boxed in by conventional thinking

I encountered a very different kind of boxed in later in the week, when I launched my latest syndicated column, Away is Home. My friends at USA Today loved the idea of a genre-bending column that combined adventure travel, nontraditional family travel and travel advice. But the 2,500+ publications to which I offered the feature on Friday had questions that suggested they couldn’t get past the traditional destination stories. You know, the ones written by urban travel writers who parachute into a destination for a few days and write a story as if they’re locals.

This kind of conventional thinking has been a roadblock for my entire career, but it’s an obstacle for which I’m grateful. If everyone “got it” I’d probably be one of those urban travel experts who makes the rounds on morning TV and doesn’t care about helping consumers. I’d hate that.

All boxed in? Here's how to get out

Iden and Erysse get out of their cabin after a recent snowfall.

Are you all boxed in, too?

Being trapped in a cabin made me wonder how much conventional thinking I do. Does it hurt me? How many times do I approach a consumer problem conventionally? If you said, “every time,” you’d probably be right.

There’s a formula for fixing any consumer dispute — put it in writing, appeal to someone higher up, be polite, patient and persistent.

But for every hundred cases I see resolved, there’s usually one that broke every rule and got fixed anyway. Your problem might be that one.

I think being boxed in by conventional thinking can be worse than any form of cabin fever. If you don’t look at all the possibilities, you may find you there’s no way out. Fortunately, we have the occasional blizzard to show us an alternative path.

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