How a Refugee Found Safety in Climbing

In this brief film from Merrell, we hear a refugee’s story of being born abroad, moving to a new country, and finding her sense of place.

The film begins with crisp, trippy, and fast-paced visuals, from the commotion of a subway to the tumble of a wave. We hear the speaker and subject, Piseth Sam, but don’t actually see her until a minute into the film.

There’s an inherent sense of urgency, a sense of commotion and nationless-ness, which perfectly mimics how Sam felt as a refugee. Her story and narration inform the film and vice versa. “Before [climbing], I would feel so lost being a nationless person, because I didn’t know who I was,” says Sam.

What does a refugee look like? What does a climber look like? For both of these identities, there’s no single definition. But Sam is an example of someone who, grappling with one identity, finds solace in another. She is queer. She is an immigrant. She is a climber. And she’s an American.

The film takes us to North Conway, New Hampshire, a tiny town inundated with climbing. In fact, there are more routes than people. This is where Sam challenges herself, explores, and thrives.

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Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and serves as the leader of Lola Digital Media’s DEI Committee. She has been writing about hiking, running, climbing, camping, skiing, and more for seven years, and has been on staff at GearJunkie since 2019. Prior to that, Mary wrote for 5280 Magazine in Denver while working as an outdoor instructor teaching climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and mountain biking at Avid4Adventure. Based in Denver, Colorado, Murphy is an avid hiker, runner, backpacker, skier, yogi, and pack-paddleboarder.

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