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
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Mary is based in Denver, Colorado, but frequently travels abroad. Her outdoor interests span from climbing to landscape photography to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.

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