Rank #1: Solace in Solitude
Last year, I quit my job, packed everything I needed into a backpack, and started walking. The plan was to thru-hike the Colorado Trail, a long-distance footpath through the Rocky Mountains.
I was a total novice at backpacking, but I craved an escape from the daily grind of work and life. And so, I decided to escape from society for a summer and head to the wilderness.
In this episode, poet Amy Strieter interviews me about the hike, and how it changed both my career path, and my mental health.
Rank #2: The Sand Is For Me
Mari Andrew was leading a charmed existence. At 30 years old, she had a book deal, was living in Spain, learning Flamenco, and making a living through her art.
And then one day, she came down with a mysterious disease. A disease that would turn Mari's life on its head.
The illness kept her hospitalized for a month -- and disabled long after that. It took her away from the things she loved and shattered her sense of identity.
But it also resulted in something unexpected: a relationship with the natural world that was as powerful as it was surprising.
Producer Greta Weber brings us Mari's story.
Rank #3: When Nature Knows Best
Two years ago, I made a plan for how to rekindle my happiness.
A smothering melancholy had settled over my life at the time: I was reeling from the disintegration of a long-term relationship, and had been working myself to the bone as I struggled to start my own business. So I planned out a 500-mile bicycle trip through the mountains of Idaho.
I figured a tough solo adventure would clear my mind and wrench me out of my gloom. What I hadn't bargained for, was that the trip would break me.
On this episode, I share the story of what happened. It's a story about planning, and failing. And it's about learning to let go, and allowing the universe steer you in the right direction.
Rank #4: Small Beauty on the Appalachian Trail
What's it like doing something that People Like You almost never do?
This week, we introduce you to another outdoor podcast we think you'll love: She Explores. We chat with the host, Gale Straub, and share her thought-provoking interview with Rahawa Haile, a black woman who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2016.
Rahawa is an Eritrean-American writer, and author of the essay “How Black Books Lit My Way Along the Appalachian Trail,” which was published on Buzzfeed.
As one of the few black women to thru hike in 2016, Rahawa talks about how her experience is different than the “typical” hiker. She explains that despite popular belief and best intentions, the Appalachian Trail isn’t a great equalizer.
Rank #5: Fear and Loving
Outdoor adventures have a remarkable ability to instill a sense of confidence in us.
In 2009, Jackie Sofia went on a trip that did just that. It was a cross-country bike ride, which she was undertaking with dozens of other riders.
When she set off, Jackie was shy and socially anxious -- terrified by what she was about to do. Four thousand miles later, she had been forced out of her shell and fallen in love with risk taking. It was a transformation that would shape the course of her next few years, emboldening her to go places and achieve things she never would have dreamed of in the past. Suddenly, the world was full of possibilities.
But what happens when that newfound confidence gets shattered -- when you realize you might not be invincible?
On this episode, Jackie shares her story.
Rank #6: Meet the Ambassadors
Post-partum depression. Anxiety over gender identity. Anorexia. Struggles with weight. A cancer diagnosis during pregnancy.
The first cohort of Out There ambassadors have very real challenges to talk about, despite some of the gorgeous photos they’re posting on social media.
Our ambassadors are listeners who are volunteering their time to help spark discussions amongst the Out There community, and introduce the show to new listeners. Today, we let each of them tell you a little about themselves. They talk about their hopes, their dreams, their struggles — all the very real things they’re dealing with as they navigate this crazy world we live in.
Their stories are raw and vulnerable and sad and beautiful, and — fair warning — you’ll likely be in tears by the end of the episode.
Rank #7: Life in Antarctica
Antarctica is dotted with a series of lakes buried deep beneath the ice. Several years ago, scientists set out to discover whether those subglacial lakes contain life. Team member Trista Vick-Majors joins us to offer a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it’s like to work in one of the most extreme places on the planet – a place so remote and unforgiving that failure seems imminent every step of the way.
Rank #8: High on Failure
Last spring, Jordan Wirfs-Brock attempted one of the toughest trail running races in existence: a 550-miler called Infinitus. Jordan wasn't new to ultra running, but this race was more extreme than anything she'd done before. And it broke her; she failed to finish. Curiously, though, the failure didn't leave her feeling defeated. In fact, it turned out to be one of the best things that's ever happened to her. On this episode, she shares her story.
Rank #9: Should I drop everything and move into a van?
On this installment of our advice segment, we address a question about making a huge life change. A listener named Where Am I Going writes of his disillusionment with his corporate job, and shares his dreams to live a nomadic lifestyle. But taking the leap feels reckless to him — and would almost certainly mean ending his long-term relationship.
"How can I identify with confidence what is going to make me the most happy in the long term?" he asks.
Rank #10: In My Own Hands
Kaleen Torbiak has tried to kill herself many times. She grew up in a troubled family, spent years struggling with depression, and was convinced that the world would be better off without her.
But one November day in 2015, everything changed. That day, Kaleen walked into the woods, determined to end her life -- and came out a few days later fighting to live.
On this episode, reporter Heather Kitching explores what happened during those fateful days. The story gives us a glimpse into one woman's tortured mind, and examines what it takes to make a person want to live again.
Rank #11: When a Thru-Hike Falls Through
Last summer, writer Erin Jones set out to hike the Colorado Trial, a 500-mile footpath through the Rocky Mountains.
Erin was pursuing her master's degree, and as is so often the case for grad students, her future seemed uncertain. She felt powerless, oppressed by adulthood. And so, she decided to hike. The journey, she hoped, would help her find out what she wanted, allow her soul to unfurl.
But it didn't work out that way. On this episode, Erin shares the story of her hike -- the story of what happens when you strive for something big, and fail.
Rank #12: A Little Too Late
When Mary Roberts went on a backpacking trip in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo mountains, she was looking for an epiphany — a vision that would help her sort out her troubled marriage and pull her back into happiness.
What happened out in the wilderness wasn't at all what she'd expected or hoped. The "vision" she got (if that's what you'd call it) was as perplexing as it was disturbing, and it seemed to have nothing to do with the problems she was trying to solve.
But as she would come to learn, sometimes it's the most perplexing events that affect us most profoundly.
On this episode, Mary shares her story.
Rank #13: We Followed Our Hearts
When it comes to making decisions, we often know what we should do. But then there's that little voice, urging you to throw caution to the wind. What happens when we give into that voice - when we make a decision that's clearly irrational - that everyone tells us is a mistake?
This is a story about young love, a cross-country road trip, and a tough question: whether you should follow your head or your heart.
Rank #14: The Right to Complain
In 2015, Australian journalist James Bennett moved to India, to take up a long-coveted role as a foreign correspondent.
James was an outdoorsy type: he liked to cycle, surf, camp, and fish. So he knew the move to India's crowded capital city was going to be hard. But what he didn’t realize was how the experience would change his perspective on speaking up about your problems.
On this episode, he shares his story.
Rank #15: A Different Kind of Love
When Paula Davis went to Alaska to work with sled dogs, she had a storybook vision of what her life there would be like. There would be fur-filled cuddles, meaningful gazes, and nonstop dog kisses.
But of course, it wasn't that simple.
On this episode, Paula shares her story. It's about what happens when relationships don't turn out the way we'd hoped — and about how our expectations can hold us back in ways we'd never imagined.
Rank #16: Wonder
Kayla Bordelon grew up thinking she didn't have a brain for science. Charts and numbers were indecipherable to her, and Latin names of plants and animals seemed irrelevant to her life. Instead, she was drawn to the humanities, where human experiences were front and center, and emotions had a place in the discussion.
Then, something happened that would unlock a part of her she didn't know existed.
On this episode, Kayla shares her story. It's a story that takes us from the Oregon coast to a remote river in Idaho, and it explores the boundaries between "science people" and the rest of us. Are we predestined to become one type or the other, or is there more to the equation? And what do we miss out on when we give up on science?
Rank #17: The Nature Fix: Should I suck it up, to take care of my family?
On the first episode of our advice segment, The Nature Fix, we tackle a question from a listener who feels trapped in his own life. He's desperate to move away from a place he hates, but feels obligated to stay, in order to care for his daughter and elderly mother.
"I just want to stand in the middle of a stream, waders on, with my fly rod in hand and live out my last quarter," he writes. "But I am about 5.5 years away from retirement. But even then, will I be able to live my dream with Mom still living and daughter still single? Or should I relegate myself to dying in a state that I cannot stomach to live in, just to please everyone else?"
Rank #18: Pleasure in Pain
Most of us want to speed through the hard times; we want to get to a place where life feels smooth and easy.
But what if the line between good times and bad isn’t so clear? What if hardship can actually be enjoyable?
On this episode, Heather Daya Rideout takes us from the beaches of Thailand to the mountains of Maine, and tells of a an encounter with strangers on the Appalachian Trail that completely changed her perspective on pleasure and pain.
Rank #19: A New Identity
Fresh out of college, Brendan Leonard was an alcoholic. A total mess.
And -- spoiler alert -- he got sober. But drinking had been his favorite thing; it was what defined him. After alcohol was taken away from him, he didn't know who he was anymore.
On this episode, he joins me to talk about the difficult process of creating a new life for himself. For Brendan, that new life came about in the outdoors, through rock climbing. And it happened completely by accident.
Rank #20: The More I've Given Up
On this episode, we bring you excerpts from an episode of Wild Ideas Worth Living, a podcast about people who have wild ideas and do them anyway.
We talk with host Shelby Stanger about her choice to give up a stable career in order to pursue her passion and launch her show. And we bring you excerpts from her interview with Rob Greenfield, a man who has created a life he loves through living with less.
Rob lives on $5,000 a year -- voluntarily. He has no credit card, no bills to pay; and he's undertaken challenges like producing zero waste while biking across the country.