How do I put myself in the driver's seat of my own life?

Wyoming, late summer (Photo by Willow Belden)

Wyoming, late summer (Photo by Willow Belden)


Can you turn yourself into a go-getter, or must you be born adventurous?


Dear Nature,

I find myself feeling very stuck at the moment.

I’ve never been very adventurous or a go getter and I have often wondered if those qualities, which I admire, are just inherent to some people and not others, or if there is a way for me to gain those qualities too. I had clinical anxiety that I was able to handle with professional help, and I thought once I got that in order I’d finally be able to find the motivation to go out in to the world and make things happen — take a more active role in my life. While I’m happy to say my mental health has greatly improved, I still haven’t found that motivation.

I find that as I reach the end of my twenties, time keeps passing and any ideas I have about starting a new path never seem to materialize. I don’t have a very specific life path in mind, but I would like to start by feeling like I’m in the driver's seat and actually have the internal fuel to make things happen! Any fixes from nature you can offer?

— Feeling Stuck

Nothing makes you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat more than planning an adventure ... and then following through.
— Becky Jensen

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How do I make my children fall in love with nature?

Delancey (Left) and Savannah (right). Photo courtesy Mama Bear.

Delancey (Left) and Savannah (right). Photo courtesy Mama Bear.

Adventures are so much harder with kids; what do I do?

Hi Willow, Angus and Becky,

Day adventures used to be so easy before I had children. Doing anything with children adds some amount of stress. I have a 2.5-year-old and a 5-year-old. I want to instill in them a love for nature. It is very important to me that they enjoy the outdoors so when they are older they will have the incentive to take care of it. They love "hiking" (short loops on clear dirt paths in the woods) and spending time outdoors, like at a farm or the beach.

Prepping for a morning hike and the hike itself can be extra tiresome. I find that I prepare for the worst. Extra food, extra water, extra clothing, extra sunscreen, bug repellent, and bandaids, which I end up carrying ... just in case. If they get tired or hurt during the nature walk, I often end up carrying them too. We need to be wary of ticks, and I think anything I see could be poison ivy or poison oak. The problem with the poison ivy poem "Leaves of Three, let it be," is that I find everything has "leaves of three," and I become reluctant to explore areas slightly off the trail for fear of contact with something poisonous.

Do you have any tips for outdoor adventures with children? Have you ever brought a child on a hike longer than a mile? Do you have any fond memories from childhood that connected you with nature that you would recommend?  

— Mama Bear

One of the things I always tried to do with my kids was to make our outings FUN. ... I didn’t want to turn them into death marches.
— Becky Jensen

Recommended books for outdoorsy parents

• Compiled by Out There advice columnists Angus Chen and Becky Jensen •

1. Bird Talk by Ann Jonas

2. Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown

3. DK Eyewitness books, DK Watch Me Grow, and DK Eyewonder (these have large, vivid photos that kids love)

3. Any books to help identify animal tracks and scat

4. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (adult guides with lots of pictures can work great for kids)

5. Peterson's Field Guide for Trees and Shrubs 

6. National Audubon Society ID guide books (these have really great photos) 

And for when they get older ... 

1. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

2. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell


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Should I drop everything and move into a van?

Is it worth leaving your job, and your partner, for a life that might make you happier?

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Dear Angus and Becky,

I just listened to your episode of The Nature Fix about sucking it up to take care of your family, and it inspired me to reach out to you.

I'm in my late 20's, never been married, but been in serious relationships essentially back to back since I was 17. I moved to Colorado a few years ago after one of the relationships ended, because it was what I wanted to do. I've always worked in corporate America, but I've always been active, enjoyed doing things outside, and wanted to have fun as much as possible.

Since moving to Colorado, I've gotten into skiing and climbing in a big way. I've been exposed to a world of outdoor recreation as a lifestyle and profession I didn't know existed when I was making choices about my future. I had always assumed I'd go to college (which I did), get an office job (which I did), have a family, and be happy. I've been on this road a few years, and the happiness is nowhere to be found. Instead, I dream of either throwing off the burden of society, selling all of my possessions and living in a van … or wishing I had spent my college years learning the skills necessary to become an AMGA mountain guide.

I sit in my cube, wishing my career revolved around being active, staying fit, and planning fun trips or outings. Doesn't even have to be crazy; I really enjoy taking new people out to climb for the first time. Having been an athlete from age six through college, my self-worth is definitely tied to body image and being good at physical activity. At this point, I feel lucky to have zero student loan debt, and am in no hurry to take on any in an attempt to switch careers, especially to one that is very competitive, low paying, has a low "retirement" age, and that I'm not convinced I'd enjoy.

Further complicating matters is having a somewhat serious partner. I've already expressed to this person that I don't particularly want to get married and more than likely don't want to have kids. These are for selfish but important reasons. I know I feel my best when I have time to myself to work out, get outside and climb and ski, and don't have many obligations financially. Children are expensive, both monetarily and time-wise, and I don't think I'd be happy giving up my activities to go to soccer games and ballet classes.

I know it's tough for my partner to hear about me wanting to move into a van and live a nomadic life, because that doesn't jive with her path. Part of the reason I don't want to get married is because I'm not entirely sure which direction my life will head. Maybe I will work up the courage to become a mountain guide and spend half the year in South America. That doesn't lend itself very well to being married and raising a family. It's also easy to say that I'm making a choice by staying in this relationship, and that's true, but at the same time, it's very difficult to walk away from someone who cares about you and supports you.

At the end of the day, it comes and goes in waves. There are days when I'm glad I get to leave the office at five, go to the gym, come home and take a real shower. Other days, it's all I can do to fight the urge to send a text saying, "I bought a van, and I'm hitting the road. You can stay or come, but I'm leaving." I just don't want to wake up one day, feeling like I missed an opportunity to live my life in a way that makes me the most happy, bogged down with commitments, unable to make a big change without significantly altering other people's' lives.

I think the crux of my struggle is: how can I identify with confidence what is going to make me the most happy in the long term? Does that work? I feel like that's what my mental theoreticals always come back to. Would I be happier foregoing ever having financial or personal stability and having adventures all the time, or would I be happier being financially and personally stable and adventure less often?

— Where Am I Going

Want to ask Angus and Becky a question? Just e-mail a voice memo with your question to If you don't feel comfortable sending a voice memo, you can also e-mail us your question in written form. We can't wait to hear from you!

Intrigued by van life?

Check out Go-Van, an online magazine all about vanlife culture. They have stories, videos, classifieds, and photos. And they even have recommendations for other podcasts and music playlists to keep you company on the road. 

The Nature Fix: How do I overcome a paralyzing fear?

The Nature Fix

The quest to share your partner's passion, even when it terrifies you

Dear Out There,

I have a question about fear and water.

About two summers ago, I went whitewater rafting on the Poudre River with my husband and a friend, in a small raft called the Mini-Me. I'd been rafting quite a few times, but never in this small a boat, on the Poudre. I've fallen out of bigger boats on desert rivers and done fine. I've even pulled people back into the boat, who have fallen out in the Poudre. But up until that day, I had never fallen into the Poudre.

We were having a good time, and then our boat hit a rock, and my friend and I toppled into the river. My partner stayed in the boat. I was shocked by the cold river and how terrified I was. I felt paralyzed, even though I used to be a life guard and rescue people. It was so different than other rivers I had fallen into.

My friend and I got back into the boat, and my husband soon started yelling paddle commands at us, because we were coming up on another Class IV rapid. After thinking, "Gee, I'm glad we fell out of the boat; that will never happen again," we fell out again. This time I couldn't see my friend, and I was afraid something had happened to her. But in the end, we were on either side of a cliff where we'd gotten ashore. 

I haven't rafted since then. Rafting is really important to my partner - so important it was in his wedding vows. I'm wondering if you have any tips for me on overcoming a scary water experience like this. I want to raft again, and we do have a rafting trip planned for later this summer, on a bigger desert river. But I would like to go on the nearby Poudre again, and have some strategies for being brave.

Thanks for any advice you can give me.

— Over My Head

Want to ask Angus and Becky a question? Just e-mail a voice memo with your question to If you don't feel comfortable sending a voice memo, you can also e-mail us your question in written form. We can't wait to hear from you!

I wanted to love the things that he loved, because I loved him.
— Becky Jensen, Advice Columnist

One thing that helps is to remember that the fear I have isn’t always proportional to the danger that I’m actually in.
— Angus Chen, Advice Columnist

The Nature Fix: Should I suck it up, to take care of my family?

The Nature Fix - Just Tired.jpg

What to do when you're living a life you don't love, buried in responsibilities?

Dear Out There,

My brother moved away to Colorado 30 years ago and made that choice to live his life as he wanted. I, however, did not get that choice. Once he left, I had no choice. I must stay near my mom and make sure she is taken care of.
— Just Tired

What happens when you turn 59, you wake every morning, do the exact same things every day. The way you shave, shower, comb your hair, feed the cats, eat the same things every day for breakfast.

Drive to work, do the same job. Which you are locked into, by the way, because you cannot go anywhere else without taking a giant pay cut. You are tired of living in the state where you live and want to move north, somewhere, anywhere but Florida, where you have been since you were five years old.

However, you cannot because your mom is old and lives in Florida, your daughter also lives here and comes over for dinner every Sunday.

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. 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?

- Just Tired


Want to ask Angus and Becky a question? Just e-mail a voice memo with your question to If you don't feel comfortable sending a voice memo, you can also e-mail us your question in written form. We can't wait to hear from you!

Introducing The Nature Fix

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Out There's new advice segment uses lessons from nature to solve your problems

Drumroll, please!

We're thrilled to be launching a new segment on Out There: an advice series called The Nature Fix.

Nature has the power to help us make sense out of our lives - particularly those parts of our lives that are messy and scary and overwhelming. The Nature Fix is designed to harness that healing power of nature, and help you navigate this crazy world we live in. Each month, we'll use wisdom from the outdoors to address your most pressing personal questions.

On this episode, we introduce our wonderful new advice columnists, Becky Jensen and Angus Chen. And we dive right into advice giving, with questions about career, happiness, success, and work-life balance.


This is Becky...

...and this is Angus.

Becky Jensen is a writer, hiker, and mother from Fort COllins, Colorado.

Becky Jensen is a writer, hiker, and mother from Fort COllins, Colorado.

Angus Chen is a reporter, surfer, and climber based in Brooklyn, NY.

Angus Chen is a reporter, surfer, and climber based in Brooklyn, NY.


Want to ask Angus and Becky a question? Here's how...

Got issues you're grappling with? Tell us about them! Email a voice memo with your question to If you're not comfortable sending a voice memo, you can email us a written version of your question. 

Can't wait to hear from you!