Noise for the Soul

When urban tumult brings you inner peace

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“Deep down, I know there is something in me that needs a sea of humanity around me — a certain frenetic energy — to feel at ease.”

— Alex Eggerking

 

We often hear about people escaping to nature as an antidote to stress.

The world is hectic, our lives are busy, and quiet places can help us find some inner peace. Or so we’re told.

But what if it isn’t so simple for everyone? What if some people need busier urban environments — and not just for the career opportunities, or the lifestyle, or the conveniences they afford — but in order to feel at peace?

This episode draws us into one woman’s realization that living in a big city — a place that assaults your senses every time you walk outside — a place where the concept of ‘outside’ is about as far removed from nature as it gets — might be just what her soul has been searching for all along.

Alex Eggerking tells her story.

 

Want to hear more music from Alex’s punk band, the Voms?

Here’s their website, and here they are on Facebook and Instagram.

 
Alex drumming with the Voms in New York City. (Photo courtesy Alex Eggerking)

Alex drumming with the Voms in New York City. (Photo courtesy Alex Eggerking)

 

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Controlling Chaos

How fighting a wildfire can put you in the driver’s seat of your own life

 
Photo by Ryan Heffernan

Photo by Ryan Heffernan

 

“In those moments, I felt like I was at the center of the world … and there was nothing else that mattered.”

— Alex Jablonski

 

This episode is about control.

On a very concrete level, it’s about control of wildfires.

But on a deeper level, we’re exploring how people can take control of their lives — whether that’s navigating the shift from childhood to adulthood, or figuring out how to get your life back on track after you’ve traveled to very dark places.

My guests are Alex Jablonski and Kahlil Hudson, the producers of a film called Wildland. The film follows a fire crew in Oregon over the course of one summer.

On this episode, I talk with them about the deeply personal forces that draw people to wildland firefighting; about the unparalleled mental highs that come with the job; and about the surprising bonds that form between people who seem to have nothing in common.

And finally, we discuss how controlling nature can help you gain control over your own life, too.

 

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Single in Your 30s

No partner, no soulmate — no problem?

 
The solo hike that put everything into perspective. (Photo courtesy Mara Kuhn)

The solo hike that put everything into perspective. (Photo courtesy Mara Kuhn)

Most of us want a life partner. But what if your soulmate never materializes?

The older you get, the more distressing single-hood can seem. You watch friends getting married; you see their children grow up; and you start to wonder whether something is wrong with you. Why is there no special someone for you?

Mara Kuhn used to be in the same boat.

But somewhere along the way, everything changed.

On this episode, she shares her story. It’s a story that takes us from the deep south to the highest peak in Colorado, and explores how a person can fall in love with being alone.

 

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“In between relationships, I felt like … I was in a holding pattern, waiting for my real life to begin.”

— Mara Kuhn

 

In the Name of Love

How much compromise is too much?

Dani Harris cooks dinner during a cross-country road trip (Photo courtesy Dani Harris)

Dani Harris cooks dinner during a cross-country road trip (Photo courtesy Dani Harris)

 

We hear it again and again: relationships require compromise.

But what happens when you realize you’ve been letting your own identity slip away, for the benefit of a relationship?

Today’s story comes to us from a woman named Dani Harris. It’s about young love and a cross-country road trip, and it shows just how hard it can be to stand up for yourself when you care deeply about another person.

“It was like I had been shoving my needs inside of a duffel bag, … maintaining my image as a girlfriend who was always easy-going and forgiving.”

— Dani Harris

 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Truths We Hold

An Armenian, a Turk, a 4,000-mile bike trip, and a history that doesn't match up

Raffi (left) and Ersin (right) finsih a cross-country bicycle trip at the Golden Gate Bridge in California. (Photo courtesy Raffi Wartanian)

Raffi (left) and Ersin (right) finsih a cross-country bicycle trip at the Golden Gate Bridge in California. (Photo courtesy Raffi Wartanian)

 

This is a story about our beliefs — about things we’re brought up to know to be true. Beliefs so strong and powerful that they shape the identity, culture, and attitudes of an entire nation.

We all have these kinds of beliefs — things we’ve been taught our entire lives. But what causes us to begin to question them?

“He did not believe that there was an Armenian genocide. And we kept our distance.” — Raffi

On this episode, we have a guest story from Kerning Cultures, a podcast dissecting the complex narratives of the Middle East. It’s a story about what happens when we’re faced with a truth that contradicts our own.

Producer Jackie Sofia brings us the story.

“They would learn that I'm Turkish, and then they would call me a rapist … or a murderer.” — Ersin

Certain names and details of places have been kept out of this episode at the request of the people who were interviewed for the story.

 
 
 

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Prices are up to 30% less than retail. And Out There listeners can take an ADDITIONAL 25% off their first order.

 

Becoming a Secular Pilgrim

A thousand miles on the Camino de Santiago

 
Hikers on The Camino De Santiago (Photo by Beth Jusino)

Hikers on The Camino De Santiago (Photo by Beth Jusino)

Beth Jusino was not the kind of person you’d expect to go on a pilgrimage that involved walking 1,000 miles.

She was neither outdoorsy nor religious, and she wasn’t plagued by the kind of traumatic experiences that often prompt people to embark on big journeys.

But she was burnt out.

Craving a break from her hectic life, she set her sights on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route through Europe dating back to the Middle Ages.

Her book Walking to the End of the World chronicles the trip, and on this episode, she joins us to talk about it.

Beth’s story is a testament to the beautiful things that can happen when you stop saying, “I could never do that.” And it’s a powerful reminder that disentangling ourselves from our responsibilities and compulsions can help us grow and thrive.

 
I’m glad that we took this trip for as long as we did — I’m glad that we went for 79 days — because it took that long to un-peel my fingers, one by one, from my need to plan and control.
— Beth Jusino
 
 

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Seeing the Forest through the Trees

One person’s journey from PhD to planting trees

 
Noam Osband spends a season planting trees in Canada. (Photo courtesy Noam Osband)

Noam Osband spends a season planting trees in Canada. (Photo courtesy Noam Osband)

Overachievement. The word conjures up specific kinds of feats: high grades, promotions, success in the traditional sense. Things that are unambiguously good.

But what happens when you realize the quest to achieve has been holding you back?

On this episode, producer Noam Osband shares the story of something surprising that happened while he was researching his PhD dissertation. His story that takes us from the hills of Arkansas to the forests of Canada, and introduces us to the world of migrant workers whose job it is to plant the trees that feed our timber industry.

It’s a story that questions our desire to get ahead, and shows what happens when you're willing to take your gaze away from your goal.

 
Hearing some Harvard schmuck complain about too much schooling is the most insufferable of first-world problems. But there’s also something universal ... about realizing maybe you don’t want the lifestyle that you’ve been taught is the good life.
— Noam Osband
 
 

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BONUS EPISODE: Meet the Ambassadors

Out There’s ambassadors share tear-jerking stories of joy, pain, hope and love

 

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. On this bonus episode, we introduce them.

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.

My five-year-old ... knows his mum has cancer. And he knows that the cancer will be in my body for the rest of my life.
— Tess Ley
I get a lot of pushback ... from older women, about traveling solo and spending time, especially in the outdoors.
— Stacia Bennett
I know I should be grateful that I have this [job] that helps me pay for stuff, like a roof over my head and food and our trips. But ... it’s just not a job that I feel that I can be proud of.
— Jaye Groves



 

Well-Meaning But Clueless White People

We wanted Out There to be inclusive, and we failed. Now what?

 
a handful of Out There stories have been by or about people of color — but far too few. In 2019 we want to do better. (Photos courtesy Jen Kinney, Rahawa Haile, Tiffany Duong, katrin redfern, susan shain, and kayla bordelon)

a handful of Out There stories have been by or about people of color — but far too few. In 2019 we want to do better. (Photos courtesy Jen Kinney, Rahawa Haile, Tiffany Duong, katrin redfern, susan shain, and kayla bordelon)

 
 

The outdoors industry is notoriously white, male and affluent. And the podcasting industry isn’t always much better at giving space for diverse voices.

Part of our mission at Out There is to make the concept of ‘the outdoors’ more accessible to all. But so far, we don’t have a great track record.

Contrary to our intentions, this has become a show mostly about white people — and while we’re at it, mostly straight, upper middle class white people.

On this episode, Host Willow Belden and Business Development Director Alex Eggerking sit down for an honest conversation about how we got here, and what we hope to change in the future.

 
It makes me feel like this well-intentioned but ultimately clueless white person.
— Alex Eggerking
 
We’re perpetuating problems, when we wanted to be doing the opposite.
— Willow Belden
 

Beyond Repair?

Trying to fix a relationship that’s hit rock bottom

Adrian Fernandez guides a raft down the Yellowstone River in Montana. (Photo courtesy Adrian Fernandez)

Adrian Fernandez guides a raft down the Yellowstone River in Montana. (Photo courtesy Adrian Fernandez)

 

Adrian Fernandez thought he would never speak to his father again. His dad had ruined everything, and the situation seemed hopeless.

But sometimes, the people who hurt us most are the only ones we can turn to for help.

On this episode, Adrian shares his story. It’s a story of anger, desperation and longing. It takes us from suburban New Jersey to rural Montana, and it explores the surprising things that can happen when you feel you’ve hit rock bottom.

Mom and Dad loved each other deeply, but they were constantly at odds. ... As a kid, I’d sit in my room listening to them scream, trying to decipher who had done what — who I should direct my resentment towards.
— Adrian Fernandez
 
 

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Crag Rats

What happens when you get hurt in a place where ambulances can’t go?

Photo by Richard Hallman

Photo by Richard Hallman

 

On this episode, we have a guest story from the podcast Hear in the Gorge, about what happens when something goes terribly wrong in the outdoors.

You might think the individuals who get hurt or killed in the wilderness are mostly hardcore outdoorspeople — diehards who go to extremes and take excessive risks. But a lot of backcountry accidents happen to people who are just out for a quick day hike or camping trip.

Hear in the Gorge Host Sarah Fox brings us the story of an accident that happened to a 10-year-old boy in Oregon, and she gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the Crag Rats, the oldest mountain search and rescue team in the U.S. They’re the people who get called to save lives in places where ambulances can’t get to. And they’re all volunteers.

 
There was a big part of me that figured that help would come, just by knowing where my phone was at, or knowing where the parking lot was at.
— Kim Hancock
 

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Perfect Strangers

White House Landing Camps (photo by Stephanie Cohn)

White House Landing Camps (photo by Stephanie Cohn)

Can fleeting interactions with visitors be enough of a social life?

 

The 100-Mile Wilderness is a notoriously tough stretch of the Appalachian Trail. It’s deep in the north woods of Maine and is one of the longest distances thru-hikers have to navigate without getting to a town.

In the middle of this wilderness are Bill and Linda Ware. They run a sporting camp called White House Landing, where tired hikers can get a hot meal and a shower, and spend the night in a real bed.

It’s obvious why hikers appreciate their hospitality. But what’s in it for Bill and Linda? Why would you choose to live like that — off in the wilderness, totally removed from friends and family? How do you keep from getting lonely, when your only human interactions are with hikers who stay a night or two at most?

On this episode, producer Stephanie Cohn takes us to White House Landing and explores the surprising social magic that can happen when strangers meet in the woods.

 
I had rose-colored glasses the size of my head! But I was up for the challenge, and here we are 26 years later.
— Bill Ware
 
 
 
 

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Keeping It Fresh

Finding wonder in a city that you’ve come to know too well

When Halimah Marcus moved to Brooklyn, she took pride in getting to know Prospect Park. Running the park’s 3.5-mile loop over and over, as she trained for half marathons, was a comfort — a way to clear her mind.

But eventually, her little oasis lost its luster. After logging hundreds of miles on the same loop, she knew every twist and turn, every tree. There was nothing new to look forward to.

 
Maybe it would be easier if I was one of those people who truly loved running. But these days, running has become, for me, similar to the way Dorothy Parker described her relationship to writing: ‘I hate writing,’ she said. ‘I love having written.’
— Halimah Marcus
 

On this episode, Halimah shares her story. It’s a story about finding adventure when your only access to nature is city parks — about trying to ward off boredom when the places you play become overly familiar.

Halimah Marcus discusses an orienteering route (Photo courtesy Halimah Marcus)

Halimah Marcus discusses an orienteering route (Photo courtesy Halimah Marcus)

Want to learn more about orienteering? USA Orienteering has all the info and can point you to clubs near you.

 
 

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Into the Blue

Letting go of the success that’s killing you

Scuba dive in the Galapagos. (Photo courtesy Tiffany Duong)

Scuba dive in the Galapagos. (Photo courtesy Tiffany Duong)

 

In 2015, Tiffany Duong was living the life: she’d finished law school, moved back to L.A. to join a big law firm, and traveled as much as she could. She worked hard and played harder.

And yet, she was miserable.

Then, on a whim, Tiffany signed up for a scuba diving trip to the Galapagos Islands. At the time, it seemed like just another bandaid — a way to escape her angst for a few days. But what happened on that boat, and in the wild blue ocean currents, ended up changing her life completely.

On this episode, she shares her story.

 
 
Everything in my life up to that point had taught me to value power, positions, spending, and stability. There isn’t time in that kind of life for sunsets and starry nights.
— Tiffany Duong
 
 

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Powerless

How do you help, when there’s nothing you can do to make things better?

Houston, TX during Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Cristina Mandujano)

Houston, TX during Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Cristina Mandujano)

 

It’s been just over a year since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast. The Category Four storm devastated small coastal communities and dumped 51 inches of water in Houston. Harvey flooded over 200,000 homes and nearly burst major dams.

But that’s just the physical impact. Natural disasters can have deep emotional effects for us, too.

On this episode, Houston-based journalist Laura Isensee reflects on how powerless she felt to do anything useful during the storm. It’s a story that gives us an inside look at what it’s like to experience, and report on, a natural disaster, and about what happens when you feel like you’re incapable of helping the situation.

I think we all have an urge to rush to our loved ones when they’re in danger. We want to protect them. Help them. Do something to fix their problems. And that urge was especially strong for me just then. But I was totally at a loss.
— Laura Isensee
 
 
 
 

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Fractured Self

What happens when parenthood threatens to erase your identity?

Monica Gokey’s son Vern goes fishing at dawn. (Photo by Monica Gokey)

Monica Gokey’s son Vern goes fishing at dawn. (Photo by Monica Gokey)

 

Monica Gokey was an avid whitewater kayaker. Paddling had stolen her heart, shaped her identity, and given her a tribe to belong to.

Then she had kids.

These days, Monica’s kayaking life has been replaced by the routine of caring for three small children. The adventurous side of her has been eclipsed by her new identity as a parent. And some days, that new identity is tough to swallow.

On this episode, Monica shares her story. It’s a story about the parts of ourselves we give up when we choose to become parents. And it’s about attempting to reconcile yourself with a new identity.

 
I let my pre-parent self slide away too easily. ... And it’s left me feeling a bit adrift on who I am anymore.
— Monica Gokey
 
 
 
 

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Selfless Acts

What prompts people to be overly generous?

Bill AppeL talks with a traveler at his aid station along the Colorado Trail. (Photo by Willow Belden)

Bill AppeL talks with a traveler at his aid station along the Colorado Trail. (Photo by Willow Belden)

 

Bill Appel has devoted his retirement years to helping strangers.

He’s a “trail angel,” providing support to hikers and mountain bikers on several long-distance trails. He offers food and beverages to travelers, gives them rides into town to resupply, and cheers them on at some of the most demoralizing points in their journeys.

It’s a year-round operation. Appel angels along the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Colorado Trail, and the Florida Trail — and he does it all for free.

On this episode, we pay a visit to one of his aid stations, and we explore why people are sometimes so selfless. Where does altruism come from? What makes a person commit repeated acts of kindness?

FYI: the answer is not what you’d expect.

 
 
 

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Moments to Waste

What if you threw your career by the wayside, in favor of goofing off?

Susan Shain enjoys a powder day in Colorado. (Photo courtesy Susan Shain)

Susan Shain enjoys a powder day in Colorado. (Photo courtesy Susan Shain)

 

Susan Shain was on track to pursue her dream: to live and work in New York City. She had worked hard in college, put in her time with unpaid internships, and had landed interviews with top media companies.

And then, just as she was about to graduate from college, one interview changed everything.

On this episode, she shares her story. It's a story about leaving behind your career ambitions and embracing a life of wasting time. And it's about the unexpected things that can happen when you stop trying to get ahead.

I saw friends getting better jobs and bigger promotions and beautiful houses. I wondered what it would feel like to live without roommates, to eat out whenever I wanted, to own a pet — or at least a houseplant.
— Susan Shain
 
 

Special thanks to Laura McGuinn for help recording Susan's story. Laura hosts a podcast called Columbia Calls, about Columbia, South Carolina.

 
 
 

Intrigued by Susan's lifestyle? Check out her pay-what-you-want ebook below...

 
 
 

Wonder

What if you unlocked your own inner scientist?

STUDENTS WATCH THE BEGINNING OF THE 2017 SOLAR ECLIPSE ON THE NORTH FORK OF THE PAYETTE RIVER IN IDAHO. (PHOTO COURTESY KAYLA BORDELON)

STUDENTS WATCH THE BEGINNING OF THE 2017 SOLAR ECLIPSE ON THE NORTH FORK OF THE PAYETTE RIVER IN IDAHO. (PHOTO COURTESY KAYLA BORDELON)

 

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?

 
I couldn’t understand why everyone else thought science was so fun, so exciting. It was like they were all in on some secret that I would never be a part of.
— Kayla Bordelon
 

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A Different Kind of Love

What happens when our expectations hold us back?

A Sled Dog named IPA stands in his dog yard in Talkeetna, Alaska. (Photo by Paula Davis)

A Sled Dog named IPA stands in his dog yard in Talkeetna, Alaska. (Photo by Paula Davis)

When Paula Davis went to Alaska to work with sled dogs, she had a storybook vision of what her life there would be like. She'd always been good with dogs, and she pictured herself forming life-long bonds with her new canine companions. There would be fur-filled cuddles, and meaningful gazes, and nonstop dog kisses.

But of course, it wasn't that simple.

On this episode, she 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.


Sometimes, my mom would call me the dog whisperer, and I would roll my eyes and feign embarrassment, but really I was proud. Dogs were something I was good at.
— Paula Davis
 
 

 
 
 

Special thanks to House of Pod for recording Paula's story.

House Of Pod is a podcasting coworking space, production company and education center in Denver, Colorado.

 

 

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