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
 
 

Support for this episode comes from

 

Save 25% off your first order and get a one-month free trial at ThriveMarket.com/OutThere

 

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
 

Support for this episode comes from…

Action Heat

and

 
 

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
 
 
 
 

Support for this episode comes from

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.

 
 

Support for this episode comes from

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
 
 

Support for this episode comes from

 
 

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
 
 
 
 

This episode sponsored by

 
 

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
 
 
 
 

This episode sponsored by

 
 

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.

 
 
 

This episode sponsored by

 

Save 20% at GossamerGear.com with the promo code “GossamerGearOutThere”

 
 

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
 

Support for this episode comes from

 

Use the promo code PRO50 for $50 off your Tailgater PRO package.

 

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.

 

 

This episode sponsored by

 
 

Use the promo code PRO50 for $50 off your TailgaterPro bundle!

Denial

Why we all ignore facts — even when they stare us in the face

Backcountry guide Cindy Gagnon (Photo by Josh Vertucci)

Backcountry guide Cindy Gagnon (Photo by Josh Vertucci)

Cindy Gagnon was backcountry skiing in Canada when she was buried in an avalanche.

Just a few hours later, the people she was skiing with — her friends — acted like nothing had happened. They reveled in the fresh powder, hooting and hollering as they skied home. 

How could that be? And what did it mean?

This is a story about a type of denial we all engage in, whether in the wilderness or in our careers. It's a denial that simultaneously explains — and impedes — our ability for survival. And it might make you think twice about the decisions you make in the future.

Producer Bishop Sand, host of the new podcast Qualia, brings us the story.


In order to do anything really great, we have to go in with our blinders on. Because we wouldn’t start any project if we thought about all the uncertainty and complexity that might be involved.
— Philip Fernbach
 

Bishop Sand is the host and founder of the podcast Qualia, which immerses listeners in science experiments.

 

Support for this episode comes from DISH Outdoors.

Use the promo code PRO50 at checkout to get $50 off your Tailgater Pro and DISH receiver bundle.

 
 

The Instinct to Kill

Instinct to Kill Rerun SQUARE.jpg

Deep down, are we all hunters?

Public Radio News Directors, Inc., a nation-wide association of radio professionals, recently honored Out There with a first-place award for our story The Instinct to Kill, which ran in January 2017. To celebrate, we thought we'd play you the story.

It's about one New Yorker's first experience hunting. And it looks at what it takes to actually pull the trigger. Is it something anyone is capable of? And if we can take a life, what does that say about us? How does it change us?

Sam Anderson brings us the story.

Behind a Pane of Glass

Olivia Round on her bike trip from Oregon to Florida. (Photo courtesy Olivia Round)

Olivia Round on her bike trip from Oregon to Florida. (Photo courtesy Olivia Round)

Cycling cross country to escape your biggest fear

When Olivia Round set off on a cross-country bicycle trip, she told people she was doing it to have an adventure, or to take a semester off school. But her real reason was more personal, more urgent: she wanted to overcome a paralyzing fear. A fear of men.

On this episode, Olivia shares the story of one particular night on her journey. It's a story about a surprising encounter she had in the mountains of Colorado — and about what's actually possible when it comes to overcoming our deepest fears.

As a young woman, I felt like I’d been born with a neon sign over my head and a bullseye between my legs.
— Olivia Round
 

Solo

Can you be strong, independent and capable — and still need help?

Jen Kinney on the Mountain To Sea Trail. (Photo by Jen Kinney)

Jen Kinney on the Mountain To Sea Trail. (Photo by Jen Kinney)

Jen Kinney wanted to be a strong, independent woman. She had just split up with her long-term partner, and she felt a powerful need to prove that she was capable — that she could make it by herself — that she could meet her own needs.

So she decided to take herself backpacking. Alone. 

She picked a 50-mile stretch of the Mountain To Sea Trail in North Carolina, and began planning meticulously. She worked through all the logistics, assembled her gear, packed everything she would need to provide for herself.

But what happened to her out in the mountains did not make her feel strong or capable. At least not right away.

The trip might not have been what she bargained for. But it left her with an important life lesson — a new understanding of what it means to take care of yourself.


I think of myself as an independent person. In fact, if you asked my ex, he might say it was actually a problem in our relationship. He would try to help me out with some simple task, and I would tell him, ‘No, I can do that myself.’
— Jen Kinney
 

My Big Fat Greek Breakup

A beach in Sarti. (Photo by Maya Kroth)

A beach in Sarti. (Photo by Maya Kroth)

When Type A meets Plan B

Maya Kroth had her future all planned out: she and her boyfriend would move to Greece, where his family was from, they'd settle down in a beautiful village, lead an idyllic expat existence, maybe grow artichokes.

But that vision was shattered when the couple split up. No matter how good her life was, Maya just couldn't shake the breakup, or the loneliness she was left with.

Then, she took a trip to a small town in Greece. Alone. 

What happened there would change her perspective on the breakup — and on how to find happiness.


What good was living the dream if I was destined to do it alone?
— Maya Kroth
 

Hear other stories by Maya Kroth on Out There...

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The Same Humanity

When disaster brings out the best in us

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Another Channel

What if the lines between science and religion aren't so clear?