The Sand Is For Me

A city girl, a mysterious illness, and a surprising love affair with nature

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.

Illustration by Mari Andrew

Illustration by Mari Andrew

This episode sponsored by...


Podcast Past, Podcast Present, Podcast Yet-To-Come

Alex Eggerking (right) came on board as Out THere's marketing and business development director earlier this year. In September, she and Willow (left) spent several days in Wyoming, brainstorming, hiking -- and celebrating successes,

Alex Eggerking (right) came on board as Out THere's marketing and business development director earlier this year. In September, she and Willow (left) spent several days in Wyoming, brainstorming, hiking -- and celebrating successes,

2017 has been a big year for Out There:

  • We grew from a one-woman show, to a team of three; 
  • We started producing the podcast twice as often;
  • We won the gold medal at PRNDI (a national organization of radio producers) for best independently produced podcast nation-wide; 
  • We increased our listenership more than seven-fold; 
  • We signed on our first sponsors.

Needless to say, it's been an exciting ride. And we're even more excited about the year ahead.

On this episode, we preview some of the stories we have in the works, share feedback from you (our listeners), and introduce you to the people behind the scenes at Out There.

We also offer a vision for the future. We talk about what we want to build with Out There, what kind of company we hope to become, and how you fit into that picture.

EVery great artistic endeavor involves notes scrawled on a napkin at a bar, right? 

EVery great artistic endeavor involves notes scrawled on a napkin at a bar, right? 

Also, because it's Giving Tuesday, we're asking for your help in supporting Out There. Support comes in all different forms -- whether it's making a donation, writing us a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts, recommending the show to others, or buying Out There swag (which, by the way, is 20% off today; listen to the episode for the discount code!)

We are continually humbled by the kind words and generous contributions we receive from listeners, and we can't thank you enough for your support. Here's to many wonderful years to come!


The Same Humanity


When disaster brings out the best in us

Hundreds or even thousands of volunteers brought donations of medicines, bottled water, baby food, pet food and more to a donation center in Mexico City following the September earthquake there. (photo by Maya Kroth)

Hundreds or even thousands of volunteers brought donations of medicines, bottled water, baby food, pet food and more to a donation center in Mexico City following the September earthquake there. (photo by Maya Kroth)

Journalist Maya Kroth was in Mexico City this fall, when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck.

Hundreds of people died; it was the deadliest quake in a generation. But in the weeks after the earthquake, Maya watched something happen out in the streets of Mexico City that made her think about disasters a little differently. 

As she would learn, tragedy has a way of bringing out the best in people -- a way of weaving us together into a giant invisible tapestry, held together by our common humanity.

If this had happened in the U.S., I would’ve waited for someone in charge to tell me where to go, what to do. But here, it’s like everybody knows that nobody is really in charge, so they just do it themselves.
— Maya Kroth

Maya Kroth has been on Out There before. Her previous piece, Another Channel, tells the story of one of those eerie coincidences that can't quite be explained by science.

This episode sponsored by...


Coyote's Beauty Secrets

Breaking free of the need to hide who you are

Photo courtesy Becky Jensen

Photo courtesy Becky Jensen

Becky Jensen was that girl with the acne and the crooked teeth. The girl who always felt she had to hide, in order to be accepted.

As she grew older, even though her complexion improved, the emotional scars persisted. But last year, on a backpacking trip in Colorado, something happened that changed how Becky sees herself. 

On this episode, she shares that story. It's a story about one of those tiny moments that ends up having a profound impact on our lives. And it's about learning to accept your own beauty.

The more I worked to hide my flaws, the more I blended in, and the verbal judgments eased up. I learned that it pays to hide.
— Becky Jensen

Want to read the whole story? Misadventures Magazine published a print version. Go back and reread all your favorite parts, see additional photos, and share with friends!

Becky has been on Out There before. If you liked this story, check out her other piece, The Motherload. It's about how doing something selfish can be good for those around you.

This episode sponsored by...


When Nature Knows Best

Why reaching my breaking point was exactly what I needed

Idaho for Website.jpg

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.

Maybe nature made that bike ride so miserable because she knew I’d never abandon my plan unless that plan truly broke me. So she forced me to quit.
— Willow Belden

The Friendliest Way

Do we live in a world where nice people can finish first?

Bike Lane Cropped for website.jpg

New York City isn't known for being bike friendly. The streets are busy, drivers are impatient, and pedestrians often clog the bike lanes. So if you're a cyclist, it often seems like raising your voice is the only way to get anywhere.

But last New Years, something happened on the Brooklyn Bridge that changed the way one New Yorker thinks about biking in the city. The man's name is Noam Osband, and on this episode, he shares his story. It's a story about how we communicate with strangers -- and about how to get what you want.

Sometimes, kindness doesn’t seem like an option. Even for a happy-go-lucky guy like me.
— Noam Osband

SPOILER ALERT: The video below is rad, but you might want to listen to the story before watching it...

In My Own Hands

Suicide 1 CROPPED.jpg

What re-ignites the will to live?


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, Canadian journalist 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.

It’s amazing how on Friday, I wanted to commit suicide, and by Sunday I’m frozen from my hips down and all I wanted do is live.
— Kaleen Torbiak
Music for this story included the song "Comfortable Mystery 2" by Kevin MacLeod.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the U.S. can be reached at 800-273-8255.

If a Badger Dreams

What happens when science and literature don't have all the answers?

Photo Courtesy Charles Foster

Photo Courtesy Charles Foster

Charles Foster has been fascinated with animals for as long as he can remember. He wants to know what makes them tick, how they experience the world, what they dream about.

This curiosity has been all-consuming for Charles since childhood. It's a curiosity that began with a blackbird in a Yorkshire garden, and eventually resulted in a radical experiment -- an attempt to "become" a badger.

On this episode, Brooklyn-based reporter Kaitlyn Schwalje brings us Charles' story. It's a story about obsessive curiosity, and about the surprising things that can happen when you never stop asking questions.

My training as a veterinarian ... forced me to approach these animals in a drearily mechanistic way, which made them more difficult to understand.
— Charles Foster
Music on this episode includes works by Aaron Leeder.

Small Beauty on the Appalachian Trail

She Explores brings us a guest interview about thru-hiking as a black woman

Rahawa Haile. (Photo courtesy Rahawa Haile)

Rahawa Haile. (Photo courtesy Rahawa Haile)

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.

Fear and Loving

What if the world isn't yours for the taking?

PHoto courtesy Jackie SOfia

PHoto courtesy Jackie SOfia

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.

Jackie Sofia is a producer for Kerning Cultures, a podcast that dissects the complex narratives of the Middle East through stories. She’s also the co-founder of Sitti Soap, a social enterprise that employs Palestinian refugee women.

The Human Race

Bernadette Murphy approaches the finish line at the Tahiti Mo'orea Half Marathon. (PHOTO COURTESY BERNADETTE MURPHY)

Bernadette Murphy approaches the finish line at the Tahiti Mo'orea Half Marathon. (PHOTO COURTESY BERNADETTE MURPHY)

Learning to belong after life falls apart

When Bernadette Murphy flew to an island in the South Pacific, her friends thought she was indulging in an extended tropical vacation. But the three months she spent on the Island of Mo'orea were anything but relaxing.

In the past two years, Bernadette had lost her father, left her marriage, and sent her youngest child off to college. Now, she was struggling to reassemble the shattered bits of her existence. As it turns out, fleeing to a tropical Paradise wasn't an instant cure for her problems.

But when she signed up for a half marathon, things started to change.

On this episode, Bernadette shares the story of what happened. It's a story about running a race. But more than that, it's about midlife reinvention -- about learning how to belong, after you've given up life as you knew it.

Having left my own family, I feel at times like an intruder with my brother’s family, as if, in giving up mine I’ve given up the right to belong to a family at all.
— Bernadette Murphy
Bernadette Murphy lives in Los Angeles. Her latest book, Harley and Me, is now out in paperback.

Off the Hamster Wheel

How losing the thing you love can make you happier

Photo courtesy Matt MIller

Photo courtesy Matt MIller

For Matt Miller, cycling was golden. It was his exercise, his commute, and his therapy. When he was in the saddle, troubles seemed to melt away, and he felt free -- completely, utterly free.

So when he set out for a cross-country bike tour the summer after graduating college, he thought it would be the adventure of a lifetime. And for a while, it was. But then, something happened that turned his world upside down.

Producer Bianca Taylor brings us Matt’s story. It’s a story about how we define ourselves, and even distract ourselves, with the thing we most love to do. And it looks at what happens to us when that thing is taken away.

You gotta learn to love all the scary parts, all the emotional parts, all the weird insecurities — all the things that ... you’re just trying to sequester.
— Matt Miller

Music for this story includes works by Aaron Leeder.


The Motherload

Why a selfish act can end up being good for everyone

Becky Jensen on the Colorado Trail. (Photo courtesy Becky Jensen)

Becky Jensen on the Colorado Trail. (Photo courtesy Becky Jensen)

Becky Jensen had a lot of things going for her: sweet kids, a caring fiance, a promising career. But deep down, she wasn't happy. So last summer, she left everything (and everyone) behind to do a 500-mile hike by herself.

On this episode, she shares her story. It's a story about relationships -- both with your family, and with yourself. And it's about the surprising things that can happen to those relationships when you do something selfish -- something just for you.

For the first time in a long time I realized I wasn’t responsible for anyone, or anything, except me.
— Becky Jensen

What the Future Will Hold

How a mysterious bird collection could unlock tomorrow's scientific secrets

this black-crowned night heron is part of a large collection of stuffed birds that were discovered at a school in laramie, wyoming in 2016. (photo by Willow Belden)

this black-crowned night heron is part of a large collection of stuffed birds that were discovered at a school in laramie, wyoming in 2016. (photo by Willow Belden)

When evolutionary biologist Brian Barber first heard that some stuffed birds had been found at a Wyoming high school, he didn't think too much of it. But as luck would have it, the mysterious collection would turn out to be a goldmine. 

On this episode, we tell the story of a treasure trove of forgotten specimens that could help with scientific breakthroughs decades or centuries down the road.

The story takes us from the prairies of Wyoming in the 1960s to a fancy research facility today, and shows the surprising things that can come about from a project that started on someone’s kitchen table.

The Reluctant Outdoorsman

When nature excludes you for not being serious

Ryan Haupt and friends at the summit of Mt. Elbert. (photo courtesy Ryan Haupt)

Ryan Haupt and friends at the summit of Mt. Elbert. (photo courtesy Ryan Haupt)

Stories about the outdoors often focus on extremes: the fastest runners, the strongest climbers, people who set records and accomplish the impossible. But what about the rest of us?

On this episode, a PhD student named Ryan Haupt shares what it's like trying to enjoy the outdoors, when you're not a pro. It's a story about "in" group and "out" group -- about trying to keep up in a community where everyone is more skilled and experienced than you -- about feeling like an impostor in your own backyard.

And ultimately, it's a story that asks: Who is the outdoors for?

Ryan Haupt is a PhD candidate studying paleontology at the University of Wyoming. He also hosts a podcast called Science...Sort Of, which is about science, things that are sort of science, and things that wish they were science.

There’s that type of person for whom existing outside seems more comfortable than sitting in an easy chair. And for those of us that don’t feel that way, those people are crazy intimidating.
— Ryan Haupt

BONUS EPISODE: Mother's Day Special

Out There Host Willow Belden plays in a waterfall in Maine with her mother, Ursula Belden.

For mother's day, we've collected stories from you - our listeners - about your mothers. We asked you to explain how they've influenced your relationship with the outdoors.

The stories you told were wonderful: nuanced, funny, vulnerable and honest. On this episode, we're sharing some of our favorites.

A Place to Belong

Biking cross country in search of what's missing

Photo courtesy Joel Shupack

Photo courtesy Joel Shupack

Three years ago, folk singer Joel Shupack set off from Portland, Oregon on his bicycle. The plan was to ride across the entire U.S., all the way to New Hampshire.

Joel's dream was to escape a life that wasn’t filling him up.  He wanted to travel, to give himself space to think, to make sense out of things.

On this episode, he shares his story. It’s a story about leaving behind a comfortable life at home, in order to follow your heart. It shows us what a cross-country bike tour is really like – not just the glamorous idea, but the tough reality.

And finally, it’s a story about figuring out how to belong.

I knew I wanted to be a folk hero, a storyteller, a savior of forgotten lore. I imagined myself as Pete Seeger on a bicycle.
— Joel Shupack

This Concrete Life

Accessing nature where nature isn't meant to be accessed

Photo courtesy Brice Particelli

Photo courtesy Brice Particelli

Two friends set out one March morning with an inflatable raft, a camouflage tent ... and a ridiculous idea. They plan to paddle the Bronx River, all the way from Valhalla to New York City. It's the kind of trip that no one even talks about attempting.

On this episode, in honor of Earth Day, we share their story. It's a story about the trials and tribulations of exploring forgotten bits of wilderness: the places where nature and civilization meet. Places where people are not meant to go. It's also an intimate socio-environmental portrait of a waterway -- a reminder of just how much our surroundings can show us about ourselves.

Pace University Professor Brice Particelli brings us the story.

We’ve built a fantasy where we live one life, in town, while we try to preserve a separate, managed, pristine wilderness. ... To do so preserves ‘wilderness’ for the wealthy.
— Brice Particelli

A version of this story first appeared in The Big Roundtable. Aaron Leeder wrote the music.

Failure in Success

How doing something you love can make you miserable

Laramie Enduro Willow Belden
It’s going to be terrible for certain parts. You’re going to go through certain parts of the day and ... think, ‘This is so stupid; why am I doing this?’
— Evan O'Toole

We’ve gotten a lot of new listeners in the past few months, so this week, we're playing a story that some of you may have missed.  It ran back in 2015, when the show was still very new, and it won a big national award last year.

The story is about a 70-mile mountain bike race called the Laramie Enduro, which I signed up for in 2015.

I've always liked big athletic challenges, like triathlons and half marathons. But this race was different. This time, pushing my limits turned out to be a big mistake.

On this episode, I share the story of that mistake. It's a story about trying to prove yourself, about testing what you're capable of. And ultimately, it's about learning when to say no.


Episode 31: Another Channel

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

A typical academic psychologist ... would say, ‘You missed your best friend, and you made it all up, and that’s what people do when their relatives die: they talk to their mothers, and it soothes them.’
— Jerry Kroth

Many of us put science and religion into separate boxes, assuming they're mutually exclusive. But what if it's not so simple?

On this episode, producer Maya Kroth brings us a story about something that happened on a beach in Mexico, which cast one psychologist's understanding of the world into question.  It’s a story about uncertainty -- about the eerie coincidences in life that can’t really be explained through science. And finally, it’s a story about losing your best friend.