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 by Sam Sala)

Becky Jensen on the Colorado Trail. (Photo by Sam Sala)

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.

 

Episode 30: Truly Equal

What would a society look like, without haves and have nots?

Many of us spend a lot of time and energy striving for equality -- equality between men and women, rich and poor, gay and straight, Christian and Muslim.

But what does it mean for a society to truly be equal? What would that actually look like? Could we do it? And would we actually want to live that way?

Last summer, Brooklyn-based producer Katrin Redfern traveled to Tanzania to look for answers, visiting one of the few truly egalitarian societies on the planet.

On this episode, she shares her story.

 
The people who live with the greatest level of equality are not part of a modernized, Western society. In fact, just the opposite. They are hunter-gatherer tribes, like the Hadza.
— Katrin Redfern
 

More of Katrin's work will appear at an exhibit about the Hadza in Newburgh, New York, from March 25 - April 24. The multimedia exhibit will showcase daily life and culture for the Hadza, including photos, sound, text, and artifacts.

Bonus Episode: Birthday, Beer, and Beaches

 

It's Out There's second birthday!

To celebrate, we're sharing some of our favorite moments from stories we've aired over the past two years.

We'll also give you a sneak peak at upcoming episodes, invite you to a party, and offer a special birthday discount on Out There t-shirts and hoodies.

 

Want to go back and hear the full stories from any of the clips we featured on this episode? Here's the rundown:

 

Your turn to weigh in!

We'd love to hear which episodes you liked best. Give us a ring at (800) 599-2598; tell us about an episode that resonated with you; and -- if it brought to mind an experience of your own -- tell us your story! It might even end up on the show one day.

Episode 29: Moral Compass

Myles Osborne's climbing guide, Dan Mazur (Red coat), and CLIMBER Lincoln Hall (orange) shortly after Osborne's team discovered Hall on the mountain. Hall was hallucinating, and trying to pull him off the 10,000 foot drop pictured. (Photo by Andrew Brash)

Myles Osborne's climbing guide, Dan Mazur (Red coat), and CLIMBER Lincoln Hall (orange) shortly after Osborne's team discovered Hall on the mountain. Hall was hallucinating, and trying to pull him off the 10,000 foot drop pictured. (Photo by Andrew Brash)

How do you decide whether to leave someone for dead?

When Myles Osborne set out to climb Mt. Everest, he knew he was up against a dangerous mountain. What he didn't consider was that it might not be his own life on the line.

On this episode, producer Phoebe Flanigan brings us Myles' story. It's a story about what happens when your personal goals are pitted against the life of another person. And it's about how we make the toughest of moral decisions: whether or not to help someone who's nearly dead.

And then you’re sure that something funky is going on. Because a) there can’t be a person here, and b) if there was a person here, why would they be removing their clothes at 8,700 meters on Everest?
— Myles Osborne
Sound design for this story by Chema Flores.
 

Episode 28: The Outsider

Photo Courtesy Drew Lanham

Photo Courtesy Drew Lanham

Is nature really color blind?

We tend to think that nature is an equalizer -- that it treats everyone the same, whether they're gay or straight, Hindu or Muslim, white or black. But it's not quite so simple.

On this episode, producer Jackie Sojico brings us a story about a man who doesn’t fit the description of a traditional “outdoorsman.” It’s a story about trying to do something you love, when you don’t look the part. And it's about making space for yourself in a world that excludes you.

 
A black man walking around in camo sticks out. I may as well wear hot pink.
— Drew Lanham
 
A version of this story first aired on New Heads For New People, a podcast about science hosted by Jackie Sojico.
Special thanks to BirdNote for letting us use audio from the “Rules For the Black Birdwatcher” video. The video was produced by Ari Daniel Shapiro. 

Episode 27: Bad Feminist?

Stacey McKenna climbs 'Drugs are Nice,' a 5.10a route at Penitente canyon, colorado. (Photo courtesy Stacey McKenna)

Stacey McKenna climbs 'Drugs are Nice,' a 5.10a route at Penitente canyon, colorado. (Photo courtesy Stacey McKenna)

I Climb Because My Husband Climbs

Have you ever taken up a hobby just because your partner does it? Ever wondered what that says about you?

On this episode, Colorado-based writer Stacey McKenna shares a story about love, about fear, and about what happens when you don’t share your partner’s obsession.

What would my 16-year-old self say if she saw me doing this for a guy? Why on earth do I keep doing it if I don’t love it?
— Stacey McKenna

Episode 26: The Instinct to Kill

What makes a person a hunter?

Sam Anderson lives in New York City, and for most of his life, it never occurred to him to go hunting. But last year, at his father's request, he decided to give it a try.

Sam had no idea whether he'd actually be able to bring himself to pull the trigger. And he wondered: if he did manage to take the life of an animal, what would that say about him? How would it change him?

On this episode, he shares his story.

Episode 25: The Desert Half

the desert near moab (photo by willow belden)

the desert near moab (photo by willow belden)

Should you live in the place you love most?

Brooklyn-based writer Rebecca Worby first visited Moab in 2011. The small Utah town, surrounded by some of the country's most stunning desert landscapes, stole her heart immediately. The majestic rock arches, the towering sandstone cliffs, the deep river canyons: she fell for all of it, hard.

But Rebecca's love affair with Moab was complicated, because her real life was rooted thousands of miles away, in New York City.

On this episode, she shares her story. It’s a story about falling in love -- with a place, and maybe also with a person. And it's about the difficult question of whether you should live in the place you love.

 
Only half my life is really happening in the place where I live, which, in turn, somehow diminishes both halves.
— Rebecca Worby
 

A version of this story was first published in the online magazine Catapult.

Episode 24: Song to Science

What happens when your life goal isn't what you want anymore?

Emily Stewart always wanted to be a singer. It was her deepest wish, her strongest desire. Growing up, she doggedly pursued a career in the opera. But part way through college, she came to a startling realization.

On this episode, producer David Waters brings us her story. It's a story about what happens when you discover you don't really want the thing you've always wanted. And it's about escaping a career you thought would make you happy, and moving towards a life that actually does.

Photo courtesy Emily Stewart

Photo courtesy Emily Stewart

I remember talking to this tour guide on this glacier hike about why the ice was blue. ... And I realized that I hadn’t gotten to think about that stuff when I was a singer. I didn’t really think about anything.
— Emily Stewart
 

Bonus Episode: Exciting News!

Tune in to hear what's in store for Out There in the coming months.

Also, it's Giving Tuesday, a day when we make contributions to organizations we believe in. If Out There has brightened your life, please consider making a donation to the show. If you've been putting off supporting us, don't wait; today is the last day we're offering t-shirts as a thank you gift for donations of just $10.

Episode 23: Table to Farm

Photo by Rebecca Martinez

Photo by Rebecca Martinez

When tree-hugging becomes mainstream

This is a story about garbage. 

Across the country, communities are running out of landfill space -- and running out of money to deal with their trash. But recently, some cities have been responding with creative new plans.

From Durham, North Carolina, reporter Rebecca Martinez brings us the story of one community's quest to turn its problems into an asset.

Back in the day, people would say, ‘Oh they’re tree huggers.’ That’s not true. They are people who have thought patterns ahead of their time. ... And the rest of us are going to have to get on board.
— Donald Long, director of solid waste management, City of Durham