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

Episode 22: A New Identity

photo courtesy brendan leonard

photo courtesy brendan leonard

Redefining yourself after losing the thing you loved most

You’re not stuck in a situation with a certain identity. ... You can write your own story if you just see it the right way.
— Brendan Leonard

Fresh out of college, Brendan Leonard was an alcoholic. A total mess. 

And -- spoiler alert -- he got sober. But drinking had been his favorite thing; it was what defined him. After alcohol was taken away from him, he didn't know who he was anymore.

On this episode, he joins me to talk about the difficult process of creating a new life for himself. For Brendan, that new life came about in the outdoors, through rock climbing. And it happened completely by accident. 

 

Brendan Leonard runs the website Semi-Rad.com, and his new book is called Sixty Meters to Anywhere.

Episode 21: Exiled from Ranch Country

Leaving behind the place you love in order to be the person you are

Growing up, Heather Kitching loved the countryside. She loved the rolling hills, the open fields, the horses, country music. And she dreamed of a home in a close-knit small town, with a rocking chair on the porch and wide open spaces all around. 

But there was a problem: Heather was gay. And that wasn't OK in her rural utopia.

On today's episode, Heather shares her story. It's a story about what happens when the place you love becomes your enemy. And it's a story about abandoning an important part of you, in order to build a life where you fit in. 
 

Nothing in the culture that surrounded me taught me that being gay was ok. Instead, it taught me that I was deviant and immoral, and that God would send me to hell if I ever acted on my feelings. So I’d pray every day for God to make me straight.
— Heather Kitching

Episode 20: My Daguerrotype Boyfriend

A young man, a photograph, and the insatiable urge to explore

There’s a temptation, when we look at history, to think it’s just ... a story from the past – sort of one or two dimensional. But … there’s really no difference between young people from the past and young people today. Young people want to take chances, they want new experiences.
— Lynn Downey

Lynn Downey first fell for Fred Loring when she discovered a photo of him amongst some archives in a small town in Arizona. Her crush led her on a journey across the American West, and through time.

On this episode, she shares her story. It's a story about exploration -- about what drives us leave the comfort of home and venture into the unknown -- and about the timeless thirst for discovery.

The story was reported and produced by Diane Hope, a journalist based in Flagstaff, AZ.

Frederick Wadsworth Loring. (photo by timothy o'sullivan, photographer for the wheeler expedition)

Frederick Wadsworth Loring. (photo by timothy o'sullivan, photographer for the wheeler expedition)

Music in this piece included: 'Flaked Paint' by Blue Dot Sessions, 'Memories' by Tales of Painting & SPCZ, 'It beckoned across the yard pt1' by Ben McElroy, and 'Harmonica Funeral' by Colin Langenus.

Episode 19: From the Horns of Beetles

What animal weapons can teach us about our own warfare

The things that apply to all these different animal weapons also apply to military technologies. ... Once I started digging into the literature, it was mind blowing, actually, to see how similar these stories were.
— Doug Emlen

When we think about weapons, we usually think of guns and bombs and swords -- military instruments. But in his book "Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle," beetle biologist Doug Emlen gives us an inside look at the weapons that animals use: things like horns and tusks and claws.

The book combines science and military history to show just how much we can learn about our own wars and arms races, by understanding the way animals fight. Emlen joins us on this episode to talk about it.

 
Photo by olga helmy

Photo by olga helmy

Episode 18: Rekindling Childhood on the CDT

How learning to survive in the wilderness can make you younger

In the Spring of 2015, writer Chilton Tippin quit his job and set off on the Continental Divide Trail, a 3,000-mile hiking route that runs from Mexico to Canada along the Rocky Mountains.

In the five months he spent on the trail, Chilton made friends with fellow hikers, pushed himself to exhaustion, delighted in the natural splendor of the American West and got a taste for what it's like to live life as a vagabond.

In some ways, he learned lessons you'd expect someone to learn on a trip like this, like how to rely on himself in the wilderness. But the trail did something else to him too -- something quite unexpected. On this episode, he shares his story.

Photos courtesy Chilton Tippin.
 

Episode 17: High on Failure

How falling short of your goals can change your life for the better

For me, running has always been this way to turn the impossible into the possible. ... When you succeed, something that used to be scary, unattainable, downright bananas, becomes real. Even becomes normal. So when my friend Greg suggested a 500+ mile mountain trail race, I knew I was in.
— Jordan Wirfs-Brock

Last spring, Jordan Wirfs-Brock attempted one of the toughest trail running races in existence: a 550-miler called Infinitus, which took place in the rugged mountains of Vermont. 

Jordan wasn't new to ultra running, but this race was more extreme than anything she'd done before. And it broke her: she failed to finish.

Curiously, though, the failure didn't leave her feeling defeated. In fact, it turned out to be one of the best things that's ever happened to her. On today's episode, she shares her story.

 

Episode 16: The Wilds of Urbia

Becoming alive to beauty in the city's great outdoors

Photo by Elena Rossini

Photo by Elena Rossini

My sometimes-tendency to overlook my physical environment is not only about preferring the world of ideas. It’s also about something more banal: a lack of patience, a tendency to rush.
— Jessica Gross

When we talk about the outdoors, we often think of mountains, rivers, or seashores -- places that are wild and untouched. But even in cities, there's a world outside our walls.

On this episode, New York-based writer Jessica Gross recounts how a simple experiment changed the way she sees the urban outdoors.

Episode 15: From the Mouths of Babes

"Grangers versus Grasshoppers, or the irrepressible conflict," carte-de-visite, c.1880. (image courtesy the minnesota historical society)

"Grangers versus Grasshoppers, or the irrepressible conflict," carte-de-visite, c.1880. (image courtesy the minnesota historical society)

What makes a creature a pest, and what makes it right to kill one?

On this episode, writer-philosopher-entomologist Jeff Lockwood shares an essay that was inspired by his work as a grasshopper killer. The story takes us out into the grasslands, and grapples with a child's question about just when it is moral to kill other animals.

 

Episode 14: Love Is Not A Finish Line

photo by laura isensee

photo by laura isensee

Taking a relationship to the next level, one pedal stroke at a time

You're finally in a relationship. You go out for dinners with your partner, meet for drinks, maybe take in some shows together. But how do you move from casual dating, to something more meaningful? 

On this episode, Houston-based reporter Laura Isensee recounts her attempt to become closer with her boyfriend by undertaking a major athletic endeavor: a 180-mile bike ride from Houston to Austin. 

I thought if I could share Scott’s favorite hobby, then he would appreciate me, and our relationship, more.
— Laura Isensee
 
 

Episode 13: When a Thru-Hike Falls Through

Failing the journey of a lifetime, the quest to 'know yourself'

I craved certainty, and I felt that I wouldn’t get it in my current frenzied routine. I wanted to know myself again. I wanted to find out what I wanted. And so, I decided to hike.
— Erin Jones

Last summer, writer Erin Jones set out to hike the Colorado Trial, a 500-mile footpath through the Rocky Mountains. (In case you're wondering, it's the same trail that Out There host Willow Belden hiked in 2014, described in Episode 9). 

Erin was pursuing her master's degree, and as is so often the case for grad students, her future seemed uncertain. She felt powerless, oppressed by adulthood. And so, she decided to hike. The journey, she hoped, would help her figure out what she wanted, allow her soul to unfurl. 

But it didn't work out that way. On this episode, Erin shares the story of her hike -- the story of what happens when you strive for something big, and fail.

 

Episode 12: Dreading Nature

Living with, and striving to cure, a deathly fear of plants

tiara lin in chitwan national park, nepal (photo courtesy tiara lin)

tiara lin in chitwan national park, nepal (photo courtesy tiara lin)

Whenever I saw a plant, I would feel like I could not breathe. ... I felt like I was going to die.
— Tiara Lin

Tranquility; meditation; serenity. These are words that many of us might use to describe what we feel when we’re in the woods. But for Tiara Lin, a different word comes to mind: terror. Since she was a teen, Tiara has had botanophobia—a crippling fear of plants. Most people laugh in disbelief when she first tells them that such a phobia exists. But the laughter stops when they see her dissolve into panic near a tree, or when they hear that she has broken up with boyfriends for sending her flowers.

On this episode, reporter Chelsea Davis brings us Tiara’s story. It’s a story about a fear so powerful that it disrupts how you function in society. And it’s a story about the struggle to overcome that fear – to experience nature the way others do. 

 

Episode 11: Failure in Success

How doing something you love can make you miserable

This summer, I signed up for a 70-mile mountain bike race called the Laramie Enduro.

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 today's 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.

willow belden rolls into the fourth 'aid station' at the laramie enduro. (photo by leigh paterson)

willow belden rolls into the fourth 'aid station' at the laramie enduro. (photo by leigh paterson)

Episode 10: Life Beneath the Ice

How an ecosystem survives underneath the Antarctic ice sheet

Understanding what’s happening in these lakes allows us to kind of put together another piece of what’s affecting the oceans, and what that might mean ... as climate is changing in Antarctica.
— Trista Vick-Majors

On Episode 5, a scientist named Trista Vick-Majors shared a first-person account of her team's quest to find out if there's life in lakes that are buried deep beneath the ice in Antarctica. After the story aired, several listeners asked to know more about the discoveries that Trista and her colleagues had made. So we invited her back on the show.

In this episode, Trista explains how tiny organisms cling to life in one of the least hospitable places on the planet.

Cells from Subglacial Lake Whillans, fluorescing under the microscope. Photo by Trista Vick-Majors

Cells from Subglacial Lake Whillans, fluorescing under the microscope. Photo by Trista Vick-Majors