Out There

Out There is a podcast that explores big questions through intimate stories in the great outdoors.
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Nov 15, 2018

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.

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.

Nov 1, 2018

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.

Oct 18, 2018

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.

Oct 4, 2018

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These days, Monica’s kayaking life has been replaced by the routine of caring for three small children.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.

Sep 20, 2018

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.

Sep 6, 2018

Susan Shain was on track to pursue her dream. 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.

Aug 30, 2018

On this episode of our advice segment, Dear Nature, we respond to a question from a listener called Feeling Stuck, who is struggling to find motivation and passion. 

"I’ve never been very adventurous or a go getter," Feeling Stuck writes, "and I have often wondered if those qualities, which I admire, are just inherent to some people and not others, or if there is a way for me to gain those qualities too."

Aug 16, 2018

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?

Aug 2, 2018

When Paula Davis went to Alaska to work with sled dogs, she had a storybook vision of what her life there would be like. There would be fur-filled cuddles, meaningful gazes, and nonstop dog kisses.

But of course, it wasn't that simple.

On this episode, Paula 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.

Jul 26, 2018

On this episode of Out There's advice segment, Dear Nature, we answer a question from a listener who wants to know how to instill a love of the outdoors in her two small children.

"Day adventures used to be so easy before I had children," she says. "Do you have any tips for outdoor adventures with children? Have you ever brought a child on a hike longer than a mile? Do you have any fond memories from childhood that connected you with nature?"

Jul 19, 2018

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.

Jul 5, 2018

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.

Jun 28, 2018

On this installment of our advice segment, we address a question about making a huge life change. A listener named Where Am I Going writes of his disillusionment with his corporate job, and shares his dreams to live a nomadic lifestyle. But taking the leap feels reckless to him — and would almost certainly mean ending his long-term relationship. 

"How can I identify with confidence what is going to make me the most happy in the long term?" he asks. 

Jun 21, 2018

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.

Jun 7, 2018

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.

May 31, 2018

On this episode of our advice segment, The Nature Fix, we respond to a question about fear.

A listener called Over My Head writes to us about a terrifying whitewater rafting trip she went on with her husband two years ago. The experience left her so rattled that she has not set foot in a raft again.

She wants to overcome her fear, in part because rafting is one of her husband's greatest passions — "so important it was in his wedding vows."

Our advice columnists offer some tips on mitigating fears, and discuss whether you should try to make yourself love what your partner loves.

May 17, 2018

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.

May 3, 2018

Camille von Kaenel lost her mother when she was just 18. Her mom’s death left a gaping hole in her life. But in the years that followed, Camille discovered things about her mother that would give her a whole new appreciation for the parent she lost.

On this episode, Camille shares her story. It's a story that takes us from the Swiss Alps to a volcano in Ecuador. And it shows us just how much we can learn about - and gain from - our loved ones, even in their absence.

Apr 26, 2018

On the first episode of our advice segment, The Nature Fix, we tackle a question from a listener who feels trapped in his own life. He's desperate to move away from a place he hates, but feels obligated to stay, in order to care for his daughter and elderly mother. 

"I just want to stand in the middle of a stream, waders on, with my fly rod in hand and live out my last quarter," he writes. "But I am about 5.5 years away from retirement. But even then, will I be able to live my dream with Mom still living and daughter still single? Or should I relegate myself to dying in a state that I cannot stomach to live in, just to please everyone else?"

Apr 19, 2018

In 2015, Australian journalist James Bennett moved to India, to take up a long-coveted role as a foreign correspondent.

James was an outdoorsy type: he liked to cycle, surf, camp, and fish. So he knew the move to India's crowded capital city was going to be hard. But what he didn’t realize was how the experience would change his perspective on speaking up about your problems.

On this episode, he shares his story. 

Apr 5, 2018

We're thrilled to be launching a new segment on Out There: an advice series called The Nature Fix.

Nature has the power to help us make sense out of our lives - particularly those parts of our lives that are messy and scary and overwhelming. The Nature Fix is designed to harness that healing power of nature, and help you navigate this crazy world we live in. Each month, we'll use wisdom from the outdoors to address your most pressing personal questions.

On this episode, we introduce our wonderful new advice columnists, Becky Jensen and Angus Chen. And we dive right into advice giving, with questions about career, happiness, success, and work-life balance.

Mar 15, 2018

When Mary Roberts went on a backpacking trip in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo mountains, she was looking for an epiphany — a vision that would help her sort out her troubled marriage and pull her back into happiness.

What happened out in the wilderness wasn't at all what she'd expected or hoped. The "vision" she got (if that's what you'd call it) was as perplexing as it was disturbing, and it seemed to have nothing to do with the problems she was trying to solve.

But as she would come to learn, sometimes it's the most perplexing events that affect us most profoundly.

On this episode, Mary shares her story.

Mar 1, 2018

When it comes to making decisions, we often know what we should do. But then there's that little voice, urging you to throw caution to the wind. What happens when we give into that voice - when we make a decision that's clearly irrational - that everyone tells us is a mistake?

This is a story about young love, a cross-country road trip, and a tough question: whether you should follow your head or your heart.

Feb 15, 2018

When Bassam Tarazi set out to hike the 23-mile Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire, he wasn't worried. It was a nice summer day, he had a lifetime of mountaineering experience behind him, and compared to his other outdoor conquests, this would be easy.

But over the course of the next few hours, he would come to realize what a dangerous miscalculation he had made. It was a miscalculation that would scare him to the point of tears and would cause him question the value of his own confidence.

On this episode, he shares his story. It's a story about what happens when your inner teenager takes over -- when you cross the invisible line between confidence and cockiness.

Feb 1, 2018

Michael King was homeless, depressed, and drinking. Tabor was a lost, injured and hungry. One rainy night in Portland, Oregon, the two found each other.

Even though Michael had nothing to offer -- no money, no shelter -- he rescued the little cat. And she adopted him. 

On this episode, we talk with writer Britt Collins, who wrote a book chronicling their story. It's a story of love and tenderness, and of the surprising things that can happen when those who have nothing left to give, decide to give anyway.

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