What Opting Out of ‘Should’ Has to Do With Heading Outside (Cait Flanders)

Jump To section

It started with a year-long shopping ban and a decision to downsize. But like so many big life changes, the decision to shift who she was and how she interacted with the world had a much bigger impact than she expected. Now Cait Flanders, author of the best-selling book Year of Less, has morphed her “less” habit to one of purposeful opt-outs, choosing to say “no” to the cultural expectations that keep her life from looking the best way it can for her.

So what does that have to do with going outside? Both her book Adventures in Opting Out: A Field Guide to Leading an Intentional Life, and her podcast with a similar title, Opting Out, take a look at saying “no” to things that won’t help you make the life you want — whatever you believe that to be — and “yes” to what will move you forward.

In this episode of Humans Outside, Cait takes us on her own journey, giving us opt-out tips and teaching us what it means to make space for your own joy.

Some of the good stuff:

[3:22] Cait’s favorite outdoor space

[4:54] How Cait became someone who likes to go outside

[7:59] All about her shopping ban

[16:46] Preparing for the stories you wish you were telling yourself

[18:38] The decision to opt-out

[24:37] The importance of helpers

[27:04] Where do you find such a helper?

[32:25] What hiking has to do with going outside

[36:56] Can you pursue life with a nature emphasis without opting out?

[41:00] Does spending time in nature help you understand your opt-out choices?

[43:27] Tips for opting out

[52:03] Cait’s favorite outdoor gear

[55:34] Cait’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/newsletter

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz 0:06

Sometimes it can be hard to see how much something is holding us back in life until we start to get rid of it. That something can be literal belongings, harmful relationships, harmful habits, or just what we sometimes call stinking thinking—thought patterns that keep us from taking the steps or doing the things that can give us the lives we’re looking for. Today’s guest, Cait Flanders, has some experience in offloading things that hold her back. In her best selling educational memoir Year of Less, Cait documents how getting rid of literal things and instituting a shopping ban helped her build a life she wanted. And in her most recent book, Opting Out, and a podcast of the same title, by the way, she talks about letting go of habits or culture assigned “must dos” that helped her even further. As much as I enjoyed reading Year of Less, I’ve enjoyed Opting Out even more, because she ties the journey of opting out to preparing for and going on hikes. And you know how I like that. Today, Cait is going to talk to us about what it takes to opt out and what the heck it really has to do with heading outside. Cait, welcome to Humans Outside. I’m like major fangirling talking to you, because I so enjoyed your books, and I’ve enjoyed your podcast. We were talking a little bit before we started recording about, you know, just how you do it and how you record them outside. Which is so cool to me. I especially enjoy hearing the water in the background—makes me feel like I’m at a beach. It’s great.

Cait Flanders 2:26

Yeah, yeah, the podcast is like, it’s such a simple project in so many ways. But it has been one of the things I’ve enjoyed most the past few years.

AB 2:36

Yeah. Sounds on theme. I think what were people who, our projects sort of take over our lives, right? And so then everything just sort of marches right along on theme.

CF 2:53

Yeah, you’re right. I’m not a fan of other things taking over life. So that’s cool.

AB 3:04

All right. So we start all of our episodes, imagining ourselves talking to our guests in their favorite outdoor space, like we’re hanging out having a conversation somewhere you like to be outside. So describe for us where we’re hanging out with you today.

CF 3:21

Hmm, I would say first of all, I love the question. I actually just used that or like a similar kind of prompt in something I recorded with a friend so that’s just really fun. I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. That’s where I am right now. And there are technically two mountains here. I mean, I really only think one of them is a mountain, the other one is like a hill that would take you sort of 10 minutes to get up, but they call it a mountain for some reason. So I would say that we’re close to the top of the actual mountain, the one actual mountain. There’s like a few spots around it where you can kind of tuck away from the trails and sit like under a tree or by a tree, and you can either look in the direction of town and like see the city or you could be on the other side facing the ocean. I would say we would be facing the Pacific Ocean today.

AB 4:36

Yeah, awesome. Love the setting and I love the ocean. So this is perfect, perfect space to have a chat. So tell us, how did you become a person who likes to go outside and sit and have talks facing the ocean?

CF 4:54

Like it’s fairly new for me, or I would say, something that didn’t really become part of my life until about 10 or so years ago, maybe 10 or 12. But I would say I started spending a lot more time outside when I stopped drinking, which was like, gosh, almost nine years ago now. As a kid, I didn’t really spend time outdoors. I was someone who had a lot of perfectionist tendencies. And so I wouldn’t try things that were going to be hard out of fear that I wouldn’t sort of do it well, which is so fascinating, because of course, I don’t really know what it even means to be good at the outdoors. When I was a kid, you know, like if people had sort of said — Do you want to go for a hike? Or do you want to just go down to the beach? I just wasn’t really interested. I would often say no, or I would say yes to the few places I knew. I didn’t spend a lot of time outside as a kid. I think things shifted a lot for me when I stopped drinking. Partially, it’s like my social life changed. The people I hang out with changed, the things that we did changed. But I also just, I think, I think what was happening is that I needed and then was enjoying the feeling of getting into my body. Which I think is something I had avoided up until that point.

AB 6:54

Yeah. Okay, so we’ll talk more about that here coming up, because we’re gonna touch on opting out of that kind of stuff. The part of British Columbia you call home and I referenced this earlier is incredible, and long, and mushy. I drove through there, and I gotta tell you, like, you get out of beautiful British Columbia, and now you’re in like, wet British Columbia.

CF 7:24

Yeah, I mean, I think most of BC is probably wet, other than part of the interior, which is literally a desert.

AB 7:33

Yeah. Okay, so before we talk about heading outside, and how that meshes without opting out. Like, I want to give people a big picture overview of your story. So walk us through just that, you know, longer view story, if you don’t mind, how you got to getting rid of so much of your belongings, doing a shopping ban, opting out, all that jazz?

CF 7:59

Yeah, gosh, I mean, the decluttering. And the shopping ban happened at the same time. The idea for the shopping ban came first, although I mean, like I technically started on the same day. But the idea for the shopping ban came first and really came from a place of, you know, backtracking even further, when I was in my late 20s, I was maxed out with close to $30,000 in debt. I say maxed out, just because that was what the banks were willing to give me, you know, that was my credit card limits, and line of credit and all of that. I got to the point where I literally had $100 left in total, amongst those limits. I laugh now, because it was kind of like I did a shopping ban, but I wasn’t calling it that. I was just, you know, being maxed out took me to this place of like, being extremely motivated to pay it all off, because being maxed out felt so horrible. Like, I had so much shame about it. I was also so scared of it, like I was so scared that that was going to be it for me, like I just would never be able to kind of have a good financial future. And so I was really aggressive and honestly, like too aggressive in my approach. But I ended up paying all of that off in two years. And so getting back to sort of baseline of zero within two years, and then what happened is that I basically went back to spending all my money. So I wasn’t going into debt, but before, where I was putting upwards sometimes of like, 55% of my income towards my debt repayment every month, I just went to spending all of it. And I think like, I really can only look at it in hindsight and make some assumptions. But I think it’s because, you know, I was just so hard on myself that I wasn’t actually learning anything about money in that process. Like, I was just honestly kind of punishing myself, like, I felt all this shame. And I think I was just kind of punishing myself, paid it all off. And then I didn’t really have any sort of, like, goals of what I wanted to do next, or didn’t know what my values were, didn’t know what I was working towards. And, yes, I kinda went back to just spending all my money. And I did that for a whole year. I used to blog about all this stuff very publicly, like I used to share my budgets every single month on my blog.

AB 10:59

For accountability?

CF 11:00

Yeah. It was something I had done while I was paying off my debt. And, so it just carried through. At the time, there were a ton of people doing that, like personal finance blogging was like a thing. I remember a lot of people doing it. I think now there’s like, way more concerns of sort of like privacy.

AB 11:22

Rules, man.

CF 11:24

Every single month at the beginning, I would share my budget, or like my proposed budget for that month, and at the end, I would share the actual numbers, and I just never saved and I would come back at the end of every month and be like — Well, here’s all the excuses for like, why I justified spending all my money. And I did that for a whole year, and then got to this place of just honestly being sick of my own BS. Like, I was just like — this doesn’t actually feel good. Like, I can make excuses every month for probably the rest of my life for why I can’t save money. But I’m actually sick of hearing myself say that, I’m sick of hearing myself just talk about why I can’t save. And I want to try something different. So then I came up with this idea of just like, what does it look like to not shop for a year? I didn’t identify as a huge shopper. But just knew I had like a lot of mindless spending habits. What would it look like if I, you know, pulled all that out, and it was like, I could only you know, buy groceries and whatever the essentials are, and replace things if I absolutely need to, but, you know, not buy books, start using the library, etc, etc. Like, what does it look like? And also what would happen with my budget, like I just didn’t know. And so I yeah, I ended up, just to fast forward. I ended up actually doing it for two years, and saved a ton of money in the process. Not the 55% that I was putting towards debt, but I can actually remember the numbers, I feel like I saved something like maybe 30% of my income, or like high 20s or something like that. And, then I lived off of 50%. The other was like I actually was spending it, but I was finally spending on something I’d always wanted to do, which was travel.

AB 13:33

Right. So it’s like intentionality. It’s like, it’s thinking through how you want to spend your, whatever it is right, in this case, money. But in your case of opting out, which I’m sure you’re going to talk about here in a second, your time, your energy.

CF 13:55

Yeah, and like, money ties into those things. Because if you have certain goals, or values or interests or hobbies, like money sometimes is needed for some of those things, right? I would just say like, in the past, I didn’t even know what my values were or just, they weren’t like actual priorities. I wasn’t making them priorities, even things like travel. It’s like I always made excuses for why I couldn’t. I shouldn’t say excuses. It’s like travel was something literally that growing up I was told was like, not an appropriate way of life. Like just this very practical kind of working mindset of like — Well, no, like you have to work.

AB 14:43

It’s like excuses for why you shouldn’t instead of couldn’t.

CF 14:46

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so like all of that, like I just took all that in. And it was like — well, even though I want to travel, it’s like not really an option. At the same time, though, that I did the shopping ban, I also just thought decluttering would be great, for some reason, right? And that, I mean, just the simplest story is like, I moved, like, before I began all of that experiment, I moved five times in a calendar year, which is horrible. And, and that meant that five times in a row, I’ve moved boxes just from like place to place to place to place. Yeah, and realize how much stuff I owned that I never even looked at. And that I was like, you know, spending time and money moving around, but I never looked at any of this stuff. It started with like — Well, you know, just go through all these boxes. Like, I’ll start there, like, see all this stuff is, and then it just like, continually carried through. Now I own maybe like, 15% of what I used to own.

AB 15:57

So you know, it’s interesting, because one of the things we’ve been talking a lot off and on in this particular season of Humans Outside is this idea of the stories we tell ourselves. And those that could be a story, like — I’m not somebody who travels, I’m not somebody who saves money. I’m not somebody who can go outside, I’m not somebody who hikes, you know, like all of these sort of, it’s like negative self talk. But it’s more than that. It doesn’t have to be a negative, self talk. It’s just self talk, right? And it’s just the narrative that you’ve built, who you are around. And I think the decision point there is having, taking a beat and saying — Is this true? Or is it not true?

CF 16:46

Yeah. Or even like — what are the stories I actually want to be saying? Not even like in this present moment, but say, like, six months from now, a year from now, five years from now, like, who do I actually want to be? And like, even if I maybe don’t know how to do it, like, if those are the goals, how does life slowly shift and change to ultimately get there?

AB 17:14

Yeah, okay. So let’s talk about opting out. What might make somebody focus on opting out? And, or of opting out of a specific thing? Right? Because it doesn’t have to be like this blanket — I’m not going to shop for a year, right? Or like, right, and I think you and I are people who are given to sweeping decisions. You know, like, you’re like — throw it all out. Right. And I’m like — we’re not just going outside, you know, as a personal habit we’re doing every day for a certain amount of time for X amount of time. Right. Like, it has to be couched as a challenge for me, or I’m like, not that into it. Okay, so, but some people are not that dramatic. So what makes somebody focus on opting out or opting out of a certain habit? Or, like, how do you get to that decision point?

CF 18:38

Yeah, I mean, let’s talk about what opting out even means. I would define opting out as honestly just changing paths in some way. And so that can be quite simple. Or, or bigger, you know, simple being like, maybe like making a decision. Like, you know — I’m not going to buy books even just like until I finished all the ones I have. Something kind of small, but still, it can feel big when you’re getting started. Maybe saying — I’m no longer gonna use one of the social media platforms. And then like bigger ones for me have of course been like — I’m not going to drink anymore. I’m going to take on some of the challenges like the shopping ban and stuff like that, but even ones like I’ve, you know, quit. My career has changed quite drastically, I guess like from what I thought it would be when I was young. I was certainly sold the story that you know, I should just work for the government and get a pension, and do that thing because that’s what both of my parents did. And so I did work for the government for five years. And then the first opt out was that I decided to leave the government and go work in the private sector. And that was like a big thing, or like a big thing in our family.

AB 20:17

Like, it’s like saying, you know, that there’s something different out there. Right? It sounds like, the way you’re saying it sounds like, it’s not that big to other people. But like, conceptually, that is big, right? Because it’s bucking your own culture for something that is divergent. And that’s a big deal.

CF 20:36

Yeah, well, and because it does have less security, right. Like, the realities with government, of course, like, there are circumstances where there are layoffs, but honestly, like, I was working for the provincial government, and it feels like one of those systems that like, unless you did something really, really bad, once you’re in, you’re in. Like, you can stay until you want to go. So yeah, like, there were some, you know, bigger ones, and then stuff like, you know, moving, I moved to different cities for work. That was kind of a big thing. And, and then ultimately, I guess, like, the bigger ones, later, were like, quitting all jobs to be self employed, and then giving up my home to travel full time. And so like, there’s been just like a lot of mini opt outs along the way. There’s been a lot of steps to get to some of the bigger ones, or where I’m at now.

I talked to a bunch of different people for the book. There are a lot of different reasons or kinds of things that people would notice in themselves, that would help them get to the place to make the decision to make a change. There was everything from like, you know, it could even like be that you’re just really excited about this idea. And like, maybe there’s fear, but, you know, once you get to the place where the excitement was a little more than the fear, then you would make the choice. It could be actually that, like, it’s the opposite. And like, you know, things are really bad, because of the choice that you’ve made, or like you’re really unhappy in your life right now in some way. And you can see quite clearly what, like one or two things would drastically or potentially drastically improve it. So just to say, like, it doesn’t all have to be bad, which I think was a helpful thing for me to learn in the process. And also to reflect on and be like — yeah, like, you know, choices I’ve made, it’s not all because there are negative things happening, like sometimes it is because like, things can be pretty good. But you can still know that it’s not exactly what you want, like you’re still finding that like, you are living this way, maybe for a reason, that maybe it worked for a period of time, but it’s actually not working for you anymore.

AB 23:02

So one of the things you talk about in Opting Out is having somebody who can point that out to you and then listening to them, and learning to listen to yourself, right. So it’s like this continuum. So I like to think like, I try to, I go outside every day. I don’t try to; I actually do it. See, there’s a story telling myself, right, like, I’m trying but no, it’s a habit. Okay. Yeah. So I go outside every day. And doing that is a choice that takes saying — what else am I doing that is keeping me from getting out the door right now? And they’re not bad things usually, right? They’re things like deciding that my house could really use to be vacuumed. Or that I’m playing a game with my kids or whatever, right? Or I’m relaxing on the couch, all of these things are good. But there are things that keep me from making the decision to head outside in that moment. They are habits that I have that keep me from doing the thing I want to do, which is going outside. And it’s not to say there’s not room for all of those things. It’s just they all need their turn. They don’t need to be precluding each other. And that’s a big, it’s like having the mindfulness to see that is a learning process. And the people who come alongside us to point out maybe something that’s keeping us from doing that thing we want to do, um, are such a critical part of that.

CF 24:37

Yeah, they can be, I mean, like, because there’s two pieces of it. Sometimes people will tell you things and you can feel in your gut that that’s not right. Sometimes people will share things like — oh, what if you did this? What if you did that? This one thing could be holding you back or something and like, sometimes you can feel in your gut like — you know, that didn’t feel great. Or like, you know, that’s feedback; maybe I didn’t ask for it at this moment. But I do think there’s a difference with the people who are maybe sharing, like advice based on what they would do, versus the people who do know you. I’m actually thinking more like the people who do know you, I think that there is a kind of an approach in the communication that’s helpful, just like asking people if they want to hear that first.

AB 25:38

Right, right, right. As opposed to a random internet stranger, or like, a guy you haven’t talked to in a really long time and dives in. I remember you talking about this in your book, like, people are like — I can’t believe you’re doing this! And it’s like — Who asked you?

CF 25:55

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what I what I think is important is like, I say, like, when you finally make the decision, like there is a change you want to make, I think it’s really important to find, even if just one person who will like help you stay focused on that, like, they will help you stay on that track, and do the thing that is, is feeling important to you. It’s actually like the easiest thing in the world, probably, to find people who will enable you to stay on the other path, like the one you’re currently on. It’s really easy to find someone if you’re like, let’s say, you want to go outside every day. And, and that’s the goal. There’s a lot of people probably you could text and just be like — Oh, I don’t feel like it. And they’d be like — Oh, yeah, just don’t do it. It’s really important to find one person, just one, who will always encourage you or ask you questions to get you back into the frame of mind of like — why is this important to you?

AB 27:04

How do we find that person? I have one. And I’m trying to think of how I found her and she just sort of happened upon me. Or she found me, not clear. But how do we find them?

CF 27:16

Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s hard. I will say, I haven’t really said this publicly, anywhere. But in the book I talk about, like who that person has been for me for a long time. And what’s hard is actually we no longer speak after, like, a very long, long term friendship that ended this year. And so like, that’s like a whole topic that I think is interesting, yeah, like losing friendships as an adult is actually quite hard. Yeah.

AB 27:48

It really is. Harder than when you’re a kid because I don’t know, maybe it’s when you’re a kid your parents sit there. It’s like, it’s okay. You know? Yeah, as an adult, you’re like, is it me?

CF 28:01

Yeah, well, or even like, I don’t want to say it’s harder than a breakup. But like, I don’t know, I think it might be kind of, you know, in some ways, right? Like, not in all the ways, but in some ways. But what I can say is, I don’t think it’s that you just sort of magically find this, like, special unicorn friend who does this for you. I do think it is a relationship that you both create together. And so like, it takes work; it’s like, not just that you find a special person. You put in the work into the friendship to consistently say to them, like — here’s what I need, like, I need you to help me stay on track. So when I do call you or text you and say that I want out of this, I need you to come back at me and tell me — No. Right? I need you to help me stay on this. And, and so it takes effort on both people’s side, I would say and which also requires, you know, just like vulnerability, and humility, and yeah, and all of it, but it takes two people.

AB 29:14

Yeah. And having like a touchstone with somebody who has the same priorities you do. Like anything, as relationships grow, hopefully you don’t lose a friend, but they change. Yeah, you know, so somebody else can shift into the role where your priorities and their priorities align. You know, that the person who is that person for me, name’s Holly, and she’s a journalist like I am. She interviewed me for my own podcast as the first episode of this season of Humans Outside because I wanted to talk about my experience of going outside everyday for four years. And I needed somebody who was on the same page as I am. So we talked about that in the episode, so people can hear that. She sent me a text message yesterday saying that she was nervous about going for a hike alone today for her birthday, her husband was taking care of the kid sending her on a hike by herself. And she doesn’t hike alone. She hikes with other people. And she’s not so into getting eaten by a bear, right? Like, and they’re in a part of the country right now with which she’s not familiar, and so on and so forth. She knows me well enough that she could tell me that fear. And I know her well enough that I could say — you’re strong, you’re independent, you’re capable. And when you get to the top of wherever you’re going by yourself, that’s going to be a whole new moment for you, where you’re like — Oh, hey, I did not get eaten by a bear. And I could do this. And that’s such an important moment. Don’t find a friend, go by yourself. You know, here’s the safety precautions if you need them, but like, do the thing. And then I could tell her—here’s an you know, here’s the classically, Amy thing I did today—which was I entered a pie in our local fair. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Because I noticed that few people have entered pie this year. And also, I thought maybe I would win due to lack of participation, and I have no shame. So at the time of this recording, we don’t know if I won, because judging was last night, and I haven’t gotten to see if I have my nice blue ribbon now. But like, all I had to say was I did this because I thought that no one else was doing it. And she totally understood. So we have both an outside empowerment relationship and understanding of our personalities, but that’s like something you develop over time, right? Yeah. And by doing hard things together, and all of those things.

CF 31:46

I think these are all good points. And I’ll say it just to sum it up is like, I genuinely like—I guess people can opt out on their own. But I think that it’s like a really special experience or like it, it adds to the experience if you do have people with you along the way.

AB 32:08

So, talk to us about how you weave hiking into opting out, like, what, how is it woven through this concept? Because you pair the two in your, in your book and in your work. So I wonder like, how did we get to the point where that made sense?

CF 32:25

Yeah. Why does it make sense? I mean, actually, this one’s the simplest answer in a way, which like, I normally give quite long winded ones. But the simplest answer is that like, you know, I knew this was a concept I wanted to talk about. But I literally just was out for a hike one day, and was paying attention to the inner monologue that happens for me. It’s not not so much anymore. But you know, still even two, three years ago, the number of times I would go hiking, and constantly, like, the voice in my head would tell me that I could quit anytime. And just things like no one would even know, like, I’m out here alone. Like, who’s gonna know or like, it doesn’t affect anyone. I can do whatever I want here. So like, I can quit. And then actually how much work it would then take me to go. Like, you don’t want to quit. This isn’t that hard. You only have like, another 20 minutes up, and then you’re done. Like you’re done with the hardest part. But I, you know, going back to the fact that I’m someone who was not very outdoorsy. Yeah, it took like, actually a really long time to get to a place where I could just go out and be like, yeah, I want to do this and that. I wouldn’t think you know, every time I was like huffing and puffing, or struggling in some way like that, I no longer had those thoughts. But anyways, in saying that, like I was out there. Finally kind of paying attention to how many times I was thinking like, I just want to stop. And it just kind of clicked for me like, I bet no one knows that this is what’s happening in my head. Like, I bet you people will just look at pictures on Instagram and be like — Cait loves hiking, like she just, she just like runs and skips up those.

I don’t, like actually, half the time I really want to quit. It really started with that, like it just started to piece it together for me that opting out might look like something people do naturally or like it doesn’t require too much effort. Actually, there are a lot of ups and downs to it. First of all, you’re trying to do something different than you’ve ever done before. Of course, that’s not easy. But for me too, like, when I think of opting out, or the examples of things I’ve done for myself, the hardest parts of it have also been that I usually, the decision I’m making, I don’t actually know anyone in my life who’s made the same decision, right? And so when you don’t have anyone to sort of use as an example, to point to and say, like — Oh, I know this is gonna work, it’s gonna be worth it. That makes it even more challenging, because it’s kind of like, the further along you go, you’re really walking further and further away from like, you know, what, basically just like how you were told to live, right, and walking away from the people who told you how to live?

AB 35:43

Yeah, the culture thing we were talking about earlier. Mm hmm. Where it’s should have versus could have.

CF 35:49

So I just had fun piecing together — Okay, well, if I’m literally talking about like, these are the ups and downs of it, what are like the actual ups and downs of a hike? Like, what are the spots on the map? Or if you pointed, uh, even just a picture, like a kid’s drawing of a mountain? Like, what would the ups and downs be? And I just started to have fun with that analogy.

AB 36:11

Yeah. Okay, so you didn’t grow up going outside, like you said, but you do, of course, go outside quite a lot. Now, as we are sitting looking at the ocean talking, I’m wondering if, you know, people don’t usually think about heading into nature as something we do instead of other things, just in addition to them. I’m wondering if you approach nature, specifically, and opting out broadly as an either/or thing, right? Can you pursue a life with a nature emphasis without opting out of the obligations or the things that are keeping you down? For lack of a better description.

CF 36:57

You absolutely can. I think so. Yeah. I mean, my commitments at the moment are fewer than some people like, you know, I don’t have kids. And so that’s, like, kind of one thing that I don’t have to think about right now. But I also have a lot of friends and people in my life who do have kids, and they make going outside a huge priority for them. Even I will say, like, I guess technically, in the book, I talked about two people who I would consider sort of adventure partners. And, and one of them is still very much in my life. Her name is Pascal and she’s my friend, but she’s the mother of kids that I have always called my niece and nephew. And, you know, I’d say in the first few years of her kids’ lives, she wasn’t spending much time outside, it wasn’t actually really an interest at that point. But actually, for her, I would say, like, my reflection of all of the hikes we’ve been on is that she ultimately learned that it’s the best thing for her mental health. And so she prioritizes it not only very regularly, but even in bigger ways at times of just, you know, her and her husband will sort of coordinate in ways of saying — I’m going to go away actually overnight, and do something like I’m going to do an overnight backpacking trip, or just go camping for a night or something. And, and you’re gonna have to deal with that. He’s like — Yeah, no problem. And they just, they constantly make that work. And because they do it back and forth, like she’ll tell him like, he loves mountain biking. And so she’ll say, like, you know — go mountain biking for a day or two. And, yeah, so I absolutely think that it does not have to be either/or, you can build it in. And then I mean, like, as her kids have gotten older, also, it’s like, I can see how that has benefited them, as well. Right. And also, just like with kids in general, like, ultimately, the best thing we can model is like, what it means to take care of ourselves. Right, and to have our own, like, hobbies and interests. Don’t you want your kids to do that?

AB 39:08

Yeah. So yeah, in fact, we were camping with my son this past week, you know, but both my kids this past weekend, and my nine year old is really just a very active, active dude. He spends all of his time when we’re outside, like wandering around the bushes, smacking things with a stick. It’s just very like, bushes are rumbling and you’re like — Is it a bear? He’s always having some sort of battle. Okay. But I looked at him and I saw in my mind’s eye one year old Huck, who’s just hobbling around outside, falling into holes because he’s tired, covered in dirt, or sitting even younger in a high chair, you know, by a lake crying because it’s a bajillion degrees outside. I’m looking at this kid thinking — this is how we’ve raised him. And I was just like — what would this look like, what would our lives look like, what would his life look like if this was not what we did? How would he be a fundamentally different person if our family priorities were, you know, movie nights, which I mean, we do movie nights, we don’t do them instead of camping, right? Like, if we were more people who spent our time inside than outside? What would his life look like? What would he be like? What would his personality be like? And I’m just so grateful for the person he is. But it’s always interesting to think about the person you’re not. It’s just an interesting sort of, like, you know, just moment, I don’t have an answer for that. Right. But it was like — okay, like, this is this is I, you know, I meant to raise him to go outside. But I also never stopped to think about how ingrained it would be. If we did it right, that it would just be a part of who he is. Instead of making it like forcing it to be a part of who I am, which is what we’ve been at this whole time. Right?

CF 41:14

Yeah. That’s such an interesting question. But yeah, who would he have become? And it’s like, it’s not even that either is right or wrong.

AB 41:22

Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Like, how would he be different? So speaking of how you’d be different, do you find spending time in nature helps you understand what you want to opt out of? Or gives you insight into who you are and what you want to be doing? Or what you need to be doing? And if so, why?

CF 41:45

Oh, my gosh. That’s a great question. The first thing that came to mind is sort of like — no, and. I don’t think that nature necessarily is what informs me of what I want to opt out of, per se. But I think what nature does is like, it reminds me to be present, especially right now. Like we’re in like the seasonal shift, right? So you can literally see how the earth is changing around you. And so it just reminds you to be present. And I would say like, I don’t make all my decisions outside. But that reminder to be present. I think presence and awareness is what helps me decide to opt out, ultimately, so like, yeah, I think it has certainly helped me get more present and notice things in a way that I didn’t otherwise.

AB 42:57

I feel that way too. Like, again, like there’s no right or wrong. There’s what’s right for me, there’s what’s right for you. Yeah. And there’s what I’ve noticed is effective. And that’s what we’re here talking about. So yeah. Okay, so let’s say people are like — oh, opting out, that sounds like my jam. What are three or four tips maybe that people can take to figure out what they should, if anything, what they should be opting out of?

CF 43:27

Yeah, this is where the answers to that would be so personal, like, I can’t even imagine all the possibilities, that there are things that people are currently doing and might want to try doing differently. Like, that’s, it’s kind of infinite, in a way, right? You know, it kind of goes back to a bit of what we were talking about before, like, the things that maybe you’re either experiencing in your body, around, say, like the thing you’re currently doing, that’s one option. So that could be like, you know, the thing you’ve been doing forever and ever all of a sudden, like, doesn’t feel right anymore, it might feel might give you anxiety, and all of a sudden now it might make you angry, it might make you feel claustrophobic in some way. Those are sort of like options of like negative feelings. The other could be that the thing you’re thinking of changing to or like shifting over to might feel exciting, or like it could be helpful and like maybe you’re nervous still about about even trying it but yeah, it’s like you can just imagine what the benefits would be and know that you want those in your life. Yeah, it’s kind of a big question.

Maybe some tips for like when you actually decide like, — Yes, I am going to do this thing that is maybe not what I was, you know, planning for my life. But I do want to try going down this new path and see what happens. Like one of them would be having one person in your corner who is going to help you stay on this new path, okay? And not just to encourage, because there’s gonna be a lot of people that encourage you to go back. Like, this is like, I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that you can hold all of the excitement and like good energy in kind of the early couple stages of it. But as soon as you waver, like if there’s any sign of feeling hesitant or nervous or scared to keep going, right, there are lots of people who will tell you — Yeah, stop, come back, come back and do things the way we were doing it before. I think about this very specifically with things like when I quit drinking.

AB 46:10

I was just thinking that.

CF 46:11

There’s absolutely people I could call who even now, you know, nine years later would probably say like — Yeah, come on over. Like, I’m so happy, you’re gonna like to have a drink again. There are, you know, people who, in moving away, would much rather me come back and stay, stay where I was before quitting jobs. Yeah, like, if you show like, you know, self employment is actually not working out or something, a lot of people would love to just be like — well, I’ll just go get a job. Everything will be fine.

AB 46:44

I think you just hit on something really important, which is like, you would love to be where you were before. Just because something’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing for you. It can be the right thing, and it can be easy. Sometimes it can be enjoyable, most of the time. That does not mean it won’t be hard also. I think all of my opt outs have been hard. So like you traveled, you decided to give up your apartment, you know, you do all of these things, you kind of opt out of this normal, quote unquote, life, right? Traveling is hard and doing all those things is hard. And it doesn’t mean you don’t miss the thing you give up. Yeah. And that applies to drinking, that applies to everything. But at the same time, like the net gain, like if you’re talking about finance, right, like you zoom out and you look at — Okay, is this worth it in the big picture? Yeah, the answer is, for me, inevitably, yes. And guess what, if you zoom out and you say — Is this worth it in the big picture? And you make your pros and cons list or whatever your process is, and you realize that no, it’s not, you can always like, go back. Yeah, you can.

CF 47:57

I mean, like, I’m, I’m a big believer now in knowing that, yes, you can go back, you will go back different though. Like, because the reality is like, if you even attempt to try something different, you’re going to learn something. And you’re going to now have that experience with you. And so that doesn’t mean that you can’t go back, it means you’re going to go back with like, no new information. Your information about yourself, about the world, about people in your life, like whatever it is, you’re going to go back to, though, with some kind of new information that will continue to inform. Yeah, just as you keep going. But yeah, I think like, finding someone who will stay on the path with you. I don’t know, it’s almost like being prepared, that you’re going to get some kind of negative feedback or like, you’re going to get people who are trying to bring you back in. That just really means honestly, that you, you kind of have to learn how to navigate those conversations in a way where you’re like, you know, not just like ending relationships, but like learning how to kind of speak up for yourself and say — I appreciate what you’re sharing with me and like what I really need is for you to help me keep going here, I’m kind of struggling, but I want to keep going. Those are vulnerable conversations. I do think there’s a level of knowing that when you’re opting out, like your life is going to change. Maybe it’s just you know, your social life changes a little or, you know, maybe it’s not big things, but I think you have to get to a place where you know that that’s going to be true before you even begin or else it’ll be just a lot harder when it does start happening. Like harder to grasp. But I also think like trying to treat them all kind of like an experiment, meaning like, it doesn’t have to be a pass or fail. Like it doesn’t have to be this thing that you know if you if you don’t do it forever or if you don’t do it perfectly, then like, somehow you’ve failed. I think embracing it as a learning opportunity is huge. Because then kind of like no matter what happens, you are going to come out ahead in some way, right? And so that just feels really important also, because I know if I make something like a pass or fail, then as soon as I kind of do it wrong, I’m like doing quotation marks like with my fingers. As soon as you do it wrong, it’s so easy to self sabotage to give up. You don’t want to do that. If it’s really important to you, you don’t want to do that. So instead, like any moment, that’s kind of hard, or maybe you, you have sort of quote unquote, messed up in some way. Just sitting with that being like — Okay, what happened here? What was the trigger? You know, like, what made me do this thing, or what made me kind of give up on this and like, do I want to keep doing that? Or like, what can I learn from this to keep going?

AB 51:02

So here’s how we wrap up our episodes, we like to know what people use as outdoor gear. Their favorite, most essential, because I have gotten so many great recommendations from this section. I’m like, basically a puffy pants evangelist now, because somebody recommended them here. And you know, like, I’ll go to an event, like I was at this race last week, and somebody was talking to me in the line for the bathroom, and I was all — but have you seen my pants? You know? Cuz you need these. I’m so warm right now, because we were talking about how we were all cold. And they’re like — these puffy pants are amazing. Okay, so I got to know like, what is your most essential, and then also your favorite outdoor gear, which might be the same thing. But sometimes these are two different things. So tell us.

CF 52:03

Yeah, it’s funny, because I was thinking about this. And like, I probably don’t have the best answer, in terms of giving an actual product. I mean, just one thing that I would say that was good for me to try and then to learn was to not buy gear, necessarily, because I like the look of it first. And actually, it’s been to try everything on. And like, see what actually fits me best and what feels best on me. And so like, maybe that’s not what I look at. And I’m like — oh, but like, this is the one everyone else has. Or this is like the color I really like or whatever. But actually trying things on; it started for me with hiking shoes. That was the first for me where like, if I had gone to the store and just picked what I liked the look of, I would have gone for something very different. And instead, because I tried on like six or seven pairs, it was really easy to go — well these ones feel like I’m on a frickin cloud.

AB 53:18

Yes. It’s like — Why aren’t you cute? I think this is regional too because the things you see your friends wearing in one part of the country are not gonna work for you. So I was looking like a marshmallow all winter long. And that’s fine because I am so warm and happy. But like my friends in Texas, they don’t look like marshmallows. And to your point, it fits you well, right? I have like these orangutan length arms, okay. And I think — oh, like this fits my friend and it looks really cute. Well, the sleeves will be so short on me that the thumb holes will be up my wrist, like well above my wrist. Like that’s not where thumbs are on my body. But then a brand I really like is Mountain Hardware, not because I think it’s anything spectacular in terms of a brand, but because their sleeves are long enough. Right? So it fits my body. You know, maybe like maybe the off brand fits your body. You know, like the storebrand awesome if that’s true, because then it is cheaper. Maybe you know some different brand fits your body. Mountain Hardware fits my body. That’s what I buy for me. So if you too have orangutan arms, guys, let’s look into it. I have very, very tiny hands on the end. Extremely long arms, I have no idea what’s going on over here. So you’ll find me with extremely long arm coats and very tiny gloves. It’s just who I am as a person.

Anyway, okay, so we’ve been sitting here chatting and you know, imagining ourselves with you, on top of your one actual mountain looking at the ocean. Yeah. But walk us out with maybe imagining a favorite outdoor moment that you have, like, if you close your eyes, just think about somewhere that you really like, just something like, I don’t know, happy place, something you go back to a moment in time. Where are you? What are you doing?

CF 55:34

Like, if we’re talking about that, honestly, one of the best moments I’ve ever had was, because I was living in Wales for kind of the latter half of 2019. And there was a day that I went out hiking on the Wales Coast Path with my friend, Rachel. And we came up like, we were coming up this hill. And I was looking thinking, like — what is ahead? I also like, I probably should have been wearing my glasses. But I’m like — is there something up here? And I mean, there’s not really a lot of trees in that part of the world. And so like, what is this like, thing that’s just like in the middle of the path, and as we got closer, it was a wild horse. Okay. And as we got closer and closer, like there were like five or six of them, and like, they’re so relaxed, and just like, let you walk right up to them and pet them. And yeah, just like these wild horses just out there. And like we’re on the Coast Path. Hence, the name is like, next to the sea. And so like, all you see, like, I have all these pictures and videos of just like horses, as though they are looking out at the ocean view. There’s like, wild like, this is like what kids dreams are made of. Yeah, you know, like going out and there’s just like ponies that want you to pet them. Like, what is that? It was so cool.

AB 57:10

What a great moment. Cait, thank you so much for talking to us today on Humans Outside. I know I could talk to you all day. I don’t know if people want to listen to us all day. So we’ll spare them. But if they want to see more from you, how can they find you? Tell us how they can find you on Instagram, and of course they can buy your books anywhere books are sold.

CF 57:30

Yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, Instagram is the best, it is the only platform I use. So just @CaitFlanders there. And yeah, I guess the podcast.

AB 57:40

We will link all that stuff in the show notes. Thank you so much for your time.


Thank you, Amy. It’s been really fun.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Jump To section



Humans Outside Instagram

How does spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day since Sept. 1, 2017 change your life? 

We’re on a mission to find out.

[instagram-feed feed=1]

JOIN Us Today


Keep up with the latest podcast episodes, resources and announcements