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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 0:53
When Carmen Rendell became a therapist and founded Soul Hub, she was working to change her path. After 20 years in corporate life working in marketing for big brands in the UK, she realized that none of her work filled her in that “meant to be doing this” kind of way. So instead, she sought time with shamans, attended the School of Wizards, and worked on herself. And after it all founded the company Soul Hub, a place of self discovery and understanding where she focuses on a practice called walking therapy. Today, Carmen is going to tell us all about walking therapy, her self-connection and reflection and her journey to understanding in the outdoors. Carmen, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.
Carmen Rendell 1:32
Thank you, Amy, delighted to be here with you.
And where are you joining us physically from?
I know we were just saying, as we look at the maps, and we talk about the outside, I think you have to find the outside in everywhere, right? Because I’m actually in the middle of London. So I’m in the southwest of London. And so probably I can hear the planes fly over from Heathrow Airport. So about 20 minutes from the airport.
Awesome. Okay, so we usually start our podcast talking about our favorite outdoor space and just imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space as if we were hanging out somewhere outside having a chat. So where are we with you today?
I’m actually going to go to Patagonia. So right down into the bottom of South America. And partly just because it’s so wild, it’s the wildest place I’ve been. So my experience of it has been pretty much kind of rocking me to the ground with the high wind. So I’ve never felt the force of winds quite like it, where I’ve actually been walking along and I remember being there with two friends and actually going — let’s go to ground — and we literally dropped to the floor to not be blown off our feet. So it’s a real visceral feeling to feel the elements that strongly against you. So that is always etched in my memory is kind of like a favorite place, in a provocative place.
I understand the wind concept – here in Alaska we have, we call it big wind; and it comes off the glacier, which makes it sound exactly as cold as it is.
I mean, even in Patagonia, I was with a friend actually from Chicago. And I had not experienced it quite like this. I was standing on a rock, sitting on a rock actually, with my camera taking a picture of the glazes. And the next minute I was blown off the rock. So with no warning, you know, nothing to help try and hold on or anything, that was it off the rock! And, and obviously I hadn’t planned to know that I was going to fall off. So when I fell off, all she could see was my hand up with the camera hanging in the air. And luckily I was in a bush, not off the edge of the cliff.
So tell us your outdoor story. What is your connection to the outdoors? And how did you become somebody who values spending time outside?
I guess as with all these things, right, kind of starts in childhood. So I grew up by the sea. And if you knew this place in England, you kind of question whether even though it’s called Weston-super-Mare, which means on the sea, it’s actually on the Bristol Channel. So when you look out it’s quite brown and murky, right? It’s not like beautiful kind of Atlantic coast or anything. But that’s where I grew up. We had a sandy beach and so you know I remember cross country runs during my school where we had to run over the sand dunes and then literally run along the beach to an outdoor swimming pool and run back – it was about a 16 minute cross country run. And we did it in all weathers, we went in our shorts and T shirt freezing cold, and sometimes some people would hide in the sand dunes because they didn’t want to brace the winds of the of the sea when we went over them. But kind of I guess you know, from that age I would be outside and I played field hockey, it was my kind of main sport. And as you can imagine, you know, at least with ice hockey or inside field hockey, again, you’re kind of out with the elements in a short skirt, often standing around and having to run around to try and keep warm. And then family holidays, Mum and Dad would take us camping. And so we’d be all over the UK or go into Europe into France and go camping. So there’d always be walks, you know, we would kind of go on forest walks. And I guess as you know, it was free, an easy way to entertain your kids, so the four of us. And so, you know, we’d always take a tennis ball with us, and throw the ball, throw the ball around, and walk and just have time together as a family. And so, you know, I have fond memories of that. So there’s always been, you know, I like both, you know, I’d like coming in. I won’t deny it coming into the fire and the warmth, but it feels much better once you’ve been in the outdoors.
I was just thinking like that the reason that coming in is so nice is because you weren’t there.
How did that experience and, and that touchdown with your childhood morph into the idea for Soul Hub?
So I guess, you know, following that, I probably then spent 20 years in a box, right. So working at, you know, in corporate offices, you know, and my university background was sports. So, as I said, field hockey was my thing, but you know, almost any type of outdoor sports or tennis and golf. So, and then kind of when I came to London, in my early 20s, you know, I took a kind of work in sport, but, but more than that, obviously, the back office kind of sponsorship, and then advertising space. And I guess, you know, it started playing that London living game where you just literally work and then go to go home. And then at weekends, I would play sport and realize that, you know, I wanted more to life than that. So I kind of took off for a year traveling around the world. And, and for most of that part, hence the story around Patagonia, you know, I kind of went to South America, went to Indonesia, went to North America. And everywhere I went, I would be kind of craving that outdoor experience. I went to Colca Canyon in Peru, you know, the mountains in the southern island of New Zealand. So I’d always kind of be searching it out. And then actually in the return from that year of exploration that I kind of looked for the next adventure, which at that time took me on to a sailing boat, which was something I’ve never done before. So I had a crash course of three weeks of learning how to sail the high seas, and then literally went off to Australia and sailed from Brisbane in Australia, to Qingdao in China. And to, you know, maybe we’ll come back to that story. But there was something in me that wanted to create my own thing. And I guess I, through all this, kind of went on my own personal journey of, of discovery, and wanted predominantly to create a place where people could come to to help understand themselves better. And it was partly actually inspired. I went to Seattle with a friend Rachel and stayed with a friend Sara and the three of us went to you know, Oprah’s Get the Life You Want Weekend. Elizabeth Gilbert spoke, Oprah spoke and you know, the energy in that space was incredible. And it was just kind of — what do you want to do with your life? You know, and I thought — it isn’t sitting in an office all day every day. And so there I knew I wanted to do work that helped other people. And I think that’s probably kind of, you know, where the seeds started around Soul Hub. And then it’s kind of organically grown really from there. And combining I guess, you know, parts of me over the last five years of which Soul Walk and walking therapy has come into that mix.
Okay, before we talk about Soul Walk and walking therapy, yeah, I want to go back to sailing.
Because to me, this is such an incredible part of your story. First of all, to purposefully get on a boat like that when you have no experience doing that. And that’s such a long commitment. That’s really brave.
Or crazy. Yeah.
Okay, so in retrospect, was it brave, brave or crazy?
You know, I think part of it is, I remember my brother saying to me – because somebody nearly died on the trip when I left. I left them in China and they sailed over to Sanford’s to Seattle. And somebody, someone, one of the guys on my crew fell off in the middle of the Pacific, right. And they lost him for 90 minutes. And then the following year, a couple of people died on the race, it was the clip around the world yacht race. And I didn’t really appreciate quite how dangerous it is to be at sea. So when you say in the English Channel, I mean, even there, you’re still getting, you know, Gale Force Nine winds. You’re getting some experience, but you’re only out for kind of a maximum of five days. And actually, when you then step on a boat, and you’re like — Okay, I’m actually going to sea here for 30 days, and I can’t get off this boat. And whatever happens, you know, you are just you as a crew, and you’re gonna have to get through it, whatever. So, you know, I guess I’m glad I didn’t know what I know now. But I would still do it. And it’s been probably what, you know, one of my biggest teachers and like anything in life, right? When it pushes you to the edges of you as a person, this is where you learn about yourself. So it wasn’t a comfortable cozy, you know, sailing in the Mediterranean with a gin and tonic, you know, it’s far from that. Which is what I need to be able to say at the end. I was craving, I was counting down the watch. Wouldn’t it be nice just being you know, on the Greek islands or something rather than freezing cold in the South China Seas where, you know, no opportunity to warm up for days on end? Yeah, yeah.
Wow, what an adventure, and it’s, um, it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. Um, but at the same time, I know that I have found myself doing some things that other people feel that that same way around, right. And to me, it’s like — oh, well, here we are. For example, last winter, my friends and I decided that we would run to the glacier, right, and we just went out for an 18 mile, you know, 20 mile round trip run to a glacier and took some pictures and you know, ran back and no big deal, right? Yeah. Well, you know, and, and but to so many folks, that’s just — Why would you do that? That sounds cold and sort of mind boggling. But in the end, and sitting here today, it sounds like a big adventure. Right? Um, but in the moment, it’s like — Alright, well, that’s Saturday, you know?
Exactly. Some of it’s like time of your life, and, you know, if the desire is there, why not? What there was almost like — why not now? The reason I decided to do it was, I just come back from Everest base camp, and had just enjoyed all those things that travel gives you, you know, kind of the meeting of people the seen parts of the world, you wouldn’t normally go to the, you know, the testing of all your senses, the things that just, you know, make you feel alive. And you just, there’s a craving, right to do more of that. And, and as I feel like I’ve learned later on in life is actually now much more appreciation of the ordinary, which I didn’t necessarily have it, you know, in those years, whatever, five, six years ago. So it’s probably less of a desire to do something quite as extreme these days, but you know, I’ve confined it almost in the gentle walks. But you know, the travel I’m watching, you know, we’re all locked down here in the UK at the moment. So I’ve been watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain, actually his program on Netflix around kind of the food and cultures of the world. And you know, it’s leaving me itching to kind of want to get out and do a bit more exploring. Our time on this earth is is quite short.
Yeah. So I want to pivot to the walks and to the gentle walks. Talk to me, what is a soul walk?
A soul walk is a gentle walking nature with like minded souls.
And I think that the idea is much more again, moving away from the extreme. It was actually about the bringing together of people with you know, less of a – I don’t know if you have the same term, almost like rambling, we have here in the UK where, you know, people kind of want to get from one destination to another and they’re generally hell bent on getting there. And it’s, you know, let’s — Okay, we’re gonna hike, come on, off we go. And it’s not about that. It’s just about actually, you might not actually walk that far. So it’s the meandering of just literally being outside together. And kind of having the opportunity to either walk on your own or to just speak to somebody that you might not normally come across. And to allow a nature to just, you know, for that conversation to kind of gently unfold. And so it’s much more of a community coming together. But in the same way, even when I go out on my own, I still call it a soul walk, because it’s good for my soul. So it’s kind of nourishing in some way for me, just to be out and connected. So that’s the essence of it.
In 2020, you plan to walk the coastlines of the British Isles as part of walking therapy and so on. That’s of course on hold because, you know, all of this nonsense. Tell us about that project, though.
Yeah, exactly. And so I guess, to know, it was kind of instigated. I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with my mum and had a great four days kind of seeing lots of different acts and creative expressions. And, and at the end of it, I was trying to get over to a place called Loch Lomond. And I found that I didn’t actually have that long to get there. And by the time I got there on like two different coaches and the bus and the train and taxi, I would almost be coming back. And I thought, you know, when’s the next time I’m going to come to Scotland? To see these places? I thought it’ll probably be another few more years. And there’s so many beautiful places around the British Isles that I’ve never been to. And I guess a realization, I thought — well, when am I ever going to go to them? You know, when you’re normally doing a job and you settle in somewhere, you don’t actually get to find some of these places. And it’s not quite the same when you just go and visit for a day and have a cup of tea and leave, you know, it’s a very different experience to walk slowly through these towns and, and along, you know, the cliff edges. So I decided that, you know, it changed plans for me a few times. Originally, it was going to be all in one go. And then actually, as I started walking, a couple of things kind of started surfacing for myself just like — do I actually want to leave my home and be homeless and just live on the road? Or can I do it in bite sized pieces? That actually means that I get people to come and join me on the way. And so that became the plan. So I left on New Year’s Day. So I had a great send off in my hometown, Weston-super-Mare. So I had friends and family come out and join me on that walk. And then my mom and I walked along the coast and my dad joined us. And even in that, even in that instance, it was such a rare, I guess, moment, we haven’t done that as a family, the three of us for 20 years. And I thought — you know what, this it’s so much more powerful than just almost the destination of walk in the British Isles. It’s in all of these different moments. So I did a few days and then we had storms that hit the UK just before the virus arrived. So I kind of hunkered down for a couple of days with a friend’s mother and father in law who let me stay in their cottage and to be honest, we got up most mornings and by the time we’d had a cup of tea and stop chatting, it was like one o’clock and the weather was the weather is still bad outside and, and and I had the flexibility you know and again a big teacher of life right just to go — today is not the day, let’s you know, let’s see how the weather is tomorrow and we’ll go out tomorrow. So, you know, the elements dictate part of it as it rolls, I guess. So but it was just again kind of that bringing people together in towns particularly in some of the smaller communities around the British Isles that you know, have kind of issues around loneliness and connection. And this giving a reason for people to come together. And mixing that up with then just even some of my friends coming to walk, you know, people that I wanted a walk with would come and walk with me. So one day, two friends came and joined to me for a day’s walking. And, you know, so much joy from it. Lots of lessons learned around, you know, your capability and others capabilities on the southwest coastal path, which in the UK is very hilly up and down. And so again, just, you know, like life lessons being learned along the way. And but actually, then I kind of I came back to London and I met a man. So, which for me, is the first time in about 11 years. So it was quite unexpected. So in an amazing way, I’ve been in lockdown. Love, love lockdown. So it’s been perfect timing for that. So, yeah, yeah, yeah, so it’s on hold.
So, but I love some of the things you just picked out there. And I feel like I can learn something from this because I am one of these people who gets caught up in a goal and come hell or high water, I’m doing it the way I said it was gonna do it. Um, and I think there’s something really important that you said there about changing what you’re doing based on what you need, and what you realize in the moment. And that, you know, just because you made a plan to do X, Y, and Z does not mean that that’s what you have to stick through if that’s not what’s best for you. And you know, you’re pivoting based off of things you can’t control, like the weather and virus. Right.
When I heard you talk about this on The Tough Girl podcast, that was not your plan, what you just described, right? And it would be really easy, specifically for someone like me, who’s really very goal oriented to say — Well, I said I was going to do it, so I am.
I said, honestly, it’s like, the biggest life lesson. And it pans out in everything that I do, I can kind of see it. So you know, just almost like — what are you doing it for? Because if you, you know, you’re noticing yourself, right? It’s almost then it’s about the other, the other person, whoever that is, you know, and sometimes they’re faceless, right? Sometimes it’s like — I’m doing it for all these people, I said, I would do it. Because if I don’t do it, I look weak, you know, uncommitted. But actually, the opposite unfolds, I believe. If you fill your life with all these things that you want to do, you kind of forget the doing and the experience, and you don’t allow the space for something quite special to arrive in, and allow that to guide you. So even as simple as you know, being with my friends, Mum and Dad, it’s, you know, I just suddenly sat there and thought this time will never come again. And if I’d kept to my plan, I wouldn’t want I wouldn’t have probably even called them to say — Can I stay with you? Because I would have been too busy getting on to the next destination. And I thought — I’ll never have this moment again with these people. So you know, just cherish it and enjoy it and then allow the next thing to unfold. And sitting in that real trust space is hard. But allowing life to guide you rather than trying rather than forcing life itself.
I think there’s a real metaphor there. In the beginning, you talked about being in Patagonia and being bowled over by wind, right? And still enjoying that moment, and welcoming those conditions as they come. And you know how that applies to the rest of your life and how you tackle challenges and moments and the things that are set down in your lap.
I guess some of it’s like to ask yourself, like, even when you finish your goals, it’s like — how does it feel? Do you actually feel a sense of achievement when you have completed something? You know, and maybe when that disappears or you’re not maybe enjoying it as much as you wanted to, then that’s the time to kind of ask yourself, you know — do I need to be so rigid with it, and kind of be more flexible? And again, a great metaphor for life, right just to allow things in and things that you know everything from emotions to, to work to family, you know, allowing the nuances within life rather than being so constricted, sometimes.
So what is walking therapy and how does that fit into a soul walk?
So when I trained when I got off the boat, I ended up going to wizard school for two years.
What is wizard school?
Wizard school is run by a guy called Andrew Wallace, who is a psychotherapist. But he’s much more than that. So he’s an eclectic mix of many different therapeutic practices that he’s picked over his lifetime. And so we spent two years over 13 women, two years in his old school house, just outside of London, and each week for a weekend, each month, we will come together and basically work through our stuff, you didn’t necessarily know, that’s what you were going to do, you thought maybe you were going to learn techniques of how to do therapy, but as with all these things, you obviously have to take, you have to use somebody’s stuff, and it’s normally our own. So you go through your own process of therapeutic development. And, and it was, you know, again, one of the most amazing experiences because it just strips you right back to you and your authentic self underneath everything else that you hide behind, or put out to the world. So you start to really understand, I guess what your own truth is, and who you are, um, you know, the shadow, the dark stuff, and the ugly stuff, which actually isn’t so ugly, it’s just human, and it’s just part of you, but you know, all of you. So, over those two years, I thought this is a work I want to do in the world. And so I then went back to college and did another three years of therapy myself, and qualified then as an integrative therapist. And while I was doing it, I kind of knew, you know, we did a lot of freedom work. And so the practice that we did would be very structured, you know, sit in a chair, have your tissues, have a clock and do 15 minutes of therapy, and I kind of understand how useful that can be. And I guess I took parts of it. But thought, actually, I think there’s something different here that could be offered about actually being out in nature, just because I think nature is you know, is our biggest teacher. And we are part of nature. So why not allow nature, you know, ourselves to, or use nature to evoke emotions and to support our own therapeutic journey. I didn’t know anyone doing it here in the UK at the time. And but it just felt like something I guess I felt quite easily called to and I guess, as with all these things, when it flows, it feels like the right thing. So I just started doing it. And, and love doing it, and to really enjoy it fully, I guess what I find is I have to almost come empty. And so there’s no plan or there’s no, you know, route that I want to take or, and I just allow it to unfold in front of me. And that feels like you know, that guess where the trust of allowing that to happen. And me getting out of my own way to allow the person to go through the experience that they need to do so. And, you know, I think if you know, if you think about probably some of the best conversations you have, right? They’re normally driving in a car with somebody or they’re going for a walk, you know. I’m sure that you do most of your walking and your challenges. You have probably the deepest, most profound conversations you have with a friend. Then why would not do this, you know, as another option for therapy rather than going to another room and another box and sitting there opposite somebody? There’s a place for it, I think, a container that is sometimes needed but I prefer myself to do the walking therapy.
We talked to, in season two of the podcast, a therapist named Judas Sadora, who talked about wilderness therapy and using the outdoors as that container that you just mentioned. Do you find that to be true in walking therapy that the outdoors is a container as well?
Yeah, it’s funny, isn’t it? When I originally started, you know, I’d been working in addiction. And so a lot of I guess, you know, how do you express some of your emotions, it’s easy to do sometimes in a room right to drop into, let’s say, rage or crying or because you maybe know, nobody’s going to hear you, if you want to have a scream. And yet, so I was wary of that, when I first started doing walking therapy. If you’re in the real world, where there’s no one around, but a lot of what I’m doing is kind of around London and in big parks, but there’s always a chance somebody might walk past. So, you know, how do you find that trust to be able to work with whatever comes up at that moment, and not have to say, you know, well hang on to that emotion, and we’ll just walk around the corner and find somewhere quiet for you to go and scream, you know. I think there’s always this just trust your body. And it knows when it feels safe. So it knows when it’s safe to kind of express the emotions that it needs to. So, you know, so much in nature kind of prompts that I think, you know. I’ve had moments where, you know, you’re just walking along and allow a client to kind of guide me where they want to go. And so we might go, you know, this week, we went to a tree in a cemetery. And I asked her just to pick up any prompts around her, that might evoke emotions, about how she feels now and emotions about how she wants to feel. And being able to just, you know, leaves and twigs, there’s every element there that you can draw on, or object, and to help express those emotions as well. So even I guess, in itself, as you’re saying, it’s kind of like the container ship of the natural world around us. You know, or something as simple as, you know, sometimes we’ve been walking and horses have gone past and suddenly either dropped its load, or, you know, taken a pee and, and it could be seen, it’s always seemingly timely. So we might just be talking about how someone’s taking the piss out of them. They don’t, or, and then suddenly, there’s horses here. And you just bring that into the conversation, you know, what is it about that that’s just shown up right in front of you? So there’s a real synchronicity about it as well.
Yeah, two things. To what extent is the movement of walking therapy a factor in the therapy?
My boyfriend Andrew showed me a video on meetup of that guy actually, from the US who is doing walking therapy. And probably even four months ago, I haven’t seen much out there at all. And I think given kind of the global pandemic, people being forced to stay at home, and to go and exercise and maybe not commuting to work. And suddenly, people have really seen the benefits of walking and cycling, and of actually being out in nature. So that I think there’s been a real shift in terms of people doing it, but also seeing the benefit to their physical and mental health. You know, so they’re what they’re having the time to do that as well. I think time has been a huge factor in terms of people, you know, spending so much time at work, or commuting to work, and actually suddenly having some of that time back, and being able to do something that’s free. And that means they can do it with another person who on their own, and probably, you know, reaping the benefits of feeling better. And that it doesn’t take long. It can be you know, get out for 15-20 minutes, and you already have that breathing that sigh of relief and seeing in your body, feeling a bit calmer. And so there must be something to this. So I think walking is, the ridiculousness is like, you know, we’ve been doing it for all our lives clearly, you know, and it’s, it seems the most obviously, and you wonder why or how we lost our way, you know, with the motorcar and with trains and commuting and taking jobs, you know, a distance away from where you live, and all of those things have kind of I think, have have distracted us.
Yeah, okay, so that I mean, that really leads into my next question, which was, why isn’t walking therapy something that when I contact the therapist isn’t on the menu? Why isn’t that a thing? Why don’t we hear about this?
I think there’s an element of fear around it. That’s what comes up as you asked me that question. So it’s a good question. And it’s, you know, that kind of, you know, the regulation. So I didn’t actually have to look too far around. But there were a few insurance companies that wouldn’t insure me to do it. There’s a couple of things I think that go on. One is like the level of trust for somebody to come for a walk with a stranger. On both sides, right, I’m sure for the therapist, you know, how do you know who they are? And can you trust them? Do you feel slightly more exposed by being outside rather than in a facility of, you know, either a manager, if you’re in an agency, or somebody to call upon if something was to happen, but that kind of, you know, for me, that comes from a place of fear, which isn’t necessarily helpful place to start from. But also then, things like time, and you know, it’s easier in a room to kind of go, here’s your one hour, whereas in generally out walking, I tend to sometimes take a little bit longer with somebody and allow whatever needs to come up to kind of unfold. So I’m a little bit more flexible with that timing. And so it’s not, it might be different for people’s, I guess, business models. I guess, maybe to be seen, I notice that often, which is why soul walk is so nice, that people can kind of just say — I’m just going to go for a walk with Carmen. You know, they don’t need to say they’re coming for therapy, and there’s still an element of that stigma around being with a therapist. So is somebody going to see me? My partner doesn’t know I’m going for therapy? Or is my Neighbor gonna see me? And what do I say? So I think there’s some of that still there. And so, you know, things like maybe walking coaching might be easier or more palatable for people rather than walking therapy. So it’s been something I’ve played with and observed kind of what language I use. And I think partly going back to your last question, I think, I guess that’s why “soul walk” felt an easier way for people to come in. Because they’re kind of a bit disguised. And then they get there and they go, okay, because it’s all interrelated. Anyway, doesn’t matter whether you’ve come to talk about a job that you don’t want to do anymore or, you know, you generally have to get underneath it and go — Well, what is it about the job that you’re, you know, what is it about you, basically?
So what advice do you have for people who want to capture that kind of walking therapy, but might not have access to somebody who’s trained in this? Or who’s insured for walking therapy, as you just mentioned? So many considerations? What advice do you have?
I guess, you know, I think there are things, the principles, I guess, of what I do, you know, much of it, you can do for yourself, because it’s very often going with, with an intention. What I mean by that, because I know I said, I come with nothing but an intention of let’s say, being slow. And going back to what we’ve been talking about kind of allowing the nature to guide you. And so rather than go — I’m going to go from A to B, you know, how do you show up and just go — I’m just going to actually allow my gut to tell you where to go. And so, you know, for me, what I think where we mostly struggle as humanity is coming is that place of self trust, and therefore, you know, being in let’s say, our authentic selves. And so we’re kind of guessing what other people want for us rather than what we need in that moment. So the biggest thing about walking therapy is to, could you just keep getting reminded by me or the other person to kind of come back to what is it that your gut saying so you know, just to listen to it and be quiet. So maybe it’s not taking your phone with you or not having a conversation with you know, somebody or listening to a podcast, but actually to go in silence and have no intention of where you’re going to go just allow the path to kind of unfold and if you want to go and sit on a bench, go and sit on a bench, you know, to try and slow yourself down. And because in the slowness is where the emotions appear, and if we’re too busy rushing to get from somewhere to somewhere, we don’t, there’s no space or, you know, emotion gets shut down to press quite quickly. So how do you just be slow and allow and watch those feelings as they come up whatever they are, and try and walk slowly with them?
Yeah, so it is really just being in touch with yourself without somebody else there to remind you to do it.
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Because you can see yourself get distracted, right? So quickly. We’re kind of creatures of, you know, we want to be on our own, but we want to be connected. So you find yourself like, you might go and sit outside for five minutes, and then you go — Oh, I’m just gonna call my mum. You know, rather than stay quiet. Exactly. Give yourself that time.
When I first started doing my 20 minutes, I set out some rules. I think you’ve picked up that I like rules.
It’s okay with me. I mean, I’d be like, right. There’s no rule. There’s no planning. Yeah.
Yeah. What happens? What is our route? Yeah. So one of the things I considered though, because I wanted to be consistent was — How am I going to handle distractions? So how am I going to handle, you know, having my phone on me, and wanting to look at that, or being tempted to, instead of just sitting outside, sitting outside and watching Netflix on my phone or whatever, right? Listen to a podcast. And for a while I toyed with the idea that I would leave my phone behind every time and then I realized that what I really wanted to do was take a picture every day and be looking for the moments to be taking that, like — what am I seeing that would make a good photo today? Well, obviously, I need my phone with me. And I would say over my more than three years of doing this, the phone has become more or sometimes more of a distraction, but most I would say overall less. But it is hard to not do it. And when I find myself distracted by my phone, I’ve learned to you know — okay, this is not the most beneficial time outside, it’s time to put it away. Another nice thing about living where it’s very cold outside is that your phone dies. So I have to actually keep it in, I have to keep it next to my body to keep it warm so that I can take that picture. The other thing is that mittens make it really hard to look at your phone. And so I have my phone away because I literally can’t do it.
You’ve got to start with those um, you know, fingerprint things.
Yeah, I got thicker mittens than that. Those don’t work for me!
I really relate to what you’re saying about distractions and pushing those things away. Because that is a decision to do that you have to make the decision to be with no decisions, if that makes sense.
Yeah, it’s kind of on the phone, isn’t it? It’s an addiction, right? You know. So it’s like another form of like this little dopamine waiting to give you a little hit. So like any addiction, it’s kind of there’s that first craving part. And it’s even, I’m noticing is the awareness of it, right. So it’s noticing that that’s bugging, it’s there, haven’t tried to get your attention, you know, and it’s kind of like – Okay, I see you, I see you, I see you. And just go — Okay, can I give it a little bit of time, rather than react to it straightaway — and observe that for yourself? And okay, it’s kind of asking me to pick it up. It’s asking me to pick it up. Okay, distract myself, whatever it is, what can I think about that’s different to that tool, what can I see in front of me and just focus on that, that beautiful glacier and then notice that the feeling goes away and like anything, it’s the practice then of that, and then seeing the benefits of the fact that you know, and I guess to a certain extent, rewarding yourself that, that you haven’t picked it up. So becomes a little game in itself. You know, how far can you walk before you have a sneaky look at Facebook?
Yeah, I will confess that one time I was walking, it was the winter. I got a text message or something from a coworker. And instead of ignoring it for 10 minutes, responded with I mean, let’s be honest, it could have waited, right? And as I was looking down at my phone, texting and walking, I looked up and I was about 10 feet from a moose, a huge moose, who was with her child. Which is not where you want to be. And, you know, they just kind of were looking at me, you know, like — what are you doing? And I’m looking at them like — well, crap. And if that’s not an Alaska problem, by the way, I don’t know what it is.
And, you know, but I always think about that, like, what am I missing? I mean, literally, in that case, what am I missing right like ginormous. Um, but when I am doing that, what am I missing? Because I’m gonna miss, um, you know, a moose – and I love seeing moose, by the way, I just think it’s fantastic. And usually probably not quite that close. Um, but they always somehow managed to hide in bushes. I don’t know how a humongous animal, it’s almost cartoon-esque the way so they’re very, very large. But they’re not very, very broad, usually. And so, it’s a cartoon how they stand behind a tree. You know, like, if you were very skinny person standing behind a very skinny tree, but then you came out you were very long. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s just like a cartoon. Um, and I guess that’s why we have moose cartoons because they’re just, there’s nothing not funny. But they camouflage somehow in the woods, just among the dead trees. And it’s very hard to see them. And so I’m always looking for moose, and my dogs are going crazy. So I know there’s one around, but I can’t find it. You know, and then you try to take a picture of it hiding in the bushes and you got it like draw a circle on the photo, because you can’t. Like I swear to God, it’s right there.
But another metaphor for life, right? It’s almost like you’re not looking for it. And then right in front of you. Yeah, there you go. It doesn’t mean that you should therefore stay on your phone the whole time.
Good. Good tip. Good note. Oh, man, I love it. All right, let’s move on to our leftovers round. This is the end of our time. You know, I like to hear what, you know, we use the word gear that makes it sound really official that you’re, you know, the things that you’d like to use outside. But the truth of the matter is your favorite or most essential outdoor items could be as simple as your walking shoes, or I’ve had plenty of guests tell me that snacks are their most essential. And let’s be real. That’s the thing. So why don’t you tell us? What is your favorite outdoor gear? What do you love?
Yeah, and I have to say my mom’s woolly hats. I cannot not say it. So my mom, right, has knitted, probably about 150, maybe even more like 200 hats. So maybe we can even do it as a giveaway, right? They’re just all colors, all different shapes and sizes, some don’t fit my head, some extra bigger my head. But the amazing thing is and when I walk off and take a few different ones just to even change up my outfit so that I can wear a different hat. And actually even a woman I’d never met came and met me because she wanted to tell me about the Southwest coastal path. And Sarah and her mama lifted me a hat which I thought was like one of the loveliest things ever and so yes kind of like and also because obviously your hat is over your head and loses the most heat right so it’s important to have one that is warm. So I’m not sure all mine are that warm. Probably wouldn’t withstand the Alaska landscape. But they’re all right for the coastline of the British Isles. And then I would always say my thermals. I think I can’t go anywhere without icebreaker thermals. Yeah. So yeah, the base layer is most important.
Sounds like your favorite and your most essential all rolled up in one. You know, there’s something else about a hat. Handmade hat it’s a touchstone to the person who did it right, that thoughtfulness.
All right. Well as our final moment with you, um, if you imagine yourself in your favorite outdoor moment, take us there. Where are you and what are you doing?
I feel like I should go somewhere different than Patagonia.
We can go back to Patagonia.
I actually want to go, because I’ve discovered somewhere just much more local. I live next to a park called Richmond Park where Henry VIII used to go hunting back in the day. And but it gets quite busy particularly at the weekends and only in our lockdown did I discover there’s a little hidden wood just off the back of it in a place it’s called Bog Gate. Now it’s a kind of little wood full of trees. And it’s there’s something magical about the energy there as well. I always seem to go and have great conversations. And so it’s you know, it’s got a few little streams running through it at one end has a crematorium. At the other end it has kind of a sports, tennis courts and cricket pitch and but in between lots of dog walkers and lots of hanging trees and and it you know, as with all these things through the seasons, you know just changes so depending on what time of year. You get a very different experience and I guess just because of the magic that feels like has happened there with the people that I’ve taken there or been taken by. And so there’s something and you know, it’s local to home, right? It’s somewhere that I can easily access and changes my state of being. So even this morning, I went there with my boyfriend, Andrew and got a coffee and just walked through the gate. And it calms us and sets us up for the day.
Lovely. Thank you so much for joining us today on the Humans Outside Podcast. We appreciate it.
It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you.