What I Learned from Spending 20 Minutes Outside Every Day for 4 Years (Holly Wise)

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When Amy first started her outdoor challenge it wasn’t to inspire anyone but herself to make getting into nature a daily habit. It wasn’t even because she had found heading outside to be so transformative she had to do it every day. Originally, the 20 minute daily challenge was born of a question: how would her life change if she went outside for a certain amount of time every day for a year?

The experiment started September 1, 2017. And there at the beginning was Amy’s friend Holly Wise, helping her develop the concept just as she had for all of Amy’s big ideas since 2004.

Today, four years after starting her experiment hundreds and hundreds of hours outside as part of her daily practice Amy and Holly discuss what Amy has learned over the course of her habit — and what you can learn, too.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:42] Amy’s favorite outdoor space

[4:37] A question no one is asking

[5:47] What Amy has learned over the last four years

[9:02] Was this a surprise?

[12:00] The importance of incremental changes

[16:24] How doing hard things outside helps with life inside

[20:45] How she gets herself to do hard things

[31:49] The stories we tell ourselves and why they matter

[37:49] The going outside pep talks

[49:02] Amy’s relationship with nature

[51:28] Amy’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear

[55:51] Amy’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

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

There are a few people in my life who have occupied an important seat through much of my journey. Holly Wise is one of those people. Holly and I met in 2004, as I was fresh out of college and attending a journalism course in Washington DC. We went our separate ways, but have remained close friends, our lives and careers and families growing and shaping over time—and often in parallel. Holly is my good ideas friend, my sounding board for career projects, and an adventure buddy. While our journeys for a long time focused on career, they’ve also grown in parallel with our relationships to nature. It was Holly who helped me come up with the name Humans Outside. When getting outside with something I was just first starting to do in 2014, Holly’s courage to pivot with life gave me the courage to move to Alaska. And when she came to hang out with me in 2017, it was Holly who helped me come up with my 20 minutes daily challenge. That is what we know as Humans Outside today. This summer, when I marked 1400 days of going outside every single day for at least those 20 minutes, I knew I wanted to talk about it here on the podcast, but I wanted to do it as one of my interview episodes. What better way than to ask Holly, my fellow journalist, to interview me for an episode? And so here she is Holly Wise, interviewing me.

Holly Wise 2:21

So I would like to have this conversation, Amy, imagining that we are hanging out together in your favorite outdoor space. And I want to ask you the same question that you’ve asked all your guests on Humans Outside. And that question is—where are we today?

AB 2:42

What a novel question. I like it. You know, when I asked you to do this, I thought, I wonder if she’s gonna ask me the questions that I always ask everybody? So I am semi-prepared. Okay. So my favorite space is—no surprise—in Alaska. And my goodness, there are so so many of them. But the place that I like to go and think and spend time talking with other people is a place where you and I have been together. And it is in Seward, Alaska, there are these fantastic benches on this walking path. So we are sitting there, we are looking out over the Resurrection Bay at these mountains that just come exploding out of the ocean, they’ve got a little bit of snow capped action going on. And they’re otherwise green, and it is a gorgeous, beautiful, perfect Seward day.

HW 3:39

That definitely takes me back to that trip four years ago, which is hard to believe that it’s been that long, and makes me anxious to get back to Alaska so we can be there together physically again. I know that most of the people in the Humans Outside community have learned about your outdoor daily habits and challenge over the years to spend 20 consecutive minutes outside every day. Some I’m sure have watched from the sidelines, others have jumped in to do it with you. And probably all of us have asked lots of questions along the way. Like, why 20 minutes? How do you make time for it? Does it ever get boring? But the question I want to ask you right now is, what is the question that no one’s asking? And how would you answer that?

AB 4:37

I think I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the hidden drivers of this, the things that are beyond just the obvious. Like, I wanted to make my health better. I have wanted to see what the outdoors could do, and things that are more tied to discovering who I am, things that I didn’t even know I was doing outside. So maybe the question is, you know, what, what are you learning that’s outside of the realm of what you expected? So it’s more than a question about why you are doing it. It’s more of a question about what is on the periphery of what you’re doing? Why are you doing it that you didn’t even know was a reason?

HW 5:38

So what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned over the last four years that you’ve been doing this challenge?

AB 5:47

You know, I think I’ve learned a lot about the reasons I didn’t even know existed. I come from a background, a family of addicts. One of the addict recovery tools is to make a family tree, and to really map out all of the various and sundry addictions in your family. And if I was to think about this, my goodness, there are so many people in my family tree are addicts of some kind. And so spending our time outside, for me, is a lot about recovery from those toxic behaviors and addictive behaviors and channeling that into something that’s healthy, into something that has these uncharted areas, where there’s just boundless stuff to learn about yourself and things to explore and ways to grow. There is never anything that I do outside that does not result in some sort of growth, and then some sort of new revelation that I didn’t even see coming. You know, there are days where I think, Oh, you know, here we are, again, doing something hard. You and I were talking today before we started recording, and I just came back from a training run and it was raining, raining, raining, it poured for almost 16 miles. And there were times that I thought the only way to be wetter than this is to actually be in a pool. But even in that moment, I was thinking about the value of doing hard things, the things that I was learning about myself, being uncomfortable. Then the skills I was gaining by being a little cold by literally moving through—by not having a choice but to move through, because I was so many miles from home. If you want to go home and be warm, you’re going to have to get yourself there. Okay, guys, sometimes I do call my husband and have him come pick me up. But that wasn’t an option today. And so I’ve learned to find these corners of myself, and pull out from there things that I didn’t even see coming and I didn’t even know was an option. I have something to learn. It’s about more than learning to do hard things. It’s about more than trying new things. It’s about more than understanding who you are. It’s about uncovering all of the corners of yourself and learning to embrace parts of you that you didn’t even know existed.

HW 8:30

So one thing that I heard you say a lot there, was discovering these hidden reasons about why you go outside. You talked about uncovering all the corners of yourself, learning things about yourself that you hadn’t discovered previously. And I’m wondering if you yourself were surprised that this was an outcome of spending time outside every day. Was this a surprise to you?

AB 9:02

Yeah. So you know, when we moved here to Alaska, it was really to fix my husband. You know, I don’t really need fixing, I’m good. I’m here to fix other people. That’s sort of my thing. I’m a big ol other person fixer. And when you came up here to Alaska, I had just really started spending time outside every day. I was just doing it for that summer. And I had fallen in love with Alaska, and I paraded you around and I introduced you to my boyfriend, Alaska summer. And we had such a great time trying all these new things. And I didn’t know that I needed that. I didn’t know that I was broken in those ways. I didn’t know that. You know, and when I say broken those ways, I kind of had this catch in myself, right when I said that I was like, Oh, you know, why are you minimizing yourself? Why are you saying that? Because you’re not really broken, you’re just growing. And there’s a difference. And so I guess I want to retract that and say, I didn’t know that I had growth to do. I just was really in a place where I was so busy helping other people grow, that I was not focused on myself. And so, over these years of doing this over almost, you know, four years, when this episode airs, of going outside every single day, I continually discover ways that I can grow, and ways that I have grown, that I didn’t even know were happening.

HW 10:43

And that I remember when you started doing the summer, where you just wanted to spend 20 minutes outside every day during the summer. And that’s really how you begin the outdoor habit. And I think if I remember correctly, that’s when it was easy, right? Or at least easier to muster the determination to be outside with your boyfriend, summer, Alaska. And that challenge went well, you did it. And I think you have a collage of photos hanging in the wall of your office as proof that you did this thing. And the next thing you did after that was to challenge yourself to 20 minutes outside, on the not so good and not so easy days. And watching your process has me thinking about incremental intention, these small steps that build confidence, and the muscle memory and the mental muster for the bigger steps ahead. And I want you to talk to us about the importance of those incremental challenges.

AB 12:00

Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, because I’ve talked to people for this podcast to talk about this as well. It is a scientifically proven way to build grit, and the ability to do hard things. And nature, they’ve told me and I’ve experienced this myself firsthand, is great for that, right? Because it’s going to constantly throw at you things that you didn’t expect, you can’t plan what’s going to happen there. You can’t, you can try to plan, right, Oh, I’m gonna pick this day. And this time, because there’s going to be good weather, or I’m going to go on this specific adventure because it’s within my comfort zone. But that doesn’t always work out. So nature is going to give you these challenges, whether you like them or not, but the more you go out there and do them, the easier that challenge that you did just became. So let’s say you have never hiked up a certain distance before. Okay, so you hike that distance, and it was hard. And then tomorrow, you’re thinking, you know, I’ll hike that distance again, because I know I’ve done it once. And now that distance seems easy. So you’re ready to do a slightly longer distance and you just sort of scale into these bigger and bigger things. And intentional or not, if you create a practice around going outside every day, nature is going to scale you in or drop you in the deep end, maybe sometimes, right? Whether you like it or not, as long as you’ve committed to this relationship with nature, where you’re out there and you’re putting yourself in that space to say, okay, what’s, what’s gonna happen next? You know, you’re going to open the door to that. And you’re going to have these big adventures and this opportunity to have that come to you, as you have that intention to receive it. I think about you, when you and I were in Seward, if we’re having our conversation today. Okay, so we did not want to meet a bear like, at all right, but we found ourselves on this incredibly wet hike, which I was thinking about today during my very wet run. Because I think that was legitimately one of the last times I was quite this wet. I don’t like being rained on. And so I kind of avoid this happening. But this was the only time I could run today. So here I was, okay. But you and I went on this hike, and we got very wet. It was raining and as we’re hiking, there are these huge, I mean, humongous bear prints. Okay? And it was very clear on this trail that this bear had been there not terribly long before us, because you could see where it’s paw prints had slipped in the mud, just as we were slipping in the mud. Right, and so we did not meet a bear. Thank the Lord. But like we were sort of scaled into this possibility that that might happen. And had it happened, we would have handled it and we would have, I mean, we are chatting up a storm so I’m sure the bear was like, “I’m out of here, too late.” But, you know, we were creating a space where we were literally putting ourselves out there. And, you know, maybe going to encounter this thing that was outside of our comfort zone, and it would have been fine. But it was, you know, it was well outside our comfort zone to be quite that wet, and also to be seeing these bear friends. By the way, neither of us acknowledged that that was happening in the moment, which is kind of my favorite part of all of that. Because if we acknowledged it, then it might be true. So it was best to just acknowledge it privately and talk about it later.

HW 15:40

That’s right. So you’ve talked a couple of times about the hard times outside, and you mentioned it, building grit. And also, I love this idea of nature scaling us into the challenge. And I want to know, how do those hard times outside, whether it be rain, or an injury, or bear pawprints, or exhaustion—how do those hard times translate to your every day, inside life?

AB 16:24

I think if you make a practice of doing hard things, doing hard things becomes easier no matter where you are. So if I’m tackling a long day at my job, I can remember a time that I had a long day on the trail, and whatever I’m doing at my desk pails, you know that the trail is much, much harder, right? So I can think, Well, you know, I conquered this thing outside, I can be uncomfortable here. And, and it’s just sort of like this endless supply of that, you wouldn’t think that, you know, encountering a bear paw print on a trail directly translates to encountering a difficult coworker, right? Because both of those things could be stressful, but they’re not at all the same. But it does, because what you’re doing is you’re building this fortitude within yourself to see a challenge and to know that you’ve got this, that you can move through this. And the outdoors is great for that. No matter what I could handle at my desk, it’s never going to be a bear print in the wilderness, with the potential of being eaten only slightly dramatic. No matter what discomfort I have in my job, it’s never going to be that I’m extremely cold, because I work a desk job. But I know that I move through those other things that I know how to handle discomfort, that I have done long days, that I have totally not gotten eaten by a Bear, and I can do hard things. It’s not going to kill me to do this, you know, whatever thing that I don’t want to do at work. That is in no way quite as scary as the things I’ve already done outside and faced and it was totally fine with. My family and I went to Hawaii this winter, and it was lovely. And I made myself jump off of this cliff into the water and I really didn’t want to do it. I was like literally standing up there shaking, okay, wasn’t even that high. But to get there, first of all, I had to climb up the cliff. And I noticed on the cliff, there were these crabs that were black and kind of scary. And I determined immediately that they were like the spiders of the sea. Okay, and I hate spiders. So I’m already like, I’m all up in my head about that. I don’t want to get touched by a sea spider. And then I climbed up the cliff and I’m standing up there and I’m just like, my adrenaline’s going and I’m just shaking, shaking, shaking, and I made myself jump off of it, and it was totally fine. You know, I literally jumped off the cliff. I am so glad I did that. And I knew standing there that I was going to see this challenge, and I was going to move through it and I was going to do the thing, because it wasn’t going to be that scary in the end. And I was going to be glad that I had made the effort. And how often does that happen in your job? How often does that happen with your family, that this thing is scary. I don’t want to have this conversation. These people are on my last nerve. But I can take this moment. I can do the hard thing I don’t want to do, and it’s gonna be worth it later. I just have to move through this. I have to jump off of this proverbial cliff.

HW 19:45

And I think that connects back to our earlier conversation about incremental intention. And maybe for some people listening, myself included, I’m thinking to myself as you’re telling that story, that there’s really no way that I see myself jumping off of a cliff. And I think sometimes it can be easy for people to look at others—and since we’re talking about your experiences outside—to look at some of your experiences and think, Oh, I could never do that. But I think what we forget is that there was also a time when you wouldn’t have done it. And so can you dissect for us a little bit of your journey to get from hard no, to talking yourself off the cliff, literally?

AB 20:45

It’s a journey of scaling into those challenges, like we were talking about earlier. When I was growing up, a camping adventure for us meant we went to the same cabin every year in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where there was electricity and a microwave. And the bed in the master bedroom literally had the same exact JC Penney comforter on it that my parents had at home. This was not roughing it. We packed up, we drove up there, we spent a week there, it was great. My parents ate dinner every night at the lodge, at this fancy restaurant. We had a great time. That was roughing it. And I specifically remember going to the campground where we had friends stay one time, and being like–Oh, this toilet is disgusting. Like, it’s not even a toilet. It’s just like a hole. And it’s scary. And there are spiders and some flies. I’m like, just categorically not interested in dirty. I mean, that was really my outdoor experience. We went hiking there. And then at home, I spent a lot of time on the beach. But when I came home from the beach, I was really required to make sure no sand entered my parents house because my mother did not like sand. And you know what, I see her point, it’s kind of annoying. But as an adult, I’m like–let’s keep that on the outside. But she did not like going to the beach. We never ever, ever, ever ate on the beach, because who wants sand in their sandwiches.

And I mean, that was really the extent of it. And then as I got older, I was still very much in that same line of thought, you know, like — the outdoors is great. Look at the pretty flowers, okay, back in the air conditioning, good talk. And then I got married. And my husband, Luke, really wanted to spend time outside. And when you are in love with someone, you like to do the same things they do, right? Theoretically speaking. And so I started hiking and camping with him a little bit. But I have this very specific memory of going on this hike with him and our son. It was, I don’t know, gosh, who even knows how long it was, everything takes longer with a kid, it could have been five minutes, it could have been, you know, 17 miles. Who can say? but we worked hard to get up to the top of this thing, that’s for sure. And we get up there to this lake and there are flies. And I was like, nope, we’re out of here. Like we did not linger over the view. The flies were freaking me out, down we went, okay. And it was sort of interactions with nature that way.

So when he went to Afghanistan and came home, he expressed an interest in going camping with our kids and spending time outside. And I was like — Oh, I don’t think so. That sounds like sleeping outside. And sleeping outside sounds like it’s not near my bed. And I’m really a hotel kind of person, because they have beds and toilets there. So why would you do that? But I realized two things. A very wise mentor told me, if you don’t go with them, they’re going to go without you. And I did not like the sound of that at all. Because I wanted to spend time with my family. And I also realized when I gave it a chance that my husband was sort of categorically a different person while he was outside. He was more relaxed. He seemed to be having a not as hard of a time dealing with stress and that kind of thing. And we really didn’t know very much about his injuries at that point, which are a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. But I could tell that nature changed him. And so, like I mentioned earlier, I started going outside for that guy. You know, I was there to fix somebody else. But what I realized while I was out there was that the other person who felt more relaxed while we were camping was me. And I kind of liked it. I like sitting by the fire and drinking my coffee. I like staring at the fire. I liked staring at the lake. I liked sleeping in the tent. Weird. And the more I did it, the more I liked it. And guess what? The toilet wasn’t so bad. There’s like this guy who just drove by once a day and cleaned that sucker. And there were only a few really, really, really huge spiders in there one time. And you know, it didn’t even jump on me. So it was fine. And it was experiences like that, where I was confronting my fears, whether I wanted to or not, because that’s really what it is, right? When we don’t want to do something, it’s because of this innate fear that we’re going to be uncomfortable, or at least for me, that, you know, something bad’s gonna happen, something that we don’t like. And every time you face those little tiny fears, and prove that they’re not true, it gets a little bit easier.

And so when we decided that we really need to focus more on spending more time outside again, to fix my husband, we thought about, you know, moving away from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where we were, when we decided to move up here to Alaska. I really have this flair for the dramatic, as I’m sure you know. And so, moving to Alaska seemed like a really good story. You know, like, let’s do that. That’s really why I said yes, because I thought it would be a good adventure. And I never really thought about it as a way for me to spend more time outside. But after a year up here, I realized that I was living in a place where I had all of this really awesome access to nature and I was still stuck in me. When we camp, we have a plan and we got, you know, I don’t really want to go to the bathroom in the woods, and I don’t like to be uncomfortable, and I don’t want to be cold. And I hadn’t faced those specific fears. And so I looked at the outdoor challenge of 20 minutes outside a day as a way to incrementally face different things I didn’t like about Alaska, right? I could do anything for 20 minutes. Like, okay, it’s really cold. Well, you can be out there for 20 minutes. And guess what, it’s going to be a cool photo. And it’s a good story and you face your fear. And the more I did that, the more I found that I was facing those little discomfort fears, and that they weren’t as scary as they were before. You know, and you do that enough, that’s how you end up on the cliff. That’s how you end up there jumping.

And I mean, I’ll tell you where I am right now. So I mentioned the flies earlier on that hike. And I mentioned that because that’s still a thing that I don’t like. II don’t know what it is. But it makes me panic, having a lot of flying insects all around my head and my shoulders. I feel like I’m being swarmed. I don’t know, maybe I saw a scary movie or something. Right now I’m working really hard and very intentionally to wear bug spray. But also, if I’m in a situation where that’s happening, to be very meditative about it and say — Okay, I am here, and the flies are here, and we are all here together. And that’s okay. And also, let’s leave now, but not in a panic kind of way, right? In a way that’s like — I don’t have to sit here and be uncomfortable with this. I don’t have to let this go on. But I also don’t have to panic in a way that shuts down my ability to even function. And so it’s a work in progress. Like today I told you, I was wet running, I hate being rained on. But I needed to go on a run and it was raining. And I was like — alright, well, there’s really only one way to do this. And it’s to go out the door and be wet. So that’s how it’s gonna go. And guess what: I didn’t melt. I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West, as it turns out.

HW 29:17

The thing that I was thinking about while you were talking is the power of story, which I know is something that’s particularly special to you and I because we are journalists and we are trained to tell other people’s story. And I think a byproduct of that is that we sometimes view our own lives as a story. And maybe even thinking about the legacy that we’re leaving, the story that our lives are telling each day as they unfold. And I think also because of this, we also are pretty active in the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. There are specific stories that I say about myself, like — I am not athletic, but I’ll go outside and go for a hike. And these are some of the tapes that play in my head over and over. And I think this story can be held accountable to the actions that I take outside, right?

So take, for instance, the story that I tell myself that I am not an athlete. And yet, I can go and do these athletic things outside. I can go for an 11 mile hike, or I can go kayaking for several hours, which is something that someone who is not an athlete would have a more difficult time doing. So I think there are these stories that we put on repeat in our heads that helps solidify sort of the myths that we create about ourselves. And with you and this really wanting to be intentional about spending time outside, were you thinking—back in 2017—about recreating your story, and the story that you were telling yourself about your own capabilities and power? And also the story that you were projecting to the people around you, your family, friends and people who were following you through Humans Outside?

AB 31:49

Yeah, you know, I think that the story changed itself. You know, I was there. When I started the Humans Outside website, I had a tagline on there that you made me think of just now. Something like indoor girl in an outdoor world or something like that, right? Like, that was the story I told myself, that this was all an experiment, and I’m not outdoorsy, and this website is about me not being outdoorsy. But I think that we can both agree – that’s not true. I am outdoorsy, right? Like I’m probably more outdoorsy than most people I know at this point, just because I spend so much time outside. But even then when I was like — I don’t know, maybe I am outdoorsy. Like, that’s the story I tell myself – that I’m not really that outdoorsy. I think the beauty of spending so much time outside is that the story changes itself for you. And it’s what we talked about earlier, where nature’s nature is going to give you what it has, it’s not going to go according to your plan. It’s not going to stick to your script, it’s going to do whatever it’s going to do, and you’re not in control. And so whatever story you’re telling yourself about who you are just got thrown out. Because if you give yourself to this unknown, and if you present yourself to all the possibilities that exist when you head outside, whether you have a plan or not. You’re going to have the narrative changed, you know, and you’re going to have to take it as it comes. And isn’t that the best part? Because, like you said, we’re journalists, right? We love a good story. Well, nothing is instant. This is something a podcast guest strongly told me a couple of seasons ago, I think in season two. They’re starting to blend together guys, this is how many episodes I’ve done. But you know, one of the things he said was like nature is the best storyteller out there. Nothing is going to be wilder than what nature can throw at us. You know, anything that you’ve imagined is going to be outdone by whatever the mountains have for you today. And I just think that that is such a tantalizing offer. You know, so throw some quirky people in the mix, and it gets real real fast.

HW 34:14

There’s also a time when the story doesn’t work in my favor, like when I’m writing the headlines of my demise.

AB 34:22

You and I both have the narrator. I was recently told that not everyone has an internal narrator. But you and I both have a narrator who was like a nature documentary in our heads and, say we’re going for a hike and it’s going to be dry and the narrator says — it would not in fact be dry.

HW 34:48

So I’m not sure if I told you this but my husband for his birthday this year told me that he wanted to go on a hike and that he wanted it to be dry and flat. So the hike, as I’m rolling through the Rolodex of hikes in my head, the hike that I chose, required that we cross the river.

He definitely fell in the river. He looked up at me and he was like — I’m not dry. And we are now hiking uphill.

AB 35:25

That’s right, the narrator says it would not, in fact, be dry or flat. But you know what? The narrator is great, because he has a great time on my outdoor adventures. Because the other story I tell myself, and I actually think that this one is real, that this is actually correct is that I am just this constant comedy of errors. And part of that is because, again, nature is going to throw at you, whatever it’s going to throw at you and however prepared you are is fine, except that’s not going to work out probably. And so the narrator just has a field day with me, because all the things that can go wrong, go wrong, as they do for anyone, you know. So there’s like that time, Luke and I went on our first backpacking trip. Well, when we got there, there was a lot of really low cloud cover on this particular ridge line. And we should have said to ourselves — self, I wonder how the snow looks up there. But we did not say that. Instead, we hiked up there only to find there was a lot of snow and we turned around and came back to the car. I mean, it really ended up being a day hike with very heavy packs. But when we got down to the car, we found our dinner that we had not packed in our bags, and yeah, and I sat there and I you know, like the narrator’s laughing. I’m imagining how this would have gone later, which is like we would have trudged through the snow instead of turning around because we’re obstinate, not that smart. And then we would have been really, really hungry because we work so hard. And then we would have sat down to have this meal, and it would not have been in our bags, and I would have cried a lot. That’s how that was gonna go. So it’s just a good story. See how I did that? Right? It didn’t even happen, and I can make a good story out of it.

HW 37:22

There has never been a hike that I’ve regretted, or time outside, that felt wasted. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard sometimes to take that step. I want you to tell us about the days where it’s hard to get outside. And what are the pep talks that you’re giving yourself?

AB 37:49

Well, I mean, it’s just what you just said, right? Like — Amy, have you ever regretted even one time going out? No? Have you ever been sorry? No. All right, like then what are you doing? Okay, you’re gonna go outside. And then I’ll tell you, it’s the hardest in the winter, right when it’s super cold. And you have to put on all the layers and you’re just pressed for time. And it’s dark. And you just don’t want to because the inside is warm. And inside is where your TV show is. And that sounds good. Okay, and the coffee, right? You and I love coffee. So the coffee and the TV show are on the inside and on the outside is negative five degrees, windy, and the requirement to find a lot of articles of clothing, you’re not quite sure where they went. So which one do you want to do? So you have to be like, okay, here we go. And you bundle up and you make it happen.

And then the second thing with that is that if you’re going to make that much effort to go outside, it better be worth it. You better be going to do something that’s not going to be stupid, you know, that’s not going to be just box checking. I’ll tell you what, it’s not that you regret it, it just isn’t as great as it could be. And so on those days I take an extra beat to make sure that once I’m out there, it’s worth it, that I am being intentional, that I am looking around me, that I am taking in whatever scenery there is. Let’s say I really am pressed for time, I only have this 25 minutes and even if I wanted more, even if I didn’t have this 25 minutes, it’s so dang cold that I don’t want more than that. I’m using that 25 minutes to really look at the trees and the way the snow is on them or the leaves and the way they’re on the ground. Or if I have more time I’m making sure that I do something that I enjoy, like putting on ski boots and getting the cross country skis and carrying them up the hill and trying not to die on the way there on the ice and on and on and on. And that’s always worth it. And so that’s the pep talk you give like, I know the steps to make this worth it. And I know that I’ve never regretted this once. So therefore, I’m going to do it. It’s like, if you really wanted to go out instead of going to bed, but you have a big meeting, early in the morning, you know that the denying yourself that little bit of pleasure or that immediate reward to go out and have a good time is going to be something that you won’t regret tomorrow, because you made the decision, you know, as best and you stayed home and you went to sleep. Same kind of concept, right? You’ve made the practice of going outside, you know, the risk is worth the reward. So you do it. And that solidifies the fact that going outside is worth the reward. So you do it and on and on and on. And the more you do that, the more layers on until it’s undeniable, I know that going outside is worth it. So I’m going to go outside. The end.

HW 40:56

We know that you are raising two boys in Alaska. And you know that I’m raising a three year old, outside, mostly, we spend a lot of time outside, we spend a lot of time hiking. And it’s given me a glimpse into the challenge, really, of having an active lifestyle outside with a toddler. And I wonder if you could give us some insights as to how to have this outdoor life with kids and how you make them part of that. And also, making sure that everyone’s having fun.

AB 41:45

Yeah, lower your expectations, and bring snacks. Those are the two things that those both apply to adults as well. So yeah, I think that when it comes to being outdoors with kids, it really is about lowering your expectations to what makes success. In my head, we’re traipsing around the world having these big adventures camping overnight, you know, well, my kids don’t necessarily want to do that, right, they’re exhausted. They’ve played really hard. And they’re living their best lives, but their best lives are not mine right now. And so I have to adjust what I expect to be doing, or expect to be experiencing and focus instead on what’s going to enrich them. And as they grow and get older, you know, those two things meet in the middle. Also, I discover, as I adjust my expectations, that there’s a reward that I didn’t see coming in not doing the big thing, there’s a reward and just spending that time lingering over this pile of leaves or this giant stick or in watching Huck dig a hole again, you know. This kid can dig a hole, okay, he just really, he’s a hole digger. And it gives me no joy, but he really likes it. So I patiently wait for him to dig his hole. Um, and I think, you know, maybe there’s a career here, who can say? But, you know, I adjust my expectations.

And then the second thing is to really think through what’s going to make this a pleasant experience. So I said, bring snacks. The other part of that is, um, for both you and your kids, you want to make sure that you’re comfortable, you know, so is that a good pair of rain pants and a rain jacket, and then layers underneath it, because when you’re getting rained on, you’re usually cold as well, unless you live in somewhere, somewhere very humid. But I always forget that if I’m getting rained on, I want to have, you know, a nice warm sweatshirt underneath that as well. Or if you’re in the wintertime, you know, does everyone have hand warmers? Does everyone have warm enough pants and you know, hats and gloves and all that stuff. And my goodness, it’s a lot of gear to keep track of. But being comfortable really makes a big difference. Because if you think about the times that you don’t want to be outside, it’s probably because you’re uncomfortable. And it’s probably because you’re hungry. And so, some snacks really go a long way. I mean, I can’t recommend that enough.

HW 44:12

That’s funny that you mentioned that because we just spent a month in the Smoky Mountains. And we hiked a lot and every day that my daughter and I would be out I would pack a lunch for her and her lunchbox and have her juice ready and snacks, a lot of snacks. And one day when we were out on the trail, I had this thought that this is an intention. This isn’t something that I woke up that morning and just decided to wing it right not not that’s not to say that we haven’t had those hikes too. But this is something that I had planned the night before that I knew the hike we were going to do. I knew what to expect and I knew what I needed to bring for her to be happy, which means that I would be happy. So that planning goes a long way. And I also love what you said about giving them the moments that they need to experience and explore nature in the way that is fulfilling for them, which is not the same as is fulfilling for us.

AB 45:19

I took my kids to Homer, where you and I also went, but you and I, like dropped in there and then we were like out, right? Okay, check, done. All right. Well, I love Homer. That was the first time I’ve been there, when you and I went. I’ve taken my kids back several times. So it’s like literally the end of the land. Okay. And there’s this beach area. And the thing to do is to camp right there on the beach. It’s awesome. So taking my kids to do that, and I had this really sort of epic day plan. We are going to get on a ferry, we are going to ferry across the bay, we are going to go to this cute little town, we are going to pick some berries, like I had it all all planned out. And I also had planned that we were going to go get coffee and get a pastry and like all these things before the boat time, boy. No. So I overscheduled us. Somebody had a bathroom emergency. Even if he hadn’t had a bathroom emergency, we still would have been late for the boat, okay. And my kids are all psyched to go on this ferry. I paid all this money for it didn’t happen. You know, like, they’re like — the boats gone, Sister. Goodbye. And I sat on this bench. I literally cried like I had this perfect vision for this day. That didn’t happen. And so after I pulled myself together and got another coffee, instead we went to a park. We walked along the beach. Like it went from being like action packed to nothing, no plans. And it was arguably the best day we had there. Because I changed my expectations to see things through their eyes. And you know, due to lack of other options, right? And we had this really wonderful day where I just watched them play and they had a great time. Also—side note, I almost got pooped on by this. I mean, like it had to be the world’s biggest seagull. Okay, so I’m walking, it’s become like this family lore. Now I’m walking and I hear this giant splat like, like paint falling from the sky, guys. Okay, and I look around and there’s this huge bird crap on the floor on the ground, right? Like right next to my feet, like missed me by six inches, okay. And I looked at my kids and I said to him, just remember, no matter how bad things are, you didn’t get crapped on by a bird. And this has now become the family saying like, no matter what, the bird didn’t crap on you. And so, you know, practical lessons from that day as well. I did not get crapped on by that bird. And it was, let me say, dangerously close. And that would have been disgusting.

HW 48:12

So that reminds me that yesterday, I was attacked by a bird. It attacked my head. I think it had a nest that I walked underneath—how dare I—and it attacked my head.

AB 48:33

You had to be reminded that this happened. That’s the best part. “That reminds me, yesterday, I was attacked by a bird.” I believe that’s a direct quote.

HW 48:44

Hey, you know, yesterday was a long time ago. So I’m curious to know how you would describe your relationship with nature. And with the outside.

AB 49:02

I think of us as partners. And I think of it as my teacher, you know, so it partners with me to teach me things. Maybe that’s a good description. You know, we spend a lot of time together and so it’s not, you know, schooling me all the time. But when I need a lesson, it’s given. it I also think of nature as my sanctuary. You know, it’s a place that I can escape. I know that I know, to expect the unexpected as we’ve been talking about, but I also know that there are rules there, you know, that it will always act in the realm of what nature does, you know? It’s never going to do things that humans do, whether, you know, purposely or accidentally right, like betray you or whatever, right? It’s always going to be consistent in that way. So while it does change, while you have to expect the unexpected, that’s within a realm of certain possibilities. And so you have, you know, a set of expectations within that ever-changing landscape. I don’t know if that makes sense.

HW 50:33

It does make sense. I think, what you were saying earlier connects to this, that there are certain things that you can expect from your time outside, in addition to being prepared for the unexpected. And for the ways that nature is going to scale the lesson that day that it wants to teach.

At the end of your conversations with your guests, you ask them three questions. And so I’m going to ask you those three questions now. And I’m really excited because I want to learn from you as you answer these questions. So what is your favorite outdoor gear item?

AB 51:28

Okay, I’m, you know, I too have learned from my guests. And my favorite items are actually things that I’ve been introduced to by guests on this show. So I’m excited to rehash. Okay, so my favorite outdoor gear item is actually a thing we call The Pants, capital T capital P. And they are a pair of puffy pants. The one specifically recommended by the first guest to talk about this, Kate Arnold, is a pair from Mont Blanc, which is an outdoor gear maker. Mine are from Black Diamond. My husband has a pair now, they’re from Mountain hardware, so lots of places to get these. They are essentially puffy, like a puffy jacket, but in pants format. And boy, are they wonderful. You feeling cold, a little chilly? Just put on the pants, Buddy. Instant warmth. And this has become such a fan favorite of my friends tonight that we now all of them, own them except for Claire, one of my running wives who is a conscientious objector to owning the pants. Purposely, I might add, she does not own the pants, she will tell you with pride. But I think we underestimate how much heat we lose to our legs. Like we’re so busy thinking about keeping our core warm and our arms warm and our hands warm and our feet warm and kind of put a hat on that we started we forget like if you keep your legs warm, that’s the whole puzzle, Bud. And they are so great. And I love them. I love The Pants. I wear them in the summer. I wear them in the winter, very year-round item. They’re great.

HW 53:06

So I’m going to ask this question because I’m from Texas, where puffy pants probably wouldn’t be a thing. So are you wearing something underneath them?

AB 53:17

Usually Yeah. So they are designed to slip over whatever you have on. And so, you know we take them camping and in the evening if I’m chilly or in the morning when I get up, if it’s like 50 or whatever, I’ll put them on for you know like an hour and then if I’m hot, just take them off. I would not recommend wearing them without something underneath them because they’re just like a sleeping bag material. So if your legs get sweaty, it gets kind of clammy in there. That’s not nice. No one wants clammy legs, gross.

HW 53:53

And what is your most essential outdoor outdoor gear item?

AB 53:59

Okay, another thing I was introduced to and I’m excited because I’m also having on the show the founder of this particular product, but it is a Kula cloth. It is essentially a pee rag. It is a pee rag designed for backpacking, specifically with women in mind. It’s a six inch piece of fabric. One side is absorbent, and the other side is like a pattern, water resistant, like, you know, kind of looks pretty, it’s got artwork on it, whatever. Or a funny cat joke, whatever. And then it snaps to your backpack or whatever you want to put it on. And the idea is that you use this when you go to the bathroom. If you’re a woman you know that going to the bathroom outside is complicated because if you’re hauling toilet paper, you’re probably now hauling Out dirty toilet paper? If you aren’t, you’re dripping dry and nobody likes that. That just leads to chafing long term. I mean, it’s complicated, right? So having this particular product, it’s called Kula cloth, solves that problem. And they are probably the funniest Instagram feed for a product that I follow. They’re great. So that’s my most essential item. I mean, I only started using one this summer, after hearing a lot about it. And I have to say – life changing, just mind blown.

HW 55:35

And what is your favorite outdoor moment ever? This is a time that you close your eyes, and this is the thing that you did outside that gives you joy. Where are you? And what are you doing in that moment?

AB 55:51

Yeah, so I am standing on a mountaintop. About halfway through the day of running and hiking with some friends. It is a beautiful, perfect sunny day in Alaska, the air is probably around 65 degrees, but the sun is really warm. And we are standing on this mountaintop, literally this peak of this mountain, looking out at just this vast landscape of green and more mountains. And we are literally the only people in our line of sight. It feels like we are the only people in the whole world. We are out there in the middle of nowhere. There’s no one else. And we have this feeling of our context among the mountains, and how small we are. But also this feeling of how large we are, in this moment as we’ve conquered these peaks. And as we are standing as what seems to be the only women in the whole world on top of a mountain. And it is something that I envision quite a lot.

HW 57:07

Amy, this is a unique opportunity that you have to speak directly to your Humans Outside Podcast listeners. And I’m wondering, what would you like to say to them directly?

AB 57:22

Yeah, so this is my four years of outside anniversary. And I am feeling very grateful for the gifts that spending time outside has given me. And I am feeling very grateful for the people who have joined me in this journey, such as yourself, Holly, and the people who follow along, who have given me their time and their attention. And so I think that my message today is one of gratitude and thanks that you have spent time listening to me, and that you have spent time following your journey. And thanks to the outdoors for giving me these tremendous gifts.

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