She Went Outside to Finish Her Dad’s Epic Bucket List and Found Big Things About Herself (Laura Carney, author and bucket list chaser)

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Laura Carney Humans Outside podcast

There’s pushing yourself to chase big goals outside because it’s something you want to do — and then there’s doing it because someone else can’t.

When Laura Carney found her dad’s unfinished bucket list years after his tragic death, she knew completing it wasn’t just a fun sounding idea — it was something she absolutely had to do. And since many of the list items were outdoor activities, that meant digging deep to find the courage to step outside her comfort zone and tackle a series of crazy. Impossible-sounding tasks.

What she learned on her journey to finishing his list for him goes beyond just self-discovery or liking new hobbies. The courage and insight she found through her time outside is fueling her life today — and can inspire you to chase big dreams, too.

Don’t miss this excellent and inspiring episode with Laura. Listen now.

Some of the good stuff:

[3:27] Laura Carney’s favorite outdoor space

[5:33] Who Laura became someone who likes to go outside

[6:52] A little about Laura’s dad and his list

[10:39] What is a “thin place?”

[15:33] Getting outside for list items

[17:52] How working on the list changed her relationship with herself

[21:34] How the list project changed her relationship with her husband

[25:51] Some really good lessons from the list work

[28:39] The big life lessons from the list

[30:19] The value of learning to laugh at yourself

[38:40] Making her own list and the rules that don’t exist

[42:54] Laura’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

Amy Bushatz: What do you learn about yourself, the world around you, and the people you love when you find the courage to step outside of your comfort zone to chase a big goal that feels like fate? That’s the journey Laura Carney found herself on in the years after her father’s death. She was 25 when he was killed by a distracted driver. And when her family unearthed a life bucket list he had started but never completed, she took it on as a mission to understand him better while growing her own dreams. She’s now told her story of that journey in her new book, My Father’s List.

The list was broad, with entries ranging from Own a $200 Suit to Grow a Watermelon. Many of the items had to do with travel, some were material, like the suit, and others were wide ranging experiences, many of them outside. Laura’s own pre existing relationship with nature is a major part of her life story, as is how chasing and completing list items outside has changed how she sees the world today. And Laura is here today to tell us about the list, her dream of, and journey to, completing it, and how tackling a big dream like this can impact you. Laura, welcome to Humans Outside.

Laura Carney: Thank you so much for having me. What a great introduction.

Amy Bushatz: I am delighted to talk to you. You and I have been, I, maybe Facebook friends would be the best characterization for a while. But I have enjoyed following your book journey through a Facebook group that we are both a part of. I’ve, I feel a little bit like a Laura fan slash stalker, so forgive me, this is cool.

Laura Carney: Oh my god. I didn’t know those existed. Thank you

Amy Bushatz: Well, hopefully in, like, a super non creepy way, because, yeah.

Laura Carney: That’s so nice, thank you so much. Yeah, I feel like I wrote to you first because you were in where you weren’t you in Real Simple.

yeah, and it was this amazing spread where you were like standing in this field of lavender I

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, yep, you have great memory. Yep. yeah, you have great memory.

Laura Carney: Who is that person? I to know her.

Amy Bushatz: Well,

Laura Carney: And it was talking about your mission.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, it definitely was. And I’ll tell you what a like dream thing to be in Real Simple. You know, I tried to play it really cool when the, reporter for that emailed me. That was back in October of 2021 that came out, I believe. She emailed me, of course, magazine deadlines work, so you’re way before that. And I was like, keep it cool, Amy. Keep it cool. Don’t respond within the first five seconds. And then I could not keep it cool, and I definitely responded right away. I tried not to respond with, yes, yes, for the love of God, yes.

But it was, it was a beautiful, uh, retelling of my, you know, this whole journey that we have right now, coming to Alaska, and then having this effort to spend time outside every day, which is why you are here with me today on this show. So we start all of our episodes here imagining ourselves and our guest’s favorite outdoor space, like we’re kind of hanging out somewhere outside that you enjoy.

So if we were outside with you somewhere today, where would we be?

Laura Carney: Okay. You shared with me earlier what this question would be, and I wrote down a couple places, and I have to tell you, this is very difficult to, to choose when, because I realized that my good fortune that I’ve been to so many incredible outdoor spaces now, I think with, no one had ever asked me that question, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to realize that.

but. You know, I almost went with Krogh Patrick, which is the mountain we climbed in Ireland that I wrote about in the book. I almost went with, Santa Fe, basically anywhere in Santa Fe because I love it so much and Santa Fe is really my heart and that’s where we got married. But I think I have to go with the Huntington Garden in Los Angeles.

I think that’s my favorite outdoor space and my one of my closest friends, my college roommate moved out there, I think it got almost 10 years ago, maybe a little over 10 years ago now. And she always would take us to these amazing gardens and outdoor spaces in LA when we would go out and visit her. And that was one of the first ones she took us to.

And it was just like, I remember noticing these, this long like alley of camellia trees. And I had never seen camellias before in my life and I was like, oh, there’s flowers growing on trees. Like not like in a dogwood or cherry blossom way, but cherry blossoms- that’s another place I love there’s a place in new jersey a cherry blossom park.

I forgot about that one, but go there every year. Anyway, I mean favorite outdoor spaces is a big part of my life. They’re like a spiritual sanctuary for me, they’re free. You know, like, like you can’t beat them. And as far as feeling a sense of heaven on earth, or as I described in my book, the concept of thin places.

And the Huntington is definitely a thin place for me because, you know, that was just getting to know the place that one of my closest friends had just moved to. And the garden is so enormous and it’s so beautiful. And I don’t think I’ve been in a garden more beautiful than the Huntington.

Amy Bushatz: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for describing us, that first. That sounds like a great space. I’m happy to be there with you. Can you tell us a little bit about how you became someone who likes to go outside? What is your outdoor story?

Laura Carney: I mean, I think I was just one of those kids who even though I was very studious and like a big achiever in school and very shy, which is, you know, kind of hard to believe now, but I really was. I was just always outside, you know, like Katie Arnold has this really great book called Running Home and she talks about how she was like that as a kid and how she’s trying to raise her own children to be outdoors kids. She calls it “raising rippers.” And just talks about how, like, being outdoors is so important to what you’re becoming and how you’re growing. And I, I just remember being a little girl who was a tomboy, who was always climbing trees I wasn’t supposed to be climbing. You know, like, I was just always, had my face in honeysuckles, like, eating all of them,riding, I used to ride my bike every day, everywhere. You know, I’d be covered in bruises and mosquito bites and bee stings every summer. And I remember, like, counting them like they were, you know, badges of honor. I think it’s just my spirit has always loved being outside. And I think it’s because I’m actually a very adventurous person. And that sort of, that part of me from when I was a little kid that was free to exist, sort of went under wraps as I became an adult. And it took starting my mission with my dad’s list to kind of find it again.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So tell us about your dad, if you don’t mind, and about his list. How did this become something you found yourself tackling?

Laura Carney: He loved the outdoors. He used to take us on hikes all the time, and I have a passage in the book where I described this, and it actually was, my eulogy for him when he died. He would take us on hikes and he would pretend that we were in a Native American tribe and he would say he was Chief Big Bear and my brother was Little Bear, and then he’d say I was the navigator.

And he would basically teach me how to use, the sun, you know, how to use what I had around me at my disposal to navigate any given place. And I think the reason I used it for his eulogy was because I recognized that he had died. You know, when I was so young when I was 25 because of a teenager making a phone call while driving, you know, ironically enough, someone who was lost.

And I thought, God, people are going to think I’m lost because my dad died this way. And how is she going to find her way through life? And I think it was bringing me solace to have that memory of him teaching me how to navigate because I had just moved to New York City for my first magazine internship when he died.

And it was like, it was such, It was such a revelation to me, that I loved New York as much as I did, that I loved figuring out where things were, and this is pre GPS, you know, this is like, pre, iPhones, this is me with a map, unfolding it, and maybe stopping at an internet cafe or something, this is 2003. And I was really good at navigation and I was shocked by this.

So, I mean, the eulogy was to say, Hey, he was right. Like, thank God he taught me this. But it also was, you know, don’t worry about me, like I’m going to be okay. He’s still with me. And I think that was like an inkling of what was going to come later with the list and the book, but I just didn’t know yet.

It was just you know. a sparkle in my eye. Later, it took about 13 years for us to even know that his bucket list existed. My brother found it when he was moving into his first house and it turned out he had this in like a little pouch inside of a box for 13 years. And he didn’t know what was in the box and, you know, when you move, sometimes you go through things a little bit more and that’s how he and his fiance discovered it.

And they were so excited about it that when my husband and I went up to visit, they showed it to us. And, you know, I think sometimes people, the reason they like to ask me “how did you make the decision to do this list?” It’s because most people would see something like that and be like, “Oh, that’s so cool. Oh yeah. I remember how he was so adventurous. And you know, of course he wanted to do these things and now I have his hand ring and I can frame it and enjoy it.” But that would be like the end of it.

Amy Bushatz: hmm. Yeah.

Laura Carney: You know, you wouldn’t be like, “Oh, I need to finish this for him.” And I don’t really know how to explain that. That was what I decided to do. It was more instinct. You know, it was one of those decisions that was like I just felt it. I felt this was what you might call like a lightbulb moment, like one of those memories that’s always very clear for you for your whole life.

And I knew when I, as soon as I saw it, I need to finish this thing. And luckily my husband saw it and he’s like, “Oh, that would be a great book.” You know, because my husband works in book publishing. So the two kind of work together very well. And. So I always knew from the beginning that I wanted to write about the experiences I was having.

I think my grief for my dad and my desire to give him some kind of a legacy, I think that was so buried deep within me that I wasn’t aware that was what was really compelling me to do this, that I needed healing. And, you know, I think it only makes sense that there were so many list items that we’re going to require that I go out in nature, that I reconnect with that little navigator that was still inside of me.

Amy Bushatz: You mentioned “thin place” earlier, and I, I want to talk about that right now, but can you define that for everyone else who hasn’t read the book yet? What is a thin place? Where does that term come from?

Laura Carney: Yeah, I learned about it when I was, I did a lot of research for all the travel list items. And one of them, actually Ireland wasn’t a travel list item, but we did end up going there just because, we wanted to see where our family came from. My mom has Irish ancestors, my dad does. And we went to London for the list, but it was also for my mom’s birthday.

So After we left London, we went to Ireland, and I learned that in, in Ireland, the Celts call a space where, I’m probably gonna mess this up, but I believe the way they say it is heaven and Earth are worlds away, but in a thin place, they’re only three feet apart, you know, it’s something like that- in a thin place they’re much closer. And it’s sort of like a place in nature and it doesn’t even have to be nature, I think it could even be like a cathedral or it could be like just a place that has a lot of reverence. It’s just when you find yourself in a place and it feels otherworldly, like it feels like the veil between our world and the spiritual world is, is like not as thick.

Amy Bushatz: The reason I ask about that, ask you to define that is because I’m wondering if you have felt that other light bulb moments are thin places -that that’s something I really related to that those moments where, you know, maybe it’s a light bulb or you just know what the right thing to do is. might be another description, that it does feel like a thin place. It’s a place of clarity. It’s a place where you understand why you’re here and what you’re doing.

Laura Carney: Yeah. I mean, a moment could be a place, you know, I think there’s things we can do in our lives and it doesn’t have to pertain to being outdoors, but maybe lifestyle things or just choices that we make. There’s things that we could do situations we set up for ourselves that are conducive to those light bulb moments and thin places. And I certainly have them a lot more than I ever did before. And I think it’s because I’ve chosen a life that is requiring them.

Amy Bushatz: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And I will say that I I don’t only have them when I’m outside, but I think that the exercise of being outside removes so much noise that you have elsewhere that you have the clarity to notice those sorts of moments- that for me.

Laura Carney: Yeah I agree. I mean, but the sensory deprivation is a big one. Um, one of my, I think probably one of my most important thin places in my life is when I fly.

Amy Bushatz: Yep. Yeah.

Laura Carney: And I find myself in tears, and I’m praying, and then all of a sudden I’m thinking about something and retracing my thoughts about something that happened, and as a writer, you know, you’re always sort of writing, even if you’re not sitting down and writing, so I’m maybe formulating a story in my head. Like, things just come in faster and make more sense.

100%. Yep. I completely agree, and I both detest and love air travel, right? But the love part is exactly what you’re describing. My best ideas come either when I’m, like, out, like, I feel like I problem solve outside when I’m running, like I, or hiking. I have- I tackle problem sets, right? And then things just occur to me. Those lightbulb moments are like, I know what to do about that. In, when I fly, I feel like I have good ideas. Those are similar but different things. Yo’re receptive. You’re sitting there receptive.

Amy Bushatz: Probably our ancestors had that happen to them a lot more. Because they were living in nature and they weren’t as removed from it. Don’t you think?

Yeah,I, without being a rewilder, I agree. Yeah.

Laura Carney: I’m not a rewilder.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. ha. Yeah, but I love talking to Rewilders, so no harm, it’s just that’s not something I do. But one of the reasons I love talking to and having folks on the podcast who do fit that description is that they bring exactly what you’re talking about, this idea that, and this hearkening back to.

Uh, by my count, at least 14 of the items on the list are inherently outside, like ride a horse fast, can’t, I mean you could do that inside, but it’d be harder, uh, and, uh, others include plenty of outside time, like visiting Paris and St. Thomas. Did you find your personal relationship with spending time outside changing over the course of working on the list?

Laura Carney: Yeah. I was becoming, how can I put this? I was becoming, more receptive to the communication of the outdoors. Like to be in relationship with it in a different way. I think that’s the best way to answer that. You know, one of the first really outdoors ones that I did was, swim the width of a river.

And I made a big freaking deal out of swimming this river. Like, am I going to get bitten by a snake? You know, like, are people going to think I’m insane? How deep is the river? How fast is the current? Is it going to wash me away? You know, I just, I, what outfit do I wear for that? Like I got like a day crew, you know, like what do you call them?

Like when they’re long sleeve, one of those rash guard type of bathing suits because I thought oh my god It’s gonna be so cold. Like I was very aware of all the elements the way someone who is living in a city and is very high maintenance would be. And definitely thought what I was doing was absolutely insane. Why on earth would somebody write swim the width of a river like it just it didn’t make any sense to me You know, probably my experience swimming at that point in my life, I didn’t do it very often anymore. Not like I did when I was a kid, when I spent the whole summer outdoors. But it was limited to pools and being in the ocean. I didn’t swim in rivers. But thank God, right? Like, thank God I did because I learned the, about what a cold plunge does. Like I learned that when you’re in a wild river, when you’re in open water swimming, it’s very different than if you go to the swimming pool at the Y, you know. Like I was laughing when I came out of that river because I was having such a great time. And I felt so connected to something, that I, and I didn’t know that was gonna happen. And since then I’ve become a triathlete. I’ve I can’t even, you know, I’ve swum in the Hudson River. I’ve swum in a bay in Atlantic City. I’ve swam in a a lake in Haines City, Florida, that supposedly had crocodiles in it.

You know, like, like I’ve expanded my horizons with outdoor swimming, and I think that applies to everything I do outdoors. You know, I, going for a little walk in the woods, that used to constitute a hike for me. Like, that’s really what all we were doing when I did that with my dad as a kid, but now we go camping. I tried to climb Mount Whitney last year with my cousin. First attempt didn’t go so well, which I also wrote about in the book, but I am going to try it again. And I really feel now that some of my favorite moments in my life are when I’m outside. Whereas before, I think I was a person who was like, Oh, well, we live in an apartment. Like I live in the city. That’s my extent of going outside. And once in a while, maybe I’ll take a foray into nature. Whereas now I think probably I would say 75 percent of when I’m having a good time is happening outside.

Amy Bushatz: Do you think tackling these things has changed your relationship with yourself, like you — how?

Laura Carney: Oh yeah. I used to be really unsure of myself. You know, just really like, and if that was just old tapes I was playing in my head because, you know I was diagnosed with ADD as a teenager and with depression and I knew I was a very sensitive person. And when you’re a kid going through that I think it’s kind of a common experience that you’re sort of shaped by I mean, thank God I had people helping me, you know, like my mom was a guidance counselor. I had doctors who were helping me. But at the same time they’re kind of helping you to make sure you don’t get yourself into too many stressful situations and they’re helping you learn how to avoid triggers.

So I think I sort of approached my life that way. You know, almost like, I don’t know if I can trust myself. Like, I don’t know if I can trust my moods. I need to make sure I live this very disciplined way so as not to end up in a bed for a couple days with a depressive episode. Or so as not to end up being late to work because I don’t manage time super well.

You know, like, just all of these beliefs I had about myself, I think really… You know, they affect how you feel about who you are. They affect your self esteem. And when I started the list, I think because it was not like when I started this, it wasn’t real life to me.

Amy Bushatz: You know, it was like this wild, crazy experiment I was doing. You know, not dissimilar, I guess, from when a person decides, Oh, I’m going to go on a camping trip.

Laura Carney: You know, like that’s not your everyday thing, if you don’t do that all the time. And this was like that too. It was, Oh, here’s this crazy adventure I’m on. And I think if you make a choice like that, all of a sudden, you know, none of the rules apply that they, that normally would apply.

And I started finding, I had strengths to accomplish these things that I wasn’t seeing in my regular life. And the reason I wasn’t seeing it in my regular life was all those tapes I was playing. And I had created limitations for myself and things I thought other people could do that I could never do. So I think really, you know, beyond I mean, the first thing that started happening with the list items was fear exposure and getting me away from the trauma of my dad’s car crash because that actually made me phobic in general.

It didn’t make me just phobic about driving. It made me afraid of people dying, of me dying. So really, these very physical things like the skydiving one, like the surfing one, you know, right off the bat, I’m doing these death defying things and learning that I survived them. So that changed me a lot.

You know, like, you can learn skills. You can learn physical skills that are going to keep you alive. It’s not like just a crapshoot out there. And then now I started seeing that in my life. But then I think the second thing that started happening was I just started developing, God, just all this self confidence, you know, like this, these feelings, like I can figure this stuff out and I have strengths and I have skills.

And also maybe I’m not alone. Maybe there is something so much bigger than us that’s helping us shape our lives. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that, that if you make a big decision in your life, that scares you, but you also feel super excited about if you start approaching it and start pursuing it you’re never going to be doing it alone

because the universe, you know, like the alchemist says, right? The universe supports you in going after your passions.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. So speaking of that support, you know, tackling something like this can be a bit of a relationship strain because you get, can get tunnel vision, right? Or, I mean, it could be a team sport. Okay. So, did spending all this time on the list broadly and then on the outdoor section specifically, change your marriage, change your relationships?

Laura Carney: I mean, it was great. It was, I think for the most part, it was great for it. It’s not easy when you’re married to someone who all of a sudden is saying things to you like, Oh, my gut just tells me I’m supposed to do this. I know we have no money and we can’t afford it, but I just know I have to be there. I can’t tell you why yet. Don’t ask me why.

I mean, granted, that’s not going to be good for a relationship. My husband is a very patient man. But at the same time, I think, you know, the way he always puts it is that I had become bogged down by fear and,and worries about abandonment, you know, with him in our marriage and just in my life in general.

And that’s not just because of how my dad died. It’s also because my parents divorced when I was six. Just moving forward in life had become sort of hard for me in my early thirties. and I had a hard time with uncertainty too. So that was actually creating problems for our marriage and it was like I wasn’t this fearless, excited young woman anymore that he met when I was 25. I mean, my dad died three months after we met and my husband only met him one time. He died five days later. So, I think he knew that. I think instinctively he knew that doing this was gonna heal me and it was gonna pull all of those things that I had kind of buried myself in, it was gonna pull every layer off. So that person he really loved was now gonna be there all the time and out for the world to experience. So I think that was what got him through the things that were more stressful.

But, you know, at the same time, my husband is a super adventurous person. He loves to travel. He loves to be outdoors. And I think he would say that my doing this project has helped his life too, because, you know, I actually was a runner right before I started the list, but the first item ended up being about running. And I really think my being an endurance runner kind of became a thread throughout the story, like just affecting every other thing I tried, which would require training, research and persistence and, you know, the ability to be by myself for long stretches. And then in like year two, suddenly my husband became a runner too.

And that wasn’t something he ever thought he could do because he has really severe asthma. And, you know, that’s not just attributed to watching me find success with this because he was reading lots of books about, you know, other people who had asthma who became runners or you know, other people at other, you know, life things that were hang hangups for them. And then, you know, he’s vegan and he started learning, Oh, if I just eat the right foods as a vegan, like I can beat this and I can go after this too.

And now, you know, he ran an ultra just a couple of years ago and he loves running. It’s part of his identity now. So I think it’s sort of the way I look at it now is that this was something we needed to do to be on

Amy Bushatz: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Laura Carney: that hangups or obstacles were just hiccups, if that makes sense.

Amy Bushatz: I mean, oh my goodness. You have said so many, so many good things. I don’t even know where to start, but I, I, I, I think I’m just cause I, I am also a runner. I think there’s something very relatable there to anybody who does anything hard. It doesn’t have to be running. Doing hard things breeds the ability to do more hard things. Having an endurance habit, whether that is spending time outside every day. or no matter the weather, or it is tackling your father’s list, or it is just, quote unquote, just running or any sport. Having an endurance habit gives you the endurance to do other hard stuff, and keeps you on the path that you want to be on.

I, I think that’s a very relatable experience. And I think it’s something that in my personal experience, and then the people I’ve talked to and the people I’ve seen going through these things, including yourself, it is a thing that is, breeds itself. That the more you do, the more you do. Also, it is just a part of the human spirit. It’s a part of the strength that we all have inside of us to keep moving forward. We just need to know how to tap that. And having an endurance habit helps you know where that strength is.

Laura Carney: Yeah. And I mean, like you said, it breeds itself. It applies to so many things. And I think we talked earlier today about how I haven’t actually run since December because I had a broken toe. And then all of a sudden I had a book I had to promote. Am I becoming like this thin little weakling right now? Yes, I’m not super thrilled with that. I love it when I’m feeling strong.

But at the same time, I can’t tell you how many times on this book tour and with promoting my very first book, I have thought about it. I have felt like, okay, well, this isn’t an Iron Man. You know, this isn’t a marathon I’m doing today.

Everything becomes relative to those experiences. And I like I’ve had so many times now where I’ve just thought, Oh, that’s why I did all of that. It wasn’t just for my body. It was, or to meet a challenge. It was to train my mind to think differently. So if I encounter something that’s new and different and scary, Where I worry, as any person would, Oh, what if I fail? What if this is a flop? What if I’m a joke? You know, everybody goes through that. That fear goes away super fast for me now. Because I’ve proven to myself over and over again that I can do things even if I feel that way and that discomfort’s okay.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah.

Laura Carney: And sometimes discomfort is great because you’re plowing through it and you’re learning that it doesn’t have to stop you.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, oh man, that is such a lesson of my personal outdoor habit, that discomfort’s okay, and that I will probably not die. I mean, I’ve yet to die, know? But, but, but the discomfort is what kept me from doing it to start with. That’s the thing I had to try to overcome. That the, this is the major takeaway of my six years of keeping this habit.

It is that I am self limiting. The only thing limiting me is me. And when I do not self limit, I am not limited. And such a big part of that is getting over the idea that discomfort is going to kill me. It is, I guess it could, but it hasn’t yet. and I’m a pretty self sustaining person, right?

Like I, I selfish, inherently because I’m a human. So I do everything I can to protect myself. So that’s going to be not putting myself in a position where I will actually die. Okay. So I’m not real worried about that happening, but discomfort doesn’t kill me and I can handle it and I can handle it in small increments and when it doesn’t feel good anymore or it feels overwhelming or too much because we all have nervous systems and that happens, I have the capacity to take a step back and reset and try again later. And it doesn’t mean that I failed. It just means that next time’s a new day. But discomfort is unlikely, and like I said, so far, all the evidence points to not going to kill me.

Laura Carney: Also, sometimes it’s really funny.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, there’s that.

Laura Carney: I mean, like, the times when I had ridiculous things happen to me with the list, like when I peed my pants while running those 10 miles in the LA Marathon, you know, or I threw up midair while jumping out of an airplane, which nobody told me that happens to people, you know, that’s not something you read about in a brochure for skydiving.

Oh, probably 50 percent of you are going to puke on yourselves while you do this. And meanwhile, like when it happened, I’m apologizing to my tandem jumper and he goes, it’s very common. It’s like, okay, so this guy gets thrown up on like every single day. Cause he, I know we, I think he told me he did the, at most 15 jumps a day.

Like that’s his life. Amazing. But you know, every time something like that would happen to me, what I would feel was, okay, my dad is trying to show me how ridiculous this is. Like he’s in another world. He’s on the other side of a thin place right now. And he’s trying to show me, like, you stop taking this whole being human thing so freaking seriously, you know, like like you could choose to have fun with the discomfort. You could choose to laugh at yourself with what your human body’s doing and you know, I think that is another thing that really, you know, I have the subtitle of my book is “how living my dad’s dream set me free.” That’s another thing that really set me free because now, like, not only am I letting go of all of this trauma and all these layers I put on to protect myself for more emotional pain, I’m also letting go of hang ups about failure and hang ups about being a stupid human because it’s kind of great being a stupid human, you know, because we get ourselves into some pretty entertaining predicaments and that’s how you learn.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah I mean, I can,I so value the ability to laugh at myself. And it has saved, I think that laughing at myself and learning to laugh at myself has saved me so much stress over time because, like, what are your options, okay? In many situations, it’s either you can laugh or cry, right? So, you could be upset about this or you could be like- this is a little stressful. It’s going to be funny later. For example, I, just a few days ago before recording this, was in Dallas, and I was feeling so scrappy. I was feeling so good about myself. I decided I was going to save a bunch of money and take the train back to the airport. I scheduled it out. I figured out the train schedule. I hauled my bag to the station, in I am not kidding 105 degrees. I’m like sweating. and I get to the airport, I take the shuttle bus, like I, I’ve got it nailed, okay? I walk in there, I got time to go get a snack from the lounge I paid for so that I could save some money, okay. I was at the wrong airport. I went to the wrong airport.

Laura Carney: no.

Amy Bushatz: I went to the airport I flew into.

Laura Carney: My nightmare. I’m so sorry.

Amy Bushatz: I went to the airport I flew into, having completely forgotten that months earlier, past Amy, had decided to do future Amy a favor and book the return flight from the airport that was closer to where she was going to stay, because it would be easier.

And indeed, in retrospect, it would have been easier. But, alas, I did not remember that. And so I had to make a, like, rocket trip across town in an Uber that he was not a distracted driver, he was just a dangerous driver. He got me there. Pretty sure we broke a lot of laws. There was at least one red light that he used as a stop sign, okay?

And… Okay, not good, but I got there. And I got on my flight, don’t, people of the world listening to this, don’t do that. I got to my flight, okay, and I’m just standing there like. Seriously? This happened? Okay. So, but I told him while I was, while he was trying to kill me, and I do believe that this is true.

Like, in that moment, I could be upset about what had happened or I could be like, Amy, you, can you even believe that this happened? And in fact, yes, I can believe that happened because that is so 100 percent me. Also, it’s like, okay, this probably happened for a reason. Like, there was just a lot of things that, and like, what’s, what am I going to do about it? Be upset? Like, what’s that going to do? You know? So. I, that’s just the most recent example. I ski poorly I end up in snowbanks in the most ludicrous ways. I have left ski tracks through snowbanks that, like, they go across the ski, the cross country ski trail to the point that my friend’s father in law, who grooms the trails, has seen them after the fact, not knowing it was me who left them, and, like, made jokes about them at dinner.

Like, okay, and then it gets back to me because she’s like that, yeah, that was Amy. All right, like, I could laugh at this stuff or I could just be like so embarrassed. I’m gonna choose to laugh and then go out and do it again anyway because what’s the fun in that, you know?

Laura Carney: Yeah, I mean, if you’re a person who’s going to try to do anything,that matters to you and is going to make you have to travel and is going to make you have to go out and interact with people, things are going to happen. And, you know, as you were telling the story about the airport, all I could think about was, I just had a reading in Chicago. And. Basically, I ended up getting into Chicago in a mad dash and getting out of Chicago in a mad dash. Neither thing planned by me. On the train, I thought it would be a super fun adventure to take the train into Chicago because I wanted it to be like my favorite movie, North by Northwest. And it was actually on my bucket list ’cause now I have my own. and it was really cool. And I mean, it wasn’t as glamorous as the 1950s, but it was super cool. And I slept in a chair. I slept in coach because I didn’t wanna spring for the, you know, whatever you call them, the sleepettes or I what those little cabs were called.

But they did have them. And around 7:00 AM all of a sudden the train completely stopped and there’s announce an announcement from the conductor saying there’s a car parked on the tracks. You don’t know when we’re going to get through this. So then I had to email the radio station I was supposed to have an interview at as soon as I got to Chicago because I was doing a bookstore event that night.

And I had to say, Hey, there’s a car on the tracks. I might not make it. And this is live radio, you know, like, are they going to find someone else that close to it? I don’t know. What ended up happening was somehow I stopped worrying about it. I went back to sleep. We ended up getting there with me like I think it was two minutes before the show was supposed to start.

I got a cab from the train station, one I’d never been to before in my life took me maybe five minutes to get to the station. They sent someone downstairs to retrieve me who recognized me from Facebook or something. And then she swept like, swept me, I feel like this is what it felt like, she swept me up to like 28th floor, whatever it was, and all of a sudden I’m sitting in a chair in a radio studio and I have headphones on, and there’s a woman on the air who’s on the phone talking to the host about my book and how it changed her life and is crying about it. And this is someone who I only, you know, sort of tangentially knew through Facebook, through another friend, and she had told me she was going to call in because she works for the radio station. But, you know, thank goodness, like she was like pinch hitting for me because I couldn’t be there.

And that interview turned out completely lovely. And like so much so that another host on the station the next day on his program stopped his listeners and was like, you have to listen to this. So it felt like it could be a disaster. Ended up being great. I just had to surrender to what was happening.

And then, right before I left, it suddenly hit me, Oh, like I’m checking my phone in a subway station. Oh, I’m not leaving at 10pm, I’m leaving at 9pm. Because my calendar never switched the time zone.

Amy Bushatz: hmm.

Laura Carney: I had been thinking for two days, my train back to New York left at 10, it actually left at 9. And I realized this at 8 30. .

So it’s like, okay, what do I do? And then it’s just, you just pray. You know, it’s like, I have to find a way to get to that train station. Don’t know if it’s going to happen. I walked up from the subway, thank God, I thought to get off that train. It’s like something just nudged me to get off, walked up to the street.

All of a sudden there’s a cab, like a little angel cab showed up out of nowhere. took me to my hotel where my luggage still was. I ran in and grabbed it and then he took me to the train station and I made the train within one minute spare.

Amy Bushatz: Woo. I’m sweating just talking about this.

Laura Carney: And I, like, I sat down and like,how did that just happen? And, like, there was no moment in that 30 minute trip which should have taken longer than that. I mean, he, I know he wasn’t, like, speeding, but, because I didn’t tell him what was going on. But at the same time, It should have taken longer than that, and it didn’t make sense, like it didn’t make sense that I had made this. And all I could think was like, surely my mindset had something to do with what just happened, and surely it had something to do with getting into that radio station and still being able to, because the old me never would have approached those situations that way, I would have been so filled with anxiety and self loathing and worry that people were going to be mad at me that I would kind of just shut down.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Oh, what a great story. You mentioned you have your own list. Tell us about it

Laura Carney: yeah, well, you know, take a train like, North by Northwest was one of them. I want to go to Hawaii. I really love Joseph Campbell, so I’d love to go see his tomb. I want to go see a volcano up close. I have this weird infatuation with volcanoes. I want to go see the Golden Buddha. I want to hike in the Himalayas.

I’d really love to finish the whole Appalachian Trail. Sistine Chapel, that’s a big one. I’ve never been to see any of like art or antiquities in Italy. And that I almost was an art history minor. So that’s really important to me. what else?

Amy Bushatz: How do you create such a list? Do you just sit down and decide, like, we’re making a list, baby. This is what’s happening. Or do, or are, were you at, at risk of overthinking said list?

Laura Carney: Oh, no, it’s pure fun. Um, you know, I, I was researching so much for the book that just, it would bleed out into other things. Like I was just always uncovering things. Oh, that seems cool. Oh, that seems cool. So it’s like, anytime I find something, I think, Oh God, I have to do that. Then I add it. So I probably have like 120 items on it now, but I have checked off 20 and I really love it when they sort of just start to happen on their own.

And I think people don’t, I think people don’t make lists like this because they’re afraid it’s, they’re creating another obligation in their lives, or it’s just going to be like, when would I have the time to do these fun things? And they’re selling themselves short if they think that way, because what they’re basically saying is, oh, my life isn’t supposed to be fun.

Amy Bushatz: That’s not being an adult, you know? And then it’s like, later they could be like, why am I not having any fun? It’s like, well, because it’s the way you approached it. Like, your intention affects the way you live. It affects everything you do. So there’s no harm in me creating a list of fun badass stuff I want to do and experience.

Laura Carney: It doesn’t matter if I don’t do them all. It’s just that’s me setting an intention for an amazing life.

Amy Bushatz: It’s also okay, I think, to change your mind. At least I hope it is because a 20 year old, maybe 19, anyway, very young, much younger Amy, made a list and in review, there are things on there that I actually do not want to do. Like I am, I think it’s very cool that you decided to jump out of an airplane. That’s not my kind of thing, but it’s on this list, right? And so I’m like, okay, like we’re an adult now. We can decide that we have changed or know ourselves better and don’t need to jump out of an airplane.

Laura Carney: Oh, you should change them. Yeah. I mean, as you get more information and as you grow and change, because we’re always changing, we’re always evolving, you definitely should change it. I am totally in favor of that.

Yeah. So folks who want to make a list, there it’s, there are no laws. It’s not the 10 commandments. It’s written in stone, which was a type of list. It’s not that kind of list. You can change it. You can grow and change. It can be outdoors. It can be not outdoors. It can be whatever you want. There are no laws. Do what you want. Well, the other thing I want to add, Amy, is that, you know, I was talking earlier about how in my early 30s, part of what I was struggling with because of my dad dying suddenly and tragically the way he did was uncertainty. Because, you know, this happened because of someone on a phone while driving a car, things that you see people doing all the time to me are like, oh, it’s almost like they’re holding a loaded weapon.

No one else would really think of it that way. You could go crazy looking at that all the time and being afraid. And, you know, my hope is that my story does inspire people to maybe make, you know, more helpful choices than that. But, I had to not look at it that way anymore. And I had to learn how to be not only be OK with the uncertainty of life, but embrace it.

And be like, oh wait, that’s the fun part, you know. And to now be in a position where I’m saying, oh I have my list and I’m going after it and I choose to have a really awe filled, wondrous life, that means I’m like going back to that 25 year old me who thought anything was possible. Because I think a lot of the time what people don’t understand is that your mindset is really everything, you know If you believe you’re gonna do some of these things and it’s gonna be incredible you can do them You know the universe responds to that openness and to that receptiveness It’s really how we’re supposed to be like we’re supposed to be like the soil in Nature where if you put a seed in it, something will grow,

Amy Bushatz: Yeah.

Laura Carney: They, you know, that, that’s how we work. We’re alive too. So, it’s like, that’s why when we go out in nature, we feel like we’re home. Because we’re supposed to be in a state of growth all the time.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Oh, what a beautiful way to end. Um, the other way, the other way we end is, I’d love to hear my guest’s favorite outdoor moment. Just walk us out with a scene that’s special to you or something that you’d like to think about. You have a lot of moments. We had trouble picking a place to go pretend to talk. So I, I can imagine this might be a struggle as well, or maybe not. Do you have an outdoor moment you’d like to share?

Laura Carney: I think I have to go with when my husband and I climbed Croagh Patrick, which is the mountain that St. Patrick lived on in Ireland. It’s in County Mayo. And this is where the Irish do their,they tried to replicate his pilgrimage and the people that he led once a year. And people sometimes climb up this mountain barefoot, which was just like unbelievable to me because it was covered in rocks and, and mud.

And it’s like, they’re just trying to make it even more uncomfortable. You know, sometimes people just really, you know, they go after discomfort on purpose because they think it’s making them better. And it does, but you know, I don’t know that I’m, I’m that,

Amy Bushatz: I’m good with wearing shoes. I’ve got you.

Laura Carney: And you’re talking about rewilders. That’s like a re, I don’t know what that is. Re- stone age or something. But to be on that mountain, to know its historical significance, to know that there are still people who come there every year repeating that feeling, to, you know, we didn’t end up getting to the top because I had a foot injury that happened because of a list item.

And I really, it just wasn’t feasible for me, but we’re going to go back someday. I’m going to get to the top. And my husband was like climbing ahead of me. And he kept slipping in the mud because he was trying to take pictures of these blackface mountain sheep that live on the mountain. And for some reason, like there’s these little ravines and creeks that go down and he just kept falling in.

And I had this moment where I was like, this is so funny. Like this is, I can’t believe I’m getting to watch him do this. And we’re out in nature with these incredible animals, you know, I’d never seen before. I’d never seen them in the United States. And he took a picture of me sitting on a rock and then suddenly one of the sheep was right next to me.

And it was like, you know, like Robert Goulet on Saturday Night Live, like having a staring contest with a goat, you know, where he’s like, you always win. That’s what it felt like, like, oh my God, I’m getting to connect with this animal who lives here.

And, you know, it wasn’t just the feeling of being present and being in a thin place, knowing how spiritually important that spot is. It was also that that’s where my people come from. You know, my dad’s ancestors, my dad’s family come from there, so maybe they also climbed this mountain. Maybe they also got to see this beautiful blue bay that I was looking at. And being there just with my husband and very few other people around, I mean, that’s my favorite thing when I go out in nature and it just happens to be a weird time of day, so there’s almost nobody else there. That’s my favorite moment. So, yeah, I think that one has to be it.

Amy Bushatz: That’s pretty cool. Laura, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today.

Laura Carney: Thank you for having me. I had a lot to say about nature.

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