What to do when your adventure falls apart thanks to another human (Luc Mehl & Sarah Histand, outdoor adventure experts)

Jump To section

Grand Canyon humans outside

Remember my rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon that became a dangerous disaster after another member of the group put us all at risk? Yeah, that wasn’t great. But when I shared that story, I immediately received a parade of messages from Humans Outside followers and podcast fans with their own stories of outdoor misadventures caused by someone else’s poor choices.

There’s some comfort in knowing my experience wasn’t unique. But it also made me think maybe there’s a lesson there on what we can all do better next time. If so many of us have had a similar problem, maybe we need someone to help us avoid it happening again.

Enter: Luc Mehl and Sarah Histand, adventure experts who happen to be married to each other.

You’ve probably heard Sarah here before, bringing insight on adventuring in ways that feel safe. Luc is a trip planning expert who has done major expeditions in Alaska and teaches courses on heading into the wilderness while having fun and not dying. Together they’re the perfect pair to help us with this problem.

In this episode hear:

  • Luc’s advice for building a solid adventure group
  • What to do if you’re stuck on adventure with someone who is falling apart
  • How to be kind to yourself (and others) while deal with the whole thing.

Listen now!

Some of the good stuff:

[3:33] Sarah’s favorite outdoor space

[4:04] But wait, Luc has a different favorite

[4:50] Luc and Sarah’s outdoor stories (plus, how they met)

[8:05] What is risk management and why is it important?

[11:04] It sounds harsh, but are there simply people who shouldn’t be invited on adventures?

[12:20] How to figure out who is the right fit for your trip

[13:45] What to do when you thought your had it figured out, but actually you did not

[17:41] The role of people picking in trip planning

[20:24] What to do when you get into the adventure and now you’ve got real problems

[26:45] The fear of offending someone

[29:29] Think about it as “carrying pride”

[32:28] So you’re in a bad situation. Here’s what to do next.

[37:50] The rumors are true: don’t leave a buddy (or frienemy) behind

[41:40] How to avoid an emotional stress injury

[45:16] Luc and Sarah’s favorite outdoor moments

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: You know that feeling you get when you spend even a little time outside? No matter how challenging it is to get out there, spending time in nature is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bushatz and this is another episode of Humans Outside. Join me as we hear from fascinating bring outdoor minded guests, and use the Humans Outside 365 challenge of spending time outside every day no matter what to push us outside daily. I’ve been a journalist for 2 decades. And I love asking questions. But I also love going outside. So why not combine the 2? Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

When I stepped into the Grand Canyon on the last day of September, 2023, I had a sinking suspicion that my one day rim to rim hike was not going to go the way I wanted it to. I was there with two companions, a close friend and her friend, who I’m going to call the other hiker. If you want to hear this whole drama, you can listen back to my October 10th, 2023 episode about the hike.

But the short version is that what was supposed to be a 14 or so hour challenging hike through the Grand Canyon turned into a dangerous situation with near hypothermic conditions, running out of water, darkness, and bad weather over 19 hours, because the other hiker didn’t train, was ill prepared, and despite knowing these things, decided to hike anyway and put us all in danger. Before my hike, I knew that this other hiker was going to be a problem, but standing at the trailhead, my only options seemed to be abandoning my other friend and simply not hiking, or going into it and taking whatever was to come, which is what I ultimately did.

After I published my story about what had happened, I got a lot of feedback from Humans Outside’s podcast fans and followers about times that they, too, had adventures go awry thanks to the decisions or presence of another human.

Amy Bushatz: And it made me wonder, what should I have done differently before the hike? And what could I have done differently or better during the hike to handle the challenge presented not by nature or my own training, but the decisions of another human on the trip? Sounds like a good topic for an episode of Humans Outside, am I right?

And fortunately, we’ve got just the experts for it. Sarah Histand a mental health informed fitness trainer who is also trained in somatic or nervous system response, has been a guest here several times before, sharing her experience in getting outside. And today, she’s also joined by her husband, Luc Mehl, a renowned Alaskan adventurer who teaches wilderness safety and trip planning, among other things.

Together, they are going to help us today figure out how to avoid misadventures caused by other humans outside. And because no matter how much you plan, things can still happen. What to do when they do. Luc and Sarah, welcome to Humans Outside.

Luc Mehl: Thanks for

Sarah Histand: having us.

Amy Bushatz: Well, I’m excited to have both of you here. Sarah, you know, I love talking to you, so it’s an added bonus to get to have Luc here as well. We start our episodes imagining ourselves in a favorite outdoor space of our guests or guests, imagining as if we’re hanging out with you somewhere you love outside, having this conversation there instead of in our separate locations, which is what we are actually doing today. So, if we were doing that, where are we with you?

Sarah Histand: You want to

Luc Mehl: I’ve got one in mind. Oh, I’ve got one in mind, but I’m kind of curious to see how well it matches what you’ve got, so you should go first.

Sarah Histand: One of my favorite places these days, it’s midwinter here in Alaska, and I’ve been enjoying one particular Nordic ski loop, the Middle Fork loop. And there’s a spot up at the top of that loop where you crest around the corner and start to head downhill. And it’s just a really beautiful location. And I know I’ve done most of the hard work at that point, and it’s mostly downhill from there. And it, it feels like a really special place to visit every time I do that ski.

Luc Mehl: Okay, that’s really different than what I expected. I took us to, like, a warm summer day in the Brooks Range, like, up on a ridge so there’s enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away. And we’re just, like, sitting on the ground, leaning against our backpacks. So I’m already in summer mode, I guess.

Sarah Histand: That does sound pretty awesome.

Luc Mehl: ha,

Amy Bushatz: The no bugs breeze. That is very key to this decision.

Luc Mehl: Yeah, that’s great. I think I started there. It was like, no bugs, and then I worked back from that.

Amy Bushatz: That’s a, that’s a decision born of experience. This is of course, Sarah not your first time here, but maybe you can briefly remind us of your outdoor background. And then Luc perhaps you can tell us how you got into adventure and spending time outside. I’d love to hear how you two met.

Sarah Histand: Yeah, I, so I grew up here in Alaska. I grew up doing pretty moderate stuff outside. My parents grew up in the Midwest and we were doing like little hikes and explorations as kids always. And as I grew up and started to see what other people were doing more ambitious trips in the Alaska backcountry. I got more and more curious about what you could do with human power on skis and bikes and boats and feet. And, yeah, it’s kind of been a journey ever since.

Amy Bushatz: What about you, Luc

Sarah Histand: I also grew up in Alaska. I grew up in interior Alaska, in McGrath. And outdoor time there was just work. So I didn’t really pursue it as a kid. Not really until high school I came into Anchorage and I was exposed to mountain recreation for the first time. And, and sort of mountain time or outdoor time as fun instead of labor,and things just kind of rolled from there and it has, I didn’t anticipate this, but it really became the focus of, of my life. And Alaska’s a good place to have that focus, so. We met through a, an outdoor adventure called the Alaska Wilderness Classic. The, Luc had been doing those challenges for a long time and writing about them on his blog. And at one point, My brother and I decided we were sort of curious about maybe trying that out, but it also was really intimidating.

It’s like this human powered, maybe, I think it was a 200 mile route that the year we were considering doing it in the winter. And, we didn’t know if we were, what we were getting ourselves into, so my brother reached out to Luc for some advice. And then we, we took that advice and made it through that adventure, really well, and we’re really grateful for all of Luc’s input. And then I reached out to him afterward to say thank you, and we started getting in touch and hanging out, and, yeah. The rest is history.

Amy Bushatz: And many, commencement of many good adventures since then, which, everybody can see on your Instagram and also Luc’s Instagram, which we’ll tag in the show notes, but it’s been, it’s really fun to watch you guys out there playing and having, having good and maybe sometimes not so good adventures.

Just sort of depends on the day and, and the aforementioned bugs really is what this comes down to so often. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about dealing with other humans outside, which can be really tricky. It can be kind of a make or break situation. Having good adventure buddies makes the trip or makes it terrible. I talked a little bit in the introduction about the problem I got myself into in the Grand Canyon, thanks to an ill prepared companion and my bad decisions around, whether or not, I guess, to adventure with her. The stakes can get really high when you’re somewhere without a lot of help and lots and lots of risk. So I’m thinking before we start with that focus of the topic, which is dealing with human hazards, Luc maybe you can talk about risk management broadly. What kind of role does risk management take in planning an adventure and what is in our control and what’s not in our control?

Luc Mehl: Yeah. Awesome. That’s exactly where I went with your introduction and, and sort of forecasting here a little bit. I feel like I’m in a better position to talk about ways to sort of anticipate and prevent some of the human challenges. And then I think Sarah is in a better position to talk about responding in the moment, and managing that stuff.

So the, the big picture for me, and this is coming from like sort of industry standard, wilderness risk management. is that you, you would, it’s helpful to think of risk in terms of hazards and then your exposure to those hazards and your vulnerability. basically the consequence of what it means to be exposed to those hazards.

And then hazards can be split up into both objective and subjective. And those are the real words used. And I had to look them up because it’s like, well, what does that really mean? Objective just means all the environmental stuff and it’s the stuff we can’t control. So for us in Alaska, that could be the , the steepness of a hillside, if there’s snow on it and you’re worried about avalanches. Or it could be the wind speed, or it could be, a tree around the corner on a river. It’s just, it’s stuff that could do harm, but we don’t have any control over it. Those are all environmental or objective hazards.

And that stuff’s actually pretty easy to anticipate and plan for. compared to the subjective stuff. And the subjective stuff is all the human parts. This is usually what goes wrong. And it’s our decision making and our communication, and thinking errors that we would make going into a trip and then maybe making a decision on the fly.

So, there, there’s room for things to go wrong in both of those sort of venues, environmental and human. and, And I think the human problem is harder to solve. And so I’m looking forward to this time together and hopefully learning some more tricks from Sarah. Because it is, I mean, we’ve all, everybody, all of your listeners, we three, we’ve all experienced this probably, you know, Sarah and I experienced this within our own trips, just the two of us. Like it’s a real challenge.

Amy Bushatz: I’m laughing because I’m remembering times I’ve experienced that with my own husband too.

Luc Mehl: For sure. I mean, it is part of the game. Yeah.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, yeah, including a time that I swore off skiing again, literally ever because

Because of a, his attempt to teach me to ski that not good.

Luc Mehl: Yeah.

Amy Bushatz: We’ve recovered. We’ve recovered since then, but he’s still not allowed to teach me to ski. And I prefer that he’s not skiing or snowboarding behind me at any time. I think it might be related to that, I don’t know. Anyway. Okay. The actions of other people, as you’ve just mentioned, can really sour any adventure.

So I’m wondering. If we can laser focus on that, is there such a thing as a person who should not be invited on an adventure? Like, somebody who should just be left off the list, leave these guys at home.

Sarah Histand: Hmm. I mean, it’s a good question. I suppose it depends on the adventure. There would for sure be certain types of adventures that people wouldn’t have the right skills to navigate. and we, there’d be like safety concerns with bringing certain people on into certain risky situations. and then I think the other major factor is communication skills and ability and are like I guess self awareness is maybe the other piece of being able to communicate as being able to, like, know actually what’s going on with yourself and communicate that to your team. Those, those are, like, feel like really important skills that I look for in, in trip partners. And it’d be hard for me to be out with people who, like, weren’t skilled in those areas unless we were picking a, an objective that was, like, very, within our capacity and wasn’t, wasn’t going to stretch us in those ways.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. How much vetting, Luc do you do on people before you decide to take them on a trip? Or even be on a trip with someone else? Because I think that’s the other thing, like, we’re not always in charge of the trip. We’re sort of there with other people, who maybe there’s another trip leader who, who is leading or doesn’t understand the role. How do you sort through who you’re willing to go out with?

Luc Mehl: Well, I think, I think there’s a spectrum and, and the two ends of the spectrum, one is where you start with partners and choose your objective. And the other end of the spectrum is where you start with an objective and choose your partners. And then as a true spectrum, there’s all the space in between.

But if I’m going out for a ski with my nephew, who’s five years old. Like, we’re going to choose something, and we did, Sarah and I did this just last month. It was our first ski with him without his parents. And, and I was like, I want this to be super fun. I want it to have mostly glide, downhill, soft crashes.

It’s like, we match the objective so that he’s going to have the best experience possible. And then, at the other end, it’s like, okay, I want to climb Denali. And I want to make sure it’s with people that I’ve done a lot of time with or, are, are really well, sort of represented through, through other friends that have spent time with them.

So that’s, I guess I’m answering your first question more than your second one, but I, I feel like it’s important to kind of set up those two, there’s two directions to come at this, and they’re really different.

Amy Bushatz: What happens if you fall into a adventure or a plan where somebody else has collected the people but you’re, you find over time that you are not comfortable with the selections. I mean, kind of like what, what I did with Grand Canyon, but I think this also happens. You turn up for a group hike at, South Fork. You, which is a trail here in the Anchorage area. It’s not super strenuous, but it’s, it could be long and on a hot day, that can be a thing. Or you -You know, go to Lazy Mountain, another hike here, and find that the people you’re with are not the same pace as you. Like, how do you deal with somebody else’s decisions on who to take on the hike? And at what point do you say, mmm, not for me. I’m out.

Luc Mehl: Yeah, tough. That’s like, that can be really tough. This is, this is, feels to me like a question about leadership. And it’s one thing to be your own leader, and it’s another thing to be a participant if somebody else is the leader. I would prioritize my own safety first in all of this, and that can be both physical and emotional. And the older I get, the easier it is to to back out of intended plans, and, and so I think there’s probably an age and experience aspect of this too. Sarah, what would you say?

Sarah Histand: I mean, this, this is the hard stuff that we’re all navigating when we’re out interacting with other humans, isn’t it? And like, if it’s not your plan, but you’re sort of along for the ride. And then once you’re out on the whatever you’re on and it ends up being different than you’d hoped, then, then we’re in the heat of the moment and we have to figure out how much of like what the options are. Is turning around an option, like Luc said, as far as backing out? Is there a way to like, share some of the leadership load so that you’re not just following and instead you’re able to communicate some more of your needs or get some intergroup communication happening to like, start to name some of the dynamics that you’re seeing and what is working and what isn’t?

Luc introduced me to a concept called independent nations, which sometimes we use when we’re out with groups that we have unknowns with, as far as like, are different people going to be at different paces? And are we not going to be able to necessarily I’ll be at the same. It’s very normal to have a group of people that doesn’t all move at the same pace.

Like that’s a actually a pretty challenging thing to achieve to all be at the exact same pace. So sometimes when we’re going on multi day trips, but this would work as with day trips to, the idea of independent nations is that you have, you can split up into separate groups and still have everything you need safety wise with, among the separate groups. You want to say more about independent nations, Luc? I, I think that’s a really helpful concept.

Luc Mehl: I, I think that’s dead on. It’s like we want and hope to travel together, but we are, prepared to split into different groups if needed. And then I also like that because it gives us some redundancy and we often have, you know, two stoves between the group instead of just one in case one breaks. The other thing, as you were answering, Sarah, that I reflected on a little bit, kind of replaying some of these experiences myself. It feels like it often comes down to a question of like, am I willing to sacrifice my own objectives for the welfare of the, of the group?

Like, which ends up being more important, that everybody has a good time, or as good as possible, or that I get what I want out of it. And I think that has also changed with age, where it gets easier to step back and be like, you know what, I had my turn, let’s just make sure this is a positive experience for everybody. But that can be really hard and really frustrating, especially if the trip involved a bunch of travel or investment or other, commitments. Yeah.

Amy Bushatz: Luc when you are trip planning, how much thought, like, what role does thinking through these people choices take? Like, how much emphasis do you put on this in planning a successful trip? How much weight does it get?

Luc Mehl: Hmm I feel like I’m, I’m really lucky here in, Anchorage to be part of a huge community of, recreation partners and, And a lot of these partnerships go back 10 or 20 years for me now, and most of the hard trips that I’ve done have been within the same core group of friends, like, probably a pool of 10 people, where two or three of us end up partnering up for each of these.

And they’ve been incredible partnerships, and we haven’t had, any, any real challenges. like that. And it’s, and it’s funny cause I’ll, like we did a trip once with a group of nine. like a 200 mile trip. And, and I just telling somebody about this and they said a group of nine, like, how did you manage that?

Like, I go out with one person and I want to cut off his head, you know, after the first week. And so that’s another conversation topic that probably deserves its own episode, which is like, how do you be the best partner or how do you find, you know, how do you become the best partner? But so I am a little bit, yeah, I don’t have a lot of, I’ve had a few trips where the, the human dynamic was a problem, but, but very few, honestly.

Amy Bushatz: Do you think that people, I mean, in your experience doing trip planning with, and teaching that, do you think people put enough emphasis on this factor, or don’t think it through as much as they should, or perhaps learn the hard way that they should have thought it through a little bit more?

Luc Mehl: Yeah, so in my, my trip planning course, one of the products that comes out of that is an actual, like, trip plan document, like a, like a shareable Google Drive, document. And it’s got information about where we think we’re going, how long it’ll take, you know, all the safety stuff, and through the conversations with participants in the class, particularly folks that had struggled with partnerships,Somebody added in, I can’t, I’m blanking on her name, Sarah, the, the gal that’s done some writing for you.

Sarah Histand: Suzanne. Suzanne Nobles.

Luc Mehl: yeah, Suzanne added in this awesome, just like one paragraph sort of, expectations. And it broke down, it’s like, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s why, here’s what we expect. And it was stuff like, we want to enjoy the natural environment and it was just like, it was that simple, but it was so effective at conveying what the intention was. And so then everybody that’s on that planned outing gets to see that ahead of time. And, and if that’s not what they want, they either say, Hey, could we also try this? Or they say, Oh, that’s not what I expected, but if that’s what we’re going to do, great. I’ll just, adapt to my own objectives. So that’s, I think managing expectations formally is super valuable.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. In my Grand Canyon trip, I felt like the expectations were represented correctly. and communicated. And nonetheless, we still ended up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with somebody who had a mis both misrepresentation of her own readiness and, can’t even explain why or how, but misunderstanding of what we were trying to do or misrepresentation after the fact of what she, what we had said. You know, she just completely changed it. so this, even though you’d plan, you know, is what I’m trying to say, stuff happens. Like, you still get to the trailhead and this person’s not ready or they shouldn’t be there. How do you navigate that in the moment? You touched on this a little bit earlier, but what do you do? You get there and what’s your next step?

Luc Mehl: Sarah, you got, you want to go on this one?

Sarah Histand: Um, I can try. This is a hard one, because like you said, there’s a lot that we try to get ahead of with the planning, and I, I do think Luc’s trip planning process can fill out and sort of catch these things early, potentially most of the time, if you’re doing sort of like a collaborative process, planning process.

And then also sometimes maybe that doesn’t catch it, and you end up in that situation that you named where, expecations aren’t the same as the reality. And I think that what you’re naming there is the nuance around, do we, do we actually say what we’re seeing or is that like inappropriate to, to mention my, my concerns at this point?

And, and, and those are some tricky conversations that you’re, that we’re talking about having, And it probably depends on the objective to some extent if we’re embarking on something where there’s margin for error and we might be wrong about what we’re noticing in the other people, but that’s going to be okay.

Or maybe like Luc you said earlier, it’s, we have a relatively time letting go of the planned objective and going with whatever actually occurs, then maybe we don’t need to, lead into a hard conversation before we go. and also sometimes, you know, that’s sort of why a, a group trip often starts with like a safety talk at the beginning of a, of an endeavor where you sort of flag what we’re getting into and everyone maybe mentions concerns that they might have about their own well being and about things that they might be noticing about the weather or the group dynamics, there might be a way to be like, yeah not super personal about what you’re saying, but say it in like a generalized way. Or sometimes I know friends who are guides often are the, have a skillful way of, of taking on the responsibility personally, even if they’re noting it in the group and being like today, just to me feels like it might not be the day to crush this particular objective and, and like, say it’s their thing. Even if it’s like, not, but they’re noticing it in the, in the group environment.

So there, there might be like some sort of, you know, skillful or tricky ways to get around the, what you’re saying. But, but what I’m getting at is that especially if there are safety concerns, like you’re, like you mentioned on the Grand Canyon thing, there, there might be a need to actually like say, and you’re noticing stuff early to like make mention of it.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. I, as you were talking, Sarah, I remembered an episode I did with, a gal named Nicole Snell. She teaches, personal safety in the outdoors and, personal safety for women specifically who are recreating outdoors alone. So it’s like self defense, right? One of the things she talks about is not being afraid to use your voice, to tell, to tell what you need or tell somebody to back off.

Now, this isn’t quite that, but she mentions in that, that this, like, question, like, why are we afraid to trust our intuition? Why are humans afraid to do this? Why are we the only animal who ignores our intuition? Like, you have this gut feeling, and you’re like, you know what? That’s probably wrong. You know, if you were a different kind of animal, you’d , of course, trust your intuition. That’s what animals do. You know, something smells off, I’m out of here.

Humans tend not to do that. And so I think maybe what you’re getting at a little bit is like not being afraid to communicate what you need as a person who’s on this trip. So if I, for example, had trusted my gut standing at the trailhead, I would have figured out a way to voice my, my concerns without being afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings, which is really what it came down to.

I didn’t want to offend anybody who was around me, so I didn’t say, I’m really genuinely concerned about this, not just because you’re bumming me out, but because of your own safety. Like, that, like, that’s a serious concern here. And that you have to consider the group dynamic too, to this person, right? Instead of being like, oh, we’ll just power through, I

Sarah Histand: Yeah, well, I mean, we’re navigating. We are navigating a social nervous system is one way I would frame that is like as as humans we have the part of our nervous system that we either read as like safety or threat is on the social nervous system level. Other humans can help us be a resource for us when we’re in trouble. But they can also be a threat in if they’re like not having a good day potentially. And we have some social nervous system rules about like what we say to people, what’s appropriate and, and especially if it’s a someone who you don’t know that well, which it sounds like in your situation, that was like a new relationship too. So that gets extra complicated too, if we don’t have like a relational background with, with a partner.

So there’s a lot, a lot we’re navigating really. It like makes sense that it would be hard to do. even if you have a gut feeling, you have your social nervous system that’s saying like, you can’t. Like, cause, cause a big thing right now. That would be, yeah,

Amy Bushatz: No causing of ruckus. Luc do you hear this in, yeah, Luc do you hear this in your, risk mitigation classes at all? That people are concerned about offending somebody else who’s with them on a, on an adventure?

Luc Mehl: Oh yeah, absolutely. This is, this is, yep. This is, I think, something everybody can relate to. And, and a couple, additional thoughts that, that Sarah didn’t touch on. One is that we, this is like, whenever Sarah and I have kind of a tough decision to make out on one of our trips, we’ve been adopting this, this decision making strategy of stopping to say, what’s the right thing to do?

Just like, strip everything away. What’s the right thing to do? Or what would a professional do? And it’s been shockingly easy to find that answer. Like, every time we’ve done this, or I do it in one of my swift water classes, or ice rescue, whatever, it’s like, when things start, like that gut feeling that you’re talking about, like, I have this little gut feeling that’s a little off, and then we stop and say, what’s the right thing to do?

It’s shockingly easy to identify the right thing to do, and then we move from that point. And so, the word to use here is anchoring. And when you start that trip, say your Grand Canyon trip, the anchor point is, and I don’t know what it was, but like, we’re going to hike from one rim to the other, or we’re going to float the whole Grand Canyon in four days flat, or whatever.

If that is your anchor point, and you move relative to that point, That sets you up, sets us up for thinking errors and shortcuts and the decisions that could actually end up causing harm. And so this, this re anchoring, this taking the time to kind of zoom out and say, Okay, now we’re at the base of the rim and somebody’s whooped. What’s the right thing to do?

And in that reflection, I would identify that you know that person that’s struggling is being harder on themself than anybody else is. Like, Certainly, and I think, I mean, I can relate to this, like, I thought I was in great shape, or I thought I could hike 15 miles today, and it’s like, nope, nope, nope.

And so it’s like, recognize that somebody is not having fun. The point of our outing was, you know, hopefully to have some fun and maybe some accomplishments as well. But then the anchor becomes, how do we make, how do we salvage this, how do we make this as positive an experience as possible, not for me, but for the person that’s hurting the most.

And then, any decision is kind of centered around that bullseye. Like, we’re going to take more breaks, we’re going to finish after dark, we’re going to spend the night. Like, whatever it is. And, and even though that’s disappointing to give up that original objective, it also feels really good to step up and help somebody who’s hurting, and to be that that guide, whether that’s formal or informal. Like, it feels good to help people. And so maybe that can become my own personal shift from wanting to summit to wanting to be this really awesome guide that takes, Sarah and I talk about this where, Sarah, you should tell one of the stories about carrying pride. Heh. Isn’t

Sarah Histand: Yeah, okay. We’ve had a couple trips together where, I mean, every single trip together, basically, there are different times when one of us is strong and one of us is like having a hard day and just like having trouble keeping up or not, having as easy of a time with the terrain or whatever. And, often one of the potential solutions for that is to let the person who’s strong carry some of the weight from the other person’s backpack. But then, that takes like there’s some pride in like being able to carry your own backpack weight. And so, we’ve joked about like, if I’m going to give Luc some of my weight out of my backpack, then he it’s like my pride weighs 15 pounds and he’s carrying it today because I like had to give that up and it hurts a little bit. But, yeah, the weight of my pride is pretty heavy sometimes.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah but, and I love that, and I love this idea of asking yourself what a professional would do. Because that just, it like strips out all of the emotion out of the question and the equation where you’re no longer being like, oh, like, are we thinking about feelings? In that moment where you’re just asking like, okay, if I was like, you know, a professional guide and what is the right thing to do?

And now you have the logical choice, and you can lean on that. And maybe your decision is somewhere right or left of exactly that, but it makes it much easier conversation, and really takes out the, I think, almost strips out that interpersonal conflict. Because you’re not talking about what you would do, you’re talking about what a per, someone else would do who’s really good at this.

And they’re not there to offend anyone. They’re just in the air. giving advice. I think that would have really helped us in the Grand Canyon instead of being like, what do, you know, myself and my, my friend, who were both having a fine time, recommend it’s, what would mysterious professional do? yeah,

Sarah Histand: it’s of amazing how easy it is to get off, like, to realize we’re like, we’re on this other plan and then we’ll be like, what’s the right thing to do? It’s like, oh, it’s actually to like, stop and like, regroup and do something completely different than what we were just about to do.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah totally. Okay, so Let’s say we have not asked ourselves what a professional would do or what the right thing to do is, and something has happened, wrong people are there, stuff happens, okay? Accidents, mistakes, whatever.

So Sarah, this is your realm. What do we do when you’re just in that sort of bad moment? You’re faced with something going awry. What are the steps that we should take? Like, something bad’s already happened or is happening. What’s next?

Sarah Histand: Yeah, so I’m, guessing we’re talking about interpersonal stuff rather than safety concerns, right? Because if there’s like a, an injury or something like that, that’s like needs medical, we’re like, it’s like kind of a different action plan. But if we’re talking about there is like a change in what I thought was going to happen and now we’re navigating this interpersonal issue with. different expectations, then, one of the first, so, one of the really basic early steps, with this navigating interpersonal issues, especially when you’re outside in situations that are, have some challenge to them, is to recognize that all of our bodies are going to be in some level of activation and stress response because of the environment, the undertaking, and the interpersonal stress, and that it, that, that is going to color our read on what’s happening and even our ability to like make clear decisions.

So an early step would be to recognize that and feel, if you can, like the way the activation feels in your body. And then to find some kind of resourcing or some way for your body to feel some, some amount of settling of that activation. So I liked one way we do that naturally outside is by orienting just like looking around at the environment that we’re in and recognizing something beautiful and then letting your body have enough time to actually be in contact with that something beautiful.

So it’s, we can like break out when, when we’re in a stress response, our, our perspective narrows if we’re really like solution focused typically, and we’re like honed in on what the problem is. And if we can help our, our body and our perspective broaden enough to be able to see that there’s more things going on than just this stressor, then it can help the nervous system and the animal body be a little bit more relaxed and open up the solutions that the perspective that it has. So, checking in with something that’s beautiful, feeling your feet on the ground, getting some, like, leaning against a rock and feeling some back support, like, lots of different ways to help resource your body so that your perspective can open up and you can get a little bit, broader view on the situation. That would be my starting point. And then I would, and then I would expect there to be already some, some new options showing themselves. And probably the ability to communicate from a bit of a more open place, too.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, so it’s almost like you’re taking that tool of asking, like, what would an expert do without actually asking that. You are sort of grounding yourself and giving yourself some space to calm down a little bit. Yeah. And then having that shift in perspective to be a little bit more objective than just your emotional response.

Sarah Histand: Mm hmm. Yeah. Helping your body have some calm so that the perspectives arise.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, because when we are in that stressful situation like when I’m in the bottom of the Grand Canyon being very angry about this, yes I’m feeling like emotionally I was feeling angry and frustrated and bamboozled and you know all of those other things but then also physically, I was feeling tense and like get me out of here and which is that flighter fight or flight response. It’s pairing with my sort of emotional, like, you know, upsetness. And then by grounding myself and noticing things, I can step back and be a little bit more objective in how I’m going to respond to the person who is frustrating me for, you know, in the Grand Canyon for a variety of reasons.

But in other places, like, stuff happens. People are tired. Just as you said, like, maybe everybody forgot their snacks, except for you. Maybe you forgot your snacks, and that’s the real problem here. Like, that kind of thing, that kind of thing, oh man, if I had a nickel for every time I needed a snack. Yeah.

Sarah Histand: Right? Like really any way you can insert a bit of slowness, a moment of pause will also help the nervous system give a, get a chance to settle a little bit and snacks are an incredible way to get a little pause into a stressful situation. And also our bodies probably need a little bit more fuel just because of what we’re navigating,

And, and then the other thing I want to name that you, that you spoke to there is the amount of stress that your body’s holding when it’s like in a, in a stress response and how much tension and activation is going on then. And that’s going to fatigue you too. Like we can say our, our bodies are designed to move into those stress responses, complete the action and then settle down out of them and not really to like sustain that high stress response over time. That’s really fatiguing for the body.

So, like, we’re gonna get really tired if we stay in that spot, too, so it’s gonna serve you as well as the people that you’re with to be able to, like, experience a little bit of settling, even if it’s not, like, all the way down to, like, a super chill place cause that wouldn’t be that appropriate, probably, for a stressful moment, but even a little bit of resourcing is gonna make a big difference.

Amy Bushatz: Let’s say you’ve been bamboozled onto a trail by somebody who you should not have invited on your trip. is there ever a time where it’s acceptable to leave somebody behind? Is this ever a good idea? Or is this like the greatest crime known to adventuring to leave a companion in the dust?

Luc Mehl: That’s a, that’s a pretty hard no from my perspective coming from the safety side of things. And and that’s where if you have independent nations, if it’s somebody with a partner, and I, I really like groups of four because of this. Because if somebody’s got a broken, broken leg, you know, somebody stays with them. And two people hike out, so nobody’s left on their own. So from a safety perspective, that’s, that’s a pretty easy one for me.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah.

Luc Mehl: There is probably a difference if you’re, yeah, and the exception is probably if there’s, if you’re talking more about emotional harm, um, you know, racial harm, or otherwise, then that’s like, you would want to isolate yourself from that, activation.

Sarah Histand: like somewhere, somewhere to leave them where they have resources and you can keep going.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah.

Luc Mehl: Yeah.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. I’ll tell you, like, in that moment, I could very clearly see, like, this is not an option. I cannot leave. Any of these, you know, there’s plenty of people on the Grand Canyon Trail. Let’s start there. Like, you are not by yourself. and there are rangers coming by every now and then. Honestly, we saw more than one. But I also, I knew, like, it wasn’t super safe for me to leave by myself until we were very, very close to the, to the finish point. And I knew that it was not safe for us to leave the third person behind and there was no way that I was leaving my friend with her friend behind. Like, I wasn’t, I wasn’t going to abandon the group. I knew that that was not the right thing to do. but I still wanted to. I’ll admit that. Like, I really wanted to leave. But again, fight or flight. Goodbye. Yeah. That, I mean, I think that that’s normal, though. Like, like, like, anytime you’re stuck in a situation with somebody, that’s an, that’s an human response. I’d hate to think that I was the only person who wanted to abandon ship ever.

Sarah Histand: Oh yeah, I mean that’s one of our survival responses for a reason. Flight is like a very effective way to get us out of a stressful situation. And even if it’s an interpersonal one, that makes sense to want to get out of. And, and then we, like our nervous system’s navigating, like, so we have a flight response, but social nervous system is reading that that’s not, not actually the appropriate thing to do right now.

Then the nervous system puts a freeze on that flight response because it’s like, well, I hear you wanting to get out, but we can’t, so we’re gonna like freeze that and prioritize this social thing that we have going on. And then that’s where I would, once you get to safety, really be reckoned, recommending some aftercare for these such as these intense situations because of what the nervous system had to navigate with the charge and the suppression that it had to do to get you through the situation and then we need, we need some way to help that, that charge, that suppression, that freeze, thaw enough to let the charge that was in there move through or else we end up with some sort of, stress injury after like having to navigate that stuff without aftercare.

Amy Bushatz: So let’s talk about that as a, as a final thing. What does that aftercare look like? What is the, what is the next step for, you know, not having a stress injury, emotional stress injury?

Sarah Histand: Yeah. Mm hmm. Well, we do a lot of healing in relational spaces. That’s like another. way that the social nervous system serves us. So debriefing with people who understand you and can get you and help your nervous system feel like it’s safe enough to be fully expressed with the part of it that wanted to abandon everybody and the part that, like, hated that moment and the part that was really sad. Like, there’s just so many things that we’re, having that are in the moment that it’s happening too fast to be able to be with. So, conversations are great with friends and also with skilled practitioners like therapy. I’m a huge fan of somatic work particularly because of the way that this all happens through the body, so, I always love to send people to somatic experiencing practitioners for like navigating this kind of thing.


And, then I think there’s also these big learnings around what we want to do differently next time, which is where, Yeah. like taking what went wrong and turning it into something is can be a really nice way to make use of it.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, so, my friend and I, both, we did a somatic, learning experience with you, Sarah, , after the trip. She booked that with you, and I, got to do that, too. That was great, but, you know, in terms of, like, learning better for next time, Luc how do you suggest we integrate that? What do you do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

Luc Mehl: I think the way to get better at this stuff is to get really good at debriefing at the end of it. And so if you went through a session with a professional therapist, like that is awesome. but, but taking some notes, about what worked and what didn’t work and what, what you might do differently next time.

And, and that’s not just in, in this situation. That’s like how we learn as humans. Like, you know, we learn by making mistakes and intentional practice, and then this reflection or this time to debrief, there’s some, scientific evidence that, makes it pretty clear that, we don’t learn as much unless we add that final stage of like, sitting around. It can be at the trailhead, it can be, you know, on the computer afterward, whatever, but just like, actually making notes about what worked and what didn’t work, that’s, that is a really important part to lock in, the, the insight that’ll help on the next outing.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah – I think in that way then that this experience with the Grand Canon that I had was really, really useful. You know, like if there’s a silver lining, that’s it. That it gave me lots of options, lots of opportunity to think about what went wrong, what went right and endlessly debrief, still debriefing, text message string, ongoing, planning to meet up with these friends and another, you know, my friend and, and some support crew we had, at the rim waiting for us . Like, you know, permanently trauma bonded or something, but, it’s given me lots of opportunity.

And now that I’m planning another Grand Canyon trip, I also, I can lean back on that and be like, okay, like, what did we do wrong? What went right? What would I change? there was a, the very first, well, one of the very first things that went wrong was that, this other hiker almost stepped on a snake and then fell down. So watching for snakes, that’s the first thing we’re going to do, right? Like, all of these little tiny things that I have thought now about endlessly because it wasn’t such a great experience, I now get to integrate into, hopefully, fingers crossed, having a better experience as a result.

And, and yeah, I mean that’s definitely, a gift of this. I so appreciate , y’all’s very sage advice. You have many, many, I’m just going to say hours, but it’s more like days, weeks, months of adventuring under your belts, collectively and, and separately and all those things to, give you this experience that you can talk to us about this today. So I really, really appreciate this.

As a final thing, we walk out of the episode just sort of imagining ourselves in an outdoor moment that you have maybe apart or together, that we can just kind of go there and imagine it with you. Is there a moment like that you’d like to share as a final thing for this episode?

Luc Mehl: Well, I guess I’m not allowed to go to the summer setting anymore, so, so this time I’ll put us on ice skates. And Sarah and I have had a few amazing moments where we’ve got a tailwind and we’re just effortlessly gliding across lakes, in Southcentral Alaska. So I think that’s where I’ll put us on the way out.

Amy Bushatz: Very good. Thank you so much for your time and for bringing us into your experience today. Thanks for being on Humans Outside.

Sarah Histand: Thanks for having us, Amy.

Luc Mehl: Yeah, thank you, that was fun.

Amy Bushatz: That’s a wrap on this episode of Humans Outside. But, hey, I need your help. Enjoy this show? Leave a 5 star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It makes me feel good. But it also helps others find the show too, which is cool. Right? Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

Leave a Reply

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


Jump To section



Humans Outside Instagram

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

We’re on a mission to find out.

[instagram-feed feed=1]

JOIN Us Today


Keep up with the latest podcast episodes, resources and announcements