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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
Amy Bushatz: If Outdoor podcasters had a queen, it would be Shelby Stanger, host of REI’s podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living. I found Shelby’s podcast when I first started developing my ideas for this podcast you are listening to right now, and found through a world of adventurers that were remarkable feats, learnings, takeaways, and plenty of outdoor inspiration.
Shelby’s guests are often outdoor enthusiasts who set out to change their own lives by chasing a big adventure or wild sounding idea, and then impact others’ lives in the process. I have to tell you here on Humans Outside, I talk to a lot of inspiring people with incredible stories of how spending time outside has changed portions of their lives. And plenty of researchers and journalists turn authors who’ve dialed into the what’s, why, and science behind the impact nature has on us.
I leave all of these conversations feeling inspired to try new things of my own or with a new perspective on the world. I often think about guests while I’m out on my own adventures, seeing evidence of something they told me while I’m out there.
Shelby had a similar experience talking to her guests about their wild ideas and through chasing her own illogical seeming desire to chase a wild dream and start a podcast in a genre where at the time none existed. She wondered if there was a way to create a roadmap or guide for boldly taking these big steps. And thus her new book Will to Wild and her new newsletter you can sign up for on her website were born. And today we get to talk to her about it. How do you get yourself to a place to take these big steps? Why do so many wild ideas seem tied to heading outside and how can doing wild things outside help us in our inside lives? Is there anything people with wild ideas and the chutzpah to take them on have in common? Here’s our conversation with Shelby.
Shelby, welcome to Humans Outside.
Shelby Stanger: I am excited to be a human who likes to go outside and be on your podcast.
Amy Bushatz: Well, thank you so much for joining us here today. I start all of my episodes with guests just kind of asking ’em about their favorite outdoor space. Like if we were hanging out with somewhere with you outside that you just love, and we were together having this conversation, where would we be with you today?
Shelby Stanger: We would’ve figured out really good waterproof microphones and we’d be sitting on surfboards in the Pacific Ocean and juust chatting. If we were in my favorite place, we’d actually be in New Zealand, which is a different ocean, but we would be sitting there, there would be green rolling hills, there’d be perfect long left waves, and we’d be chatting in between waiting for waves.
And then we’d take waves and we’d come back and we’d laugh and we’d talk about them, and then we’d keep going. And that was actually my original idea for a podcast. I wanted to figure out how to interview people while surfing, but then I was like, ah, I kind of like surfing just for surfing. I don’t wanna mix surfing and work.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Isn’t that how it is when you are somebody who has a lot of good ideas and you chase them and all of a sudden you’re trying to integrate play and work ,and you have to take a step back and be like, no, I can- I am allowed to have things that are just play. I don’t have to make everything a project. I don’t know. That’s me. I do that.
Shelby Stanger: Yeah, and I also have lately been like I don’t have to be improving at everything that or maximizing everything I do. Like hiking. I’m not like trying to train to be the best hiker. I just enjoy hiking for hiking. And surfing, I have all these friends who do coaching and I’m like, great. I don’t really care that I look like a kook half the time when I’m surfing. Like I might have the worst style, but as long as I have the biggest smile I’m winning.
Amy Bushatz: Totally. And I love that we’re surfing right now because I don’t know how to surf.
Shelby Stanger: Okay, well then I’m teaching you and I’m, I’m saying inappropriate things to make you laugh and get outta your head because my guess is you’re a good athlete, so you’re not gonna be that great at surfing at first, ’cause you’re gonna think you’re gonna be good and then you’re gonna get in your head and I’m gonna have to get you outta your head.
So we’re gonna have to play some psychological games on you and then we’ll just start laughing. And without even thinking about it, you’ll get up and you’ll ride a wave to show and you’ll be like, Shelby, I can’t believe I didn’t surf before. It’s the best thing in the world.
Amy Bushatz: Good. It’s good to have a plan. Excellent. Okay, so why don’t you start by telling us how did you become someone who likes to go outside? What is your outdoor story?
Shelby Stanger: You know, I came from a family that didn’t like to be outside. My dad was from Brooklyn, New York, and my mom was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and their idea of vacation was going to a hotel in Palm Springs. And I lived in this really cool beach town called Cardiff by the Sea which is Encinitas in San Diego.
It’s like this hipster beach town that’s now very expensive to live in. But people in my class, their parents surfed before school, after school, it was mostly guys. I didn’t really know any women who surfed.
But I would go to this water sports camp in the summer that was owned by the university my mom taught at. She worked at San Diego State. And so for a really good discount, I would take surfing or sailing or windsurfing or kayaking or water skiing in the morning. And I mostly took water skiing because surfing was really intimidating. It was all guys, they were all teenagers. I was a little girl. But one day I was like, I want to try surfing.
And I signed up and I loved it. I was not good, but I loved it. I loved the feeling of gliding on water, and there’s just so much that surfing brought to me. One, you’re out in nature and it sort of tricks you into kind of meditating, ’cause most of surfing is sitting and waiting for waves. Second is, it’s just really healing.
When I was 11, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack. And so that summer after I started going to this camp and like taking surfing in earnest, and I think I got a lot of answers that I couldn’t get in a therapist’s office or on land just in the water by like sitting, observing and having to be quiet. I tended to be a very, still a very energetic person.
I think I was born with maybe more energy than the average person. Some people call it ADHD. I’m not really into labels, so I just have a lot of energy. And if sometimes I don’t burn it, it can be destructive. So, I like to use my energy in really productive, thoughtful ways, and one of the best ways to use it has been sports, like surfing.
Now I definitely played stick and ball sports growing up. I was a soccer player. I played Olympic development. I was gonna go to college on a scholarship for soccer. I did go to a college, the only division three school I applied to, I applied all D1 and I, by the time I got to college, I was just kind of bored.
And that’s actually where I found other outdoor sports. There was this outdoor club at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was a bunch of nerdy, weird people that would go to the Appalachian Trail, and I met some through hikers and they were so stinky and so weird, and they had the craziest names, but I was fascinated.
I was fascinated by these people that took a different path in life. I don’t know. So basically since age 16 to 19, I kind of inadvertently made it my career to study people who chased this wild path and made it either a big part of their life or their living.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. I noticed in your book that you said you did not grow out outdoorsy. But you just described all these things you did outdoorsy and I used to describe myself the same way, which, which someone like confronted me about in a podcast episode. Like, what do you mean you’re not outdoorsy?
Shelby Stanger: Well, I never went camping. I never went hiking,
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, me neither.
Shelby Stanger: I never, like, I did stuff outside, but I, I had never heard of rock climbing. Like I didn’t do the things that we think of when we see a North Face ad.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nor I. My parents’ definition of vacation, we did go to a lake, but we stayed in a cabin with a microwave. I mean, the whole nine, you know, it was not a rustic experience. Accept
Shelby Stanger: You’re right you’re at a lake.
Amy Bushatz: I specifically remember being horrified by the pit toilet in the adjacent campground. Like, oh my gosh, I cannot believe anyone would ever go in there in a thousand bajillion years.
And and I would never have described myself outdoorsy. But I just love that, like now as a profession, we sort of expand what that means, like that’s sort of an active job of ours, is expanding this definition of outdoorsy while also self-limiting at the same time.
Shelby Stanger: Yeah, I don’t know. I guess, you know, yeah, that is a big purpose of mine to expand the definition of like how we engage in the outdoors and who is outdoors. But I think the traditional view that I had as a kid was that. Like parents, there were parents in my grade who took their kids surfing before school and took them camping on the weekends and had like a really cool van. Those were not my parents. I mean, my dad was a dentist. He like did not like going on the sand. He was great, but that was not his deal.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah, we installed, specifically installed an outdoor shower because I did spend a lot of time just sort of wandering alone on the beach and my mother was like, there shall be no sand in our home. The end. So.
Shelby Stanger: I guess it’s good to have had parents that weren’t as outdoorsy.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. I think so. Like look at us now. Right. Okay. So let’s first talk some definitions as we dive into your book Will to Wild. What Is the will to wild. What do you mean by that?
Shelby Stanger: I think it can be interpreted by the reader as they want, but for me, a will is an intention. To be in connection with the wild mother nature, however that is for you and everybody’s will to wild is different. You know, some person’s will to wild is just making a commitment to watch the sunrise and have their tea or the sunset. Or maybe it’s making a commitment to join a local outdoor running club or to try surfing or rock climbing.
But it is this decision to try to have a relationship with nature no matter what that looks like for you. And everybody has different circumstances in life, so I wanted it to be make your own because we are all different.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. What is the role of courage in this will to wild, and why does that seem to be something that’s more challenging for some people than others? Because you just described like this vast array, which is great, right, because it’s, you know, following your own curiosity, following your own desire. But some of these things that you, especially that you talk in your book, are ginormous. I mean, we’re talking circumnavigating the South Pole- big, scary, hairy goals. And those take a lot of courage. So I’m wondering, is courage a factor in all the will to wild? And what do you see as that role?
Shelby Stanger: This book is really just disguised as a book on how to deal with fear, fear in your own life. And how to use nature as a way to deal with that. There’s a lot of things people are trying right now to change their life from legal drugs to illegal drugs, psychedelics, shamans, ceremonies, gurus, yoga, great. All of it’s fine.
But there’s something about nature that I’ve seen over the years from myself as a surf instructor who’s taught like, gosh, probably thousands of people, how to surf, as someone who’s interviewed thousands of adventures from the top ones to those you’ve never heard of, and I’ve seen firsthand that when you go pursue a wild idea and have your own will to wild, It develops courage in a way that nothing else does that I’ve seen. You can’t take a pill to get the kind of courage that you get when you do something kind of scary to you in nature. Afterwards, you just feel like you can do anything and you can.
And that pertains to things inside as well. I know this sounds crazy, but I went on this surf trip to Indonesia and I had no choice but to surf these waves that absolutely terrified me. Maybe they wouldn’t terrify a professional surfer, someone who had experienced, but I’d never been in waves that broke over shallow reef in the middle of the water. And as soon as I caught a wave there and spent six days on this trip catching great waves, actually it was like a two week tripbut probably six of those like surfing every single day, all day. I don’t know, after that I just felt like I could do anything. I was less afraid to pursue a career that made absolutely zero sense on paper. And I saw it firsthand in surf students.
So from a young age, I started teaching surfing at age 16. The woman, there was a woman at that camp I went to as a little kid who was the first female surf instructor I had. And she taught Princeton Review, SAT classes. So my mom really liked her. And she spoke fluent French and Spanish and English. And I liked her because she was really fun. All the guys liked her. She like paid them no time. And she was funny and she surfed really well and she was kind and she ended up becoming my best friend.
But as a kid, you know, she was still older than me. She started this all girls surf school, so I started teaching there young. And women would come, they would learn to ride a few waves and shortly after, a couple weeks, one of them would call me and they’d say, Shelby, I quit my job. But they needed to quit. Or they would divorce someone in their life that they needed to separate from, that was no longer serving them. It wasn’t like they were just divorcing their husbands and like going surfing.
Amy Bushatz: Left and right. Surfing, divorce, is there data? We don’t know.
Shelby Stanger: Wanna like, tell, tell husbands around the world not to send their wives surfing, but like they’re getting outta relationships that weren’t helpful and others were just moving across the country to a place with the better beach. One of them, I taught to surf in Canada when I was 19. She was a snowboard instructor and a teacher. She immediately, after a week in Canada learning to surf, she was the worst student. She got up on the last day, quit her job, sold everything, became a Surf Diva surf instructor in San Diego, and now she’s the teacher of my nephews at their kindergarten in San Diego. And she surfs better than me.
But like it’s this thing that happens in nature, that only happens I think outside. You know, you can have courage and develop courage by doing something inside, but as you know, being in nature produces this, I think, synergistic effect. So when you do something scary, that’s one thing, but then when you do something scary to you in nature, it’s like this two plus two equals 10 effect.
So we know in nature our nervous systems calm down. Our immunity boosts, we’re able to make better decisions. We’re not like in fight or flight, so we can actually think. We’re just in a more balanced way of living. So ideas come to us more naturally. When we get into flow, we just feel better. And that’s where the best decisions I’ve ever made come.
I’m not saying that all my decisions have been made there. Sometimes they come in the shower, but we know water is a great generator of information. And so yeah, this book is really just about using and making the choice to try something in the wild, big or small to make a change in your life big or small.
It’s a kind of at first I like hated the title. That was not my original title. Will to Wild: Adventures great and Small to Change your Life. I was like, that sounds like Sarah Plain and Tall. But it’s, it’s true. It’s like it’s a great adventure. It’s a small adventure, but it can have just as much of an effect.
Amy Bushatz: When you were talking about courage, I had this visual picture of the lion in the Wizard of Oz getting his courage certificate, right? And saying like, okay, like you earned it. You got your courage certificate and it strikes me that when you accomplish something big or small outside, it’s almost like getting your courage certificate. Like, oh, you’re courageous now you did this thing that seems scary to you five minutes ago. And now you are equipped with your certificate to go on and do an even more courageous thing, when we know, of course, the point of this is like the lion didn’t need the certificate. He was, he had it in himself.
Shelby Stanger: I know, but there’s just, you have to prove to yourself. I think that’s the cool thing about adventure is you prove it to yourself and you get to experience these like visceral things that enact all of your senses and you experience this really cool emotion, which if you could bottle it up as a drug, you would be the richest person in the world.
But that emotion is awe. And awe is a feeling that takes us out of our head, makes us feel small and connected to others at the same time, we often feel grateful when we experience awe. And the chance to experience awe can happen anywhere, can happen when you see a baby, like when your baby’s born, yeah, you’re gonna experience awe.
Maybe it’s like a magical kiss or like a song or something. But in nature, because so much of our life is predictable now with technology, nature still is a lot of places that’s are not predictable. You can’t predict if a bird swoops down and grabs a snake or a worm in front of you, or a dolphin leaps out of the ocean, or a whale breaches, or you see this magical, bright red orange sunset because a hurricane Hillary is coming the next day.
And it stops you in your tracks. And if you were in a bad mood before experiencing awe, you immediately forget about your bad mood. Like that to me is the trick.And you were talking about this courage certificate, and it’s funny, it made me think of people who hike the P C T or the Appalachian Trail. And I’ve interviewed a lot of these through hikers and just so you know, I’ve never through hiked, so I can only speak from their experience, but they all kind of say the same thing. Not all of ’em, but I’ve heard many of them say the same thing. And that’s, you know, you hike 10 or 15 miles every day, you set up your tent. You look back and see how far you’ve come. Then you do it again the next day and then the next day and the next day. And you can’t help but feel more badass. And that badassery is what I call courage, and it’ll translate off the trail to all areas of your life.
Yeah. Yeah. So two days ago before this recording, I have a friend in town from DC right now. She’s asleep underneath us as we’re recording this. You’re upstairs, right? You’re not like on a table and she’s sleeping underneath the table.
Amy Bushatz: There’s no one sleeping in my podcast closet that I’m aware of. I took her on an Alaska adventure, which is always my promise, if people come visit me, I will take them, I will show them my boyfriend, summer in Alaska. And one of the things we did was take my paddleboard and a blowup kayak to a glacier lake in Valdez, Alaska. So the glacier itself is not visible from the lake because of you know, global warming and whatnot.
However, ice flows from the glacier are in the lake and you are essentially kayaking around them. And she was not overly comfortable with kayaking. You know, it took us a good 20 plus minutes to blow all these suckers up. You know, which is always like, I hope we’re out having fun longer than it took us to get ready to have fun. We get in the lake, we’re ki you know, I’m paddle boarding, she’s kayaking, she gets stuck on a little bit of ice flow. You see that panic moment where you’re like, I’m stuck and I’m in a lake and I don’t, it’s surrounded by icebergs and I really dunno what I’m doing and I’m not comfortable with this to start with.
And she figured it out and she got off of there and we were out there for maybe five minutes to more. So we were out on lake for maybe 15 minutes total. I thought, oh man, I’ve ruined this person’s adventure. Like I, you know, put her in a scary situation. Now she doesn’t wanna kayak anymore. It took us so long to get ready for this. We traveled all this way.
She said that is was the best experience she’s had in a long time. Because she had this moment where she got out there, she faced something scary, she conquered it, and then she was done like that nervous system rubber band that people talk about. we have a mental health informed physical trainer who’s joined us before and she talks about your nervous system as being sort of a rubber band and you can stretch it and then you go back constriction and, I can’t remember the other word, but stretch it out and come back in.
So she was as stretched as she could be that day. But gosh, I can’t wait to see how her stretchiness gets over time because she conquered an ice flow on a glacier lake in Valdez, Alaska, you know, in August. And what’s she gonna do in September? You know? So I totally hear that. It’s just, it’s very cool to witness that too.
Shelby Stanger: I love that story, and yes, witnessing it is cool, which is why I tell anybody who wants to be an outdoor guide, like a NOLS instructor, a surf instructor, a kayaking instructor, someone who just rents e-bikes to you, do it! Because you change people’s lives in a way that not many jobs do. You are never going to get access to like CEOs, heads of company and be in charge of their life and their fun at the same time than you can when you’re a guide outside.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah.
Shelby Stanger: And they’ll never forget you.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah.
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What’s the biggest limiter that you find to chasing wild ideas that, so the people you talk to, like what’s the thread you hear for things that keep us from doing this?
Shelby Stanger: I mean, it’s fear and it’s fear of the unknown. It’s fear of money. Money’s a big one. People are scared. They’re gonna be broke, they’re gonna, you know and I’ve interviewed people of every socioeconomic level from you know, almost billionaires. Yeah, billionaires to people who are homeless. And you know, to a guy who eats only what he can grow outside and decided to live with no money or no credit card. And you know, everybody gets to do life in America. At least most of us get to do life how we want to do, and we have a lot of freedom. And so I think people are scared of the unknown and. also just seems overwhelming at first. A lot of people are also afraid of what other people think, not just what they think, but what their friends think, what their family thinks, what their coworkers think.
That stopped me for many years. I was so afraid of disappointing everyone around me. You know, I had this- my biggest wild idea when I started the book was in 2009, I was running women’s marketing and pr and then international sales and marketing at Vans and I had this like dream job. I was 28, I was flying around to beautiful locations, but I was mostly at malls looking at shoes. And I was like, ah, I just wanna see what else is out there. And it felt really selfish to quit because it was the height of the recession. Millions of people wanted my job. Like everybody told me I had the coolest job ever. And I did. And I loved it. And I loved the people at Vans. I mean, the fact that they didn’t fire me and just let me keep working there, it was a blessing itself.
And I didn’t wanna disappoint them. I didn’t wanna disappoint my family, and I was scared of being broke and falling flat on my face and failing. But I also knew that if I didn’t try this other thing, which was to pursue journalism, which had been what I went to school for and which I was passionate about, but which was not easy to make money at and still is not, it’s actually harder now than ever to make money as a journalist.
So I tell people like, I don’t know if you should go be a journalist. Like, just gonna be honest. Like, I don’t know if you need to make money. Maybe not. but I do think,
Amy Bushatz: Democracy needs you, but also reconsider.
Shelby Stanger: Well here’s the thing journalism
Amy Bushatz: I’m with you. I’m totally with you.
Shelby Stanger: is, I think there’s a lot of ways to tell stories now, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the way I used to think journalism was, which was only for a newspaper, magazine or like a radio show or tv.
Like, you could now tell stories through Instagram or TikTok or whatever. There’s just a lot of ways to tell a story or through a podcast like we’re doing right now. But yeah, that’s, that’s the limiting factor is, is fear. Fear of lots of things, but money and what other people think are two of the biggest ones I keep hearing.
Amy Bushatz: Okay so how do you get over that? Does this go back to spending time outside and building courage?
Shelby Stanger: No, you have to have a why
Amy Bushatz: Hmm.
Shelby Stanger: And you have to have a why so strong that it’ll shush the naysayers, especially the ones in your own head. If you can call the naysayers in your own head and you have enough confidence, people won’t question you, generally. They might say shit, but like you’re not gonna care. You’re gonna laugh at them. You’re gonna think it’s funny. You’re gonna be like, oh my God, you’re so silly. You’re so scared. Like, I’m stoked. So if you have a strong enough why, it’s like Viktor Frankl, the famous Holocaust survivor, said, if you have a strong enough why, you’ll be able to figure out your how. And I interviewed a woman who was really inspired and friends with Viktor Frankl. Her name is Dr. Edith Eger. She was 91 when she was on my podcast. I think she’s like 96 now. She’s so cool. And she says you have to have a why and that we all have to have the courage to make our own choices.
Amy Bushatz: mm-hmm.
Shelby Stanger: The key to those choices are is often in our pocket, and that the biggest prison most of us has is the ones in our own mind, but the key to unlocking and getting outta that prison is the one in our own pocket. She’s so cool.
You know, what she says is a lot of her patients were nervous to speak to her and they’re like, how could my problems be even comparable to what Edith said? And Edith told one of her patients, you know, she’s like, the difference is , she visually could see her enemy. And a lot of us cannot see our own enemy. And a lot of us have our own prisons in our own mind, and we should never compare our suffering to other people because it doesn’t matter.
Like it’s how we perceive our suffering. And I’ve actually been talking to more and more people about it, you know? I think right now we’re in a time of a lot of anxiety and I talk to teens and they all have anxiety and that did not happen when I was a kid. Like one or two kids had anxiety and it feels like it’s the great anxiety, like a lot of people are fearful about a lot of things. But I think part of it is that, you know, we just have to be kind to ourselves and we can’t compare our like traumas and suffering. Like if it means if it’s meaningful to us and affecting us, it’s affecting us. It’s okay.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s really important. Um, thank you for bringing that up. ’cause I think that’s really important when it comes to how we spend time outside because in an Instagram wonderful world, and when you listen to entertaining podcasts, Which I hope everyone here does, listened to a lot of them, right?
When you do that, it’s really easy to hear very inspiring stories. Just all the time. Just very curated and inspiring stories. But the truth of the matter is that, and you mentioned this earlier, your will to wild could be joining a running club and running a 5K. It could also be circumnavigating the South Pole, like there comparison is, is the great evil here.
And just getting out and doing whatever feels wild to you is important. And when it comes to going outside, it can be very, visual and even I think, easier to compare those experiences. You know, I do this 20 minutes outside every day. Yesterday, my 20 minutes outside was literally on a, from a helicopter on a glacier. I’m not even gonna compare me to me because that was extra epic, and that’s not gonna happen again for a while. Right? So, I don’t expect people to be like, oh my gosh, my outdoor time wasn’t as good as Amy’s because she was on a glacier with, you know, that’s not fair. That’s not even fair to myself. But it’s so tempting to do that. Gosh.
Shelby Stanger: Yeah, I mean a lot of times my outside time is I walk to the coffee shop and I see a dog and a cool tree and a pine cone and I look at some flowers and you know what? That’s okay. That feels really good and I’m pretty psyched on it. And I feel a sun on my skin and I think it can be really simple. We don’t have to Everest everything and make it extreme.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Do you think, the Will to Wild is a privilege? I mean, we, we talk a lot about privilege, I think appropriately, just culturally right now. So where does that fit into this conversation?
Shelby Stanger: What do you think?
Amy Bushatz: I think that it’s a two-sided coin.
Shelby Stanger: Yeah,
Amy Bushatz: I think like internally it’s not, but from a resource perspective it could be.
Shelby Stanger: Yeah, you know, for me, the will to wild is an intention to live in connection to nature, regardless of your circumstances. To have more wild. That being said, if you’re in a maximum security prison, it’s not easy to have a connection to nature. But I will tell you, I just interviewed someone who brings nature- you should have her on your podcast- she was the coolest woman probably who’s been on my podcast this year. And she’s a scientist and she brought different things into these maximum security prisons.
At first, these guys were only allowed an hour of outside of gym time a day. They weren’t even allowed outside time. And so during that time they projected images of nature onto a screen for an hour, and no one wanted, like they wanted big, vast horizons, you know, because they’re confined, they’re in prison, which sucks. And violent activities decreased by 60% from that experiment.
It’s pretty radical to just bring nature to prisons. So yeah, not all of us have the access, the means, the time. That is absolutely real. But man, I’ve worked with people who have nothing. And I think it’s complicated because in some different countries, access to nature if you’re poor, is really easy because you do live on the land and you’re on the land and like, If you’re not gonna like go climb Mount Everest or something for fun, like you already live on the, I remember when I was in Indonesia, we stopped our surf trip and went into this village, and this was 2009. And I was like, wow, there’s no gym on this island. Like these people are constantly working out for like a living just to get their food and they’re gardening. But they’re really happy. And so it’s interesting that, you know, in cultures where there is land and trees and people are able to be in connection to nature more often, they tend to be happier.
And there’s actually this other guy I interviewed named Cecil Konijnendijk, and he has this thing called the 3-30-300 rule, and that is you should be able to look out your window and see three trees, have 30% tree canopy and be within 300 meters or five to 10 minutes of a park. And like we don’t all have that. But if that was true, I think a lot of us would be happier, healthier crime would go down. And he’s proven that through science. So
Amy Bushatz: Yeah
Shelby Stanger: Yeah I mean, we all have different circumstances, but. You know, there’s a guy in my book who’s formerly homeless and he was part of an organization that took kids who are at risk surfing and snowboarding, and he’s made his life to have snowboarding be the main focal point today. And he’s like 30 something years old. That just goes to show you that, you know, being in connection- in fact, he told me it’s about having a relationship with Mother Nature and that choice to have it that’s been the key to changing his life.
Amy Bushatz: So your book combines all those stories you just referenced with your own journey of working towards a wild idea, which is creating what is now a very successful podcast. And it seemed like a crazy idea at the time. I am wondering if you’ve ever heard a wild idea on your podcast that personally led you to a new adventure, and if so, would you tell us about it?
Shelby Stanger: Like every week.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, me too.
Shelby Stanger: So from simple things like James Nestor who wrote the book about breathing, it’s called Breath, the New Science of a Lost Art. We’ve been friends for a really long time and as soon as we started hearing about the book many years ago before he even wrote it, I started sleeping with mouth tape, which is not like an outdoor adventure, but it was really wild and it felt stupid. But, I breathe through my nose better and it’s helped my running. So there you go. So that’s really simple. I had this guy on named Jesse Itzler, who I ended up working for, and he’s super cool. Most people know him because he’s married to the woman who started Spanx, Sarah Blakely.
But Jesse himself is a total badass. He sold a bunch of companies. He sold a private jet company. He sold Zico coconut water to Pepsi, and he hired David Goggins, the Navy Seal that’s pretty famous to train him. And then he lived with monks. He’s written books. He started this thing called 29029, which you run up and down a mountain, the equivalent to Mount Everest.
And he shared some numbers with me and he was like, you know, you have to break things down into numbers sometimes to make it happen. He’s like, you know, the average age of an old person is like 85, let’s say, and if your mom is 75 and you see her twice a year. You know, 75 to 85 is 10. If you see her twice a year, that’s 20 visits left. And he said that to me and I was like, wow, I’m gonna book a trip with my mom. And I like immediately booked a trip with my mom and we went to Hawaii, back to Waikiki where her mother had lived and passed away. And we had a great time. We went to like an Elvis show. We took a outrigger canoe in the water and threw some flowers in the water to honor my grandmother. And afterwards I went surfing and of course the flowers like ended up all around me. It was so creepy and cool. And we hiked Diamond Head. She walked as slow as a turtle. It was like painful, but it was great. We had a good time. We had shave ice. It was so fun. And that was one I did. God, so many people have talked about hiking and I mean, I just, I just went to Mammoth Mountain and did all these hikes and went to a waterfall and, I loved it.
I mean, Alex Honnold like convinced me to go to Yosemite and, and it was just absolutely magical. There’s a woman who, who I had, who really got me excited to go ice climbing and I booked a trip last year and it was, unfortunately, I got really sick and I had to cancel it, but I’m not giving up on that idea.
I did this all day survival course that I had no desire to do, and I wrote about it in the book. It was in a place called Cougar Canyon, and of course I saw a cougar, which was terrifying, and the guy ended up being a he ended up later being on, a contestant on the show Alone. There’s a rock climber named Chris Sharma who has convinced me that Spain is magical and I’m literally going there in a few weeks. So.
Amy Bushatz: So maybe a better question is how do you keep yourself from wildly pursuing everything that you have a guest
Shelby Stanger: JOMO, JOMO. I have serious FOMO. Like everybody listening to this. I’m sure if you’re an adventurer and you’re a little ADD or ADHD, you might have some FOMO too. I get FOMO and I just try to have my blinders on, not compare myself to others. Easier said than done. I don’t always take my own advice. But I’m really interested in JOMO, which is the joy of missing out. That’s hard. It’s, there’s a woman that I had on my podcast, I’ve also had her on, I have another podcast. I’m interested in the intersection of mental health, adventure and humor. So I have this other podcast I put on hold that I may or may not bring back that I really enjoyed called Vitamin Joy. And it explores intersection of health and humor. Mental health specifically. And there’s this woman named Courtney Carver I’ve had on both podcasts who wrote a book called Soulful Simplicity, and she’s big on JOMO and, she’s just, she’s all about simplicity and you know, just doing a few things a day that bring her joy. But she’s totally okay saying no and not being busy.
Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm.
Shelby Stanger: And that’s something I struggle with because I want to grow and I wanna be able to make money and I wanna be able to pay for health insurance and a house in Southern California. And it’s hard. And sometimes as a brand builder in 2023, there’s a lot of things you can do.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah.
Shelby Stanger: And right now I’m just like picking and choosing and it’s more of an exercise of subtraction and what I’m saying no to, which is sometimes harder than what to say yes to.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. Boy, do I feel that? Also I walked out of your book destined to learn how to surf. I mean, I’m like speaking that into the world.
Shelby Stanger: You should.
Amy Bushatz: I can’t, I just have always felt, okay, I’m from Santa Cruz, California. Let’s start there. And I have never surfed.
Shelby Stanger: Santa Cruz intimidating. It’s cold. The locals are not the most welcoming always. There’s some locals that are very kind, but like, let’s be honest, the reputation of Santa Cruz is pretty gnarly, so that’s okay. You just need to go to Costa Rica or somewhere like friendly and warm and and fun.
Amy Bushatz: I know I definitely need to go to Costa Rica for like a wide variety of reasons, but surfing is most certainly one of them. So
Shelby Stanger: You should go.
Amy Bushatz: yeah, I told my husband, I’m like, I’m turning 40. I, I’m gonna learn how to surf. I’m going back to my California roots. And so he is like, oh, you wanna go to California? Learn how to surf? No, wanna go to Costa Rica.
Shelby Stanger: Yeah, you should. It’s better there. I mean, it’s just warmer and more forgiving in certain spots
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, I’m stoked.
Shelby Stanger: And the food’s amazing.
Amy Bushatz: I’m, I’m speaking this into the world. We’re walking into winter too right now, and, and at, at this fine end of August or early September time. And, um, ’cause that’s how life in Alaska is. And so I’m laser focused on ways to be warm in January. It’s like I’m already focused on it. Okay.
So if there’s one step for people to take, one thing folks should do towards chasing a wild idea. What is it like you hang up or you put down the podcast, you walk away. What are you doing to pursue this?
Shelby Stanger: Number one, write down your wild idea on a piece of paper. And number two, do one thing today that brings you closer to actually starting or just start, like I wrote a big chapter on Make a Plan, and now I kind of regret it. Like you can plan all day until you’re, you could be unready forever if you let yourself be.
But eventually you have to untie the dock lines as sailors say, and set sail. Otherwise, you’re just gonna be this dude who has a really cool boat that they’re constantly tweaking that never actually leaves the dock. It’s the same with starting a business. You could write a business plan forever and ever and perfect it and like make your, you gotta do something right?
Do something to start and plan so you’re more confident and you know what to do when things go wrong, ’cause things will go wrong. It just sort of happens in life.
But eventually. you just have to start. And you need to remember that tomorrow’s not guaranteed, which I sometimes could’ve like not taken that lesson to an extreme.
I, I learned that lesson young and I, it would’ve, it would’ve behooved me and served me well to have taken a little bit of a chill pill. But life is not guaranteed. And so, I mean, I think you just gotta start one thing closer to you. And if you wanna do one wild thing today, just tonight, watch the sunset somewhere. It doesn’t have to set over the exact horizon. If your house blocks it, just go outside and see the sun get as low as you can.
Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. Yeah, Yeah, man, I, I feel that I like- sweat equity, right? Like as one step could be whatever sweat equity means to you, that it could take the form of some cash, you know, that you put down some money towards your idea or it could take the form of your time, which is also has tied to a monetary value if you wanna think about it like that.
Shelby Stanger: Yeah, it’s something really I’m motivated by not losing money, and so if I put down a deposit on something, it’s kind of like hiring a personal trainer at the gym. You’re gonna show up.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. A hundred percent. Yeah. Okay. So, Shelby, thank you so much for your time today. I mean, I’ve probably talked to you for the next hour and a half,
Shelby Stanger: Be we should. You’re really cool. I’m like, we should work together. We should do something together. We should start something together. You seem really cool. I don’t meet many other journalists who cover this, and so when I meet one, I’m really excited. So thank you for having me on and being persistent. You ask great questions.
Amy Bushatz: you Well, thank you. So we close our show, sort of hearing our guest favorite outdoor moment, like just sort of wrap the whole thing in a bow. And I’m talking about something that you close your eyes and you’re like there, like you can see this moment. and it’s something you like to go back to. So I’m wondering if you would describe that for us.
Shelby Stanger: It’s so cheesy, but it’s like 2011 and I’m up very early at dawn teaching a surfing lesson with my girlfriend, who’s another co-instructor, and we go surfing by ourselves before classes begin and there’s no one else in the water. The waves are absolutely perfect. We’re in Costa Rica. It smells good, the water’s warm.
We’re just in our bikinis, and there’s two cute guys in the water, and so we just start taking their waves. And uh one of those guys is Johnny and I love that moment. Like I love when I met him because I took a lot of his waves and his best friend’s waves and we flirted for hours and I didn’t think that I would end up later with Johnny. I might’ve made out with his friend too, but you know, that’s another story. But that was such a fun moment. I think like the beginnings of a relationship and to have met the guy I’ve been with for 12 years while surfing and doing my favorite activity is like so magical.
Amy Bushatz: Shelby, thank you so much for joining us today on Humans Outside.
Shelby Stanger: Well, thank you for having me.
Amy Bushatz: That’s a wrap on this episode of Humans Outside. But hey, I need your help. Enjoy this show? Leave a five star rating or review or vote wherever you get your podcasts. It makes me feel good- but it also helps others find a show too. Now, go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.