How to Use ‘Nearby Nature’ to Get You and Your Family Outside (Zenovia Stephens)

Jump To section

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

One of the things that can hold people — adults, kids, families and otherwise — back from purposefully spending time outside is the idea that “nature” looks like something other than what is right outside their front door. If it doesn’t look like a National Park, does it really count as “nature?”

The truth, of course, is that “nature” is whatever is in the fresh air right outside your front door. But can you help yourself and your family see, appreciate and enjoy that, especially when you think parts of it — bugs, weather, etc. — are things you really don’t like?

Today’s guest Zenovia Stephens has made a mission of helping kids and families get outside near her home in Alabama. Founder of the nonprofit Black Kids Adventures, Zenovia and her family, known as the Black Adventure Crew, work to help Black families get outside while working to increase representation in the outdoor community.

Some of the good stuff:

[3:19] Zenovia Stephen’s favorite outdoor space

[4:37] How Zenovia became someone who likes to go outside

[8:11] How Black Adventure Crew and Black Kids Adventures got started

[9:17] Common misconceptions about heading outside

[11:10] Do people think nature has to be something that it isn’t?

[15:50] How she got to liking nearby nature

[19:23] How do you create a mindset to welcome discomfort?

[29:00] The trick of using our kids to get us outside

[40:30] How people can connect with Black Kids Adventures

Connect with this episode:

Sign up for the challenge:

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Amy Bushatz 0:06

No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside is always worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while learning from fascinating outdoor-minded guests. I’m Amy Bushatz. I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 18 years, but life, including my husband’s war injuries, has burnt us out. So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if a change of scenery and new focus on outdoors was just the shift we needed. Since September 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, no matter what, to explore how nature can change my life. 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 we talk about heading outside daily, or making spending time outside part of our daily habit, we’re talking about shifting your focus on how nature fits into your daily routine and how you fit into nature. A big part of that is knowing that the outside doesn’t have to be a destination and it doesn’t have to be an event. It can be something you’re comfortable in right wherever you live. That’s why I’m spending season five of Humans Outside talking about nearby nature and taking advantage of what’s in front of you. And today I’m so excited to introduce you to Zenovia Stephens, you might have run across her work with the nonprofit Black Kids Adventures, which is based in Huntsville, Alabama. Her organization focuses on encouraging black and brown families to spend time together in nature, including organizing meetups and these really cool family camp retreats that she hosts. And all this helps encourage families to head outside together, something they can then do close to home. So today Zenovia is going to share her story with us while giving us some tips and tricks she gives to the kids and families she works with to help them make heading outside a regular part of their lives. Zenovia, welcome to Humans Outside.

Zenovia Stephens 2:15

Thank you so much for having me, Amy.

AB 2:17

Oh my gosh, I am really excited for this conversation. I love, love, love, love what you’re doing. I especially love what you’re doing with the family camps, because my family and I have benefited from similar camps like that designed for the military community. And there’s some of my favorite memories before I ever was a person who spent time outside. We went to one of those and spent time outside. So very cool.

ZS 2:43

Thank you, I guess that is probably my most favorite thing that we do through the organization. Like I love all of the events, but something about these weekends camping with other families. They just really fuel me in the work that I’m doing and they’re just always amazing.

AB 2:59

Yeah, so cool. Okay, so before we get really rolling, we always start our conversations imagining ourselves with our guests, hanging out, talking in their favorite outdoor space, as if we were just sitting around having a conversation somewhere that’s special to you. So can you describe, if that was true, where we are with you today?

ZS 3:19

Um, so as far as favorites, first I want to say that I am a person that will say that my favorite place is normally wherever I am in the moment. So I have many favorite outdoor spaces. But the one I’m going to share with you today is a place called Green Mountain Nature Preserve. And this is one of my favorites because it’s the place that I really discovered just how healing nature can be. It’s a magical oasis, which is literally like 10 or 15 minutes away from where I live. It’s a beautiful, very easy, accessible trail that surrounds a lake. And it has a beautiful reflection especially during the fall, like the colors will reflect off the water and it’s always mesmerizing. Like I’m always just kind of staring at it, thinking like – I can’t believe that this is real – year after year after year. And it’s a place that just brings me a lot of peace.

AB 4:07

Oh, that’s so great. I love that because I think everyone can relate to a moment like that, where you have this lightbulb situation where you’re like – wow, okay, this isn’t so bad or this is special to me or this feels good. And that is a special, special thing. So thanks for sharing that with us. So okay, this is another thing we often start with but I just love hearing people’s stories. So how did you become someone who likes to go outside?

ZS 4:37

So I’ve always enjoyed, you know, going outside like riding my bike, going in my backyard, digging in holes for whatever – I’m not going to say bugs but just digging in holes. My mom and I were the ones in the family that would go outside and take care of the garden. I ran track outside literally every single day you know during outdoor season and summer track. I’ve always enjoyed simply being outside. But when it comes to this connection with nature in the way that I, you know, operate now, this year has taught me just how in depth the story really is and has really connected. It’s many, many things. It’s fishing trips, you know, at home with my stepdad that I didn’t realize I was even connecting because I didn’t want to do these fishing trips, but I was there. And I had that exposure to that, right. It’s me going away to Camp Pinewood in Michigan for two weeks, doing all of the outdoor things similar to our camping retreat, canoeing, kayaking, running through the woods, you know, tent camping on the other side of the campgrounds. So it’s like, all of these little things over the course of my life, I think, built me up to be the person that I am today, without me really knowing it. And when I started going up to Green Mountain, I was in a place in my life where I just didn’t know what to do. I was confused. I had graduated college, I had had left chiropractic school, and I’m like – I don’t know what’s going on with me, totally confused, totally out of sorts, and felt just, you know, some kind of way, sitting at home trying to figure out life. So I would go up there. And I realized that I just felt so much better and so peaceful, and I was able to, you know, clear my head and kind of think through things. And also, you know, hear from God and the direction that he wanted me to go in my life. I think that that’s when the relationship that I have now started to really begin to flourish.

AB 6:43

Yeah, I love that. Because I think that even if you’re not a person of deep faith, we, um, many people can connect to this idea of a higher power. And seeing that and feeling that through nature, I have a deep faith background. So I certainly connect with what you’ve just mentioned, but I spend a lot of time outside with people who don’t, and they feel that connection, that sort of spiritual connection out in nature to and it’s a guiding light, you know, and it helps you see the world more clearly.

ZS 7:22

Yes, for sure. And I mean, you can literally feel, you can feel like this clarity, you, for me, at least, I literally feel it, you know? And it’s just so different than when I’m down here in the city with, you know, the cars going back and forth, and the people, or even just hitting, you know, like a greenway where you can still hear the city around you. It’s just a different feeling.

AB 7:47

Right? Right. But then, of course, we know that even having that city around you can be that touchdown to that other feeling, sort of like, I don’t know, portal, maybe? We’ll come back to that. Because I know nearby nature is really important to both of us. So, um, as part of your origin story, though, tell us a little bit about Black Kids Adventures, and what got you started with that.

ZS 8:11

So Black Kids adventures literally started because my family and I would go out and do you know, all these different things. And it just kind of occurred to us that we weren’t seeing, you know, ourselves represented, when we were out. So, you know, we’re out hiking, we’re out paddleboarding. And it’s like, well, you know, where are the other black families or just black individuals? And, of course, we know that, you know, we’re doing these things all over the world, but here in our community, we weren’t seeing it. And so we wanted to, you know, bring a community for everyone to feel welcomed, and maybe, you know, decide that they would want to try out these activities with us. So we thought if we could just kind of get our feet on the ground, and instead of wondering, you know, where are the other families, let’s create an opportunity to bring them out. And just kind of change the picture that we’re seeing when we’re out there.

AB 9:01

Very powerful. So with that in mind, and changing that narrative, what are some of the most common misconceptions about outdoors and spending time outside that you see from people that you work with from these families who are now joining your community?

ZS 9:17

So for some of the families that are joining our community, a big thing is maybe just not realizing what all we have around us. And I was like that for a very long time, too. So going back to like Green Mountain, for instance, I’ve always lived in the South Huntsville community and Green Mountain is part of the South Huntsville community. But I didn’t realize that it was up there for over probably, you know, five, six years of me living down here. I didn’t know it was there. So I think that that’s one of the things, just realizing how much is right here where we live in Huntsville. We have a lot of ways that we can get outdoors and recreate literally within minutes of you know, wherever you are in town. So I think that that’s the biggest, just understanding that there’s a lot right here, you don’t have to travel far, there’s something down the street, there’s something up the road, or there’s something on the back road that you can get out and, you know, get involved in with your family. And people have really appreciated just learning how much is right here through us.

AB 10:16

Is that because people misunderstand what nature can be and put it in a box? Or is it a lack of information about what’s around? It’s the difference between I think that being in nature means I have to go visit the Grand Canyon, and I had no idea that there was this tiny little arboretum in my small town, which is true. Like, I spent a lot of time outside, I still didn’t know that was there. But what is this? There’s science, it tells you what the trees are. When did this get put in here? 40 years ago, Amy? Oh, okay. And my town is like, very small. So, still didn’t know that was there. So is this the difference between I have no awareness of what’s or not a complete awareness, in my case of what’s out there, or I think that nature, it has to be something that it’s not.

ZS 11:10

We haven’t had a lot of those conversations with our community. But speaking from my family point of view, in my personal point of view, or perspective, I think it’s a little bit of both. So even, you know, for my husband and I, the reason that we didn’t know, there was so much right here is because of what you’re saying, we had this idea that, you know, being outdoorsy, or being into nature meant that we had to go to these really specific places or live in a really specific place. For instance, for us that place was Colorado, like, we had never been to Colorado, we still have not been to Colorado, but that was like the place I was applying to jobs. It was crazy. We wanted to live this outdoorsy, adventurous life. And so we were like – Okay, so where do we have to go to do it? And it was Colorado, that was the only place in the whole world.

AB 11:57

You’re talking to somebody who moved to Alaska to spend more time in nature. That’s the stick here. Okay. Whatever, right. Okay, so keep going.

ZS 12:13

We weren’t dead set on it. And I mean, you know, we never got a job. That’s the reason we didn’t move. We never got a job. But in the process of all of that, we began to discover just how much was here. So you know, it was a blessing, because I would have left Alabama not realizing how much is here. Like, it’s amazing. And I never thought that I would say those words, Alabama is amazing. I say it all the time. Like, I’ve never wanted to reside here. I was supposed to come here for college and move back home to, you know, the big city, back to Chicago. Like, I’d never dreamed that I would use those words. Alabama is amazing. But it is. I love it here. There’s so much to do here. And we’re absolutely living the outdoorsy, adventurous life that we dreamed of right here where we’ve been the entire time. So, you know, it’s about being resourceful, opening your eyes and kind of, you know, pushing the idea that has been presented to many of us as to what that looks like, what outdoorsy looks like, what someone that likes nature looks like. It doesn’t look like that; it looks like whatever you want it to look like. And I think once we kind of all move away from you know, the idea that it has to look a particular way, then we appreciate what we have.

AB 13:33

Absolutely. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love living in Alaska, it was the right thing for my family. There were a lot of reasons we wanted to move somewhere away from where we were. But I mean, I just kind of I guess I have a flair for the dramatic. But like, in all seriousness, did I have to move? The thing I’ve learned is that while I am extremely glad to be here, and I do not regret this move at all, and my life is much much better for being in Alaska, it’s not necessarily because of Alaska, right? It’s not necessarily because I moved somewhere outdoorsy, it’s because I changed me. I started looking for being outside, and I could have changed me wherever I was. And that’s exactly what you’re saying. Right? Like, we can change how we see what’s around us. And waiting for what’s around us to change is a mistake. Because first of all, unless you have other reasons to move, that’s sort of a drama queen thing to do. Amy, come on. But also, one of the things I learned when I moved here was that I – so we moved here. My husband went outside. He was having a great old time skiing; he was doing all the things. I’m like sitting on my porch waiting for the outside, for Alaska to sort of behave itself. And it’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s raining. I’m reading Harry Potter in a hoodie and it’s like 55 degrees. My book’s getting wet. It’s a library book. That’s not cool. Okay? And, and I’m sitting there so upset that Alaska just won’t be nice. What’s wrong with you? Okay, well, what’s wrong with you is that you’re the weather and you don’t obey me. So I needed to change how I looked at nature. That’s what the Humans Outside challenge is all about. It’s changing who we are to receive nature how it already is, instead of waiting for things to do what we say, which is annoying, but reality.

ZS 15:50

And I think, you know, we all have to go through certain things to get to that point, though. So even though I feel the way I feel about the things that are around me, I didn’t arrive to the moment or the point that you’re speaking of until I had kids, right? It wasn’t until I had kids that I began to explore, you know, being okay with going outside and doing different things outside, regardless of the weather and accepting, you know, the weather for what it is and making the best of it. So I think it takes different situations for us to, you know, arrive at those moments. I mean, 10 years ago, you would never catch me saying, you know, like – Yeah, you should go out in the rain. I would be like, Oh, no, it’s raining, I’m gonna go curl up in my room, you know, with a book and some tea or coffee, because it’s raining. But now, you know, I look at it, and I’m like, oh, let’s go grab the rain gear and go, splashing some puddles. I still don’t love the, you know, getting super wet and dirty. I’m not going to lie. But see, my kids enjoy it. It brings me joy, and it helps me to appreciate you know, the beauty in basically everything. Because there is beauty to be found, you know, in most situations.

AB 17:00

Oh, that’s so good. Just gonna soak that in for a second. It’s exactly what we’re talking about, opening your mind, and opening your willingness to experience things outside of how you have previously thought about that.

So you mentioned kids. Okay. And by the way, I want to bring back something you mentioned when you’re talking about how you became someone who likes to go outside, which is that you had these experiences formed by and this appreciation for by doing something you didn’t want to do? So fishing, right. Like, and that just sparked some memories in my mind of like these forced hike marches with my family. It’s like a death march. Right? I mean, we all have this experience as kids with our parents. We are being conscripted to do something that we do not want to do. I’m fishing, hiking, you know, and I can see the look on my kid’s face. Okay, so your organization focuses on families, but just more specifically kids. I mean, it’s in the title, right? So you and I both have younger kids, your oldest is nine and my youngest is nine. Okay. All right. So even these kids, even my kid has a preconception, I don’t know where he got it, on what nature is or isn’t what it’s like or not like and maybe it includes forced marches up mountains, maybe it doesn’t. So how do you start to tackle those and create a mindset for kids specifically, that welcomes heading outside as a normal thing, like even the unpleasantness of the fishing or whatever it is your kid has decided that day that he doesn’t want to do because it changes by the moment. How do you create a mindset that welcomes that discomfort?

ZS 19:53

That’s a good question. I don’t know that I have a great answer for that question. For our family, we just kind of continue to push through, even when our kids kind of give us the push back. Because what happens with us is when our kids say they don’t want to do something, or kind of put up that fight towards doing something, we get there and we can see when, you know, it shifts, and they’re beginning to enjoy themselves. So my husband is really great about kind of honing in on that shift happening, and bringing up to you know, each of our children when it occurs, like so, what is it about, you know, this situation? Or what is it about what you’re doing right here in this moment that you’re enjoying, or just making you happy, right, to kind of help give them a, you know, point of reference as to like – I said I didn’t want to go fishing, but I remember when, you know, when I cast my line up for the first time, and I saw the fish start, you know, forming, or coming around, and it was so exciting. Just give them a point of reference as to when they were enjoying themselves when they were happy. So he’s better at picking up on that than I am. I’m more like – Okay, let’s get out here and go. And, you know, I mean, he pays so much attention to the shifts happening. But yeah, we just kind of pushed through because for us, our kids, typically no matter what they’re saying, they’re almost always going to begin to enjoy themselves or enjoy something about what we’re doing. Um, again, with the organization, it’s been so new that we haven’t had a lot of conversations about, about a lot of things with, you know, the families and things that we interact with. But I can just see in kids whose families may have told me like, especially coming up to camp, this wasn’t so much of an idea of nature, it was more so of like, you know, feelings of fear, being fearful of certain things. But there was one family in particular, and I remember them saying – you know, well, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do a lot of the activities, because my kids won’t get some of this nature. My kids don’t like bugs and they’re, you know, afraid of heights. And so I just said to this mom, because these were also her fears. I just said to this mom, I said – Well, you know, if you guys will just try it, let’s see what happens. I think that, you know, when your kids are around other kids, they may not be as fearful and they may be more willing to try. And it’s exactly what happened, like, you wouldn’t have known had she not told you that her kids were afraid of heights or bugs on that trip, because they just went through everything and had the best of time. I mean, crossed the bridges that were, you know, really high above water, one of these hikes touched the bugs and all kinds of different things. So a lot of times, it’s kind of like the I think the community having community can change, you know, preconceived notions, whether they’ve been spoken or not just being in community and seeing how other people are, you know, handling things, what they’re doing, it can help change your mindset, whether you know it or not.

AB 23:11

Yeah, yeah. And isn’t it funny how we inflict on our kids our own fears and our own discomforts? So you know, I, as you’re talking, I thought of how I do that a lot, but also my grandmother, okay. So my grandmother has this dog, Daisy, okay. My grandmother is in her 80s. She made this big move from California, where she had lived basically her entire life, to be closer to my family where they had relocated in Boise, Idaho. And that’s a big change when you live on a beach, and now you live in Boise, Idaho. Yeah. Okay. And you’re 85. So, when you said to her, how are you doing grandma? How is life? She would say, well, Daisy’s making an adjustment. You know, she doesn’t seem to like the weather. And it took me a little bit, but as it happened, when she said Daisy, she meant herself. Yes, right? Daisy doesn’t care. She’s a dog. She doesn’t care. But grandma cares. Okay, so I do that to my kids, right? Do your kids like spiders? Oh, I hesitate to even say that word because I think the internet’s listening to me and it’s gonna show me pictures and we are not interested. Okay. My kids hate them. Yeah, they’re afraid. So.

ZS 24:35

I think it’s part of parenting though. You know, it’s unintentional. But I think we all, you know, have certain things that we’ve definitely passed on to our kids. And that’s something that I try and I try so hard to be aware of, because my oldest, I mentioned that a lot on our Instagram, he picks up on things even if I don’t say them, so I have to be very careful with him because it’s like, he literally is like an energy between us and he can feel if something isn’t my thing, and then it becomes not his thing. So then I have to go back and explain to him like, it’s okay for me to not like something and you to like that. That was totally okay. And that’s why I try a lot of different things with them, things I don’t like because I don’t want them to, you know, take one of my feelings and my emotions and make them their own.

AB 25:22

Yeah, I also really appreciate the role that you mentioned, your husband plays in understanding what’s going on with the vibe. Because, you know, we do that too. And I think a lot of parents or co-parent families have this experience. I’m like, I’m very much like we are here, we are skiing. And so help us God, we are making it to the end of this trail. Like I went through all sorts of nonsense to get us all here and have all the skis waxed and make sure all y’all had all your gloves and all this stuff. And I will die early. And my husband’s like, can we please turn around? He’s picking up the vibe that my nine year old with a stiff chin is having an absolute meltdown internally. And we turn around and guess what, we’re all significantly happier in the end for making that decision. But yeah, that’s so far, no one has picked up on my attitude of we will summit or die. That’s too bad.

Okay, so we, so we mentioned this, how we pass on this to our kids. Okay, so that’s an adult attitude, right? Like you and I have our we don’t like this, therefore, children clearly don’t like this. My grandmother doesn’t like it. Therefore Daisy, very against it. Okay, so how do you tackle these attitudes? Like, how do you and I look at ourselves in the mirror and be like – spiders? Okay. I can’t believe I said that. Okay, okay. It’s not that they’re okay. The Internet – I’m not interested. Don’t show me pictures of this. I feel like I have to make a disclaimer to Google every time I say it so I don’t get those ads.

ZS 27:27

Yeah. Well, you know, for me, I think it’s, I’m practicing what I preach. So the beginning of the organization, you know, has forced me more so to literally practice what I preach. And I’m going to tell you an interesting thing about the organization’s name. So it’s called Black Kids Adventures, right? And you were like, you know, you made the statement like, well, it focuses on kids, that’s really not true. The reason that I named it kids is kind of, for all of the reasons that we’re talking about. What I wanted is for families that think that they have no interest, think that they would not enjoy recreating outdoors, think that they don’t like nature, to not feel pressured into thinking like, you know, oh, I have to pretend that like these things, I have to do whatever. No, I wanted them to feel like you know what, when I’m taking my kid to this, this is just for my kid. But knowing and understanding that in the process, I’m going to capture some adults as well. We have no programming where you can simply drop your child off, all of the programming is family centered. So you have to do this together. So for that person, for that adult that has no interest, doesn’t want to do it. I’m like – Well, if they have to do with their kids, maybe their kids will influence them. And now we capture the entire family. So because you know, hey, yeah, if you think if you want it to be for the kids, let it be for the kids, but you come on out and you bring them out, and let’s just see how you feel about it at the end, too.

AB 29:00

Yeah. Oh my gosh, this is like saying – Well, we’re gonna take a walk so Daisy can get used to the weather. So.

ZS 29:09

Exactly. Yeah. It worked.

AB 29:12

True. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Cuz you see how your kids are loving it? It radiates.

ZS 29:21

Yes. I mean, I have many parents that have said – you know, this isn’t my thing, but seeing my kid out there loving it. You know, it made me happy. And it made me more open to doing a few more different things. It made me more open to stepping outside because I don’t like to go outside, but I’m seeing how much my kids love it and how they’re thriving, you know? So it works. It works.

AB 29:45

Yeah, they say– if Mom’s not happy, no one’s happy. And that is true. However, try being around an unhappy three year old.

ZS 29:56

Oh my goodness gracious.

AB 30:00

Yeah. We joke about mom, but it’s true with the kids too. If you can get your kids to a place where they are simply tired at the end of the day, we all will be blessed. And going outside is a spectacular way to do that. We spend time outside every day, there are days that I do not want to go outside. It’s cold, it’s windy. And it’s not like I don’t feel well, whatever, right? You know, bad attitude doesn’t matter. I just don’t want to do it. So my nine year old is very into pretend play. And it’s time to go outside, like the sun setting. We need to go on a walk. And you know, now he’s having a meltdown. Okay, within two or three minutes, he is springing down the trail. I know, you’ve seen this in your own family, like just all sorrow has been forgotten. And I talk about how that’s true quite a lot. But if I let that reflect back on me, that’s also true for myself.

ZS 31:21

Absolutely. I agree with that. 100%

AB 31:25

I too, within a few minutes of being outside. All sorrow.

ZS 31:34

Yes. I mean, I’ve been known, you know, when things are hectic at home, and just crazy to just literally walk out the door. Like, I may not say a word to anyone, and I will just leave and just walk out the door. And when I come back, you’re like – Oh, where did you go? It sounds crazy. All I did was I just went walking. And when I come back, I’m like, you know, there’s a beautiful flower and everything would feel so much better. But I mean, yes, I stand by the power of nature. It really has the power to change everything that’s happening inside us. You don’t want to go out there. You’re feeling bad. You’re feeling down. I’m telling you when you get up there, you’re gonna feel amazing. Like just get out there. Just get out there. Yeah, fresh air.

AB 32:28

Oh, yeah. So okay, so what you’re talking about is getting out into nearby nature, just outside, like, literally, you walk out your door, you go for a walk, I’m assuming in your neighborhood not getting in the car driving?

ZS 32:38

Oh, no, yeah, literally, in my neighborhood, walk down the street. We do live very close to a greenway. But on these kind of occasions, I’m just walking down the street, like I walk out of my neighborhood. And then I walk on to the street between my neighborhood and the greenway, and I just walk.

AB 32:56

So earlier, we talked about how there is a power to that greenspace and that connection that we have. But we also brush on the fact that what’s literally outside your door on that sidewalk is a touchstone and sort of, I don’t know, maybe it’s too woo woo. But like a portal to that, like a reminder. So talk to me a little bit about that connection, about helping people understand through their kids and through their family, that it can be just a city walk, it can be literally going outside your front door, regardless of where that front door happens to be located.

ZS 33:37

Yeah. So again, I think it has to do with, you know, the box that we may be in. Just like to encourage people to step out of that box and reimagine, you know, everything that they thought they knew about what it meant to be outside what it meant to be at one with nature, because nature is literally when you take a step out the door. When you get outside, that is nature, that is you know, being outdoorsy. And I think like I said, when we can just kind of ignore the marketing because I mean marketing plays a big part in why a lot of people feel the way they feel about you know what nature is and what outdoory is. When we kind of remove that and ignore that, and just try to understand that at its core, nature is all around us. But I think you know, you’re at a place to better absorb the things that are right there and take advantage of it. Take advantage of what you have where you are because you don’t know if tomorrow or later is ever going to come. What are you waiting for? Take advantage of the things that you have right there. My backyard is nature.

AB 34:45

Hmm. This is one of the reasons I suggest to people that they and why I personally put a photo every day of my outdoor time on Instagram, which is something I’ve done for many years now, for over four years. Long before I had a podcast, long before I was really sharing this with anybody. And the reason I keep that up is to demonstrate exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve made it very dramatic decision and live in a very dramatic place. But that nature that I’m showing you is literally what’s outside my front door. I posted a picture not long ago, after an extremely cold run. Negative 10. It’s really much more terrible in your imagination than it is in practice. But getting ready to go isn’t that fun, because you have to like find everything. So when it is that cold and you’re breathing heavy, and your breath comes back up onto your face, because you’re wearing like a turtleneck or whatever. And now you have ice face, okay? Because it freezes. It’s very cold outside, right? So whatever hair you have on your face, that, you know, breath is forming crystals on your face. So if you are, for example, a lady who does not shave every day. Now all of that hair that no one that can ever see has ice on it. It’s like this beard and you get like ice crystals on your eyelashes. I mean, it can get really intense. And it’s very, like, it’s very dramatic looking. Okay, yes. So people are like – Oh, my God, you did this, like really dramatic thing. And it’s easy to look at that drama and say – my outdoor time is not equivalent to her outdoor time, right? Like my outdoor time is not as good because it doesn’t look like ice eyelashes, which by the way, I do not recommend to people. Like don’t go somewhere you don’t have to. Okay. So what I’m trying to say is that happens to be right outside my door. This is not me posting a picture of drama for the sake of drama, this is not traveling to the Grand Canyon, doing a photoshoot. I’ve never actually been there by the way. So it’s like this super dramatic thing to me. And posting a picture of that for the sake of like, look at the ideal, you know, your ideal is whatever you have. And we should respect that in ourselves, that we are taking the time to go out and do the thing, when you might get an ice face, or you might not. And everyone might see your lady mustache because it has ice on it now. Take that first step and take yourself out of that box that you have been taught through culture or ads or, you know, whatever.

ZS 38:24

Yes, that is all true. And you know, I try to, on my personal Instagram, show us doing different things, not just the things that look, like you said, I guess what some people may consider more dramatic. Like, well, you know – I don’t have that right outside my door, you know, so like, but we just go to the park a lot. We just go to the park. And even if it’s not like on my feet, you know, in my stories, I try to show us doing things that are like, even more accessible than the things that we’re, you know, doing all the time.

AB 38:55

When the weather’s not terrible, and one can sit still without dying, I do a lot of just sitting on my porch reading a book. That’s outdoor time.

ZS 39:06

My kids will play in the backyard. Like you’re saying, I’m sitting on the porch like, well, I’ll have my laptop on my porch working and that is me going outside. You’re absolutely right.

AB 39:18

Yeah. 100% that. I do the same exact thing. You know, and then when you start being somebody who’s who is opening that how you view outside, when that becomes who you are, you start to see outdoor opportunities, my hidden arboretum, right. Like I never would have found that if I wasn’t somebody who went outside because the reason I realized that was there was because we were at a community outdoor festival. And we never would have gone to the community outdoor festival if I wasn’t looking for a way to be outside. I would have said – well, it is December, we should stay in our house. Behold, holiday films, Netflix, hot toddy, whatever. Like, we never would have been there. But we were and I found that space because of that. And that’s that gift of just broadening your view, you know, without judgment on yourself or the poor Grand Canyon who never did anything to any of us.

ZS 40:25

So, yes. And I think that’s exactly what we’re trying to do through the organization, just broaden that view, you know, here in Huntsville, and hopefully one day, you know, spread it further than Alabama and try to reach across the country.

AB 40:38

So if people want to support your organization, because it is nonprofit, how do they do that?

ZS 40:43

We do have a PayPal set up that people can donate to. So my website is kind of interesting, because right now, it is merged between my family brand and the website all together, but I’m actually in the process of rebranding. So the organization will have its own standalone website, hopefully by the beginning of the year. But for now, if people go to and just scroll over to Black Kids Adventures, there’s a whole drop down box, it has all the organization’s information on there, as well as a PayPal, but you can look us up on PayPal too.

AB 41:28

And all that information will be in the show notes too. So if you’re not like literally sitting here taking notes, and people actually hear this after the new year. So once that happens, what will the website be?

ZS 41:43

It will be

AB 41:46

Awesome. And we’ll include both your family website brand and that in the show notes as well so that people can just tap and click. Yeah. And how can they find you on you know, we’ve talked a little bit about your Instagram feed, I think that how can they find both your family brand and then your organization’s?

ZS 42:05

The family is @BlackAdventureCrew on Instagram and Facebook. And then the organization is @BlackKidsAdventures on both Instagram and Facebook.

AB 42:18

Cool. Alright, so, um, before we wrap this all up, I like to hear sort of like a leftover thing from people about what their most essential or favorite outdoor gear is. Because I know that while we do not need all the gear to go outside, sometimes you have a favorite or most essential thing or both that has made your outdoor time better or, you know, more possible. I really like one particular very warm pair of pants for example, life changing.

ZS 42:57

So I guess for my favorite, I’m going to say and this is probably more so for my husband, but our carrier for my three year old. And I say for him because he’s going to be doing the carrying like, either you’re gonna pick him up if he doesn’t walk, or you’re gonna have to put them on. So I think that that’s probably you know, the favorite item just having that handy. That way when he refuses to, you know, walk another step, we can continue moving along. Um, my most essential, I’m going to say waterproof shoes, because my kids are going to find water somewhere. And we’ve ruined many pairs of shoes that were not waterproof. So having a pair of shoes that can just stand up to you know, the water that they’re going to most definitely splashing, it’s very important for us. And if I can add one more thing. This is just, it’s simple. It’s something that most people you know, have, but it’s my pack. And the reason for that is because snacks, I need to be able to carry, you know, many, many snacks to make sure that my boys are going to keep moving. Without that, you know, you may as well kind of wrap the trip up.

AB 44:07

Okay. So if you’re anything like me, you claim that you have packed these for your kid, but also they are for you. True or false?

ZS 44:17

Actually, for me, it’s false. It’s for my kids.

AB 44:20

All right, I enjoy a snack. It’s like my grandma and Daisy. Daisy needs a snack.

ZS 44:31

I have to get really hungry before because I’m normally so just kind of in awe of what’s going on around me that I don’t think much about eating so it’s not a great thing, but um, no, it’s really for my kids to keep going. I normally call them nature vitamins, like if it’s a piece of candy. Hey, here’s a nature vitamin, let’s keep going!

AB 44:53

I like it much better than the word bribery. I appreciate a turn around point snack, you know, like – Let’s appreciate the beauty while also eating some Swedish Fish. It’s just a suggestion. So anyway, all right. So finally, last but not least, kind of like we started talking, picturing ourselves hanging out in your favorite space. I would love it if you could describe for us a favorite outdoor moment. Something that I just really like, when I think – this is a moment outside that was really special to me – I have a particular thing that jumps to mind. So, something like that. And if you could describe it for us, where are you? What are you doing?

ZS 45:37

So one for me. It’s actually last December when we took our kids to the Smoky Mountain National Park for the first time. And this is a place that my husband and I, it’s a favorite place of ours. It’s somewhere that we normally escape to, you know, just for ourselves. For a while we were going every year, but I guess just kind of life and you know, busy schedules, it took us away. So it became a little bit infrequent. But that was like our special getaway place. But last year, we decided to finally, you know, share that place with the boys. And so we went up after we left family camp. And I’m seeing them so excited like literally watching the climate change as we drove up the mountain, like from it being you know, like just dry leaves and just cold at the bottom to seeing ice and snow at the top. And just like in awe of the fact that you know, 10 minutes ago, it looked one way and now it looks this way. That moment was just heartfelt for me because they were just so excited and their eyes were so incredibly lit up. And we stopped at a couple of spots and watched them kind of like running over to the side of the mountain trying to lick the ice on the side of the mountain and you know, get icicles and things like that. They were just so excited because they never experienced that before. And so it made that moment and that trip just so special and so worth sharing something that you know, we love and hold so dear to ourselves with them. It was just an amazing experience to see them. Like I said, my eyes literally were just like, because their eyes were like, well, nobody can see me here. But I’m doing like this emotion of like bright eyes, their eyes were so bright. They were so super excited, despite it being, you know, super duper cold and my kids are from, you know, the southeastern United States. So they’re not used to the cold. But they kind of ignored all that and were okay, because it was just such a big change. It brought so much joy.

AB 47:40

That’s so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that with us. And thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you.

ZS 47:48

Thank you for having me. I’ve enjoyed it as well.

AB 47:53

Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, give us a little love and leave a rating and review to make it easier for others to find the podcast too. What you say matters. It really, truly does make a difference. And 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