As host of the Emmy Award–winning CNN show United Shades of America , W. Kamau Bell travels across the country to learn about the wide variety of challenges we face—and also to show us how we can begin to talk to one another. Which is why we asked him to be on the cover of Outside ’s 2021 Best Towns issue: he helped us present a decidedly new take on dream destinations compared to past editions of this annual bestseller. Because Outsiders want more than just exceptional adventure playgrounds in their hometowns. They want things like affordable housing, investment in green initiatives, and a diverse population that has equitable access to parks and open space. In this kickoff episode to our new Forces of Good series, we hear what Kamau and fellow comedian and activist Baratunde Thurston think about the current divisions in our country—and what we learn when we engage with communities very different than our own. This episode was brought to you by Hydro Flask, a company that believes every adventure starts with two simple words: let’s go! Shop Hydro Flask products for yourself or the outdoor lovers on your holiday list this season at hydroflask.com .
Growing up in the urban heart of Los Angeles, the only real connection Maricela Rosales had to wilderness were secondhand adventure magazines. She had boundless energy and loved to climb—as a little girl, she often scrambled on piles of old auto parts her dad used to fix cars—but at age seven was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that caused her chronic pain and frequently left her bedridden. So when her doctor recommended climbing as part of a treatment plan while she was in college, she wasn’t immediately convinced. But the sport soon became her passion, and it ended up healing much more than her body. This episode is brought to you by Toyota, a company that wants to help you find joy by exploring America’s scenic byways. No matter what kind of adventure you’re after, there’s a Toyota designed to get you there. Learn more at toyota.com .
For Hollywood stars, there might be nothing harder than staying grounded. Just ask Nick Offerman, who became famous for his portrayal of Ron Swanson on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation . Ever since, Offerman, who was raised on a pig farm in rural Illinois, has strived to stay connected to his roots. He does this through woodworking (he crafts a mean canoe), seeking out discomfort (hiking in the cold, laboring on a sheep farm in England), and reading foundational environmental writers like Wendell Berry and Aldo Leopold. He captures all of that in his new book, Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside . In this episode, Offerman shares stories from his pursuit of a humbler life and offers up some choice lessons for making a deeper connection with the world beyond your door. This episode was brought to you by Avocado Green Brands, maker of the 100 percent organic-certified Avocado Mattress, which helps outdoor athletes get the restful sleep they really need. Learn more at avocadomattress.com .
As the lead singer of the band Sleigh Bells , Alexis Krauss has spent a whole lot of time on the open highway. And as she has learned the hard way, the life of a touring musician isn’t all that glamorous—especially in the early days, before you have a hit album. Think: eating at gas stations, showering (literally) with light beer, and occasionally peeing in Big Gulp cups when you don’t have time to stop. All of that offered great training for what became Krauss’s other passion: rock climbing. Because piling into vans with good friends for epic adventure odysseys isn’t all that different than doing a 20-city tour with your bandmates. In this episode, Krauss shares her wildest tales from the road and advice for rolling with whatever comes your way. This episode is brought to you by GoRVing. Don’t just go on a trip, go on a real vacation. To find out more about the incredible adventures waiting for you out on the road, visit gorving.com .
For many of us, there’s no quicker way to feel good than listening to a song we love. We press play, and the music instantly transports us to a different place. Not surprisingly, many songs that do this have their origins in experiences and emotions connected to wild places. In this third installment of our series exploring pathways to happiness, we talk with two very different artists, indie singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop and British rapper Testament, about the inspirations they’ve taken from nature to create worlds of sound and words that fill us with the same exhilarating energy we get from a walk in the woods. This episode is brought to you by Toyota, a company that wants to help you find joy by exploring America’s scenic byways. No matter what kind of adventure you’re after, there’s a Toyota designed to get you there. Learn more at toyota.com .
Early in her career, wildlife ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant joined an expedition to Madagascar to track the elusive ring-tailed lemur. But the trip had an unexpected personal outcome: it convinced her that this was the work she was meant to do. That was a long time coming for Wynn-Grant, who’d grown up loving TV shows on nature but found herself initially hating her college ecology courses because she felt out of place as a Black woman who’d never been camping and surrounded by people with very different backgrounds. In this episode from the new podcast Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, she shares the story of how an experience with a lemur helped her find her find her confidence and her voice. This episode was brought to you by Avocado Green Brands, maker of the 100 percent organic-certified Avocado Mattress, which helps outdoor athletes get the restful sleep they really need. Learn more at avocadomattress.com
It sounds like a predictable journey for a brainy young person seeking happiness: a trek in the Swiss Alps to contemplate the works of a great philosopher who found purpose and meaning in the mountains. But as John Kaag discovered, following in the footsteps of a legend, especially in an Alpine environment, can get tricky fast. Kaag dodged a near disaster on his trek, but the adventure was the start of a relationship with the Alps that would bring both exhilaration and darkness into his life as he grew to become a well-known philosopher himself. In this episode, we learn about the experiences behind Kaag’s celebrated book Hiking with Nietzsche and the many challenges he’s overcome along his bumpy path to embracing patience and gratitude. This episode is brought to you by Toyota, a company that wants to help you find joy by exploring America’s scenic byways. No matter what kind of adventure you’re after, there’s a Toyota designed to get you there. Learn more at toyota.com .
It was an especially bold (and perhaps questionable) idea for a road trip: America’s most fabulous advice columnist, E. Jean Carroll, would drive to towns named Eden throughout the East and South, where she would ask people: “Have you ever made love outside—in Eden?” Her car was painted with blue polka dots and green frogs, her snacks consisted of cakes and pies and pretzels, her copilot was a giant poodle. But out there roaming the byways she learned something. First, that all kinds of people really do enjoy intimate moments outdoors. And second, that there’s nothing like a truly strange and daring quest to revive your spirit. This episode is brought to you by GoRVing. Don’t just go on a trip, go on a real vacation. To find out more about the incredible adventures waiting for you out on the road, visit gorving.com .
Every day, critters all around the planet break human laws. They steal food and destroy our stuff. They kill. And, naturally, humans take it upon ourselves to intervene—often with all kinds of unfortunate consequences. For this episode, fearless journalist Mary Roach shares wild tales from her new book, Fuzz , which had her traveling to animal crime scenes from Colorado to North India to investigate human-wildlife conflicts. As Roach tells it, thieving bears, murderous possums, and mugging monkeys are rarely to blame for their own behavior. It’s our fault—and it’s time we took a different approach to coexistence. This episode is brought to you by Bosch eBike Systems, maker of outstanding motors, displays, and rechargeable batteries that work seamlessly with the most reputable electric-bike brands in the world. Learn more at bosch-ebike.com .
In the United States, we rarely think about death—especially our own death. And when we do, it tends to make us sad and uncomfortable. But there are powerful benefits to regularly contemplating the fact that our time in this world will eventually come to an end. The shift in perspective can be profound and lead to a kind of deeply felt and enduring appreciation for life. In this first episode of a new series exploring pathways to happiness, we hear from journalist Michael Easter, who makes the case in his bestselling book The Comfort Crisis that, despite all the conveniences and ease of modern life, we are less happy than previous generations. A big reason for this, he says, is that we don’t think about death nearly enough. This episode is brought to you by Toyota, a company that wants to help you find joy by exploring America’s scenic byways. No matter what kind of adventure you’re after, there’s a Toyota designed to get you there. Learn more at toyota.com .