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Shelby Stanger: I'm Shelby Stanger and this is the 2019 Wild Ideas Worth Living Recap. Yew. What a year. Hello, everyone. Thank you so much, especially to you listening to this show, to all the guests who've come on this show, to those who wrote about it, shared it, sent me a note or a review, and to REI, who's getting even more involved next year. Stay tuned to the end to hear more about that.

Shelby Stanger: This year, we dug a little deeper. Not only did we talk about adventures that field us outside, but we dove into how we can all adventure a little deeper inside ourselves to have more fulfilled lives. There have now been over 125 episodes and over 2.3 million listens. It continues to be a wild and enjoyable ride for me as the host and creator. As far as wild ideas go this year our guests crushed it. Two of our earlier guests, Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi, they won the Oscar for best documentary for their film, Free Solo about Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan without ropes. Rob Greenfield who set out to eat only what he grew or forage for the entire year, well, he made it the full 365 days just last month. His first meal the year after the grand experiment? Well, it wasn't a dark chocolate bar dipped in peanut butter like I thought. It was actually a coconut, one of my favorite things to eat in the world, and one someone kindly gifted to him. I really can't think of a better gift. Speaking of gifts, every year for the last episode of the season, I share some of my favorite lessons learned from the guests. We'll play some highlight clips from select shows, but before we go on, hit subscribe or follow. We'll be taking a few weeks off to prepare for next year, so reach out, let us know what you want to hear, and we want to ensure you get notified wherever you listen when we start releasing episodes in January of 2020.

Shelby Stanger: We started off the year with two shows about mindfulness and unplugging. One reason we all love adventure is because it allows us to be in the present moment. But sometimes in our everyday lives, that's harder. In the first episode of the year, I talked to John Allcock, a mindfulness expert who founded a high school where students practice mindfulness every single morning before they swim half a mile in the open ocean and then go to class. [Gong sound]

John Allcock: I mean, you sit down and they say, "Okay, pay attention to your breath," it sounds really simple. And then about 15 minutes into it, you are thinking of nine million things other than paying attention to your breath and then you're an hour and a half into it, and then you're two hours into it, and then you're a day and a half into it. I mean, It's just kind of amazing what happens when you actually sit down and inspect what's going on inside your mind.

Shelby Stanger: I've been doing a ton of mindfulness exercises this year. Things like meditation and breath work. Lately, I've even been taking cues from Melissa Hartwig, the founder of the Whole30 movement and our last guest of the year. She says she meditates at the end of every workout right there in her gym for just a few minutes. It's a simple practice where she focuses on gratitude, on lifting someone else up, setting an intention for the day, and being present. I'm now that girl in the gym meditating and I am totally okay with it and love it. Another way to incorporate mindfulness in our everyday lives is just remove distractions. Things like our phones. As we learned from researcher and speaker Danny Kim, our phones can be very addicting.

Danny Kim: Digital addiction is nothing new necessarily, other than the fact that there's this new platform for addiction. Researchers suggest that digital addiction is very similar to behavioral addiction, which is something that you do and then you receive a reward. So, the science shows that when you post a picture on Instagram and then you get a like, that is actually shaping your behavior because it's releasing dopamine in your brain and you're going, "Wow, I feel good."

Shelby Stanger: Danny helped us prove that getting outside and into nature, it's one of the best ways to unplug and connect to the things that matter most. He also talked about why we have to be okay without our digital devices sometimes, and why we should just try being bored instead.

Shelby Stanger: Being okay with being bored was a big theme for this year. It was something that author Bonnie Tsui also challenged us on. Boredom doesn't sound like something I should promote on a podcast, but I was getting a little burnt out on all the books, articles, even podcasts constantly telling us about all the hacks I can do to improve my productivity, to do more, try more, blah, blah, blah. Maybe, just maybe, Bonnie encouraged us having some fallow time, some time to rest and unplug. Maybe that's where we renew and restore. Maybe that's where the best wild ideas are born.

Bonnie Tsui: You know, we prioritize productivity up the wazoo these days and hustle culture and just, if you're not producing, you're not worth anything. I mean, this is just sort of the messages that were told day in and day out. And so, with fallow time, I find that as a creative person that you really just need to build into your daily work life the cycles of time to rest, but also it's an active rest. It's that you are getting experiences and stimulation from other places that will just amplify your ability to be a creative person and make work that is meaningful later on.

Shelby Stanger: I took a lot more time to chill this year. It was really helpful. It felt good. It allowed me to work on healing an autoimmune condition, to come up with more creative ideas, and just to be more present with guests, with friends, and even my family. We talked to a lot of creatives this year, illustrators and artists, Lisa Congdon and Loveis Wise, and even musician Garrett Dutton, also known as G. Love of G. Love & the Special Sauce. All of these artists incorporate fallow time. Time unplugged in nature to get inspiration and ideas for their brilliant art and really fun music. [Music of a G. Love harmonica riff]

Shelby Stanger: If you're a creative or you're having a mental block, maybe some time in nature away from your digital devices and the busy-ness of the world today, maybe some fallow time is the best antidote to whatever you need to work on. Another lesson I learned is that you also just have to be okay with the possibility of failing. I know, it's scary as heck to fail, but as we learned from author Karen Rinaldi, sometimes it's great to pursue something without needing to be good at it.

Karen Rinaldi: It's about the pursuit of passions without the expectation of being an expert. It's about being okay with mediocrity. Not in everything we do, but I think what happens is that if we say, "I love to dance." You love to dance, like I want to sing, you know, whatever it is, it's like I can do it partway and sort of release myself from a kind of toxic self-judgment and in that release of that self-judgment, it opens you up to find joy where you wouldn't find it in other ways.

Shelby Stanger: I was really worried and scared earlier this year when I was preparing to talk in front of 600 people. I'd never spoken in front of that many people focusedr just on me. It was absolutely terrifying, but I had to do it. Kim Chambers was afraid of pushing her body in freezing cold sharky waters when she swam from the Farallon Islands to San Francisco, a distance of 30 miles, which she swam in just over 17 hours. And, even though she was scared, she did it anyway.

Kim Chambers: For what it's worth, I know, from my experience, if I'm afraid of something, it means I have to do it because I know that anytime I've faced a fear or something that I'm afraid of, or something I think I'm not capable of. But you know what? If you switch that in your mind and you say, "You know what? I'm worthy," and I can approach that goal. When you break through that goal, you'll realize a new sense of self, and it's a beautiful, beautiful gift.

Shelby Stanger: Speaking in front of 600 people is way different than swimming the Farallon sharky Islands, but when I was done with that speech and not everyone booed, I was pumped. When you do something that scares you, you walk away with a new-found confidence that will propel you forward in your life. Doing something scary will change you. It'll push you and it'll make you grow.

Shelby Stanger: This year I've interviewed a few extreme adventurers about their epic trips. I interviewed people like the Higginbotham brothers who paddled on a paddleboard from Alaska to Mexico. Julie Hotz, who hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail, and even Jerry Holl, a guy who'd retired and never even clipped into a bike before, but rode a bike with clip-ins from Alaska to Mexico.

Jerry Holl: Change and growth doesn't occur in safe harbors and calm waters. Change and growth occurs in the flameout zones. Put yourself in a position to hit them and then rely on your instincts, skills, and then some luck and you'll find out you're so much more capable than you ever thought. That's when your perspectives expand and your capabilities grow and new opportunities arise.

Shelby Stanger: Going on an epic adventure can totally change you. We push ourselves and we grow, we learn that we can do so much more than we ever thought we could. And there's something extra special about challenging ourselves outside. The outside doesn't care who you are and, yet, it welcomes anyone who wants to join.

Shelby Stanger: The biggest podcast I did this year was with the legendary influencer Pattie Gonia, a drag queen and huge advocate for mother nature. Pattie Gonia is the alter ego of Wyn Wiley, a person who enjoys the outdoors in her six-inch platform boots. This year Pattie flew to San Diego and I took her surfing in her boots. Yes, one hole was made in a board, but all good, ding repair guy fixed it. Pattie and I spent three days together and we produced a small video from our day at the beach and we had so much fun. But I learned so much from both Wyn and from Pattie. Pattie and Wyn both understand why the outdoors can be so powerful.

Pattie Gonia: Outdoors literally is a place where I feel like I can be myself and find myself and challenge myself, and also mess up a lot and learn that the outdoors doesn't judge you.

Shelby Stanger: I love this idea of being totally and unapologetically yourself. Of getting into the outdoors as much as possible to be more fully you. I also love the idea of infusing yourself with more self love, something Pattie, as well as guests like Sarah Herron, Melissa Hartwig, and many others talked about. As I've mentioned on the podcast this year, I have a condition called vitiligo and I've been dealing with it for the last few years. There are patches on my face turning white that sometimes re-pigment, sometimes go whiter. Should I love myself less because of this? No. But is it hard? Yes. You might not love where you're at right now. Maybe you don't love how you look. Maybe you're struggling with something physically or mentally with work, with family, with friends, whatever. My ask is that you love yourself right now, anyway, no matter what.

Shelby Stanger: I don't pick favorites, but this year I had a favorite guest. She's the oldest guest I've ever had on this show and I've known her the longest. I first heard Edith Eger, now 91 years old, speak when I was only in junior high school. Edith made a huge impact on me then, and she made a bigger impact on me this year when we recorded a podcast. Which, by the way, was just before she appeared on Oprah. Yeah. We beat Oprah to an interview. Besides telling me orgasms were the key to beating disease, which was so funny and awkward to listen to, Edith who survived Auschwitz, which is the horrific Nazi concentration camp in Poland during World War II, shared with us advice about the power of choice.

Shelby Stanger: She said we all have the power to choose. We can be victims or we can choose to take our life into our own hands. She also gave me some of the best advice I got this year. It was something I think only someone with as many years of life experience as she has, can truly say ...

Edith Eger: You're never sorry what you do. You never regret what you do. You regret what you don't do.

Shelby Stanger: Don't live with regrets. That's a big one for me. No regrets. It can be difficult to make positive choices in our lives. There's endless options with unknown consequences. Going for it, whatever it may be, it's always going to be scary. When you're thinking about making a big choice, I love Edith's advice on harnessing your inner power to make the choice that's right for you.

Shelby Stanger: How do you decide to make the right choice?

Edith Eger: You got to really want it badly. Badly enough that you'll become your own good parent and you'll become your own good cheerleader. That, "Yes, I am" and, "Yes, I can," and, "Yes, I will." That's your inner dialogue. Really changes your body chemistry.

Shelby Stanger: Your thoughts can change your chemistry. Choose good thoughts. Choose love. Choose to get in nature as often as you can. Choose mindfulness, and most of all choose kindness. Kindness was a big theme on the show, and in my own life, this last year. Be kind to others. Be kind to our land, to mother nature, and most of all, just keep being kind to yourself. Kindness is free. It's easy. It creates waves of change.

Shelby Stanger: When I made a choice to start a podcast with zero funding, I was terrified I'd fail. I thought of one person I wanted to help though. I had this friend, she always was complaining about wanting to quit her job and move to Costa Rica and go on more adventures. I created this show with her in the back of my mind. I designed the very first few episodes in the hopes of helping her get unstuck. I don't think it was the podcast, but today she lives and now works in Costa Rica.

Shelby Stanger: As for the podcast, back when I started, I always hoped I could partner with REI. Of all the brands in the world, I believe REI did the most good and makes the most impact as far as helping people experience the joy you get from adventuring in the outdoors. REI loved the idea for this show back in 2016, and starting in 2020 REI is getting even more involved as the new owner of the show. Wild Ideas Worth Living will officially be part of the REI Podcast Co-op Network. I couldn't be more excited to continue to work with them.

Shelby Stanger: This year, we lost a friend, a previous guest, Tate MacDowell to colon cancer. I'd like to dedicate the final episode of 2019 to Tate and to his family. When we interviewed Tate, he just finished climbing the Tetons while undergoing chemotherapy. Tate passed this October, and as celebration of life, we all paddled out on surfboards in the Pacific Ocean in a town called Cardiff-by-the-Sea, which is in San Diego. It's where Tate called home. Tate's wife, his five year old son, and a ton of Tate's closest friends and neighbors all paddled together to share his memory and the legacy he leaves behind. It was a beautiful ceremony and I think Tate would have loved it. I saw a picture of the service later. Someone had taken it with a drone and, as paddlers, we all formed instead of a circle, a heart. It wasn't on purpose, but it was pretty appropriate. Tate said something last year in our interview that I think resonates even more today. It's something most of the guests have said about their own wild ideas, but Tate said it in a way that really hit home.

Tate MacDowell: My goal doesn't ever really have to be a finish line, and it doesn't have to be a summit. I kind of think to myself now, like if I'm going to be successful at something, I really have to worry about the starting line.

Shelby Stanger: Besides being kind to yourselves, to other people, you just have to start. You have nothing to lose. Start, and then let me know how it goes.

Shelby Stanger: I hope you all have an incredible holiday season. Get some fresh powder or some icy cold waves. Get outside, take your family and your friends with you and next year we'll be back with some insightful guests starting with adventurer Chris Fagan. She trekked across the South Pole with her husband in her late forties. They broke a Guinness World Record and we went places I've never been before on a podcast. It's an inspiring listen for the new year. After that we'll have snowboarder Jeremy Jones and some other amazing guests. Special thanks to my producers, Annie Fassler and Chelsea Davis. You ladies make the show happen and I love having an all female badass team to REI for believing in wild ideas and for carrying them through the next few years. To Joe Crosby and Paolo Matola. We did it. Yew! And to all the guests for coming on the show. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, for your time, and for living so adventurously to all the audio engineers at studios around the country who recorded sound for various guests. Thank you. Thank you also to my partner in crime, Johnny Del Playa, and most of all, thank you to the listeners for the letters, the pitches, the hilarious comments, the reviews and, all of your love and support. You keep me going. You can find me at @shelbystanger. I'm also at The podcast is now at That's Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I hope you have a wonderful new year. I'll see you next year.

Shelby Stanger: This is the end. (singing) I totally do that before shows, by the way, I have a great voice. Okay.

Shelby Stanger: I'm Shelby Stanger and this is the 2019 Wild Ideas Worth living recap.

Johnny D. Playa: Good idea.

Shelby Stanger: That's Johnny in the background. It's always comedy here.

Here’s the Wild Idea

This year we dove a little deeper. Instead of just focusing on individuals, we talked about themes — mindfulness, facing fear, how to unplug, connecting deeper to nature, plastic pollution, being radically yourself no matter what, self-acceptance, how to win an Oscar (okay that happened after one of our guests came on the show) and so much more. Today’s show is a recap of some of our best moments, advice, quotes from fan favorites, and a few outtakes.

I am also sharing some big news about the show and where Wild Ideas Worth Living is headed next (listen to the episode to find out). If you are new to this show or a seasoned fan, I think you are going to like this recap and it’s a perfect taste of what we covered in 2019, and a preview of what’s to come.

Thank you to all the guests for sharing your wild ideas, and thanks especially to you — the listeners — for your comments, funny remarks, reviews, and sharing with me in the wild ideas journey. We will be returning with new episodes and adventures in January, so be sure to hit subscribe or follow wherever you’re listening so you get notified as soon as we start releasing episodes in 2020. Happy holidays and remember, the best adventures often happen when you follow your wildest ideas! 

Presented by REI

Listen to this Episode if

  • You want a recap of fan-favorite moments.
  • You’re a new listener and want to hear some excerpts from this year’s best episodes.
  • You want to hear some important lessons from this year’s guests.
  • You want to know what’s happening with Wild Ideas Worth Living next year.

Key Takeaways

  • 2:45 – Mindfulness expert John Allcock on what happens when you pay attention to your breath.
  • 4:00 – Danny Kim on how digital addiction shapes your behavior.
  • 5:35 – Author Bonnie Tsui shares how “fallow time” resists hustle culture.
  • 6:50 – Musician Garrett Dutton aka G. Love plays a sweet riff.
  • 7:40 – Author Karen Rinaldi on why sometimes we should be okay with mediocrity.
  • 8:45 – Swimmer/Record Breaker Kim Chambers on facing fear.
  • 10:00 – Jerry Holl’s advice on getting outside your comfort zone.
  • 11:40 – Outdoor advocate/influencer Pattie Gonia on how to be radically yourself in the outdoors.
  • 14:00 – Holocaust Survivor Edith Eger’s advice on the power of choice.
  • 18:05 – Tate MacDowell on setting goals and starting.

Episodes to listen to

Living Off The Land with Rob Greenfield
Creating Art as a Couple with Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Mindfulness with John Allcock
Whole Health with Melissa Hartwig
How to Unplug with Danny Kim
The Importance of Doing Nothing with Bonnie Tsui
Making It as an Artist with Loveis Wise and Lisa Congdon
Making It as a Musician with G. Love
The Stuff that Matters with Karen Rinaldi and David Romanelli
Facing Fear with Kim Chambers
Lessons from Extreme Adventures with Jerry Holl, Julie Hotz, and Ryan Higginbotham
Be Wildly You with Pattie Gonia
The Adventure of Self-Love with Sarah Herron
The Power of Choice with Dr. Edith Eger
Tate MacDowell – Summiting Grand Teton on Chemotherapy


Free Solo



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