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Here’s the Wild Idea

James Nestor’s Wild Idea: To leave the corporate life for a job as a freelance writer, then learn to freedive and uncover an entire world of science beneath the surface of the ocean that lead to an award-winning book, Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves

About a decade ago, James Nestor knew he wanted to quit his job, but he had no idea he’d become a freediver and develop such strong connection with the ocean. A surfer at heart, James always loved playing at the surface of the ocean, but when doing a story about freedivers, he learned so much more, including about what the ocean can tell us about ourselves.

If you love the ocean, have ever wanted to freedive, or want to be a writer, listen to this episode.

The Deep Dive

  • 01:50 – How James discovered freediving from a magazine assignment.
  • 04:00 – The appeal of free diving.
  • 06:20 – Archaeological evidence of people freediving.
  • 06:50 – The Japanese Ama Divers who have been freediving (mostly naked) for 2,500 years.
  • 08:40 – The Japanese women that James met were in their 70s and 80s and had been diving every single day since they were 15 to 16-years old.
  • 09:50 – Why when you freedive, sea creatures swim towards you, not away from you.
  • 14:50 – Why your heart rate will continue to lower, the deeper you go.
  • 17:15 – The two times James was most scared while freediving.
  • 20:05 – What it looks like 2,400 feet down.
  • 26:10 – What freelancer writing life is really like.
  • 30:10 – How the freelance writing culture has changed considerably.
  • 34:10 – Why freelance writing isn’t for everybody.
  • 36:30 – Why when writing a book, you have to disconnect, and get offline.
  • 39:10 – James Nestor’s first book, Get High Now (Without Drugs).
  • 45:05 – Where James had an amazing surfing experience (not where you think).
  • 49:25 – What James would tell his younger self about cutting the cord sooner.
  • 54:15 – James reads all day. His favorite reads, including, Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
  • 55:30 – What’s next for James?

Tweetables

Links Mentioned

James Nestor Website
DEEP: Free-diving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves, by James Nestor
The Odyssey, by Homer
“Self-Reliance,’ texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
Video about Click Effect
Gracedbygrit.com — use code WILDIDEAS at checkout for 20% off!
Surfdiva.com — all materials with Surf Diva is $10 off after purchase of a lesson using the code WILDIDEAS !

Read the Transcript:

Read Full Transcript

So James Nestor Welcome to the show wild ideas worth living. We're so excited to have you on. It's great to be here. Thanks. We're just going to get right into it. You were a surfer and a writer but you had this wild idea to write a book about free diving of all sports. The book Deep won a ton of awards.

I'm just curious how did this wild idea come to be well I grew up in Southern California and spent most of my youth in the water as many people do down there surfing and body surfing and swimming and I understood the ocean from the surface and you know I moved up to San Francisco many many years ago and have been surfing up here ever since. But I was asked to go on an assignment for Outside magazine about God I guess it was about four years ago and they wanted me to check out something called the world freediving championship. I've never seen anyone Freet I before had never done it myself didn't know much about it. So I showed up and Greece went out on this little boat to the free diving competition site which was about a mile off the coast of Kalamata harbor and watched these insane people take a single breath of air and descend down around 300 feet and come back to the surface semi-conscious some of them made it. Some of them did not. Bye bye. Did not I mean they came up with blood on their faces gasping for air. One guy was temporarily dead. So it was completely mystifying on a number of levels that these people had home to their bodies to be able to do such an extraordinary thing. It was also mystifying that they were just using this ability to dive up and down a rope with their eyes closed. So I had pretty mixed field lines about free diving but luckily I met some more philosophical free divers at the competition who said you know this is all bull shit.

You need to go see the real freediving. Meet me out in Reunion Island and a couple of weeks. And so that's when my journey really started. It was just random. A door opened and I went in. And next thing I know I'm on a shelf a stranger's podcast so there you are.

How did you see mine. That's funny. The stranger is not direct danger of saying you're still funny. So freediving What about freediving really lured you in because you freetime now right.

Yeah I had to as part of the book. You know if you're going to write about something you have to write about it from the inside.

I love that it really miss me when I'm reading a book and someone just just coolin it in from a desk especially when you're covering things you know adventure science. I I have always found that it's much more educating to experience all of the things that the people that you're writing about are experiencing. That's really the only way to get inside of the story. So after watching these guys communing with all of these amazing marine mammals from the deck of a boat over months and months and months they finally said hey you need to try this. It's not some death defying thing. You're not going to come out with blood all over your face. You're not going to die. Free diving can be a very nurturing meditative practice if you just listen to your body. Don't pay attention to your watch don't pay attention to how deep you're going how long you're under the water. Any of that competition. Just listen to your body. Your body knows when it needs to breathe.

It's that easy but you don't die and you die things are just to tell the audience like yes you can die when you free dive you you can if you don't listen to your body.

Yeah. You know that the AMA divers in Japan have been diving for thousands of years and there isn't one recorded instance of any of them dying or blacking out because they died meditatively because they listen to their bodies the whole time Westerner have taken that approach and exploited it to see how how deep we can dive for how long. So you know they showed me this other side of freediving you don't have to go down 200 300 feet to do it.

You can go on 20 feet or 30 feet and it can be an incredibly immersive experience. And that's the sort of freediving I focused on in the book. That's the sort of freediving I do now and will continue to do as long as I possibly can.

So I want to go back to these on the divers because that was one of the most exciting parts about the book for me that those were the female Japanese divers Is that correct. Yes. OK. So there's a group. Can you just tell me who the audience who they are in and what they do.

So started researching freeriding you know competitive freediving has been around something like 70 years and it started in the West but before that for literally over ten thousand years there's archaeological evidence of people freediving all over the world from the Baltics to the North Sea to the Persian Gulf the land X-posted. Like any coastal community. Not any but almost all of them had some form of freediving and that's what really interested me. I was like What did those people know that we don't know today. And so one of the last remaining cultures from that ancient tradition are the Japanese divers. And they've been freediving for something like twenty five hundred years in the same way. They go into the water in their natural form only until the last 50 and 20 years. Did they even wear wetsuits or goggles because they feared it would give them an unfair advantage over other sea creatures and their would be able to be there all women. Yes. No one knows for sure why. You know there's many different theories and depending on who you ask they'll tell you something different but they are all women. And for a long time for hundreds and hundreds of years they just dove nude and some of them still dive nude without goggles or anything. So I had heard that there was still a culture of the real omma divers not the tourist divers that go out and you know collect pearls and sell them to tourists in Japanese tourist towns. But real working on the divers off the coast of Japan.

And so I hopped on a flight and went out to find them and they let you dive naked with them.

We went quite naked. They have adopted wet suits in the past 15 20 years.

Thank God no. I love that will make it as a couple. I've been naked like one go one naked and afraid they get the for sale naked. I think there's something with this nudity. That's all it is my ass about those. Go ahead. So you didn't die it.

No I did not you know but considering Japanese culture is it. You know a twisted conglomeration of of different rules that I did not understand at all. I did not approach them naked to die. These women were in their 70s and 80s. They had been diving every day since they were 15 or 16 years old every single day. They were in perfect health. They were mentally very sharp. They were physically complete bad asses. So it took me a while. They thought I was just another tourist given up to take photos so I had to return day in and day out till they saw I was are really serious. And then they they took me out with them. That's awesome. Yeah. And it was it was incredible and again these are people who use freediving in a completely different form they use it to to gather food from the ocean in a very natural way. They said as long as you can gather food whatever you take. One person can take by his or herself. The ocean will always provide. The moment you start bringing in technologies and huge nets that's when you start stripping the oceans so they showed me this completely other way to interact with the ocean and its inhabitants.

And you talk a lot about the difference between what happens and how animals respond to you. When you free dive versus use machines can you talk about that difference.

Sure and that was one of the first things that I noticed. You would I mean for for a long time and absolutely love it I still do love it but it is just a very different thing freediving because when the free dive you're completely silent instead of animals swimming away from you they swim towards you and it doesn't matter if it's a dolphin you know it doesn't matter if it's fish and sharks like everything envelops you into and shoals and schools and that's very disarming. At the beginning but after you get used to it you realize that these animals aren't looking at you as though you're an intruder to their underwater world they're accepting you as part of it. And that paradigm shift is just extremely powerful to you you see yourself as belonging as a part of the ocean not just an observer to it. And you know once you have that access as you can do research that a lot of other people can't because you you have an intimate connection with these animals.

And I read your book so I'm pretty sure I know why. Can you explain the audience why animals will approach you when you're freediving versus when you're scuba diving.

Sure a lot of animals rely on sound as their cue for to see in the underwater environment. So they have very acute sense of hearing. And when you have scuba it's extremely loud to them. You blow bubbles. It's very disturbing to them. Also Marine Mammals usually blow bubbles as a sign of aggression. If you look at what dolphins do especially if they're pissed off and they come up to you they'll blow bubbles through their blow holes. And so when they see someone reached in all these metal attachments it is extremely loud and is blowing bubbles. It's a real turnoff to a lot of animals. And they swim the other way. You know one fried I mean instructor told me scuba diving is like you know driving an SUV with the air conditioning on blasting through the wilderness and trying to you know experience a forest like that. I think that's a little extreme. I still love scuba diving but in some ways I do agree with them. And once you free dive you understand the meditative peaceful feeling and you see that reflected in the other animals around even how they accept you.

So I I'm willing to ask you one more question about freediving but I'm just fascinated by it and some of my audience has experience with it. Some has none. Many of them have have done a lot of people don't know a lot about freediving what happens to your body physiologically when he freetime specifically want to know about your heart rate and what are the things that seemed to defy what you know conventional thought would think about what happens when you die.

Yeah I'll give you that. The truncated version of this but what happens when you die is one of the most powerful physical transformations you can naturally experience. It starts at the surface the moment you put your face in the water your blood is going to start rushing from your extremities to your core your heart rates going lower around 20 percent 20 25 percent of its normal resting rate. All of these things allow you to stay underwater longer and hold your breath longer than you would be able to. On land in dry air and the deeper you go the more these reflexes called the mammalian dive reflexes compound and grow more pronounced. So for instance at around 100 feet around three atmospheres down blood is going to start pouring from the extremities to protect your organs your lungs are going to fill up with plasma to protect themselves from collapsing. And you know one guy measured his lungs his chest at around 47 inches at the surface. By the time he was at around 250 feet it was around 23 inches. So you see the stresses the extreme stresses that under water pressure is is putting on your body. But what's amazing is your body has these natural defenses. These these reactions to combat those stresses and these reflexes aren't learned. Each of us have them within our bodies. If you put a newborn baby into water it will naturally most of the time go under water hold its breath comfortably for around 45 seconds open its eyes and began breast stroke.

So this is this is part of who we are meant to be in the water we're meant to be deep within it and these mammalian dive reflexes just reflect that. And it's that connection to the ocean that really convinced me that there was something more than just a magazine article on this that there was a book to explore this completely other side of freediving this connection we all have with the ocean and how we can access that. Each of us can access that and learn more about ourselves and the planet we live on.

I think I read maybe in one of your videos that some of these Hartrick got down to seven beats per minute. Is that correct. Fourteen beats per minute.

Yeah. Well if you're a good pupil you've you've done the research.

That's that's right the heart rate will continue to lower the deeper you go. And obviously with a lower heart rate the body is consuming less oxygen. So that allows you to stay down much much longer than you would be able to on on dry land and the lowest recorded heart rate ever was of a free diver was at around seven beats per minute. Now just to give you an example that's that's I think about a third of the rate of someone in a frickin coma. So a physiologist said that this was not possible a heart rate that low cannot support human life and yet these free divers have completely busted through all of these impossible barriers repeatedly over and over and over. And now these guys just scratch their head and they say oh Lord whatever you know. So it's I you know the deepest someone was according to math. That according to another doctor is the deepest human was supposed to be able to dive with 100 feet. Anything lower we would be crushed by the water pressure. You know I've I've seen people go down to 300 350 feet. I saw one guy take a sled down to 800 feet. So it's you know all of those limits it just depends on who you're talking to. You know what's possible what's not possible.

I find that three things so interesting because Johnny and I met a guy in Australia who is using freediving to apply it to medical procedures because your heart rate can get so low. There's just so much there. So what are some of the most exciting findings you discovered in writing this book. It wasn't just about freediving it was about what's below the surface Well I'm going to ask you question who is this guy doing medical procedure freetime training.

I can tell you the much more interesting.

And then you know whatever dribble I'm that I'm talking about right now I have to email you about him.

We'll talk about this guy. He can get in the cave. So I think he doesn't want me to share. But it's it's fascinating.

So. So the sides freediving you. You went in a submarine you did all these crazy things in submarine sounds absolutely terrifying. So maybe you can talk about that but maybe talk about some of the times you're the two times you're most scared in writing this book and then some that maybe the two most exciting findings you had writing it.

Yes so the breakdown of the book I was thinking it would be neat if this book had a trajectory and just kept going down. So every cheeped every chapter goes deeper and deeper and deeper and you know you only free dive so deep or follow people freediving so deep. Before I had to resort to machines. And so I wanted to see how physically deep I could get in the ocean and try to understand understand the ocean and our connection to it at extreme depths. So I found there's a number of submarines that are capable of going really really deep but of course I had zero chance of getting on a Russian or or a U.S. Institutional submarine and so I found this freelance guy named Carl Stanley who had hand built a submarine and was running it out of row A10 a submarine that goes down around 3000 feet which is really really deep and he'd take anyone down you know for a price you like how how deep do you want to go. And so I hopped on a flight to Rotana and hung out with Mr. Carl Stanley. Amazing dude. Like talking about a DIY guy everyone told him. He he studied like you know American history in college and then hand-built a submarine for for nothing for dirt cheap and now he's he's spent more time in the deep ocean past 1000 feet than anyone in history. And this guy has done this you know completely on his own without any help from anybody.

So it really is terrifying because if you get stuck or drive it the wrong way.

I don't know which way up is. I mean you're. You're done. How is it.

Well what's so comforting about that you think of it like really horrible ways of dying like you know drowning or burning like those are really bad. But when you're at 3000 feet if something bad happens it's not going to take five minutes to die. You're just like the light switches off instantly. That submarine is going to collapse. You are going to be liquefied in in like a fraction of a second. So once you accept that it becomes really easy it's because there's no pain involved. You won't even know when it happened. So and also you know the vast majority of the largest communities of life on the planet are below 3000 feet.

We look at the at the world is this blue planet with all this life on the surface while most of this stuff is in the deep ocean. And so few people have seen it and I really if I was going to write a book called deep I you know I needed to go down there I don't want to half ass it. So we took a four hour submarine trip to around twenty four hundred feet and I saw things that are unknown to science it's a completely creepy gelatinous world down there. And one of the coolest things of them are done gelatinous.

What do you mean. Can you just describe to people listening in their cars what's sure that deep.

Well if you if you think about it like OK so we have daylight here and we have eyes and so we judge everything you know visually though those of us who are gifted have eyesight. So that's how we're viewing the world we look at someone that you know he had tried to reach attractive. That's how we judge everything.

Once you get passed around eight hundred feet eight hundred thousand feet everything's black all the time doesn't matter if it's day time. Doesn't matter what time of the year there are no seasons. There is there's no rain or snow. It's just constantly black. So what you look like doesn't matter. So these animals have developed ways of being the most efficient in that world and that means having very little flesh being rail thin being translucent through cell walls. They have these huge eyes that are not you just for viewing anything in daylight but are only used to to view other animals bioluminescent. So bioluminescence is the you know that's the natural production of light from animals so their eyes are only used for bioluminescence So these things look absolutely insane. So creepy but then again who cares because they never have a flashlight or a spotlight shined on them like æsthetics don't matter down there.

There's a joke about being earthbound and deep with these animals but husband.

Well come on. You can't beat me like that. Gone I go.

I could ask you a million questions about you but deep I there's so much science in that that you make really fun and entertaining just. And so many discoveries but this shows about having a wild idea and how you did it. So I want to talk about being a writer in the early 2000s I think you said you had this wild idea to quit your job and become a writer. But you're a writer before that. So let me go back to you know why the idea to come a freelance writer. So tell me a little bit about this leap to become a freelance writer. How did you do it.

How did you get over the fear you know what made you just say I'm going for it well like every other good boy that grew up in Orange County you know I went straight through high school straight through college immediately got a job just started working away because that's what I had been taught. That was that was the proper thing to do. Right. That's what responsible people do. So you know I read out of college I started writing ads and started writing copy for hotels and for catalogues and gift catalogs and that was my my business for years and years I still was surfing all the time as a way to you know try to retain some humanity. But you know I had friends and did all of that but my work life was very droll because that's what I just understood. Everyone had do it that was the suburban culture that I grew up in very conservative suburban Orange County culture. So as a way of like having fun and and using my brain at work I would take freelance stories. I would just I was endlessly curious about writing for magazines. I loved learning about new stuff so I would just do that for for fun. I had this extremely surreal Kafka esque job that was mostly funded by the federal government. So thank you taxpayers for you know buying the house and sending me on certifications all over the place. But it was also completely soul sucking. It was very easy had all of the luxuries you know month vacation and all that.

But you know after a couple of years there I was like What what do I really want to my on my tombstone that I sort of half assed it or that I you know pursued something that has made my true love in life. So as the magazine stories started piling up and I started getting better at writing those I you know sort of had to confront myself and say you know if I'm not going to do it at this time when am I going to do it. I'm going to end up you know still being at this place when I'm 70 and then retiring and that's that's the end of it. So I finally cut the cord and it was super scary. First couple of years because if like many people out there you know once once you're used to collecting a paycheck every two weeks and relying on that when that paycheck stops coming and you start working as a freelancer it's really feast or famine either way too busy and you're getting paid or you have zero work and you don't know where the next paycheck is coming. So it takes a really long time. It took me a long time to acclimate to that that new kind of lifestyle. Luckily surfing's pretty cheap you know. So I just pared down my lifestyle and and just sort of hunkered down. But it was by far the best decision I ever made. And I shudder to think where I'd be if I had just stayed in that job sort of half passing my way through every day.

I love listening to your story because I was also in a job in Orange County that was so hard to become a freelance writer. People think being a freelancer is glorious and it is at times but but you've also broken down the process of writing to me in a in a very real way. Can you just talk about how you just demystify the whole freelance life and just talk a little bit about the hardest parts of the job.

Sure. I think that a lot of people are at least a lot of people who I've known that will remain nameless right now. You have the luxury of just writing when they want. These are the people who get writer's block who are uninspired who blame other circumstances for not writing.

But it's really amazing what happens to writer's block when you have a deadline. It's like what. I've never ever had writer's block because I can't afford to because you have to deliver stuff on time so you know writing for oneself and freelancing for for a you know job is people think it's just free form. And that's where the word freelancing is sort of misleading that you just do it everyone everything's cool and shock a bra and all that. But it's it's you have to be completely disciplined in the way you approach this stuff.

That doesn't mean you have to work 9:00 to 5:00. You know maybe you can go out and surf for screw around in the day but that does mean that when it's on you're putting in 10 12 hours a day you're not you know Saturdays are the same as Tuesdays Sundays are the same as Fridays. There are no weekends. Everything is in flux. And having come from something so so rigid and understanding that you know weeks where is a time to play there's a time to work. That was a hard thing for me to sort of get into the groove of that but now that I'm in that you know if this sounds so cliche and you say it anyway but once you're doing something that you really love to do that you look forward to doing it just doesn't feel like work. So I'm constantly quote unquote working. But this is what I love to do and this is what I've been doing recreationally anyway. So. So those two have completely merged into one another which I guess is you know what it's all about.

What are the craziest things you've had to do for an assignment that you've chosen to do.

I pitched well those crazy stories are the ones that I I love writing the most. You know people who are living out in that gray zone between civilization and complete wilderness. I think that that's that's the really interesting way to way to live. I'm way to be. And. And I think those people are very philosophical and have very interesting life stories to tell. But you know at the beginning you're writing whatever comes to you.

So I thought I saw something that you got you once teased yourself or got some things well all that happen.

And so you know the weirdest story. I'm not quite sure what that might be but at the beginning you're just sort of like trying to get by and find your footing so maybe you write a story. But you know that doesn't necessarily represent what you want to keep on writing and that's what a lot of people don't understand too with you know if you've got a trust fund and I don't pity anyone for having trust fund I sure wish I had one. Then you can write about whatever you want and you can deliver it whenever you want but when you're doing this for a living you have to produce on a regular basis so you know you end up writing some some pretty silly stuff on occasion but that's just part of the job at the beginning. Luckily I don't really have to I haven't had to do that for the past three or four years. But you know is what it is.

What's the best advice you can give to someone who wants to be a freelance writer.

You know I will say this sounds like I'm some old fogy saying it's not like like it was you know back when I started but in some ways that's true. Even when I really started doing this 15 years ago the culture has changed considerably. It seems like most writing that you're asked to do. People are just asking people to do it for free. Most web sites don't pay anything and that's where you really need to get started you know breaking into the magazine world there's fewer magazines now. They're still doing OK but breaking into that world takes takes literally years and years and years of practice. Because so many people want to write for magazines. You know if you think about newspapers New York Times great Regis you know can million people what do they pay basically not to get into that.

And then they say really nothing.

So you have to find a way of supporting yourself through this. What I've suggested people do is you know work part time at the job you have if you can figure that out. And with that other half of the time dedicate that solely to writing because I've known people who have just said you know what man like Screw it I can quit my job and become a writer and then four months later they're you know back in line delivering job applications trying to get a job. So you have to do it. I mean you have to plan this and B be smart about it. And you know most of all you have to make sure this is what you really want to do. If you're not AP's lately loving every part of the process then this job is going to completely wear you down. So I think that's that's my advice. Be smart about it maybe gradually go into it and be prepared for a pretty wild ride.

So writing magazine articles and writing books are two absolutely different things. Can you just tell me a little bit about your process of writing a book versus a magazine article.

Sure. You know they are different things but you use the same skillset for them. What what people don't understand is a lot of people read a book and they're like oh it's just like a long magazine article. And that's true and it's not true because something like that like deep in that I can speak to that because that's my first like you know nonfiction book here. It was like writing in 100 magazine articles in the scope of a year because not only are you writing individual chapters but all of those chapters have to tie into one another. Otherwise it just reads like a random conglomeration of articles. And that's not what a book is a book is an entire whole. It's an ecosystem in which every line has to tie into another line. And I learned this from an amazing editor named Ayman Dolan was my editor for for deep and who really this guy's been doing books for 20 20 years some some really amazing did Moonwalking with Einstein in Fast Food Nation.

And so this guy I was lucky enough to get him as an editor and he gave me you know a real education in how how to do these things.

And once you do books it's I've done some store since then. I wrote a Scientific American stories some servers journal stuff but once you do one book it's all you want to do it to be so immersed into one subject for a year and a half where you know every moment of every day you're thinking about it is something that might drive some people crazy but I absolutely love it.

I feel like I can really find the true nature of the story if I'm just focusing all my energy on it.

Do you have any routines you stick to when you're on deadline writing a book.

That's that's a good question. I know everyone's got their own their own thing to me. Far as routines. I don't because my routines are necessitated by how much I need to get done at each particular time. If that makes any sort of sense you know towards the end few months of delivering a book you are just jamming it out. I went to a cabin up in Inverness which is in West Moran just north of San Francisco. And just you know worked all day every day until the thing was done. And that's what I was saying. You really have to love what you're doing. I love that process when you can see the light at the end of that. At the end of the tunnel and everything's starting to coalesce and come together.

So I guess my way you know you went to a cabinet Inverness say you do kind of get off the grid to finish these blocks.

Oh yeah. You have to.

I think. And that's that's one of the most important things that I think if anyone is going to seriously try to do this for a living you have to go when it's time to work. You need to turn your phone off and turn the Wi-Fi off and to set a timer and say I'm not checking my email I'm not going to look at my phone for the next three and a half hours. And if that means I'm just sitting here not doing anything. That's how it is. You know I have this thing that I'm getting back into where I check e-mail twice a day and that's it. I check it at noon. I check it at 5:00 and that's you know if you want to contact me you can call me up. You know the is always on when I've told all the editors and everyone I'm working with like hey if anything's urgent call me up within over two years of doing this I've never once received the phone call from any one. So that just shows you how much just garbage is coming in in in the e-mail. So I guess that I am I'm reassessing what I told you before. OK this is really good stuff. You have to get off line. It's such a complete waste of time to sit there and answer e-mails every 10 minutes and have those e-mails turn into other e-mails. And you'll be amazed once you start doing this. How many problems get solved by themselves.

I'd say 90 percent of the inquiries I get are answered by the time I come online because people are so trigger happy with with e-mails. So. So that's that's my pattern. You know I am working on a bunch of stuff now and I have an office out back of my house that I built that's around five feet by eight feet. Has one chair a desk and a computer on it. And that's that's it. So when I go in there I'm in lockdown and I'm not doing anything but but working down there.

That's that's really interesting. Do you have any other routines that you just have on it on a everyday basis. Do you meditate do yoga. Do you surf every day.

I try to you know serve up in San Francisco. Socks can suck for. I won't say it sucks all the time. Well the last few weeks last few weeks have been pretty amazing but the previous three or four months have been absolutely awful so I just exercise when I can. It's never a consistent thing. I don't go at noon and you know at the gym doing stuff. So I do like martial arts. I do yoga sometimes not enough and I surf and I and I'm on my bike all the time so. But at no particular time like sometimes I work at night sometimes I work in the day. I just sort of I know I'll get the stuff that I need to get done done because I've been doing this for 10 years I'm not going to flake out and procrastinate and say oh I don't feel like it. I know I'll get it done so I just sort of allow myself to do what what needs to be done throughout the day and evening. And everything is just sort of you know in flux the whole time. But but I really love that. So it just beats having a really stringent schedule at least that that works for me might work for other people.

So this is a little off topic but your first book I bought was about getting high. It was called Get out drugs without dogs. Exactly what I said I love because I'm not I'm not I don't use drugs. So I said not before anyway. A natural high. Can you just tell me your favorite ways to get high without drugs.

Man where did you find that thing.

So let me go back. I know and it's it's still it's still selling. Let me give a little background about this. This book though. So my uncle was this real Hollywood like business guy successful dude collector. He did you know was really tuned in with the psychedelic scene in the 60s in the 70s and when he passed away this was like 10 years ago or so. He had this house in the Hollywood Hills just filled with shit.

And I found all of these notes on these crazy meditation's and breathwork stuff and yoga's stuff that he was experimenting in in the 60s and 70s and I took these notes back. I was just totally fascinated with it put it on my coffee table and a friend came over and she was reading him she's like totally have to do a book on this just sort of take these and do a book. I was like didn't really want to do that. She's like No I know that people chronicle books were going to set this up so I wrote a proposal in about three hours sent it to them and to my disbelief and horror they they said absolutely.

So that does not happen readers usually are listeners for normal budget proposals. That's a good idea.

Well what was what was interesting about this was that I told them I said hey this isn't just going to be some hokey stupid thing. What I'm going to require each and every entry to have is real science behind all of this stuff because it's one thing to pick up a book and be like oh that's cool. That's kind of funny but if there isn't a sort of kernel of knowledge being passed from the writer to the reader then I would feel like I totally failed. So I took this pretty crazy subject and really baked it in in a ton of real science and worked with a bunch of you know physicists and doctors to make sure all the science checked out.

So that was the book that was my first foray into publishing and came out in 2000 nine. It's come out in German and Russian and I still get insane emails from people about that. So. So yeah. That's that's it.

So maybe we can just talk a quick line but like really quickly about about breathing we talk a little bit about that like being a can say OK talks. Yes I know.

Well when it when I was doing all of the freediving research as I was learning how these people had used breath to do this incredible you know to dive to incredible depths. And it was only you can only hold your breath for 12 minutes. If you learn how to breathe properly. So I kept asking him is that what's the benefit of doing this on dry land for people who don't want to hold their breath for 12 minutes who don't want to dive down to 300 feet. And I found absolutely incredible stuff of how all almost everything we know about breathing and poll methodology is being up ended right now by a bunch of new crazy research and how simply breathing can affect your weight. It's the it's the number one marker to determine longevity. It can also profoundly affect your health. And we're doing it completely wrong right now in the history of how we learn to do this wrong and how much of this are our breeding has been bad and negative breeding has been influenced by the pharmaceutical industry especially the asthma industry really sort of peaked my interest so to speak. So I've been exploring that quite quite a bit lately.

So just to tell the listeners James and I've been talking about breathing for a little while now it's it's a topic that I'm really fascinated by. I've done some different breathwork exercises different types of people and yes the simple free act of breathing can be really altering. So we're going to we're going to just stay tuned for more from breathing about it from you. But really quickly we don't have too much time. This podcast is supposed to be the length of a run or a commute. So maybe run an extra mile or you can listen to the rest of this on your way home from work. Will last you a couple of really quick questions. Do you still surf. I think you are the answer that yes. Where are your favorite places to surf around the world that you can give away.

These these are don't have to be waves. The easiest best question. Yes. I surf as much as I possibly can. I've been getting really into body surfing in the last about a year and a half because the waves here in Ocean Beach can be really ratty and huge in a winter warn but when you're body surfing just like none of that matters you're always having a good time. You can always get barreled when you're body surfing. So I've been having a lot of fun with that and I'm going to be doing exploring that the very first body surfers on the on the planet be doing that story about them coming up in a little bit. Favorite spots to surf. I can't tell you that for God's sake.

You can say you know that used to travel to for surfing maybe.

You know I'll tell you for I don't know what am I. One of my favorite spots. But but it was certainly an amazing spot. So when I was in column out of Greece you know I watched this guy like die for two minutes and get resuscitated the next day was a day off from the free diving competition. And I was just like damn I need to get away from this thing and away from these insane people and like go somewhere. So I got in a car rented a car and just drove west and I ended up at I kid you not. There was no planning here. There were no maps no anything. I ended up at this beach and I see the surf shack on this beach and there were waves in Greece and people are surfing on them. It was one of the most creepy creepy things I get out. These guys give me some boards. Me and a couple other friends they gave us boards and we sat there and search for for three hours in Greece and then went out and had dinner and I still know these guys I'm still in contact with them.

So I won't say that's the best place in the world to serve Greece but it was certainly one of the most inspiring and wonderful surprises that I've had surfing ever to know that this culture persists around the world. It's in Greece of all places and that there is it sort of had the old friendly vibe. What I imagine surfing was like in the 60s where these people took me into their community ended up hanging out with them. It was all completely kosher and cool.

And so it really inspired me that that the true spirit of what surfing is supposed to be is alive and well and it's in the Peloponnese.

That sounds like a fun place to go surfing. What's your Where's your favorite place to free dive.

It just depends. There are all different flavors. You know I go up north to Mendocino when the conditions are good which is like never which is about four days a year. And freediving in the kelp forests you know around seals is a pretty incredible thing. However it's so cold you're wearing a mill wet suits and some freezes your blood. Well it is. But it's the solitude out there. No one's out there you're alone in the ocean in the wilds and it's pretty amazing.

But I was just in Martius as far as visibility is concerned that place is pretty unbeatable. Sri Lanka was was incredible. Japan was great for the same reasons. So I think anywhere you know where there's decent visibility is a wonderful place to explore. It's like going to different cities around the world. You know every every ocean has its own has its own vibe. And just to be able to those under your own will under your own breath in a natural way as it is a real gift.

So you travel a time. What are items you always take when you travel.

OK I do have that is one sentence something that's very consistent. Yeah I'm I'm constantly traveling and I love it and that's just part of why I signed up to do this. Be able to travel the world on someone else's dime is kind of what it's all about. So I always bring a a a bandana that I tie around my head when it's time to sleep. So I look a bit like a creepy terrorist so no one bothers me. B. Always have earplugs. Everywhere I have them. You know my suitcase I have them in my backpack all the time. I just don't want to hear people. I have headphones and. And you know my phone for for music. I also try to carry some food that can last a while usually trail mix or nuts. Even though that sometimes doesn't make it through or into other countries because as you well know like for instance I was just saying I went to moroseness that flight was 27 straight hours back in one one stop in Paris for 45 minutes and then you're back on another 12 hour flight. So you know eating airplane food for twenty seven hours and just going to feel completely wretched. So I try to you know eat very eat vegan issue and very responsibly when I'm flying. So when I show up I'm somewhat able to function vegan ish.

I think that's how I describe my diet right now.

And vegan ish when you can I you know it's just it's so hard and I really respect begins you can travel to foreign countries and you know really make that work. But I don't try to do that around the house. Yeah but but but not in foreign countries.

If you could go back in time and tell your teenage self one thing what would you tell them.

To start writing sooner and to cut the cord sooner. And to you know really follow your heart with what you want to do sooner. Don't wait don't do what I did and wait so long to do it because you're scared or you've been told that you weren't supposed to live life this way. You know we get one go at this and now is the time to do it.

So I guess that's what I would tell myself it's good advice if you can fly an eco friendly plane around the sky and it could read one message to the world. You know let's let's change this. If you could drive your. So James has a a converted Mercedes that runs off vegetable oil. So if your Mercedes could drive around the entire world even over water and it could have a banner plastered over it that said one message to the world what would it say Just be cool just be cool.

That's not going to be any fun. OK.

Yes yes.

I mean there are so many smart ass things. I was very tempted to say there but considering the current political environment I think that the key to living together is just to chill the hell out and just be cool to one another and hopefully it will be fun.

I like that advice. What's the best gift you've ever been given.

Oh man. I don't I don't know. I actually have no no answer for that. That's really that's really tough. That was a real curveball. How are you guys. You know I thought I thought I knew all of these questions coming out of that one.

I don't know you can come back to that. What's the best gift you've ever gifted to someone else. Or is there a gift that you regularly gift other people besides you are in touch with.

Oh I do. I just keep re gift in the same bottle of wine. So I think that's that's the main one.

What's the wine.

I know I just made that up. I do. Questions these questions are perplexing me.

Ok ok I'm and I owe them good but I've no I've no answer.

How about books you love or recommend.

OK. That's that's a much better question. On God. I mean it depends. People ask me this often and it depends who I'm recommending it to. You know I have a friend who's kind of a smart ass and is really into you know doing things his own way real DIY guy I told him to read you can't win by Jack Black not the Jack Black.

You're thinking of the Jack Black from the 1920s and 30s. There was a guy before the comedian that insane but. And rumor has it they're making it into a movie it's about this very ethical burglar in the 20s. It was William Burroughs. Favorite book ever and inspired him to do to do what he did. So. But it just depends on who I'm talking to. Giovanni's Room. I just mentioned that one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read so far.

BALDWIN So what about people who want to live more wildly I mean the Odyssey by Homer I think would would be that is the most appropriate book to read right now if you really want to go out and learn about the trials and tribulations of of how to live life to its full and how to seek truth.

I think that's a very important book way to pick such a short read.

OK. Well how about this one. Get one essay I read that has affected me more than any anything else I've ever read in my life and short you just have to get through the first page. People is go download self reliance by Emerson right now. Ralph Waldo Emerson there is every lesson you need to learn about how to live life and to be content with yourself is in that very short 20 page essay. Absolutely vital information.

So Ray Rice I'm going to put all of these in the show notes of the pod cast. So audience can go to wild ideas worth living dot com. Go to James podcast James Nestor's podcast and we'll have all of that in there. Are there any authors you follow.

Well I know a lot of authors here in San Francisco a pretty tight writerly community here. So. I mean it again it just depends. In my line of work I don't read too much recreationally because I'm reading all day. You know the last book that I I really thought was pretty amazing. Fictionwise as a thriller was dark matter by like Crouch.

I don't know if that's going to fit in with your.

You're listening not Shater But but crazy but all based on physics and he just made physics appealing and accessible through a very thrilling sort of murder mystery tale. And I think whenever I read fiction I want to learn something real about the world not just about you know someone else's you know emotional conflicts that the something that that I can then take on and carry through and I thought that book was pretty amazing for for how it did that so what's next in your life you're working on a book now I need deep in book research right now that's a project it's going to be due in about a year and a half and I've got a deadline.

Well hold that though.

You'd be surprised. Three hundred paid is going to have to go to about eight different countries so I have two things going on and an old Tinsel Town which which might be playing out pretty soon.

I wrote it treatments for a film that's I believe this is going to be picked up next week. So yeah yeah there's there's just so much happening right now it's all good really positive. I'm doing a bunch of VR virtual reality short films for aquariums and zoos to try to move these institutions away from co-optation and allow people to have a wonderful and an incredible experience through vr that they won't want to see animals in cages. I think that that's an important thing. So hopefully I'll be going to Mozambique in a few weeks to do some B.R. recordings of do Gong's out there which are completely fascinating little mermaids of of the ocean. Oh we'll see. Everything. You know sometimes I don't know my schedule until like a day before I have to take off and we stop. There's a lot of things spinning around right now.

James it sounds like you're on to some exciting stuff. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Love to have you. You've got such a great story you're telling great stories. They're full of science but they're really fun to read. For those of you listening even get James book deep on Amazon or anywhere we'll have it in the show notes he has a few other books and some great things he's working on. Where should people find out more.

I had Mr. James Nestor dot com of course and I do that Facebook thing about twice a week so I post stuff on that as well.

Mr. James Nesson Mr. James Estre on Facebook and Mr. James Nestor dot com. James thank you so much for being on the show today. I completely appreciate it.

You're awesome. Thank you. It was great. So much fun. Thanks. All right take care. We'll talk to you soon.

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