When Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” she was contemplating a grasshopper, a swan, an idle stroll through the fields. She wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything; she was spending her wild and precious life sitting outside, pondering gratefully, being. There’s just something special about the outdoors. Our quarterly issue this spring and summer is The Outsiders Issue, and so the first thing we asked our team was: What’s your all-time favorite thing to do outside?
Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor
Biking is my favorite thing to do outside and one of my all-time favorite things to do on the planet earth! I bet I’d even like to bike in space! Ever since I was a little kid, nothing has made me feel more at ease or more powerful than being on a bike. In my yard, on the road, on a mountain trail, on the beach, in the woods, in the desert, in the snow. I have ridden bikes all over this country, all over this world. I have cried on my bike, and laughed on my bike, and talked myself out of a thousand bad decisions on my bike, and found clarity on my bike, and fought depression on my bike, and yelled on my bike, and punched more than one taxi on my bike. I’ve run away from love on my bike, and I’ve run back to love on my bike too. The glide of tires, the crunch of earth, the catch of pedals, the wind in my face. It’s just me and my body and my mind making that thing go, and wherever I want, and whenever I want. It’s freedom to me.
Erin , Writer
Sorry for partying but I enjoy a scenic hike. How predictable! If I had to classify the level of terrain and elevation of a typical hike it would be: extremely minimal. I’m not trying to be a hero, I’m trying to exert the least amount of effort for the most amount of endorphins. That it’s not a flat road and requires a little bit of attention as to where you’re stepping, it makes it easy for me to zone out but still access the more spacious, clear-thinking part of my brain that gets activated by light engagement. Also by walking well trodden paths you usually get to encounter at least one bizarre person along the way, like the man I saw recently at who was speed-walking up a hill while using an electric shaver on his face. I’m not gonna get that playing tennis, I’ll tell you that much! That said if anyone in the L.A. area would like to play tennis with me I’d love to.
Carrie Wade, Writer
Being outdoors in general is one of the quickest fixes for my anxiety; anytime I feel myself getting too overwhelmed, I just step outside for a bit and everything seems more manageable. At work I call it “taking my daily constitutional.” (I’ll usually stretch it for longer than it needs to go, if we’re being real.)
My favorite outdoor venture, though, is more weekend-friendly: sitting in the sun drinking a nice beer and reading a book. I started making a habit of this a few years ago, when my doctor informed me of a surprise vitamin D deficiency (which seems next to impossible for a Los Angeles native, but whatever). Now it’s a go-to whenever weather permits in my new home. We have a very cute backyard in my building with a few large trees and picnic tables, which are perfect for precisely this activity. I usually sit out there just long enough to start getting sleepy, at which point I’ll close things out with a solid couch nap. Highly recommend all around..
Valerie Anne, Writer
I’m an indoor kid. I’ve always been an indoor kid. I grew up in a city and had no backyard so I never learned to ride a bike or roller skate, my outdoor activities usually included watching the ants or reading in the sun. As an adult, I live in a different city, and since I’m on the East Coast, being outside is either the best or the worst depending on the day because of the unpredictable weather patterns. So even though this is not a great outdoorsy answer, it’s this New Yorker’s answer: my favorite outdoor activity is patio brunch. Bottomless mimosas in the somewhat cramped, sometimes improvised, outdoor seating. Close enough to being in nature that you feel an extra boost of joy but far enough from nature that you’re safe from, I dunno, bears.
Ari , Writer
I like to run outside either early in the morning or at sunset, in the ‘hood. The time of day I choose because I live in Texas and those are Safe Times ™️ to run. But the place? I love running in the ‘hood, especially mine. My neighbors are always on their porches smoking or drinking and someone will be like “Alright now, Flash!” or “Don’t hurt nobody!” and it feels like a low-key three-times-a-week family reunion with strangers. Like in “Crazy, Classic Life” Janelle Monae says, “Riding through the hood real slow/ I love it when I smell the trees,” and that’s what every single run feels like.
A. Andrews, Cartoonist
I’m an indoor kid through and through. My body’s not built for most outdoor activities, and it’s very rigid in its ability to adapt to seasonal weather changes. But I’m not entirely hermit-like! I love two outdoor activities with my whole entire thump: bike riding and stoop sitting. I learned how to ride a bike again last year and it feels really great. I’m already itching to get back on junior (that’s my bike’s name) and cruise the streets of Minneapolis on my own two wheels! New athletic achievements aside, honorary mention goes to every rooftop/patio/porch/stoop I’ve ever sat on with a beer in hand and friends all around. There’s generally nowhere else I’d rather be.
Archie Bongiovanni, Cartoonist
One of my favorite things in the world is chilling in my backyard with pals and booze while I give folks stick-n-poke tattoos. Totally unhygienic and kinda reckless on everyone’s part (JK it’s fine on both parts, don’t report me). It’s just a lot of fun. A cheap outdoor activity that doesn’t even feel like an activity, just spreading love on my pal’s bodies in the form of astrological symbols and ass tats.
Carolyn Yates, Writer
In theory, my favourite activity is to be 90% inside of a pool, but at the edge of it, and 10% outside of the pool, so I can turn the pages of whatever book I’m reading and alternate sips between a selection of champagne and sparkling waters and bask in the sun.
In practice, I get terribly sunburnt and prunish and have to pee about about ten minutes of that, tops, soooo the real answer is playing or hiking with my bear of a dog in a dreamy grassy area where there are no men or scooters for her to worry out about and where she will not get so dirty that I have to give her a bath after.
Drew Gregory, Writer
This is possibly going to sound a little too Thoreau but my favorite thing to do outside is be alone. I’m not the most outdoorsy gay and yet some of my most peaceful moments have taken in place in nature by myself. A few summers ago a photographer I followed on Instagram posted pictures of New Croton Dam and I decided to hike up there. It was a significant walk to get from the train to the actual trail and the entire way I was daydreaming about meeting some stranger and having an adventure. But once I got to the top and looked out over the dam I felt so at peace being by myself and with my tiny place in the world. It was fleeting, but I cherish brief moments like that when I can find them.
Cee Webster, Former Technical Director
I love being outdoors! Living in the Pacific NW is really great for this. I always loved the woods, but have lived in really large cities for most of my adult life where getting outside required a lot of effort and planning. Now I can just drive 20 mins and be in the forest, which is really wonderful.
It’s too hard to narrow down my favorite thing to do outside, so here’s a bunch:
I love trees, moss, wildflowers, the smell of the woods. I love swimming in streams and mountain lakes. I love amphibians and photographing all of these things. I’m really happiest when I’m out in nature. I like hiking — a 4-7 mile hike with some elevation gain and view or alpine lake or something at the end is my favorite type of hike.
Sleeping outside is great too – waking up to the woods and early light and birds. I love the challenge of cooking outside over a fire, or even using my camp stove. It really forces me to slow down and consider every step. It’s super gratifying for me to make a delicious meal outside, especially if I can incorporate some foraged bits – like huckleberries for my pancakes. I hope to learn to fish a bit better this summer so I can cook fish over the fire.
I get grumpy or anxious if I have to be inside all day, which is unfortunately required by my work. So I try to take daily walks around my neighborhood for my mental health. I love watching the seasons change, and the progress of plants and flowers and to mentally catalog what’s blooming now in my neighbor’s yards. And I love learning the names of ornamental plants and their origins.
Molly Priddy, Writer
My favorite thing to do outdoors is try to be as still as possible and try to be in the moment. I like to go to nature for perspective, and my brain is constantly whirring, usually worrying on future and past problems. But being outside, away from screens and phone service and any sort of wifi, helps me get my brain to the right place. This happens when I’m swimming in a lake or hiking a mountain or even just walking my dog on a beautiful day. Nature takes its time, nature isn’t rushed, nature isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. It’s great mindfulness practice, and honestly the only way I really truly know how to balance myself.
Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor
I fucking love camping. I always say I’m an indoor kid turned outdoor kid, and that is true to some extent, but the one outdoor activity I’ve done since I was really small is camping, and it has always felt so special. There is something about getting to sleep outside, cook your food outside, hang out outside, just exist outside, that makes me feel so supremely alive. In some ways I feel sad that it takes a specific intentional act for me to feel that joy – I wish my life as a whole took place outside more often, and at certain junctures I’ve been able to make that wish a reality but right now, in grad school in New York, I am definitely not. But in other ways I feel that it is joyous, special, to be able to make a ritual of the act of being outdoors. Some of my favorite camping memories include a 14 day canoe trip I took with a bunch of other kids at my summer camp when I was 13 (I learned to carry a canoe on my back and how to hold a friend’s hair back while they puked!), the night I was able to camp completely solo on the Pacific Crest Trail during my long distance hike in 2017 (an extremely rare occurrence on such a busy trail), the road trip I took with Nate across the country last summer (especially the night we spent in Canada, on a lake I’d visited as a kid), and the summer I spent living in a tent with my land dyke friends in Southern Oregon (don’t worry, I’ll write you a longer story about that experience later in this Outsiders issue). Camping is my favorite way to spend time outside because it encompasses so much. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world every time I fall asleep in my tent, with the ground directly under me and the sky above me, stretching out for forever.
Laneia , Executive Editor
All I ever want to do is sit under an umbrella in a swimsuit at the beach. Going to the beach fully clothed and looking out at the ocean is fine — it’s fine — but wearing the swimsuit and being under the umbrella means I am on VACATION. All I ever want to be is on vacation! At the beach!! I don’t care if it’s crowded, in fact that just means there are more people for me to look at. And if I could get really specific for a second, my dream situation would be in a swimsuit under an umbrella at the beach, having just returned to this chair after standing in the ocean for a while (I can’t swim and I will not be taking questions at this time), eating a bagel sandwich that I made myself and drinking iced tea.
A. Tony Jerome, Writer
As long as I’m left alone in nature, I’m good with just about anything. In my head, I am an indoor kid. My asthma (every kind) wants to keep me out of the game but my heart won’t have it! I don’t hike intentionally, but I love climbing and looking at pretty views and just being quiet for a while. As long as I know no one’s coming for me, I can stay outside and Thoreau myself for hours on end. I got a bike again and I had a very major character in a I’m starring in my own music video in my head type moment where I test rode the bike in the parking lot and my whole childhood came back to me and I was like I NEED THIS BIKE RIGHT NOW. I’m still a gay that can’t drive, and my bike reminds me of all the plans I had as a kid, to ride all over the place on my little ten-speed dirt bike. Trying to catch that little kid optimism and hope again, which apparently I’ve got to go outside to find.
Riese Bernard, CEO
I love biking so much! But I don’t have a bike, so I guess I must not love it enough. Well okay the thing is that I love biking but I don’t love biking uphill or on busy city roads. So like, when I was in Michigan, I loved biking so much!!!! And in Berkeley (except for this one hill). But actually… I could probably bike where I live now. I should get a bike. What am I doing!
I also like hiking, but I kinda prefer off-road hiking. Like I like charging into the woods and finding our own way to get through some weird terrain or cross a river and I love climbing on things I’m not supposed to climb on. I like to be a monkey. I like climbing trees (I am always secretly somewhat stoked when somehow locked out of an apartment or house because getting in usually involves climbing and acrobatics).
KaeLyn Rich, Writer
I love to absorb unfiltered sun by the pool or on the beach. I love to sit around a bonfire or campfire eating snacks and watching the stars. That about sums up my interest in the outdoors, but I do very much like an outdoor leisure activity so long as it doesn’t make me sweat too much (or refreshment is nearby in a clean body of water).
I grew up in a more rural area and I have been on an admirable number of hiking trips and camping trips, including sleeping in a straight-up open-to-the-elements lean-to in a public forest. Those were fun hikes on some level, but I am never ever going to be the person who suggests we intentionally exercise outdoors or sleep outdoors. I make a very good vegan s’more, though!
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Writer
My favorite thing to do outdoors is to be in or near any body of water. The ocean is definitely tops. I often tell people that just looking at the ocean recharges me. Growing up, I spent summers up north in Michigan, swimming and boating in a small lake my family used to have a cabin near. Almost every vacation I go on, I have to find some sort of water. I love kayaking and pontooning and just floating in water. It’s my dream to live on an island one day and just be literally surrounded by water at all times.
Rachel , Interm Literature Editor
I very rarely if ever get to do it, but my favorite outdoor activity is playing baseball and/or watching baseball be played outside. I love baseball and have loved it since I was a kid, and given that part of its basic premise is hitting a ball hundreds of feet it does not translate well to indoors. Although ‘pickup baseball’ is less of a legitimate cultural phenomenon than, say, basketball, my absolute dream scenario is a sort of leisurely, low-key game in a neighborhood park with friends that lasts all day until the sun sets, with maybe half the field positions filled and a cooler of light beers and lemonade that never gets empty.
Carmen Phillips, Editor-in-Chief
There’s nothing that feels like swimming outside. In general, I’m not much of an “outdoorsy” person. I’ve never been legit camping, like in a tent or sleeping on the floor. I’ve never gone hiking for longer than probably a mile MAX. I don’t sit outside to enjoy the weather unless it’s at a picnic. But something about swimming feels different.
Maybe it’s something about being Puerto Rican. Some of my favorite memories as a teenager are swimming off the coast of the island. I’d push myself to go as far as I could, not stopping until my mother called out because she could no longer see me from the shore. I would pretend I was a mermaid, the sun warming my shoulders and the salt slipping into my lungs. Water soothes me. When there’s nothing except the echo of my own heartbeat pulsing through wet blue, I feel my most free. Like I can finally breathe. And sure, swimming inside is great, but absolutely nothing feels better than stretching myself and doing laps underneath an open sky.