By Gale Straub
Any given Tuesday: I’m sitting on the floor of my carpeted den. I’m leaning against the big couch, it’s ugly and oh-so-comfortable. There’s a tangle of cords next to my lap. Strewn about are papers covered in my messy script. Words are crossed out and there are arrows indicating paragraphs I’ve rearranged.
There I am, cross legged in a windowless room with headphones on, recording the monologue for She Explores, my podcast that, at its core, is about women who are inspired by spending time outside. The irony of this scene isn’t lost on me, and I can’t say I’m not frustrated on those last minute days, overthinking the tone of my voice, straining at the weight of intonation.
It’s fair to say I started the podcast because I wanted more out of She Explores, the outdoor lifestyle site I created while on a year long road trip in 2014. As much as I loved discovering creative women who love the outdoors and travel through the site, sometimes it felt transactional. I was swimming in emails and the water was shallow. After featuring 250 women, I wanted to go deeper and a podcast felt like the right medium.
I created the She Explores podcast because:
The voice is powerful.
My favorite part of photography class in college was the critique. We’d hang our photos on the wall and we’d talk about light and shadow, contrast and composition. But, most of all, we learned about each other. We got to discover the unique ways we see the world. And funnily enough, I hear that in a voice, too. It’s intimate, like hanging your art on the wall for everyone to see.
I’m always looking for connection.
I think it may be because I’m shy, or because I have a twin, but I’ve always felt most comfortable in close relationships. And there’s all this potential wrapped up in an interview, the friction of getting to know someone. When a subject is interviewed, they’ve chosen to put themselves in this uncomfortable situation, and I get to give them the space to share.
I’m fascinated by the way women experience the outdoors.
This is a tough one to explain. I believe the feminine lens is a dynamic one to see the outdoors through, especially because women haven’t historically been highlighted as often. There are so many stories to tell, and only so many Tuesdays to spend cross legged on my carpeted floor. I’m so motivated to amplify women’s voices because it feels like we’re in a time of exponential growth. And to quote Mean Girls, “the limit does not exist.” In the 24+ episodes of She Explores, we’ve talked about topics as far ranging as thru hiking, mental health, working as a park ranger, adventuring with kids (and while pregnant!), diversity, hiking solo, conservation, and entrepreneurship.
It’s an exciting time for the outdoors industry. The definition of what it means to be an outdoors person is broadening and I love exploring the myriad of ways women are carving out the identity for themselves.
It’s an opportunity to present the women I interview as their most confident selves.
Okay, okay. This sounds pretentious and assumptive, but hear me out. I spend an inordinate amount of time editing the podcast interviews and stories. I haven’t spent less than two full days on a 30 minute interview. This isn’t to curate an aesthetic or inflict a point of view. For me, I spend that time because I so admire the women I interview and I want to broadcast their voices as I heard them. That might mean taking a 90 minute conversation and boiling it down to 25. It might mean editing out close to every “like,” “I think,” “maybe,” “kind of,” “I don’t know,” “just,” and “um.” I’ve found that the women I interview tend to use a lot of qualifiers. (Of course, I am the biggest culprit - they’re littered in this piece.) Qualifiers are a little like insurance against misinterpretation, error, and shame. It doesn’t mean they’re not confident, capable people - they just don’t always sound like it.
The best compliment I can receive once the podcast is live is from the woman I interviewed. If she says, “Thank you. I was worried about how I would come across. I was babbling so much… I didn’t know I could sound so good.” I think to myself that she sounded fantastic. I think that now she knows how others hear her.
And if I get to play a small part in that, if it takes time in front of a glowing computer rather than the warmth of the sun, so be it. The fresh air is waiting for me on Wednesday.