Episode 198: How to Be Alone – Nicole Antoinette

Episode 198: How to Be Alone

On the Trail with Nicole Antoinette

Nicole Antoinette recently released a trail journal of her 2017 thru-hike of the Arizona Trail called “How to Be Alone.” And that’s what we met up to talk about on a trail near Boston: how her first thru-hike came to be, how she persevered, and why she decided to add to the trail journal canon. While quitting can indeed be a kindness, Nicole solo hiked all 800 rugged miles of the Arizona Trail. And it all started when she was over 30,000 feet up in the air, reading a book on a plane.

While Nicole says she’s a “recovering advice giver,” we know there’s lots of wisdom to be found in this episode: about knowing when it’s time to take a leap, how to get to know yourself better, giving back through your creative work, and more.

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If you enjoy this episode, you might also enjoy this one featuring Nicole Antoinette on the decision to quit the PCT.

Find the episode below, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you stream podcasts.

A full transcript is available below the photos.

Featured in this episode: Nicole Antoinette @Nic.Antoinette

Hosted & Produced by Gale Straub

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Nicole Antoinette

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Nicole Antoinette How to Be Alone

Nicole’s trail journal, “How to be Alone” is available as a PDF that you can upload to your e-reader!

Nicole Antoinette AZT

Nicole Antoinette on the Arizona Trail in 2015


TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Hi everyone – change of plans this week. Originally I wanted to do an episode on nontraditional holiday traditions but we didn’t get enough submissions to create one. It’s tough to say why – the idea may not have resonated with the community or it’s just a busy time of year — But be on the lookout on our newsletter and social media for our holiday gift guides this year. We just released one on outdoor experiences to gift loved ones. Also, if you haven’t rated or reviewed She Explores and you’re not sure how, head to ratethispodcast.com/sheexplores — it’ll direct you to the right place. Thanks so much for your support. On with the show.

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Gale Straub – Narration:

I’m Gale Straub and you’re listening to She Explores.

Nicole Antoinette:

Do I think you have to go out on 800 miles. So like in order to work on that, no, but I wanted a situation in which it would be impossible for me to not address that. And even with all of that said, I was completely unprepared for how intense the loneliness would be.

Gale Straub – Narration:

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nicole Antoinette for a hike in the Blue Hills outside of Boston. You might know Nicole from her long running podcast which she sunsetted this year, Real Talk Radio or her lovely weekly newsletter Wild Letters. You also might remember her from an earlier episode of She Explores about her attempted thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. That conversation was called “Quitting Can Be A Kindness,” and while we covered a lot – the core of it was about that, the fact that sometimes quitting is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Gale Straub:

So I’m just gonna, I’ll just kick this off a couple of questions. Is this fun? Yeah. Any right. We’re like in motion, you can hear the leaves and trees and this is

Nicole Antoinette:

Yeah. Audio new England. Autumn are these people’s leaf fantasies. Cause we can crunch in some leaves.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Nicole said she likes to think of the leaves as potato chips under her feet. And you’ll hear them throughout our conversation. We were meeting for the first time in person and by the time I hit record we’d already been looping around in the woods for the last couple of hours, talking about creativity, what we look for in friendships, the life paths that got us to those woods at that very moment. In hindsight, I wish I had the mics on the whole time. As you’ll hear, Nicole has so many nuggets of wisdom to share. A head’s up before we jump in, there’s a quick, high level reference to sports related eating disorders about 20 minutes into the episode. I’ll give you a head’s up before you hear it. Nicole recently released an e-book, or what she calls a trail journal, of her 2015 thru-hike of the Arizona Trail, called “How to Be Alone.” And that’s what I wanted to talk about – how her first thru hike came to be, how she persevered, and why she decided to add to the trail journal canon. While quitting can be a kindness, Nicole solo hiked all 800 rugged miles of the Arizona Trail. And it all started when she was over 30,000 feet up in the air, reading a book on a plane.

Gale Straub:

Uh, so you write in how to be alone, not the impetus for scheduling your Arizona trail through hike was reading a book by an elite sports psychologist who said within it quote in the middle of a competition, there will come a time where you will have the choice to go or not go. I’m saying you should go. And it was interesting to me to think about you having that quote as the impetus for hiking that trail, or like one of the, probably many impetuses for hiking that trail. But it feels like something that’s about like cultivating perseverance or like resilience over time versus just being the thing that starts you. So before you got to that point, did you feel that you had built up a kind of resiliency to get you to that point for that quote, to speak to you in a way that it would be the kind of linchpin for you to hike a trail in a really tough season with them without enough water, like to hike up 800 mile trail when you’ve never done it through hike before, what were some of those other kind of points that

Nicole Antoinette:

You to that spot? Yeah. I mean, first of all, I love that quote so much, right. Uh, uh, now I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have it in front of me, but you know, in the middle of the competition you will have, or just take out the competition, right? Like there will come a moment where you have the choice to go or not go. I’m saying you should go. That gives me goosebumps. Like even just thinking about it. And I think for me, I knew that I wanted, and obviously I talk about this in the book, but I knew that I wanted to set out on some kind of track adventure for me, it was long distance hike that I didn’t think that I could actually do. Like, there’s something that’s interesting to me about not knowing that success, not that success is ever guaranteed, but like actually not knowing if you can do the thing.

Nicole Antoinette:

And the, the thing that’s really appealing to me is not as much completing a goal, but who you have to become in order to even have that completion be a possibility like who you become in the pursuit of a goal is really interesting to me. And the truest thing that I can say about, you know, why that quote specifically was enough to make me be like, I’m buying this plane ticket, I’m going to do this hike. It made me be honest with myself about the fact that I wanted to do that hike 2% more than I was afraid of it. Like I was terrified, but I want it like the desire was like just a little bit stronger than the fear. And I don’t know why that sentence was it, but I think we all know that feeling where like you’re reading a book and you have to highlight that thing, you know, or a sentence like feels so true that you stop and you reread it or you take a picture of it and post it on Instagram or you text it to a friend or like, we know what truth feels like when we hear it.

Nicole Antoinette:

And sometimes like the right words at the right time. It’s like eliminating what you already know. And for me, that idea of there are so many moments that are mini forks in the road where you have the choice to go or not go in big and little ways. And sometimes not going is absolutely the right choice. But if you want to go even 2% more than you are even 1% 0.5% more than you are afraid of it, give it a shot. And that was how I thought.

Gale Straub:

So that’s what you would say to someone else too. You would say, I think you should go. If they have the 2%,

Nicole Antoinette:

I am a recovering advice giver. I used to give a lot of advice scout. Like I, you know, I just had a lot of opinions. I mean, I still have a lot of opinions, but a lot of advice. And I have tried to break that habit unless it’s someone who, the context of their circumstances, I actually know really well because sometimes I feel like there isn’t a shortage of messages in our culture that tell you go big or go home. And I think that oftentimes not going quitting, walking away, being thrilled with a simpler life, deciding this is enough money. This is enough, whatever. So I actually don’t think that I would unequivocally say that, but I think that quote in that book didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know and believe it was like it was a flashlight, it was an illumination, it was a light bulb of what was already true. So I think anyone it’s like, do we really ask for advice or are we just hoping that someone’s going to give us a confirmation of what we already want to hear for the most part? And so I think if someone’s seeking out that message, they already know they want to go. And so maybe it’s just like permissioning, both options. It’s totally fine to not go. And it’s totally fine to go, even though you’re terrified and have no idea what you’re doing.

Gale Straub:

And he said, you know what truth is when you hear it, but you also know what truth is when you feel it, right? Like you were talking earlier about how certain things we know that we need to do, but we’re not quite ready yet. Or we need that push

Nicole Antoinette:

Just to get there. Yeah. And that’s definitely what that was for me. I wanted to do it, but I felt like I had very little long distance hiking experience before that. And I’m like, I have no business doing this hike. And yet sometimes our desire and our ambition is not logical. I just needed the push to be like, not just that. It’s okay to try, but that if I am not able to do this thing that I’m setting out to do that I will be really disappointed. And also I will be okay. It was almost sort of like a preemptive accepting of, yeah. I might feel like this, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth giving it a shot.

Gale Straub:

You talked about making the decision and then having essentially having growth through that decision or like every other step that you take after that is what you, some of what you learned about yourself, like in the title of the book. Cause I was trying to find like explicit moments where you’re talking about the feeling of being alone or like why it’s important, but it feels like it’s almost just more self-evident through the process of taking something like that on by yourself. So I guess the question is why the title and did you kind of come out of that with a confidence

Nicole Antoinette:

In yourself to, to spend more time alone on trail and otherwise, I mean, that was one of the things that I was going out there for was being able to be more self-reliant and I had gotten quite comfortable or I guess comfortable isn’t even the right word, but like entrenched in other people’s opinions and in like crowdsourcing all of the decisions of my life. And I don’t think that it has to be a binary where either other people are making all your choices for you or you like live in this vacuum alone with no one really clearly those aren’t the only two paths I think somewhere in the middle is what’s best for me and probably what’s best for most folks. But that realization that I feel like I used to identify as quite an independent person, the like only child, just a lot of my earlier life, I felt more self-confident and it was almost this, I don’t know, like wake up call in my early thirties of realizing like somewhere along the way that had stopped being true and wanting an experience where there’s no one else there to rely on.

Nicole Antoinette:

So you have to rely on yourself. And part of it for me also was realizing that I wasn’t a very good friend to myself. You know, if you think about, and this is generalizing, but what makes a good friendship, right? Honest conversation, compassion, empathy, showing up for each other, believing in each other’s like dreams, wanting to support the, like fullness of your friends, authenticity, humanity, joy, safety, all those things. I really wasn’t doing that for myself. And I don’t know if there was, do I think you have to go out on 800 miles. So like in order to work on that, no, but I wanted, I wanted a situation in which it would be impossible for me to not address that. So yeah. I mean, that was part of why I wanted to go on the hike. And even with all of that said, I was completely unprepared for how intense the loneliness would be.

Nicole Antoinette:

I, I mean, I’m quite extroverted. I have always been a really social person. I like need people to listen to my nonsense. And you know, I think, I think the longest that I went without seeing another human was like almost five days, which maybe doesn’t sound like a long time. It felt like the zombie apocalypse had happened. And like I was the only one left, like it was wild and I was mean you have no cell phone service. And then that sort of forced me to confront like how hostile the inside of my mind is sometimes. And that was a deeply uncomfortable process. But I do think that I, I learned from it and I also think it’s easy to overly romanticize. Like you go on a long track and it changes your life and that, you know, I don’t think that was true. Like I think that it planted some seeds that have, you know, is this like was in 2017, right? So this was years ago. It planted seeds that have definitely taken root. And that with more intention have bloomed into things. The, you asked before about resilience. Like you get strong enough to do the thing by just repeatedly the thing. And so I think setting out to do something that I, 100% did not believe that I could do and then doing it, that meant something to me. It was a good reminder not to preemptively shortchange myself. I guess

Gale Straub – Narration:

When Nicole made the decision to thru hike the Arizona Trail, she was at the first of a bunch of crossroads – to go or not to go. We were out on a trail, not 10 miles from Boston, getting spun around at time ourselves. So it felt right to ask her about those harder moments on trail.

Gale Straub:

Is there like a moment that you can think of from your trail experience, whether or not it’s in the book that is one of those times where you were kind of at a figurative fork in the road and you had to, or maybe I guess more of a literal one in terms of like keep going or not keep going. It sounds like the first was pretty terrible. Oh my God.

Nicole Antoinette:

It was so yeah, I hiked itself out in the fall. The Arizona trail, as people would imagine is quite a dry trail and they’ve had a lot of rain this year, so not so much, but anyway, it’s quite a dry trail and that was my, this is a super privileged. And to say that was my first experience with like being properly thirsty, like to the point of, okay, I have to really ration this water because there isn’t water for like 30 more miles, you know? And so there were some of those experiences that were just physically really uncomfortable. It was both really cold and really hot. Yeah. The running out of water coming, coming into contact with those situations where there was never a time where I was like actually afraid that I was going to die, but they are the survival things in your brain.

Nicole Antoinette:

And my friend Lauren years ago said something to me that I think about all the time, this idea that it’s a privilege to be able to choose your suffering, which 100% is. And that hike was like such an example of that for me. But I remember there was one morning where it was maybe 26 degrees and all the water in my bottles had frozen overnight. I had laid awake all night, just like freezing and unable to sleep and like terrified something is going to eat my face in the night. And so I hiked out with all of my clothes on the tights that I sleep in fleece top down jacket hat by freight, like every layer that I possibly had. Cause it was frozen in the morning and the Arizona trail, because there’s so much like cattle land, like ranching land. There are a lot of gates on it.

Nicole Antoinette:

And I don’t know, I don’t know who these gates were built for. I don’t know if this is like a Hercules situation. I feel like half the gates I couldn’t open. I just wasn’t strong enough to open. Like in a lot of them were those kind of like wood barbed wire things where you have to like pull the barbed wire out and move the, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. So oftentimes I’m like showing my pack over and crawling on my stomach under the things. And a lot of the fences are made out of barbed wire. So freezing cold, all of my water’s frozen shot. So I haven’t been able to have any steps of water in the morning. I haven’t slept in like a couple of days. I barely slept on that hike and I’m crawling on my stomach on the frozen ground and the barbed wire catches on the butt of my tights and rips them open.

Nicole Antoinette:

And I just, it was like such a small thing, but I had this moment where I was laying there and I was like, you have a house at home. Like you have people who love you and like cats and a couch and Netflix. And like you’re choosing to like lay on your stomach in the frozen dirt. So thirsty for what this is like such a small example. But that realization that’s like, I actually don’t have to be out here was really clarifying for me because it’s one thing to be tough or resilient in a situation where you have no other choice. And I think that it’s, it’s problematic the way that we glorify and put the like glorify resilience and strength and the, oh my God, how did you do that on people who like will they had no other choice? And so for me to be like, I could get to the next road, crossing, hitch a ride to like whatever the next major city is and fly home. Like here’s my credit card. And so there was something about like, I’m choosing to do this, that felt like a fork in the road to be like, I’m going to keep, I’m going to stay. I’m pretty miserable. And I’m gonna keep doing this because I promised myself that I would, I, that was really meaningful for me. Yeah.

Gale Straub:

Yeah.

Gale Straub – Narration:

The next couple of minutes are the ones I alluded to at the top of the episode, I’m referencing the quote about being in the middle of a competition and deciding whether to go or not to go

Gale Straub:

That quote made me think about a race that I did my sister and I ran track and cross country in high school. And we both, I would say it was first her, but then both of us ultimately have a disordered relationship with running or not getting enough nutrition. And my sister was like really good, good enough to get into a college, you know, of her choosing kind of good. And we were running in the state meet and it was like cold. And my, you know, we’d both been like dealing with depression and it felt like there was like so much pressure on running and this being like a huge part of our identity when you’re 17, you don’t really have that context for like the greater world. It was something that got us attention because we were good at it. And I just, in this moment split second decision, just like, it’s like my body will myself to stop. Like it would not let me run. I just stopped running. And I like carried her a lot of shame about that for years. But ultimately realized that like I decided it was none of that was worth it to me. And so when I first read that quote, I first was like feeling a little bit of that residual shame for not having had the perseverance to like push through an uncomfortable thing. But ultimately it was like the healthiest decision for me. And it’s ultimately what my sister decided.

Nicole Antoinette:

I think we just kept going straight.

Gale Straub – Narration:

We interrupt my personal revelation with a literal fork in the trail.

Gale Straub:

Uh, it’s hard to, I can’t tell this looks like less

Nicole Antoinette:

Traveled. Right. Cause if we would’ve come up, so this is now where we want to come up this way. Like this looks like a fork.

Gale Straub:

It does. Yeah. That

Nicole Antoinette:

We would see. I don’t remember making any turns.

Gale Straub:

I don’t

Nicole Antoinette:

Either. Okay. So maybe we just stayed,

Gale Straub:

But I also, when I’m talking and thinking, I like can’t think I said I’m a slow processor, so I’ll figure it out. Um, but for me, the, I kind of had a realization about that distinction and I still stand behind that decision as a 17 year old. Sometimes there’s more important things than when it was like I was choosing myself at that time. And didn’t think,

Nicole Antoinette:

I mean, you and I did an entire podcast episode about quitting after I quit the PCT the year after this. And that’s what I meant before when you said, is that the advice that I would give someone else, like, I think that there’s a lot more nuance and complexity to this conversation. And I think it requires having really honest conversations with yourself to understand which of those, if we’re going to put it into a binary of more like grit or grace, right. Quitting or keeping or going that, like you have to know which one serves you best in that moment. And like, I was reading a book that was written by an elite sports psychologist for people who wanted to learn mental toughness skills. So it’s like, don’t go to the hardware store for milk. Right. Like I was, I obviously was looking for confirmation of, I want to build my resilience, my mental toughness, my whatever it is. And so like, I’m surrounding myself with these things and I just need, I need the nudge to do what I already know that I want to do. Yes. Yeah. I feel all turned around.

Gale Straub:

Okay. So this is another moment where there’s numbers on the trees. We got to go this way cause that we would’ve seen that coming up. Right?

Nicole Antoinette:

Yeah. This is correct.

Gale Straub – Narration:

We made it back to the trailhead safe, I promise. More from Nicole on How to Be Alone, after the break.

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Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back.

Gale Straub:

Zooming out even more. Why, why write about this experience? Like why make this available in the way that you’re making it available to people within your community and outside of your community who want to purchase?

Nicole Antoinette:

But I mean, I feel like I could give you two very true answers, one totally selfish and one not. So the totally selfish answer, I’m a writer. I’ve pretty much always been a writer since I knew what that was. But I have spent 14 years doing what I think of as like short form, personal essays writing for the internet newsletter style stuff, right. Like things that are basically like 2000 words or less, which is its own genre. And it’s beautiful. And I love that. And I had similarly to the block that I had about the hike, where I thought this hike is too hard for me. I had a block about my ability to write a 70,000 plus word thing. And so I was like, I need to do this to like, prove to myself that like I can do it. That was meaningful to me.

Nicole Antoinette:

So there was like just the personal, I would like to be someone who has written, you know, more than 70,000 words about the same thing, regardless of whatever happens to that. And that was a whole process too, because I wrote the first draft and read, it took me, you know, all the time that it took me. This was pretty soon after coming back and it wasn’t very good and I felt so much shame about my own mediocrity, but I didn’t look at it for like three years. Oh, wow. So that’s part of, that’s the reason for the gap. Yeah, because I, I mean also sidebar, what kind of arrogance that I think I’m going to be the only writer who’s like first draft is so good. Right? Like there was a lot wrapped up in that, but it was like that tendencies, totally productions and tendencies.

Nicole Antoinette:

And like that Ira glass quote about the gap between your taste and your talent that it’s like, I knew what I wanted it to be. And I saw, but essentially I was like learning a different genre of writing, kind of like adventure storytelling. So I was really disillusioned with it and I just didn’t look at it and went on the PCT, quit. The PCT got divorced, moved into a van. Like a lot of other things happen where I had really good reasons slash excuses not to work on the project. And in early 20, 21 kind of late 20, 20, early 20, 21, I couldn’t stop thinking about it because it felt like an open loop. It felt like something that I had quit. And again, quitting is awesome and fine that I, I feel like I had let myself down by quitting it by almost downplaying to myself that I cared about it.

Nicole Antoinette:

I think we all know that feeling of like, oh, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter when you say that when actually you care a lot. And so I thought, you know, even if no one else ever reads this, I would like to know that I was brave enough to edit it till I come up with something that I love, just so that I don’t then carry around the narrative of, I can’t write good long draft things. I saw this like holding back on my writing practice and career, I was like, okay, I’m going to do it. Set up writing dates. Did it like created all the containers for myself that I needed in order to get it rewritten to a place that I loved. I was like, okay. And then once it got to that place, the second answer to your, this is a very long answer.

Nicole Antoinette:

But the second answer to your question was I got into long distance hiking because of a book carrot Quinn’s through hiking will break your heart and have read so many beautiful adventure, memoirs and adventure stories that I felt almost like a really beautiful sense of responsibility and continuity to add to that in some way the cannon sorta have, right. That like be part of that lineage of people, women whose courage to do this type of stuff, even though they didn’t have to and didn’t grow up doing it. I mean, carrots book changed my life. I had never gone backpacking or camping a night in my life until I read a story about someone who didn’t grow up outdoorsy and who in their early thirties decided to do this. And my realization of like, well, they didn’t die. Maybe I won’t die. You know? And I was like, cool, I’m gonna buy a backpack when people say, oh my God, this book, like the book changed my life because my life is different now than it would have been before that.

Nicole Antoinette:

And so I felt like a sense of responsibility. Not the, I hope this changes someone’s life. Like I don’t necessarily mean it like that, but to put out what happened to me as a result of making the choice to go. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like carrying the Baton forward a little bit. And you know, I, I remember really shortly after it came out, I got a message from someone who said they had only ever gone backpacking with their husband because they had been too afraid to go alone. And they had just got, which is totally valid. And that they had just gotten back from their first short solo backpacking trip as a result of this of me sharing my story. And I was like, that’s literally enough, like that’s enough. And like, to know that I potentially did for someone else, what carrot did for me that feels like, I feel like we have, we have a responsibility to some degree to share our lives with each other.

Nicole Antoinette:

Hmm. I don’t know. Maybe that’s sounds too strong. Maybe it’s just that I feel that because I’ve been a public story sharer, but it felt like a responsibility in a good way. I like that. And we know to be a little like woo about it. It’s really great energy to be putting into the world too. And also part of it for me was I think that a lot of times we create things and make work to fill a gap that we’re not seeing. And I think there’s no shortage of really pretty summit, like mountain, top photos and outdoor fantasy highlight rails and look like I’ve posted those photos too. So I’m not saying don’t post those photos. But one of the things when I first got into long distance hiking, that was so difficult for me was the enormous gap between my fantasy of the thing.

Nicole Antoinette:

And the day-to-day lived reality of the thing. I could not believe how hard and boring and joyful, but how hard and boring it was to walk 8, 10, 12 hours a day. I felt myself feeling like almost angry. Why didn’t all these bloggers? Tell me about this. Maybe that’s not their experience. Maybe they are joyful all the time, but like I was, I mean, anyone who reads the book will know this. I was like pretty much miserable the whole time. And that I have gotten some feedback from people that was like, this was almost hard to read because of that, but it was honest and I’m still in the boat and I’m still so glad that I went. And I think that very much comes through in the story. And that, like, for me, there was like a moment of catharsis and I definitely got what I wanted to get out of it, but I almost felt, I think that’s more what I meant by sh like I felt responsibility to tell a less shiny story.

Gale Straub:

It does. It does make sense. I mean, it’s the thing that I appreciated most about carrots through hiking will break your heart. And the things that I highlighted were all about depression and anxiety, those are the things that I related to as you know, not having probably will never do a really, really long through hike, but those things were the ones that I most related to and felt, you know, relief in seeing from someone else who I from the outside would just admire, but felt like I could get a little bit on the inside. So for you to provide that within a trail memoir, it’s also interesting. I mean, how boring is it to only have the positive things that happen? That’s not a book I would read.

Nicole Antoinette:

Well, get also I think it, in terms of what we owe each other, I think we do a disservice because then it makes someone who that goes out there and doesn’t have an a 100% rosy shiny experience. Feel like what’s wrong with me that am I doing this wrong? I’m not strong enough. Other people have some in that I don’t have when, like, when you’re actually on trail and like talking to other hikers, people are pretty honest about how much a lot of stuff sucks and how bad the blisters are. And like, they, you know, had this horrible poop situation and they’re just tired or they’re burnt out or they miss their mom or whatever, you know, and I think for me what that hike, I mean, I taught me a lot of things, but like one of the lasting ones was the ability to really hold the boat and have like, something can be hard and I can still want to do it and it can involve some suffering, but also it can involve joy and like to stop looking for things that are like 100% all good, because I think that’s more rare.

Nicole Antoinette:

Things are more nuanced than that. And to be able to be like, oh, this is a growth experience. Some of it’s awesome. Some of it’s and it’s worth it.

Gale Straub – Narration:

As you can hear, Nicole is all about transparency and thoughtfully engaging with the trail. And for this reason and more, she chose to give back 10% of the proceeds from aspect of “how to be alone,” her AZT trail journal to the Indigenous Environmental Network:

Nicole Antoinette:

Why I’m giving 10% of it away. I mean, I feel like the truest answer is what you would probably guess the answer to be of all of the lands in the so-called United States are indigenous lands. And I am having this transformative growth experience and recreating and writing about and profiting off of something that wouldn’t be possible without enjoyment on these lands. And I believe in the power of indigenous stewardship over lands, climate water, all it, you know, and this is an organization that does that. So that felt like something that I wanted to put in for a product like this that will be on sale indefinitely. That 10% of it will always, it’s a way for me to just continue to redistribute money in that direction. Just month after month after month,

Gale Straub – Narration:

Nicole also decided to do a pay as you can funding model for the book. So while the suggested price is $19, you could pay more or less depending on what you’re able to contribute. Nicole explained:

Nicole Antoinette:

It’s a funding model that I use in other aspects of my business, my Patrion community sliding scale, I have quarterly reflection, workbooks kind of like self exploration, workbooks that, um, are also pay what you want. And I talk about money a lot. I talk about money a lot with my community, and I’m like always thinking about what does it mean to hit again, the both and of as a creator, having your financial enoughness and like thriving needs met wall, keeping what you have to offer as accessible and inclusive as possible. Like, I think we’re sort of taught that it’s one or the other either you can be really altruistic or, you know, really greedy and rich. And I don’t think that that’s true and I’m interested in like any opportunity. It’s one of the joys of being a self-employed person that I can decide on all of these pricing models for myself.

Nicole Antoinette:

And so when I started looking at what the different publishing routes were for this, it was appealing to me to not support Amazon, right? Like it’s obviously, if I were to go a traditional publishing route a different time, like of course the book is going to be available there and it’s a necessary evil in like the publishing world. But with something like this, that my vision was to have a trail journal shop on my website where, you know, right now I’m working on a trail journal, same thing about the Colorado trail that I through hike to this year. So I liked the idea of this being the first in a series of products and because it’s a downloadable PDF that people can send to their Kindles or e-readers or whatever, as a downloadable PDF, it’s truly scalable. So it’s no more work for me if 10 people read it or if 10,000 people read it.

Nicole Antoinette:

And so I feel like truly scalable things are often the easiest to play with the pricing model around. And for me, I just thought this is a cool opportunity to, I sat the suggested price at $19. I have done, like I said, a lot of work talking with my community about these pricing models that I felt pretty confident that at least people in my space would have the skills to evaluate their own class privilege and like place themselves on that. And so it felt, cause there’s obviously risks when you put something up that way. Like what if everyone only pays $1, you know, but that hasn’t happened. And so for me, I just liked the idea of our financial resources, not being the sole determining factor in the goods and services that we can access. And this felt like a really easy way to do that. And some people have paid $1, someone paid a hundred dollars. A lot of people have paid in-between. And when I did the, I think at the last check, it was like the average price was like $18 and 50 cents. So it was so close to 19. It’s like it’s working. Oh, wow.

Gale Straub:

That feels like a planet money episode with

Nicole Antoinette:

Right after the first week of, I mean, this is maybe nitty gritty. And I don’t know if you understand this, but after the first week that it was on sale, I did a breakdown. It’s saved to my Instagram stories under money talks. I did a breakdown of exactly this at that point, it was like a little over $19, the average. And it has since gone down, I think partially because as it spreads outside the community, and then also the people who might, and this is just anecdotal. My assumption is the people who paid above that suggested amount. A lot of them, cause I’ve daily, microblog from every trail that I’ve ever done. I think it was a way of people saying, thanks for all the free work, you know, that like they have enjoyed like trail stories from me for free for so many years that I think it was just, oh, Hey, here’s 30 bucks. You know, that kind of thing. But the fact that it’s working the way that it should, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good that someone who’s like, you know what? I can absolutely put five bucks to this, but it would be a sacrifice for me to put 19 or 25, read it, have fun, you know?

Gale Straub:

And also it says so much about what you’ve cultivated too, in terms of that community. It’s pretty cool.

Nicole Antoinette:

It’s a good community. That’s for sure. I’m grateful to them. And all the people who have like taught me about alternative pricing models, this wasn’t something that I was ever like raised into.

Gale Straub:

Yeah. Was there anything else that you want to add, take the pressure off of being recorded and of our time to

Nicole Antoinette:

The other? Um, is there anything else that I want to add? I think my hope for people reading it is that it’s like a fun escapist story, like a way to just kind of step outside of whatever’s going on and like join me in the dehydrated desert of Arizona for a little while. And that it can perhaps provide a nudge or a reminder that if there is a thing that you want to do that it’s worth at least trying.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Thanks so much to Nicole for being game for an on-the-trail interview. You can find How to Be Alone on her website, nicoleantoinette.com. LInked in our show notes.

You can learn more about the Indigenous Environmental network via their website. In the spirit of transparency, Nicole decided to donate her speaker fee for this episode and the $100 is going there.

 

If you enjoyed this episode, I’d recommend queuing up our interview this year with Carrot Quinn called “Bobbing to the Surface” or our 2018 interview with Nicole Antoinette called “Quitting Can be a Kindness.” Both are linked in the show notes.

Thanks to our sponsors for this episode, Danner, Tentree, Rumpl, and DUER. All discount codes are linked in our show notes. These sponsors help us pay our guests and make the podcast possible.

You can find She Explores on social media, our website, and wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to stay up to date! You can find me on Instagram @galestraub.

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Music in this episode is licensed through MusicBed. This episode was produced and hosted by me, Gale Straub.

She Explores is a production of Ravel Media released biweekly Wednesdays. We’ll be back on December 1st. Until then, stay curious.

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