April 6, 2023
Why I Started a Maine Outdoor Newsletter
Last week, I sent out the 5th issue of the Maine Outsider, a newsletter curating outdoor events and activities around the state. Since sharing, I’ve gotten a surprising number of questions about how I manage it. I’ve found myself talking more about the mechanics of filtering and curating and less about the purpose. This is an attempt to articulate why I'm doing it.
Scratch my own itch
I am a better person when I’m outside. Full stop. I am more hopeful, feel more connected, and have more gratitude.
Those who know me well, know I spend an inordinate amount of time researching and planning outdoor adventures. A career advisor once joked that it might be my “genius”. However, there are still times when I stay home on weekends because I can’t figure out what to do. I’m not even a busy person, but I still find it daunting to research and plan weekend activities at the end of the workweek.
I needed to find an efficient way to feel more connected and inspired to get outside. If I could do that for myself, I could share it with others.
Help others make sense of Maine’s recreational spaces
I grew up in New Mexico, where vast empty spaces stretch for hundreds of miles. There are millions of acres of National Forest, BLM land, and State Parks. You go where you want, camp where you want, and for the most part no one notices. Moving to Maine was jarring. It’s different here. The East Coast has more people, less public land, and more rules. At first, I resisted it. I didn’t know how to be outside here.
4 years later my feelings have changed. I’ve come to understand the vast network of land trust that make up the outdoor landscape here. It’s hyper-local, grassroots, and disjointed.
There are many Mainers, new or old, like me, who struggle to see the full spectrum of outdoor opportunities in the state. Meanwhile, there are land trusts who struggle to find visitors and future stewards. My aim is to connect the dots on the map — connect people with place.
Promote special events and communities
Last June, Hearty Roots and Glidden Point Oyster Farms collaborated on a charity paddle down the Damariscotta River. A busload of people gathered in the morning at Glidden Point for coffee before a school bus shuttled them to the Damariscotta boat landing like a crew of gleeful field trippers. Strangers of all ages paddled down the river for 7 miles, returning to Glidden Point for lunch, live music, and a raffle which raised $17,298 to support youth outdoor programs in the Mid Coast.
Those lucky enough to experience this magical event were likely subscribed to Hearty Roots newsletter. If not, you probably didn’t hear about it. I was only there because I saw the event listed on Glidden Point’s website when planning an oyster tasting. It was one of my favorite days of the year and I was there by chance.
Because of my experience that day, I’m now a recurring donor and advocate for Hearty Roots. There are more groups like Hearty Roots and there are more people like me. Can I introduce them?
Improve my personal news feed
I spend too much time scrolling the internet. Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit grab at my attention and feed me a steady diet of information that isn’t always good for me. At best, it’s playful and harmless. At worst, it’s divisive and and negative, eroding my sense of agency and separating me from the moment.
By curating this newsletter, I’ve replaced hours of mindless Twitter scrolling with news that’s more relevant to me. I’ve chosen to curate outdoor information, but you could apply this model to arts and entertainment, volunteering, entrepreneurship and business or any other interest.
Apply my skills in a more personal way
I’m a tinkerer and creator at heart. My default nature is to build things. I create to express myself.
For the past two years, I’ve been bottled up, in a rut. No matter how much time I set aside for myself and how many ideas I've had, I couldn’t seem to make progress on any of them. I judged my ideas prematurely, stopped myself before starting, and self-managed harshly. I judged my lack of output and inability to apply the tools in my growing toolbox.
Starting Maine Outsider is a small act of self-rebellion. I’m re-educating myself with the knowledge I can create things that matter to me, not just things that people hire me to do. I had to reset expectations and quiet the inner voice to get started, but now that I’m moving it feels easier. Working with purpose and applying my skills as needed has been rewarding.
Build a vehicle for curiosity
I’m jealous of journalists, researchers, and podcasts who have a defined medium for their curiosity. Working with technology can open doors, but it can also feel isolating. Unlike the aforementioned industries, applied curiosity in tech can pull you away from the physical world. Digital questions often lead to digital places. I’ve spent days without leaving the house because my curiosity was pointed at a technical challenge, like writing a script.
I’m exploring what it can look like to use technology, which I often resent, to pull me out of my shell, rather than put me in one.
At present, the Maine Outsider is a humble and fairly insignificant project. A small group reads the newsletter and speak positively about it. People I don’t know are starting to sign up which is exciting to me. If growth stopped here, I would still be happy (for all the aforementioned reasons).
However, I sense there might be something more. The path is unclear, but there is direction. My hope is to build an all-terrain vehicle for my curiosity. One that compels me to spend more time in the physical world, in the places I love. I can see it growing to include hosting events, advising conservation groups, starting a podcast, or leading trips. Who knows.
As writing often does, this post evolved in ways I wasn’t expecting. I thought it was just about a newsletter, but I think it’s about more — finding purpose and connection. The newsletter is helping me get that.
I’ve enjoyed this process and believe in the value of local newsletters like this for both readers and creators. If you’re interested in creating one, I’d encourage you to do so. If you have questions about getting started or are looking for support, reach out to me and we can chat. I've written a bit about how it works here. As long as your intent is good, you have my ear.