Adventure writing for the rest of us

When I spent a year or so as an Outside magazine subscriber, the most striking thing I learned was that I was not a member of its target demographic.

For those who haven’t seen this mag, I’ll tell you that the cover generally features an uber-fit young guy doing something, well, active. (Outside’s tagline is “Live the Active Life,” after all.) One cover features a fully dressed guy under water, ostensibly escaping a tsunami; another has a bare-torsoed fellow tying his running shoes while looking off in the distance, probably contemplating his race strategy; yet another shows a muscular guy on a racetrack getting ready to start a sprint. The one cover I have seen featuring a woman had her dressed in a bright-red swimsuit(?) engineered using 1- and 2-inch wide straps.

The subjects of the articles and photos inside these issues are, in a nutshell, fearless people doing insane activities: making deep-sea dives sans oxygen tanks; flying around the world in search of the most monstrous surfing waves; skiing off the edges of glaciers.

For those who don’t know me, my workouts these days involve a good 25-minute jog on a mini-trampoline, and my adventures are imagining with my son that his play structure is a rocket ship that takes us to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

How did I end up an Outside subscriber? My husband’s airline award miles were expiring. Not wanting them to go to waste we used them to purchase magazines. After selecting Time and Fortune, we still had miles to burn. Outside sounded healthy and inspiring. Who knew its stories could nearly trigger anxiety attacks? But I couldn’t stop reading them. It must be the car-wreck effect.

I was finally able to admit my ill-fit with Outside when I happened on Marc Mewshaw’s story “Sea Change” in US Airways’ March 2012 magazine. Reading this man’s struggle against fear to complete a dive off Key West, I felt as if I had found the antidote to all that testosterone-addled Outside bravado. I had finally found a guy who wrote for the rest of us, those of us with a sense of mortality, those who all day long hear ourselves calling out, “Be careful!” as we try to keep our little explorers safe.

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