Europe: An Introduction to the World

Instead of spending my last quarter at Cal Poly exhausting myself over countless interviews to land a job and jump right into the 9-5 grind, I turned my efforts towards planning a EuroTrip. This planning turned into an almost 2-month backpacking trip through Europe with some of my closest friends in an attempt to put off the real world. I must say, it was executed perfectly, as I was able to divert the question of “What are you going to do after college?” for the remainder of the school year as I got to tell everyone I was heading to Europe and would figure my life out when I returned. Thankfully, even after my travels its seems I have ended up in a work environment where travel, vacations, and outdoor activities are not only encouraged, but somewhat mandatory.

While avoiding the reality of an eventual need for a job was part of the plan when concocting this trip, the truth is this is something I have always wanted to do. Traveling after college has been something I had looked forward to for years, especially given the fact that I had never really been out of the country. This trip turned out to be one of the best things I have done thus far in my young life and instilled three realizations in me:

  1. It fuelled a real fire in me to travel and see the world, both globally and within the States
  2. It opened my eyes to my perception of “Normal”
  3. As a tourist, I have decided I hate tourists (more explanation later)


A quick little back context to this second point, as most of this upcoming rant will revolve around my now altered perception of normal (along with some scattered shots of my favorite photos throughout my travels). Growing up in Marin County all of my life with limited traveling, your perception of the world may not encompass how the entire world operates. This bubble of perception I have lived in had the same effect it would have on any individual— all the customs, actions, and ways of living I was used to was all that I knew, and therefore seemed to me like it was the way that it was everywhere.

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First and foremost, coming from a rather environmentally conscious area, I did what any resident of Marin would do when planning for a trip. I brought my reusable water bottle with me so I could fill up along my journey. Throw that notion out the window if you have yet to visit any European countries. I was shocked upon arrival to find out just how backwards my concept was with the notion that everyone used reusable bottles. I found out quickly that water fountains would come to be the Holy Grail of the trip. Despite my reluctance, I eventually had to ditch my reusable bottle and succumb to the daily purchases of multiple plastic bottles of water to stay hydrated along the way. It was weird, I growing up where I had I thought everyone tried to eliminate plastic bottles by using reusable water bottles whenever possible. Eventually I had to accept the fact that paying for bottled water, or even water in restaurants along every stop was simply the way it would be. Then if that didn’t throw me off enough, you would occasionally come across drinkable fountains that just constantly flowed, another oddity coming from drought-ridden California.

Next come bathrooms. Yeah, those things you’re used to being able to go in and out of freely in public places— guess again. Bathrooms, or “Water Closets” as a lot of Europe refers to them are, once again, pay to play. This sucked big time. Anytime nature called, no matter where you were, a public park, waiting for a train, at a flee market, you had to dig into your pocket to try and come up with some change to be allowed into the bathroom before you wet your pants. This was a serious event, with most bathrooms having an on duty bathroom guard who would collect your money and allow your entry in. Luckily for myself and buddies traveling, being a guy we have the distinct advantage of being able to avoid paying for the bathroom as we wised up and opted for nature pees whenever we could.

A few more observations of oddities before I jump into some more meaningful areas where my perception of normal changed, and where I think Europeans do things better. Workout gear was far less common on you average individual in Europe than I was used to back home. Myself and my buddies often times found ourselves the only ones wearing basketball shorts or DryFit shirts. Sitting Fees were one of the weirdest things ever. This was an additional charge to your meal for sitting down and eating at the restaurant. This wasn’t everywhere, we found it mostly in Italy, but it wasn’t very advertised until you looked at your bill and saw that each person was charged 4+ euros each to for sitting at a restaurant that doesn’t even give the option for takeout. This seemed backwards, although with the luxury of tipping not being something Europeans do, it probably all balanced out to even in the long run. Lastly, public display of affection came as a sort of shock to me. The level of public affection I saw throughout this trip would have warranted a “Get a room” shout from someone on the streets in the U.S. But this was just the way it is there, my perception of too much public affection only stems from what my normal is back in America.
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Now that I am done ripping on some of the things that came to annoy me about Europe, I get to the fun stuff. There were so many things I loved about the way Europeans lived that I will try and highlight a few of my favorites.

Language was huge in Europe. It was almost a guarantee that everyone I met over there spoke 2+ languages. Some European language, English, and often times one more. This is vastly different from our poor attempt at teaching second languages in the United States, where it is more of a rarity to come across someone who speaks another language, let alone two. It puts our school language systems to shame. Transportation was also a huge difference. The public transportation from trains allows you to go almost anywhere throughout Europe. They have a super effective transportation system that allows you to hop countries or cities with ease, limiting the burden of traffic. Additionally, cars that were on the street were so much smaller in size. The “smart car” sized cars, which many of us laugh at as they pass by because of their seemingly tiny size, are actually about the size of a standard car in Europe. The gas guzzling, heavy-duty trucks we see on a daily drive are nowhere to be seen. Their ease of transportation using public methods made traveling around easier and traffic free in comparison to the United States.

One of the biggest cultural gaps I witnessed in Europe was our difference in credit card usage. At restaurants especially, this one took me by surprise because I had never seen or thought of paying for your meal differently than what I was accustomed to in the U.S. When paying for your meal, the waitress would bring a credit card scanning device over to your table, ensuring all transactions were completed by you and one never lost site of their card. Comparatively, in the United States you hand your card to a waiter, who brings it to somewhere else in the restaurant to charge your card. That simple act takes a lot of trust in whoever is serving you to simply do their job and not do anything with your card information. The European way seemed far more secure and honestly still makes me think when I pay for a meal now that I have returned to the states. Simple things such as this took place on a daily basis while traveling and opened my eyes to different systems and ways of doing things. It was very insightful to get outside of my hometown or even countries “bubble” and familiarize with other cultural norms and every day actions.

Now on to my quick rant about my distaste for tourists. As someone from the U.S. traveling through Europe, I get it, I am a tourist also. My qualms stem from the endless amount of selfie sticks and oblivious tourists I ran into along my travels. It amazed me the amount of disrespect so many travelers have when it comes to respecting the level of noise when touring sacred places, photographing in areas where its forbidden, or seemingly going on the trip just to take pictures and say you went there. I encourage anyone traveling to get off of the beaten path. Don’t just travel from tourist point to tourist point, but go for walks on side streets, try out authentic hole in the wall food spots, and be respectful of the places and people you come across while traveling. And please, please avoid the urge to send a snapchat of every single thing you see. Document now and then with photos or gifts, but live in and enjoy the moment.

This trip really opened up my desire to see the world. I most definitely want to get back to Europe at some point, visiting some of the places I went on my first journey, and expanding to many new places as well. It also made me come to the realization of the beauty and places I need to visit within the U.S. As I write this I have begun to mark out places within the States that I want to travel. This will ideally be done through a roadtrip around the U.S. This whole trip was an amazing experience, and I encourage anyone with any interest in traveling to get out there and go for it- you won’t be disappointed.

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Is Michael Scott Writing Endurance Sports Headlines?

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This is a press release headline that definitely gets your attention. Perhaps a bit long, the title alone doesn’t come close to fitting in a tweet. When I saw this though, I couldn’t help but think about Michael Scott “alerting the press” in Scranton, Pennsylvania when a disturbing watermark appeared on hundreds of reams of Dunder Mifflin paper.

Congratulations to Matt Hanson and Angela Naeth on their Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas Championships. 8:07 and 08:55 are remarkable times for battling the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in that Texas heat! Good luck to all competing in the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii on October 10th.

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I walk through the parking lot toward YogaWorks with a little lump of dread in my belly.  What if I don’t know where to put my mat?  What if they I take my shoes off too late and people think I’m a heathen??  What if I pass out?  You know, all the normal thoughts an adult has when they try something new.

A total creature of habit, I realized sadly, after a wicked IT band injury last year, that my tired old ways of only running and training like a 21-year old — sporadic, hard training runs, beer to hydrate afterwards, and zero stretching and strength training — weren’t exactly working for 31-year old me. And thus, if I expected to stay (mostly) injury free, I’d need to try something OTHER than running.

Which brings me back to yoga and my slowing building nerves as I swing open the studio door for my first class.

Now don’t get me wrong, I always liked the idea of doing yoga.  I envisioned myself wandering into class with a serene look on my face and a calm air swirling around my zen being.  I’d bask in the natural sunlight pouring into into the room while I hold (without shaking) my Warrior II pose.

[Full disclosure: I just googled how to properly write Warrior II.  This gives you a sense about my general depth of yoga knowledge]

Back to my magical yoga dream.

I see myself flowing through the poses with ease, then sitting quietly with a clear mind and a full heart chatting OMMMMM with my fellow yogis.  I relish this vision of a once a week soul and spirit clearing before I go back to my regular life as a runner where I can pour sweat, suck fresh air and marinate in the endorphins only a good cardio session can offer.

Except that glorious vision has never been my experience.  A passionate worrier, I’ve spent the handful of yoga classes I’ve taken more concerned with the heavy breathing of a nearby classmate, or focused directly on that one piece of my hair that refuses to get off my neck, instead of truly getting anything out of them.

In the time it takes me to calmly make it through a yoga class, I usually determine I could have burned more calories and better used my time had I just gone running.

I know, I’m very narrow-minded.  Let’s return to real life yoga.

As I leave my running shoes tucked neatly near the pile of discarded shoes at the front door, I experience that glorious and fleeting moment where you’re actually excited to try something new.  You’re fully living your vision of this new activity — gracefully going through the motions like you’ve been doing it for years, while the soft notes of Gonna Fly Now play in the background.

[For those of you who didn’t get that reference, stop reading this post and go away.  Rocky remains one of the best inspirational sports movies, if not the best.  I barely understand a word he says in that movie but I don’t care — by the time the movie is over I’m dressed in a uni-colored sweatsuit charging out my door for a run or doing wild punches at the air.]

Back to namaste.

I follow the rest of the class as they grab blocks, straps, pads and about a dozen different “tools” I didn’t realize I’d need for yoga.  Aren’t we all supposed to just lay and pose on our mats?  I thought my only tool was my mat?  I contemplate all I don’t know as I shuffle with my arms full of things, to the back of the class where I nervously mimic my mat neighbor’s tool set up, and mentally prepare for the good vibes to roll.

Two gentle breathes into class, I’m back to square one.

As a person who doesn’t thrive off crowds or closed spaces packed with warm bodies, I immediately begin to tense up as people arriving late start jamming their yoga mats in next to me.  I remind myself that everyone has a right to be in this class…even if it means being way too close to me.  I slam my eyes shut so I can’t see anyone else saddle up inside my personal space and let the instructor’s voice fill my ears.

As I listen to this limber angel’s voice guide me through vinyasa, the next hour brings a range of emotions.

Joy, when I feel actual tension leave my shoulders and back as I stretch luxuriously into Downward Dog.

Panic, when I feel my back foot slip out of a pose causing my eyes to snap open and see a lady’s feet DIRECTLY in front of my face.  Ma’am, get your cracked heels out of my grill.

Relief, when I find I actually know enough of the poses to take myself through vinyasa without pausing to look up at the instructor or sneak a peek at my too-close-for-comfort neighbor.

Irritation, when a gal I eventually nickname Joe Camel, wanders into class 10 minutes late, stuffs her mat right next to mine, oozing cigarette smoke out of every pore.  How can anyone harness their chi when you’re huffing smoke off of a stranger??

Excitement, when the instructor walks by and complements me on my “strong Warrior 1 pose,” which makes me feel at that very moment, like the strongest, most graceful woman on earth.

Annoyance, when I’m trying to hold a pose but realize all I can focus on is another person who is breathing like a monster somewhere to my right.

Amazement and calm, when we join together for a group “ommmmm” at the end of class and I legitimately feel like I’m in a Buddhist monastery.

Eventually we arrive at my favorite part of the class in which we lay like dead bodies on the floor, in the dark, and essentially take an adult nap time.  It was at that time, despite Camel Joe, despite the monster breather, and a dozen other annoyances…I really began to relax.  The noises began to fade, my body feels limber and warm, and I gently, and finally, find myself connecting to the moment and my breath.  And I have to say, it feels amazing.

As I gathered my stuff up I realized a few things:

– Yoga is harder than I thought

– My patience is limited

– My flexibility is shit

– I actually enjoyed myself

My first yoga class brought to my attention that not only am I in severe need of strength training and increased flexibility, but I’m also overdue for a dose of learning, patience, and focus.

If I’m being truthful, I don’t like the idea of going back to a stuffy room and having Joe Camel suffocate me during mountain pose.

Conversely, I do like the thought that by going back, twisting myself around, letting my legs quiver, controlling my breath, focusing my mind and generally committing myself to an activity that doesn’t come easily – I’m growing stronger.  Mentally and physically.

For the record, I hope next class they open more windows.

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Top 10 Travel Tips – GUATEMALA!

Yes, even your hard-working friendly PR peeps at OutsidePR go on holiday occasionally!

This time, it was Central America calling. Guatemala to be precise. It’s low-season there right now, monsoon time as it were, but that didn’t deter me. In fact, with lower costs, less tourists and a good pair of rain-boots, it was the perfect time to visit.

Here are my top tips for visiting Guatemala:


1. Learn some Spanish

– Don’t be that person. Don’t be that socks and sandals wearing, fanny-pack toting uber-tourist that pronounces gracias like “grass-e-ass”. Take a quick online course prior to your trip with an easy free app such as DuoLingo, invest in a pocket-book of phrases and always try, even if you’re unsure. There’s a hesitation to use English in Guatemala, for good reason – it’s not their native language. So you have to adapt and learn. The basics will be helpful, more than that will be utterly magical.


Tikal – Mayan ruins

2. Bring long pants

– The native dress is modest and covered, even in hot weather. Bring at least a long, light skirt and comfortable breathable pants for your trips to villages and some cities such as Antigua. Shorts can be used in more touristy areas, but you won’t see many, if any, local men or women sporting shorts or cut-offs at any time. Best to be as respectful as possible, plus bug-bites are easily avoided when covered up – which leads me to a side note. Don’t forget the repellent. Bugs, a lot of bugs.


Pacaya Volcano

3. Practical swimsuit

– Cliff jumping, bridge diving, rapids and waterfalls can all have seriously detrimental and ultimately embarrassing repercussions when combined with that itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini that looked “so hot” in Ibiza last year. The active and adventurous travelers will want to bring a more industrious piece of lycra to avoid all the potential disasters that come with getting active.

4. Do some accommodation research

– In the high season it’s essential to book in advance. However, when traveling low season you may be better off waiting until you arrive, as prices on the day or on-site can be cheaper than if booked through an American website. Plus, you can chat to other travelers about where they’ve stayed and what they recommend. This tactic saved me from inadvertently turning up at the ‘Party Hostel’ where I’d be the wet rag sporting ear plugs and staying fully clothed while naked jenga and jello shots raged outside my room like the frat-party from hell.

Epic mountain view from near Pacaya

Epic mountain view from near Pacaya

5. Visit Semuc Champey

– I don’t care if it looks ‘out of the way’ or whatever, get there. A full day of caving – which involves a candle-lit underwater cave tour with rope ladders, waterfalls, cliff jumping and pure magic, followed by rapids tubing, hiking and visiting the ethereal pools/hot springs; Semuc Champey is Mother Nature’s apology for Justin Bieber and a breath-taking day of adventure and environment. We stayed in El Retiro lodge, right on the Lanquin river – highly recommended.

Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey pools

6. Time it right

– The transportation is..meh, but bearable. Be prepared to tack on a good 2-3 hours more for any distance being traveled by bus than it would take in Australia, Canada, UK, USA. The roads are variable, sometimes dirt and rocks, sometimes paved with numerous potholes. Just be ready to be bumped around, and do research on the costs for transport too. Prices will usually be jacked up initially, so be firm and barter when you know you’re being taking advantage of. Chicken buses are good for shorter trips but any traveler who’s happy paying a few bucks extra should organize a minibus for a bit more safety and comfort. No overnighters. No.

View on the way to Lanquin

7. Bottled water

– Don’t drink the tap water. Always get bottled. Unless you don’t mind public bathrooms, every 5 minutes. Oh, and you can’t put toilet paper in the toilet either. That goes in the garbage bin next to you. Remember that – it sucks when the toilet is clogged and you’ve drunk bad water. Sucks.

8. Talk to people

– Guatemalans are super friendly but they’ll only respect you when you respect them. Be polite and courteous and friendly. Don’t assume you can take photos of them and their children without asking nicely first, and if you’re going to give a child some food or a gift, be prepared to have 10 more swarm you. Just use common sense and a smile, goes a long way.

9. Visit Antigua

– One of the most beautiful cities in Guatemala, Antigua is steeped in history and culture and the colonial architecture is stunningly beautiful. Surrounded by active volcanos, there’s plenty to do and see, but be warned – it’s more expensive than most places in Guatemala. A great starting point, many travelers stay with a host family and learn Spanish before heading off to other parts of the country or Central America. Make sure you visit Cafe NoSe. Trust me. And climb Mt. Pacaya volcano. It recently erupted in March 2014, so you can’t go all the way to the top but the steaming rocks of solidified lava flow are amazing, and you can roast marshmallows on the hot-spots. No s’more will ever top the ‘volcanic rock broiled s’more’, so I urge you to give it a go.

Marshmallows volcano

Best S’mores ever – Pacaya Volcano

10. Expand your trip

– Guatemala is wonderous. Dense rainforest, Mayan ruins, volcanic lakes, natural caves, timeless villages, delicious street-food, affordable transport and accommodation, historic and culturally rich cities, adventurous hikes and friendly people. Oh, and millions of random dogs that all look the same. There’s so much to do, see, eat, experience, but it’s also so close to Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and from there, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama.. With only 10 days or 2 weeks, stick to Guatemala and really soak it in, but if you can get more time off work (sweet talk the boss, do overtime, quit…), try to get to other Central American countries too. There’s a big and beautiful world out there – go experience!!

View of Antigua

View of Antigua and volcano backdrop

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What is a great love of books?

It was a ritual my younger brother and I performed every couple of weeks during summers in the early 90’s. Having just completed a two week session of summer school, we’d sprint across the freshly cut grass lawn and pile into our sitter’s two-door white Acura Integra waiting in the parking lot. Naturally, we’d be arguing over the official rules for calling shotgun – at that age it was a pretty big deal since whoever had physically managed to gain control of the front passenger seat had the privilege of assisting with the shifting of gears for the manual transmission. Yes, we had the coolest sitter in town.

The discussion would then transition to the selection of music that would make its way into the cassette tape deck (yes, writing that sentence made me feel old).  Often, it came down to Sublime, Blues Traveler, Neil Diamond, or Alanis Morissette. We only listened to the best! We’d then cruise over to the local city library, the car speakers blasting, windows down, and the warm summer air blowing in our faces. Once at the library, we’d scurry around like chickens for half an hour, curiously scanning the shelves in search of the next best read which would consume us in the weeks to follow.




There was something enthralling about picking out books at the library as a kid. It wasn’t just the dusty smell, the fragile pages, or the library card glued to the inside cover informing you of past readers who had borrowed the very same book just days prior. Being in the presence of so many books made me feel important and grown-up. I had access to personal stories, wisdom and secrets of influential and significant people. There’s a great quote by scholar John Bright. He asks:

“What is a great love of books? It is something like a personal introduction to the great and good men of all past times. Books, it is true, are silent as you see them on their shelves; but silent as they are, when you walk into a library it’s as if the dead are present, and if you put questions to the books they will answer with all the faithfulness and fullness which has been left in them by the great men and women who have left the books with us.”

After checking out more books than my bro and I could carry, we’d spend the rest of the afternoon building forts, playing on tire swings and riding our bikes, before crashing on the front lawn with ice cold lemonade and getting lost in the worlds created by authors like Roald Dahl, Katherine Paterson and E.B White. It was those early years of reading young adult fiction that sparked my interest in adventure stories and travel memoirs. I became fascinated by the stories of people exploring the world and discovering alternative ways of living and being in far away places. Books created a lens through which I could experience life across the globe and become a part of something larger than myself.

As we head into summer and begin selecting our own adventure and travel reads to dive into here at OutsidePR, we thought we’d follow-up with some of our gear-testing, outdoor-loving, adventure-obsessed editor friends across the nation to find out some of their go-to reads. These are the stories and travels which have inspired them and which keep them coming back for more. Here are 7 great reads to add to your summer reading list, along with the reasons they resonate with the outdoor experts who’ve shared them. Enjoy! – SN


Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

by Edward Abbey


Desert Solitaire

“The first time I read this was my first summer in Utah, back when I volunteered for The Nature Conservancy in 2005. The prose was so evocative that I couldn’t help but go out into Canyonlands NP, find a rock to sit upon in solitude, and read the book aloud. Now, I live in Abbey country. I run across the landscapes he wrote about with Boy, the dog of Abbey’s best friend. Many of my runs start on a dirt road–Desert Solitaire Road. When I find the time, I still pull Desert Solitaire off the shelf, walk out into the pinyon and juniper country, and read the book aloud from above the house where Abbey wrote his final book. He, his book, and his country continue to inspire me.”

Bryon Powell,


The Natural Navigator:

The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide

by Tristan Gooley


natural navigator

“The Natural Navigator inspired me to be independent in the outdoors, from guiding guests on horseback at 10,000 feet in the Rockies to mountain biking alone in the San Juan Mountains. It reads more like a story than a how-to, which keeps me coming back time and time again.”

Whitney JamesOutside Magazine


The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession In The Amazon

by David Grann


 I probably read this book twice a year. It’s non-fiction that reads better than most novels. Grann tracks the explorer Percy Fawcett’s journeys into the Amazon in search of a mythical city of gold and his subsequent disappearance. It’s like a trip to the Amazon, minus the parasites and malaria.”

– Billy Brown, Trek Tech


Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes,

and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

by Christopher McDougall


Born To Run

“It was the first book I read about running that really resonated. I really got into the personalities of each runner that Christopher profiles, and it pitted the “traditional” views on the sport against naturally occurring facts among the Tarahumara Indians – proof that science only goes so far.”

– Caitlyn Pilkington, Competitor and Women’s Running


Slowly Down The Ganges

By Eric Newby




“One of my absolute favorite classics, it describes everything that a great outdoor adventure should be – nothing goes according to plan, there are no maps, engaging with locals then not seeing a single soul for miles, sleeping under the stars, gradually learning the ebb of flow of the local landscape. Outdoor adventures can be full of frustration but also packed with tons of reward for those that push through and make the best of every situation.”

– Amy Jurries, TheGearCaster



An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

by Rolf Potts



“It’s a wonderfully inspiring book about traveling the world longer than we’re “allowed to.” Two weeks a year is hardly enough time to properly explore faraway lands. Potts motivates readers to take control of their own life by taking an extended time out from everyday life.” 

Beth PulitiGuide to Mountain Biking


A Walk in the Woods:

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by Bill Bryson


Walk In The Woods

“This guy is the man. His nappy voice, and rich character building make his journey hiking the Appalachian Trail with his old Euro-trip buddy (Katz) a true gem. The best part? The scene where Katz, a fat, 40-somethings old man, realizes how challenging the trail is, and starts chucking bricks of cheese and twinkies over a ridge in Georgia to lighten his pack. This is a laugh out loud read.” 

Patty HodappYoga Journal

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The Heavy-Hitting Investigative Interview with NarNar

The do-it-all man, the softly spoken, laugh out loud, self-motivator in the office, Spencer Naar joined Outside PR in mid-2013 as Account Coordinator, quickly rose to Account Executive and has been kicking butt ever since. Born of the same township as the infamous James Franco, the Palo Alto native is much more charismatic and gets in far less social media hot spots, making him a real catch.

With an almost addictive obsession with running, completing his first trail ultra last year, Spenno balances work and life with an impassioned perfection rarely seen. It helps that he can go running along the spectacular Sausalito waterfront on his lunch-break too. Having worked at a yoga retreat, non-profits and an international foreign exchange company, Spenno brings a variety of dynamic skills to the table. Now, let’s bombard him like the Spanish Inquisition.

1. Name and Occupation at OPR: Spencer Naar. Two people in the office refer to me as Spenno and NarNar. Account Executive.

2. Favourite sport: I’m a big fan of trail running and came to learn it was a great way to discover new places — I would intentionally try and get lost so I could find a new way back home. I’d end up finding all sorts of gems along the way – hidden parks and dive bars in San Diego, deserted beaches in Hawaii, crazy lookout points in San Francisco, including Tank Hill, my favorite place in the city.

3. What’s your spirit animal? Elephant

Riding the Spirit Animal

Riding the Spirit Animal

4. What do you love about the PR industry and OutsidePR specifically? I like the challenge of finding new and creative ways to communicate, whether pitching a product, a brand or a story. I also enjoy the process of disseminating and sharing information. I love the people at OPR and appreciate the energy and drive they bring to work each day.

The biggest challenge is working inside while watching tourists, bikers, and wine lovers vacation below our office outside.

5. Drink of choice? Moscow Mule (Ed note: great choice)

6. Speedos or boardshorts? Boardshorts… Hawaiian-themed preferred (Ed note: another great choice. This is why he’s paid the big bucks)

7. If you had to pick one sport to do for the rest of your life, not including trail running, what would it be?  Outrigger canoeing


This is no outrigger canoeing, but it still rules.

8. Who is your inspiration in life, personal and professional? It would definitely be my parents. They’ve taught me the value of hard work, persistence and going after what I want. They’ve also been my biggest support network.

9. What’s your jam? “For What It’s Worth”, Buffalo Springfield, or anything by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

10. What decade speaks to you? The 80s. Especially the movies: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Christmas Vacation, Big, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I love all the classics and the simplicity of films back then.

11. What has been a highlight of working at OPR so far? Jenny and Gordon’s impromptu dance parties, which quickly turn into slapping matches. It’s like watching two young children all jacked up on Mountain Dew.


12. What sport would you add to and which would you take away from the Olympic line-up? I would add the ultra marathon or fat bike racing and take away shooting.

13. What do you think that Public Relations adds to a brand, and why is OPR so important? I think PR adds a more in-depth and richer story to a brand in ways marketing and advertising are unable to do so. All three are important but PR more fully communicates a brands’ context and connects consumers with the heart and soul behind the product. OPR is important because we’re good storytellers, we have long-lasting personal relationships with the media and we believe in the outdoor lifestyle. We also deeply love the brands we represent and engage.

14. Can you dance? NOPE!

15. Prove it. NOPE! 🙂

16. Favourite quote/mantra? “Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things”. My personal favorite though is “Blessed is the man who having nothing to say abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.”


17. If you were an item of food, what would it be? Animal-style nachos.

18. What has been the best place you’ve traveled to and why? I lived in Western Samoa for 4 months back in 2007 and the experience changed the way I looked at the world. I learned so much about culture and community. The locals were the friendliest people I’ve ever met – complete strangers would invite me into their homes for dinner. I was completely inspired by the subsistence way of living. It was eye opening to see how resourceful we can be and how simple we can live.

19. Favourite funny story that involves you? In the 5th grade I was in a Cub Scout troop and one day we were talking about government and the Executive branch. Our troop leader started shouting out questions. “Who is the president of the United States?” “Bill Clinton” we all yelled back. “Who is the Vice-President of the United States?” “Al Gore a couple of us said.” Then, our troop master threw us a curve: “Who is the Speaker of the House?” The room was silent but I confidently raised my hand and without hesitation blurted out “My Mother!”

Dominating Salt Lake City

Dominating Salt Lake City

20. 5 Things someone might not know about you:

1)- I’m a big sleep talker. Some of my friends refuse to camp with me.

2)- I can play the trumpet.

3)- I make a mean lasagna.

4)- I was named after the 80s mystery tv series Spenser: For Hire

5)- I’ve been known to rearrange furniture when I get anxious.

Winning at life

Winning at life



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20 questions with our newest member Jess Smith

Last week, OusidePR announced the addition of our new Account Manager, Jess Smith. Joining us after living in Whistler, BC the majority of her life, Jess’s active nature and enthusiasm for the outdoors meshes perfectly with the OutsidePR philosophy.

Born in Australia to Canadian parents, this nomadic world traveler has spent numerous years fully immersed in the PR, communications and marketing world. She previously served as a Brand Marketing Manager for adventure-travel start-up ZOZI and as a Communications Manager for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler. Her adventurous spirit is evident through her passion for CrossFit, skiing, running, climbing, yoga and travel. Out of the office Jess can most commonly be seen running across the Golden Gate Bridge, hitting the slopes, or enjoying a cold local beer after one of her many activities.

Lets find out more about our spirited new member with 20 random questions:


1)  Most impressive athletic achievement or most extreme sporting feat?

This is a throw-back but I co-captained (with my best-friend) my high school track team to an all out victory across all ages for the female team in my senior year. I was so proud of my athletes performances, their perseverance and the camaraderie.

Recently, in one year, I did my first deep-water solo climb to a 50ft jump, skied the Couloir Extreme on Whistler, did my first skydive, learned to free-dive, and ran my 2nd half-marathon. There’s still lots more to do but that was a fun one.

Jess deep-water solo climbing before the big jump

2)  Of all the places you lived, which was your favorite and/or where do you see yourself in the future?

Ooh, great question, but I don’t have a succinct answer for that one. I’ve traveled extensively in Europe, lived in Australia, Scotland, Canada, the States, visited India, Mexico and Thailand, and honestly, I can’t tell you where I love most or where I’m meant to be. Perhaps I haven’t even been there yet! I am lucky to be able to travel a bit with Outside PR and I’d definitely like to be able to keep traveling with my work in the future, who knows what it holds!

3)  What was the best trip you have been on?

Thailand was incredible, I am desperate to go back to South East Asia and really see the bare bones of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, etc

4)  3 celebrities you could go out with for a night?

Will Smith – Fresh Prince of Bel Air era

Ingrid Backstrom – She rips

Bill Murray – no justification needed

5)  Do you have any hidden talents?

I won synchronized swimming competitions when I was 13, I can highland and hip-hop dance, I used to be a Wine Director and have my level 1 wine cert (this basically just means I’m qualified to drink), I’m alright at public speaking (if it’s something I’m passionate about), I’m pretty good at legless rope climbs, burpees and being upside-down. Man, these are useless talents…


6)  What do you like most about the PR world?

The passionate, invested team I work with. Besides being super bad-ass at a multitude of sports and life in general, they’re inspiring and hard-working. I also really love working with our clients and I adore the media relations portion of PR, that’s the social butterfly in me coming out.

7)  Guilty pleasure movie or song

Love Actually is my favorite movie. Mainly because I love Christmas, Bill Nye, Hugh Grant and British films. I have so many guilty songs that it would be social suicide to admit them. You’ll get an indication below..

8)  New sport or activity you want to get in to/start

Triathlons, casual pole-dancing (for the pure athletic and gymnastics components, of course), mountain biking

9)  What is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?

I was sitting in a cafe in Pacific Heights, emailing on my iPad, eating Quinoa Toast with organic honey butter and drinking a kale ginger smoothie, when I flicked some smoothie into my eye. It stung so bad and I quickly went from well put-together and health-conscious lady to eye-watering disheveled hipster wannabe. Not my finest moment and made me realize how difficult it is to be cool.

10)  What are some of the places people guess you are from (based on your accent)?

New Zealand is a top one, and I don’t mind that at all because Kiwi’s are bad-ass. I also get South Africa but the most common one is; “I have no idea where you’re from.. What IS that accent?”

11)  What is your biggest pet peeve?

Slow walkers and poor communicators.

12)  What did you like about ZOZI? Or what you gained most?

Great work experience in a larger start-up environment. I made great connections and it was an interesting and diverse working environment. I’m excited to see where the company goes!

13)  Any big projects you accomplished/enjoyed working on?

The 12 Days of Adventure giveaway was a super intense but very rewarding sweepstakes to coordinate.

14)  What song do you sing when nobody else is around? Or what would you sing on American Idol?

I’m a god-awful singer so American Idol is out of the question, but I’ll sing anything really. I know all the words to “Baby Got Back” so I definitely whip that out every so often. Oh, geez, “Eye of the Tiger” too. Classic.

15)  3 things you would bring to a desert island?

GU Energy! A knife (Crocodile Dundee style) and a water filter.

16)  Most embarrassing moment?

I’ve lost my top a bunch of times in the surf and jumping into the water, but it happens so often it’s not that embarrassing anymore. Most other moments are probably not suitable for public consumption.

17)  Drink of choice at a bar?

Classy night: Red wine

Not so classy night: Vodka grapefruit

Apres: Beer and Caesars

18)  Favorite Aussie saying?

“Bloody oath, mate”. Translation: “That’s the truth, friend”.

But really, I don’t speak Australian anymore.

19)  Who is your celebrity crush?

Rory Bushfield. James Franco. There’s more but I don’t want to bore you.

20)  What do you like/dislike about moving to San Francisco?

LOVE the environment here. The synergy between city-scape and outdoors space is electric and you have so many choices of things to do, see, feel, experience here. It’s a great mid-way place for me, after living in the mountains but wanting a city-feel, without leaving the great outdoors behind. The rent situation is rather yuk, but I have no problem with sleeping in the office if it comes to that.

All in all, I adore San Francisco for the diverse culture, interesting people, incredible history and beautiful views.

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Secrets from the big man behind the reports

The most crucial cog in any PR agency wheel is the often un-sung, less than glamorous account coordinator position.  Responsible for endless spreadsheets, media reports, and constantly knee deep in shipping requests, this person carries the tedious torch of metephorically (and sometimes physically) doing quick feet until one of us shouts, “Can you send me a list of (insert any brand here) hits for the month of February?!” or “Can you put together a shipment of GU for (insert editor here) – you’ll have you figure out the mailing address!”

Fortunately, here at OutsidePR, we’ve managed to acquire one who not only does all of the above, but can dunk a basketball, surf a mean break at Ocean Beach and knows all the lyrics to most, nay, all Beyonce songs.

Friends, family and colleagues, meet our main man and account coordinator, Alex Ryan.

Rob Stark

Alex rockin’ the Game of Thrones look

A recent grad of University of Oregon (GO DUCKS!), Alex was born and raised just north of Sausalito in beautiful San Anselmo where his family still resides.  A jock from the word go, Alex grew up playing basketball and surfing the numerous breaks along the Northern California coast.  When he’s not jamming boxes full of Road ID’s and Pearl Izumi, he’s coaching basketball, getting barreled or escaping to Cal Poly or Oregon to visit friends.


In hopes to peel back the onion and find out more about our 6’4″ Roger Federer look-alike, we interviewed Alex to find out what really makes the master of all things google drive tick.

Q: What is your sport of choice?
A: My sport of choice would definitely be basketball. That answer has been the same ever since I could talk. I have played it all my life and I have coached for the last six years. Over the last few years I have really become more of a runner and I keep surprising myself by how much I am starting to enjoy it.
Q: Where is your happy place? And what are you doing in your happy place?
A: Without any doubt my happy place is the beach. I usually surf a couple times a week, everyday if I am lucky (It helps that the OutsidePR office is so close to Cronkhite). Whether I am with a group of friends or by myself, I always enjoy being in the water if the conditions are decent.
Q: What is the best part of working at OutsidePR?
A: The best part of working at OutsidePR is that I am able to work in the sports industry. Sports has been my predominant passion my whole life and I am very lucky to be in an industry that I am so interested in. Along with that, I really love how it is always encouraged to be more active in our daily lives.
Q: What is the worst?
A: The worst part about working here is that I am the worst runner here. I thought I was pretty fit until I started here.
Q: Favorite outdoor brand?
A: My favorite outdoor brand would be Patagonia. I love their apparel (especially my wetsuit), but also all the environmental work they do.
Q: If you had to trade places with a rapper for a day, who would it be?
A: I would definitely switch places with Macklemore because he just always seems to be having fun doing whatever he does.
Q: Guilty pleasure song you’d turn up if alone in a car but turn off if you had someone riding with you?
A: Mostly anything Beyonce, so right now “Drunk In Love” is a favorite of mine.
Q: Do you have any hidden talents?
A: My hidden talent is that I am great with little kids. I actually started as an education major at the University of Oregon and switched to business.
Q: What exotic pet would you like to have?
A: If I could have and exotic pet I’d have a spider monkey. Kind of like the one in Hangover 2, but not for doing drug deals.
Q: What’s it like growing up with all sisters?
A: I have seen way too many chic flicks, but I usually get out of doing the dishes.
Q: What movie can you quote word for word?
A: Space Jam. Its kind of embarrassing how many times I have seen it.
Q: Favorite quote or words to live by?
A: The quote I have started to live by more was taped on my desk here before I started here and really fits the OutsidePR lifestyle, “Life is about experiencing all the things you find interesting and fascinating. Just get out there and experience as much as you can. Participate in life.”

-Louie Zamperini
So there you have it.  If you need a good babysitter, information on the best NorCal surf break or someone to do a Crazy in Love duet with you…come see our boy Alex!
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The Way, Way Back

When you have a two-year-old and a six-month-old, you tire easily; you look for excuses to sit down.  And yes, that even means, for a guy, peeing like a lady.  Don’t judge.

So it was there, on the throne, that I first decided to try “adventure racing” — after reading about it in my wife’s copy of Conde Nast Women’s Sports + Fitness (now long, lamentedly gone).  The article talked about a “Hi-Tec Adventure Race,” something a reasonably fit adult could take on, something less brutalizing and impossible than the multi-day adventure races I’d heard about called the “Raid Gauloises” and the “Eco-Challenge.”

That was in December, 1997, and by the following June, I was on a hardtail Trek Antelope 930, bouncing around Folsom Lake with two buddies: Austin Murphy and Jeff Rowser.  

That race was a seminal moment.  I had owned my own PR firm for three years, yet was still stuck doing work for insurance companies and law firms.  But from the moment I finished my first, tiny adventure race, everything changed.  Within months, I had done my first (unpaid) work in the endurance field.  Very shortly after that, we had our first paying clients in the industry.

In another two years, our old agency name was gone — changed to OutsidePR.  I learned how to actually pronounce “Raid Gauloises” and became the media director of the Primal Quest.

By 2005, all of our clients save one were fitness and outdoor-related.


There’s a lot to laugh at in this photo — and please feel free to comment (who wears gloves in a multi-sport race?  Could my shorts get any shorter, or more purple?), but by 2003, Austin and I were competing in, and doing well in, multiday races of our own.

Now, my two babies are both teenagers — and one of them is in college.  OutsidePR has been around the block and represents some of the best brands in the outdoor industry.  But none of that would have happened without that first race, that first exposure to the endurance lifestyle.  It’s funny, what sneaks up on you and grabs your heart.  This race did — it changed my life — and I’ve never looked back.

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$13 Bucks Per MIle

Here at OutsidePR, we run.  A lot.  And we like to pin on a race bib now and then.  But when one of our staffers was mulling an entry to the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington D.C., she got a bit of a shock.

Entry fee?  $175.  That’s $13.36 per mile, and that isn’t the worst of it.  To enter, you must also register yourself with “Nike+,”, which is NIke’s portal for marketing, community, and technology.  They want your data, because they want to sell you stuff.

The event is so popular that even giving up your personal data to a multi-billion dollar company — and coughing up what constitutes half of a semester’s tuition when I went to UCLA — still doesn’t get you into the race.  No, that’s done via a drawing from applicants, because the event is “sold out.”

I don’t begrudge Nike trying to make a buck, but fees like this help explain the rise of bandit races, which ultimately undermine traditional races.  It’s self-defeating in the long run, and with the data mining added on, a poor reflection on one of America’s biggest brands.

If, despite all that, you’re into it — go ahead and check it out here.

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