Five years ago, shortly after giving birth to her son, Mason, Shanti Hodges put him in a baby carrier and went for a hike.
This was the beginning of Hike it Baby…
Today Hike It Baby serves over 250 000 families and has over 300 branches around the world!
It is a worldwide outdoors community that connects families through hiking, and empowers new parents to pursue adventure with their newborns strapped to them.
In this episode of Rob Konrad: Conversations, Rob and Shanti talk about the profound impact Hike It Baby has had on families all around the world, and how Shanti grew the organization, in only five years, to a non-profit that has hundreds of thousands of community members across the United States, Europe, and Australasia.
Shanti shares about the unexpected challenges of explosive growth, society’s problem with “inside culture”, and the many benefits of dirt.
Click on the video above to listen to the episode – and join the conversation, NOW!
00:00:00 Episode Teaser
00:02:26 How a hike with a newborn baby turned into a worldwide outdoors movement
00:03:05 Hike It Baby in numbers: 180 000 members? More like 250 000
00:03:54 The organization’s explosive growth over five years
00:05:36 The unexpected challenges of becoming a public figure
00:06:41 How the overwhelm of being alone as a new mother drove Shanti Hodges to create a family-centered outdoors community
... read more....
00:00:00 Episode Teaser
00:02:26 How a hike with a newborn baby turned into a worldwide outdoors movement
00:03:05 Hike It Baby in numbers: 180 000 members? More like 250 000
00:03:54 The organization’s explosive growth over five years
00:05:36 The unexpected challenges of becoming a public figure
00:06:41 How the overwhelm of being alone as a new mother drove Shanti Hodges to create a family-centered outdoors community
00:08:20 Torn between growing a business and growing a non-profit
00:09:34 100 cities within a year: Hike It Baby goes viral
00:11:27 You have to keep reminding people that “we’re a we”
00:12:52 Getting outdoors as a way to overcome feeling alone
00:13:57 Hike it Baby’s unique selling proposition: family-friendly hiking hacks
00:15:13 The typical mistakes people make the first time they try hiking with a baby
00:17:03 The secret behind Shanti’s massive success
00:18:41 On being big enough to become a resource for others
00:20:03 How false imagery keeps communities from integrating
00:22:42 The scientifically proven benefits of being outdoors
00:25:13 The greatest challenges facing young mothers, and how getting outdoors can help overcome them
00:27:42 Changing your brain chemistry for hours in just a few minutes
00:29:04 The power of hiking to normalize differences and disabilities
00:32:00 One unusual reason why getting together outdoors is more inclusive
00:32:44 How a hiking community became an incredible system after a hurricane
00:34:47 Life advice: try not to break up in the first two years of having a child
00:37:49 Power in numbers: lobbying for nursing benches on hiking trails
00:41:20 How one Hike It Baby ambassador got elected to local government
00:42:09 $10 a year makes people a lot more accountable
00:44:32 How Hike It Baby manages to stay one big happy family
00:46:32 Getting a million people on trail
00:49:33 Helping people escape our “inside culture”
00:51:37 The biggest parenting lesson Shanti has learned from hiking
00:55:37 The many benefits of dirt
00:58:36 Nature is not something to be feared
01:00:17 The biggest challenges Shanti experienced growing Hike It Baby
01:01:45 The power of leaning on the experience of bigger non-profits
01:03:30 You have to run a non-profit like a business
01:05:18 Pro tips: think small, start small
01:06:25 Letting your organization have the strength to be powerful without you
01:08:45 The hidden peril of grants
01:10:06 Shanti’s biggest concern about the state of humanity today
01:12:15 Online communities are not a substitution for connecting in real-life
01:13:39 About the adventure’s you’ll find in Shanti’s book
01:18:15 Knowing where to go and what gear to use changes everything
01:19:09 Shanti’s extraordinary person: ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio
01:21:48 A message to the world: if you’re having a bad day, go outside!
Listen as Podcast
Shanti Hodges is an author, founder, mother, and most importantly, hiker.
In 2013 Shanti started the organization Hike It Baby in Portland, Oregon. Today Hike It Baby has over 300 branches around the world, and serves over 250 000 families.
Shanti is also the author of the book “Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers” (2018), and her personal mission is to get one million families hiking by 2020.
Connect with Shanti
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1:31 Rob Konrad
Hey welcome, this is Rob Konrad from Switzerland. Sometimes, seemingly simple ideas can have an amazing impact. In 2013 when Shanti Hodges started hiking with a newborn baby and just five other moms to connect and to enjoy the outdoors together, she didn't expect that five years later, the idea would have grown into the organization it is today, with over 300 branches across the globe, over 2500 monthly organized hikes and over 180,000 member families. So I'm glad that the founder of Hike it Baby found some time between running her organization, her family and of course hiking, to talk with me today about why it's so important that we spend more time outdoors, how you can get started and what it means to run a non profit organization of this size. Thank you very much. Welcome Shanti Hodges.
2:18 Shanti Hodges
Hi, thanks for having me on.
2:20 Rob Konrad
Wonderful. I feel a bit bad, we're not doing this, like outside. But at least
2:26 Shanti Hodges
If everyone did meetings with the outside… so, this wouldn't have worked out though although, you could have flown over here.
2:31 Rob Konrad
Yeah, well, maybe I will at some point, but yeah, and it's it's dark outside, so there wouldn't be much to see anyway. So yeah. So 180,000 member families, right, is that the number?
2:46 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, it's a little bit vague because we have people that consider themselves part of our organization, but their actions are on our Facebook group, and they really use our group to chat with each other, ask questions, I'm thinking of getting this backpack, what carrier should I get? I'm traveling to Europe, what carrier should I take, you know, that kind of stuff. So, um, so it's, that's so we're actually 250,000 in our Facebook groups around the world. But, you know, there's also people come and go, I mean, over the years, we've had at least that I mean, well, over 100,000 people register on our website, whether they're active now or not, I think where we're actually really truly active is we have about 25,000 people who hike on a regular basis, meaning they're very active, very involved. As an organization like ours grows, people – like it goes through ups and downs, it's not like it just grow, grow, grow, grow and that's the thing right now, we're actually sort of in not a down, but we're trying to level it out because we got so big, so fast, and it was too much like, it was like, we didn't, I didn't know when I started this, that I would end up with 300 different Facebook groups that we'd have to manage. I didn't know we'd have this calendar that's like, it's really complicated, like the online details and like the technical, you know, I mean, you have to be a webmaster to like, learn all this. Like, we don't program our own website, because it's so complicated.
4:11 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, but what's really cool is the impact it's having on community after community and that now in now that we're five years old, our intention is very much to grow strong and solid and really service people and not just like, grow wild.
4:31 Rob Konrad
4:32 Shanti Hodges
You do have to cultivate it after a while, you can't just let it go otherwise.
4:36 Rob Konrad
Let grow wild, yeah, yeah.
4:37 Shanti Hodges
It's like, it's really cool that it would grow that fast but it can also end up you know, a freight train that collapses, you know, it just crashes.
4:46 Rob Konrad
Absolutely, absolutely. Do you ever sit back and think like, holy shit, this is quite big, like…?
4:51 Shanti Hodges
Every day and it's hard because I was just saying this to someone the other day when I started it all, I didn't really understand what it meant to be a public person. Like I thought, Oh, yeah, no problem, like, I'll be the front runner, because you need someone like leading this charge, this movement, so that there's like a face and a child to identify with, and a mom to identify with. But God once you become a really public person, and you have to like, I don't think anyone, I mean, some people, they're like, I want to be an actor, I want to be famous, but I didn't want as much publicity as I got. And now that I have the publicity, it's a little overwhelming and overwhelming for my family. And so we've had to actually step back a little bit and say, like, hey, organization, you have to run this without me, because it's really hard on my child.
5:36 Shanti Hodges
Like my, my, after this summer, we had cameras following us and it was really cool but my son was like, ‘Mom, I'm not the hike it baby, baby anymore'. ______ It's my duty as a parent to like, he just wants to go hiking, he doesn't want to like have to be like, the leader and the you know, _____ , and taking pictures of us. And so, so yeah, it's, it's hard when you take on something like this. You don't think a non-profit's going to end up with so much publicity and so much, you know, you're just think you're doing a good act of like, let's just get people outside.
6:10 Rob Konrad
Yeah, so I'm sure you've told the story a million times but, um, if you could just quickly recap how you got started?
6:15 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, I mean, really, because my husband worked in Alaska, and he was three weeks on, two weeks off on a rotation, I kind of knew he was going to be going back to work. He took nine weeks off when we had our child, but then it was like, wow, I'm going to be alone. And I was kind of like, like, I didn't mind, I'd always, you know, I'd hiked it wasn't like I was inexperienced, I just, the thought of, all of a sudden of having this child like, how am I going to buckle my buckle? How am I going to like, what if the baby throws up? What if the baby starts crying, and I'm all alone, and I'm really far away and like, my husband isn't at home to come pick us up or, you know. So there was a lot of panic and I mean, part of it is quite is hormones.
6:52 Shanti Hodges
I was sitting inside in a room with a bunch of women and they were, it was like a new mama group and, and it was cool. Like, everyone was really awesome but I just was like, Oh, I'd rather be outside, wouldn't you? Like, Who wants to go outside with me? So. So we were sitting inside and I just said, ‘Does anyone want to meet me next week?' And five women showed up the first week and 11 the following week and that's when dads started showing up and then I met this dad, who is a stay at home dad, and he and I became super good hike buddies and we would host like four hikes a week together.
7:17 Shanti Hodges
And so it just became this thing and I really didn't want it to just be a mom group. I wanted it to be a community of people that were just trying to get outside together and spend time. So you could have grown-up time, even though you were doing this either stay at home thing, or you wanted to spend more time with other families outside on the weekend, whenever in the evenings and just have a hike anytime you wanted to go.
7:41 Rob Konrad
Okay. And then so at what point did it really explode to to the size it is?
7:46 Shanti Hodges
After the first year. I mean, within one year, I mean, the first year was just like in Oregon and Portland and I kind of knew it could be something. At first, it was an LLC, just to protect my family and then I was like, wow, this is getting really big. And for a couple years, I was like, I don't know, if I want to turn this into a nonprofit, because there was like, Board of Directors and sometimes brands would kind of like, you know, it became like, they were like, well, what's your cause if you're a nonprofit? And it's like hiking. So, to explain to people that like, you know, it, just like two people – they were like, well, why don't you just have a thing where people pay per hike and it's like, no one wanted to pay to hike, because hiking is free but they weren't realizing, like, it actually took a lot to run all this. So it was really I was really torn.
8:26 Shanti Hodges
And I also wanted it to be really free thing. I didn't want people to pay a lot of money to go out and do this. It's like, if it's a class, then you have to really charge something and have a whole company behind it. If it's a nonprofit, you don't necessarily have to charge but you really have to go after grants and you have to go have a system and you have to have a program. So it was it was just an interesting transition. It took a couple years to decide like this has to be a non profit because really at the core of it is just about getting people outside. It's not really about building a big business around it.
8:54 Rob Konrad
8:56 Rob Konrad
Did you seek out the media attention initially or did it just happen?
9:00 Shanti Hodges
It was just organic like when I did an article I I knew someone at Backpacker magazine, I'm like, hey, can you throw something in Backpacker and they did and a few magazines threw things out there and somehow. You know, where how it happened was Facebook. I started posting pictures. I was always really posting pictures of all the hikes and other people would visit some other cities and they'd go hiking with us and then they'd share it in their community. Look at this amazing hike I did. And they'd share the picture from our Facebook groups and from our public page and so that really started spreading, people started contacting from around the country.
9:34 Shanti Hodges
And it really happened overnight, where we went from Portland, to suddenly, like racing Wisconsin, and where else we were Corvallis and Eugene and then suddenly, someone contacted us from Texas. And like, it's just like it just what, and then what would happen is, it would start in one city and then it would spider out. So like, once it would start in and then like, it'd be like Boulder and someone from Denver, will contact us or someone from Little 10 and like all these different cities would spider around it, like a spider web. And so it was just, it was quick. It was really quick. And within a year, it was like 100 cities. Whoa, that's a lot.
10:12 Rob Konrad
So how is it organized? How does it work? I mean, if I wanted to start a hub in my city, is there any, like any checks on what I'm doing? Or is any program that I need to follow? Is there any structure that I need to follow? How does it work?
10:28 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, we really had to put a program in place. It was a little bit hard for a while to do that because I was just like, ‘No, I just want people to, like, freely hike', but then, you know, things started happening, like, people would post their businesses like, you know, their, their person to person businesses, like, you know, buy my oils, buy this, buy that, you know, like all this stuff, so we're like, okay, we have to put a system in place, otherwise, it's just going to go wild. And then also just the liability of like people hiking all over the country, we just needed to have a system.
10:57 Shanti Hodges
So we created an ambassador program where people could sign up to be an ambassador. And it meant that you were went through training program with us online, you learned about our principles, our mission, vision values, what we were, you know, why we needed to raise money, what types of tools we were supporting, why, you know, how each branch fit with each other branch. It took a long time to really make a program that really worked for a lot of people, because there was this notion of, like, well, I started this branch in my city, this is my branch. And it's like, no, we're a we, we're a we, we're a community. And so you have to actually really have a program and keep reminding people we're a community and if that it's, it's much bigger than you and myself, it's all of us. And it's funny, it's really easy for programs to I think get derailed by that, by people get really excited about their community and then they morph it into their community, which is important. But at the same time, you have to be really aware that if you don't have a real program, it will die out when that person leaves. So if it's so dependent on one person, and that's what I saw online a lot was there's these really cool hiking groups all over the country. But then a mom would age out, and then it would end.
12:08 Shanti Hodges
So for consistency, there is a program so there's a program you join, and then you get involved with your community, we teach you how to build out that community, we help manage that community with you somewhat. And then if you decide to go, you can pass it on to someone else, help us find another ambassador, or we let it just like, sit and float on its own and eventually someone might pick it up or it might just close down if it, if it doesn't work in that city. It would be nice if it worked in every single city but it doesn't like there's some places where just for whatever, whatever reason, they have really long winters, people aren't very outdoorsy. So we do our best. And one way we do that is by really redefining hike and saying hike is anything it can be a walk in your neighborhood with your strollers on a concrete, it doesn't need to be it's just the idea of getting outside with your children every day, regularly with friends, finding community, so you don't feel alone, you don't have that that isolating feeling as a new parent.
13:03 Rob Konrad
Okay, so um, when I first heard about the idea I was a bit surprised with like, go hiking is like just pack my stuff and go outside. So why why do we, why do we need the organization for that? Could you explain a little bit what kind of support you offer to the people who join your organization, and what kind of tips you give?
13:27 Shanti Hodges
We have tons of blogs on layering and how to get out there, what type of gear to get, you know. We get this question all the time going traveling, whether it's Europe or around the US. Do I take my big frame pack and a little carrier, like, what do I bring. So helping people with that also, we have all kinds of fun downloadables to keep your kids motivated. So we made these little like fun worksheets that you can download and print up like little checklist of all the things to find on trail and just all kinds of tips in general to just like, make it so that you don't feel like you're sitting there looking at all your gear and going do I have the right stuff like a night? You know, it's it's different.
13:57 Shanti Hodges
When you hike on your own you're like, whatever, if I'm going to be hungry on the trail, fine. If I brought the wrong shoes, and I'm sliding down the hill, I'll deal with it. But when you have a baby also like, ooh, you know, do I do I need to buy fancy gear for this or can I just get away with this, or and then also like, now I've got two kids. And a big thing we found is we give trail knowledge which is that you don't know when you get to hike? Is there a steep drop offs? Is it on the side of a highway, and you have to get your kids out on a skinny little path on the side of the highway. Well, and you've got two kids and you're negotiating that with cars dipping by like, these are things that we can help share with someone whether they're actually hiking with us or not. And that's really important. Just that knowledge of a trail because in America anyway, people will go to like five different trail guides for the same trail to decide, is that really family friendly? One says family friendly another says steep drop off and you're like, whoa, which is it? And when they say family friendly was it someone who's 30 with no kids saying it's family friendly, because it seems fine. But its friendly for a 12 year old, not for a two year old or twins that are running in opposite directions.
14:56 Rob Konrad
I see. Okay. And and so what are the typical beginner's mistakes that people make when when they start hiking? Is it over packing?
15:14 Shanti Hodges
Over packing or under. So it's like the first time I went with my stroller out on the trail with my carrier in my thing and like I mean, I had everything and but then the next then as I got along, I started seeing people like not knowing because it's really hard to find shoes for little tiny babies. Like what do you put on a baby's feet in cold weather? Like so you put a pair of socks on and then you put another pair of socks on and now their feet are cut off, the circulation's cut off. So like just understanding what layering means and like how much people are over dressing their kids to way too hot, right, like, and they're not thinking about, oh, they're up against my body. So they're really I don't need to put that giant down suit on them when they're up against my body underneath my jacket.
15:59 Shanti Hodges
And just just in general. Like I think, you know, trying to decide if a trail is good for a kid, like learning how to trust your kid when they're like 2, 3, 4 and they're starting to walk. Like, you know, I can't tell you how many parents just like are so nervous to go to trail with their kids are like, oh, like a woman just said this to me yesterday, oh, my kid would just run off and I'd never be able to keep up. Like, you know, just that just we're there as a community will then go out with us and that kid will get held back by other kids because those other kids will will keep them busy and engage or my kid won't go anywhere, they just get to the trail, they sit in the middle of the trail. Well, if you're with a community, they won't sit in the middle of the trail. They'll want to keep going with all the kids. So there's a lot that comes with community that people underestimate. We've had a lot of people say that to us. They didn't know they were going to need us till they found us.
16:49 Rob Konrad
So what what do you think, what's the thing that made you so successful with your organization? Is it isn't that community aspect and people kind of bond together and get to know new people and and to learn from you from from each other. Oh, well, what's the secret?
17:03 Shanti Hodges
I think community. But I think also that we viewed our community as just a model to help other communities. So like, I've always felt like, I don't care if people are like, oh, that other groups competition to you. And I'm like, no, there's no such thing. It's like, if they're getting on a trail, and we're getting on trail we're all succeeding. So I hope that as we evolve and grow, we can continue to be that support for little local hike groups, and not like a local hike group feels like they have to compete with Hike It Baby, the big, bad monster, you know. Like, that's what happens when you become the biggest organization is that people will try and vilify you and say that you're, you know, going to try and put all the other hike organizations out of business. It's not like that at all.
17:43 Shanti Hodges
It's like, we're a tool, and I hope that we can continue to evolve and because we're big, get the resources to make tools for all the little hike groups to use us. And, and, you know, my long term goal was like, oh, you know, what if we can insure all those little hike groups, because I get really nervous, seeing people just taking kids out, and just being like, do you know that, like, if anything happened to you on that hike with a kid like, that can be so bad for your family. It's like, I mean, it's not like that in all countries. But America has a lot of legality and liability, especially when it comes to children. So there's that. And then also, just to be kind of a, you know, just a help, a guide for, for families getting out there and especially for communities that maybe don't want to be part of Hike It Baby or that are part of their own community. I mean, we find, like, I know, I've been in some cities, and there's like a strong African American presence community and there are already groups, and they're like, we aren't interested in Hike It Baby. But I hope we can be a support tool for groups that do want to have their own community and so that we can share fun downloadables and tips and, you know, and be a support in any kind of way, you know, discounts on product, stuff like that, and get it giving away free products.
18:59 Shanti Hodges
We have a new program we just got a grant for, and it's called Littlest Hiker. And we're going to be going into five cities around the country, and actually really working hard to get families in the hospital when they're, like, still fresh, and just be like, get them on trail from really early on and then really focus especially on getting people of color and families that do not normally access the outdoors because it's just not part of their culture. How do we reach out to those communities? So we can get beyond just what the person to person, family to family, middle class family to middle class family is really typical. And so it would be nice to broaden and get beyond that but it does take really strong initiative and intention to make that happen.
19:42 Rob Konrad
When we had our pre- interview there's something we talked about that there are big cultural differences in who hikes and who's not hiking, so it's, it's not really a stereotype that people who typically hike are those, the middle class, whites, families, and that's not a stereotype. That's how it is actually, right?
20:03 Shanti Hodges
Well, it is but it's also because of the imagery we see. So we work really hard at not creating imagery that's false, but really finding out and reaching out to members of the Hike It Baby community who are people of color, who are really getting out there I mean like, what was it about this community that drew you in? Why are you here, and can we help, you know, can we have you tell your story so that you will encourage other people to know this is like, not a scary group to join? It's a great way to get outside. I do think having been in the outdoor industry for 20-25 years, when I think back to even like me, for example, getting into mountain biking like I never saw a woman on a mountain bike 30 years ago, when I was like starting to mountain bike. 35 years ago, you didn't see a woman on a mountain biking in a picture ever. So why would I ever, I didn't have any role models. So in the same thing, and hiking, if all you're fancying are I mean, you know I hate to say it, but like one of our biggest sponsors is _____ , and I love them to death, but they are from Germany. So like, a lot of their imagery is going to come out of Germany and that is most likely going to be a fairly white family if you see a family photo. And so it's really important that us, hike it baby, we we, with all intention really work hard to show that lots of families are getting out and your family can get out. But you're only going to be interested if you see families that look like your family. So and that also includes like getting older parents out, older grandparents out, you know, whenever we can we show grandma who's 75 out hiking with her two year old grandchild, you know, or great grandchild because we want to show that that hiking is a sport that you can do and keep getting outside from a young age and it's it's so healthy for the whole family. It's such a good, I mean, shifts families' energy towards each other, you know, towards their community towards nature. And when you teach children from a really young age, to have a connection with nature, they're going to take care of it. I mean, that's just a proven fact.
22:07 Rob Konrad
So let's talk a little bit about the benefits of you know of hiking, and of being outdoors. You mentioned it brings family together, it's the greatest sense of you know of bond I guess between members of a family, but what what are other benefits that you that you've seen?
22:23 Shanti Hodges
I just think like, it really can if you're having a bad day, your day can't be bad once you get outside, right. Like, even if you're day goes bad when you get outside and you're like, it's snowing, and then you slip on the snow and you know, it's still like you start laughing at yourself because you're just like, oh my god. Like it, there's just the benefits of the outdoors. Everything that we're finding out, your brain changes in the outdoors, your chemistry, your, your body, your children, you see, you can see a child that's just wound up in the house, and the TV's on and there's noise and the dog's barking and they're just all wound up and you get them outside and it's just like, quiet. And they're just suddenly like laughing and playing in a mud puddle or climbing up on a tree stump or – it just changes their energy, changes your energy. Like if you were having a bad day with your child, get outside and I promise you your day will turn around.
23:15 Rob Konrad
And something you mentioned I think in another interview that it's it's really never too early to get started – because there's a point where it's almost too late, when you know people are in fourth grade and they're already used to PlayStation and then whenever they do so it's really good to start early so that they get used to it and they get to enjoy it from an early age, right?
23:35 Shanti Hodges
Yeah and you know, I have to say it's, it's interesting, because when I started hiking with Mason, I read an article on this parents website in the US, that's like it's Baby Center. com and it's still up but I'm just like, oh my god, I can't believe this article still up but it's like, absolutely under no circumstances do you hike with a child before six weeks of age and I was like what? Like too much jostling you can give them Shaken Baby Syndrome from your body. It's so false. Like the very best thing you can do as a new parent literally, is put the baby up against your skin and go outside and start walking. Like that's what you should be doing. I mean, I guess if they're saying like, don't go out on a 10 mile hike to, you know, 12,000 feet elevation because of altitude sickness, okay. But, but really, like, it's, it's so healing for a parent to get outside. You know, my husband used to take my son so I could get sleep breaks, because he wasn't a great night sleeper, we take him in the day and just like, strap them on and off, they go and they go hiking for hours, you take a bottle, and it was awesome. And it was so bonding for them. And it just, they come back so happy and it was great. So I just I, I really encourage people to start as soon as you feel like you can get outside, even if it's like around your block, or just, you know, down to the park and walking around the park, doesn't have to be an epic journey.
25:01 Rob Konrad
And you've seen thousands of people in terms of families, thousands of young mothers probably over the last few years. What are the typical challenges for young mothers?
25:13 Shanti Hodges
I think comparing themselves to others and they'll see like one woman that just started going out hiking like five days after postpartum with her second kid or, you know, so just not, you know, turn all that off and like, just do what works for you. So if sitting in your backyard is all that works for you, great, sit in your backyard, you know, um, so I think that's a challenge.
25:36 Shanti Hodges
I think also isolation, I think, till people find us, they kind of, there is this this real popular trend in the US to be like lonely mama syndrome. Like, you're alone, there's nobody there, all your friends disappeared and now, you are alone with this baby. And like, I just think that's just I don't like seeing that because I'm just like, no, you know, like, there's a lot of community out there. Even if you're an introverted person, I've had so many introverted people tell me, they joined Hike It Baby and they loved how, as introverted as they were, they could go on a hike, and they didn't have to like chitchat or be friendly with people. They could just quietly hike along and, and just go and that's what's nice about hiking is you can kind of be in your own space on the trail, even if you're with other people, and then you're not alone. So that's, I think that loneliness, that isolation. I think postpartum depression is very real. I think most women suffer from even a little bit of it, because you're losing your identity and you suddenly have a child attached to you at all times. And especially the first one is the hardest but Shannon would tell you my friend, Shannon, and she said, she's had, you know, nine kids and she said it was hard all the way up to the last one. I mean, I think different people have different postpartum experiences. Yeah, I mean, I think I think also it gives you a lot of confidence to get out and take your child out into nature. It's very confidence building. So I really encourage women to do it and it also can be very bonding, like, my husband and I can have the worst fight in the world and we go out hiking and we all get along.
27:11 Rob Konrad
And it's also a great exercise. I mean, it's, it's a nice way to exercise, especially after you've just given birth. I mean, you can probably you're not feeling like going running in the first couple weeks, but that having a walk and you know, doing very low, low, low, low impact hiking, yeah, yeah, that's, that's something you always can do. And that's even good for you and gets you know, gets everything in place and like a circulation going again and then it's, it's really good for your well being.
27:42 Shanti Hodges
The chemistry in your brain I mean, it will change your brain chemistry and it's been proven, it's like even a little walk will have hours, hours of effect after you come back to it's not just like getting affected just when you're doing that huffing and puffing and walking. It's when you get home just the chemistry in your brain has changed.
28:03 Rob Konrad
What I really liked is that you don't exclude anyone really and there's like this one mother with her son who has a genetic disorder, I think Gavin is his name, and she was really afraid of even getting in touch with you guys because my son has some development issues, brain disorder, and but still he he joined and now there's, there's some cute videos out that he really enjoys the time. And then then he is walking on his little I don't know how do you call these things? Yeah, Walker. Yeah. And and it's working out perfectly fine and it's, it's, they're having a great time and it's also great for, for kids to, to, you know, be in touch with other kids.
28:45 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, we find there's a lot of families with kids with disabilities in Hike It Baby because it's a community activity where everyone's going to wait for you, no one's in a hurry to get through hike, it's not a workout, it's not a let's hammer this hike out. I mean there are some where people will say I'm going to be going really fast so you know, bring your fast pace on. But really for the most part, a majority of what we do is really just focus on bringing kids together. We really like it when kids have differences and disabilities because to normalize that and make it so that my son well my sister's son has Down Syndrome and so my son's grown up with Zachy having Down Syndrome always, but um, but for him to also see the other kids have differences from him, that not all kids are like him. And actually, as Mason's gotten older, we discovered he has sensory processing disorder, which is just really common and a lot more common than people think. Like, in the past I would have been when a kid gets in school, they say, oh, that's a bad kid. But really, those bad kids often have sensory issues where sound bothers them, smells bother them, lights bother them rather, there's this. And what's great is in out in the outdoors, you actually you don't have that. You really cure that and help that and so, so it's really great to see kids that may not get along in classrooms, or library hours, or these things that are like sort of supposed to be for all kids, you know, little fairs or, you know, painting, you know, you go to these little painting things, and like, my son couldn't do those, he would have like, bobbed kids on the head and throw paint at them.
30:22 Shanti Hodges
But in Hike It Baby, that was like, okay, if he bobbed a kid on the head, like we all worked it out. It was like those parents in the outdoors, really seem more understanding of rougher play and just more like, let the kids work it out more and let kids you know, or kids fall down like parents are much more inclined in the outdoors to let kids work it out. And like with Gavin and Brandi, like she said, her therapist, her physical therapist just kept saying, what are you doing like he's, he's sailing so much further than we had expected. And it was because he was seeing all these other kids walking, and kids would come up and want to borrow his walker and walk with it. And so it was really cool because that showed Gavin like it normalized it for Gavin, it normalized it for other kids and it really encouraged Gavin to walk without a walker. So he just kept pushing his walker aside and giving it to other kids and then walking.
31:12 Shanti Hodges
It's awesome, I mean different cities have different examples of that. We've had a lot of parents with kids with feeding tubes, with oxygen that just feel like so it's so nice to go out with other families that are going to not look at their kid like they're weird or different, where they feel like maybe out of place and other situations.
31:30 Rob Konrad
Okay. Okay. If someone says, Look, my kids have, you know has certain special needs, I guess you also have experience with with know how to how to handle that, you can give advice and know what how to how to cater for the special needs that they might have.
31:45 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, I mean, it really depends branch to branch but we also found a lot of people with peanut allergies couldn't go to a lot of kids things because, or like strong, really strong allergies couldn't be at things because other kids would have nuts and parents wouldn't respect that and indoor situations it was very dangerous, even, you know, could be life threatening. So it really I mean, there's a lot of reasons why outside play for groups of kids works well. It really allows a lot more families to come together that maybe wouldn't be able to in a lot of situations.
32:17 Rob Konrad
Okay, um, what are some of the most memorable events or things that happened in the past few years?
32:24 Shanti Hodges
Oh my gosh there are so many. I feel like there are every day I mean, I get, what for me, it's just that daily, I get an email from someone saying thank you, you don't know how much this impacted my family. And when I see that I'm just like, wow, like it's all you guys it's all the community; but it's really nice to see that so that's great. I think the thing that's most memorable is just how many times I've seen over and over like when the hurricane happened down in or the hurricane down Houston, when the fires happened in California, we had a mom in New Jersey who had a child born early and she was new to the community and everybody just rushed in and like took care of their house and took care of their baby was in the NICU in the you know, an emergency care for for three weeks and they all took care and fed her whole family, fed her dog.
33:16 Shanti Hodges
So just we've seen so much of that where the community acts in a similar way to a church or, you know, an organized fashion where they just come together and and I mean, I remember the very first few months we started, hike it baby, a woman was on trial talking about how her family was really struggling financially. And she was just like, yeah, you know, even shopping has been a challenge. Well, another mom went out gathered a bunch of women and they gathered some money and they went and did a huge grocery shopping and brought it and dropped it off at her house. And like, you just hear that kind of stuff and you're like, Oh, my God, I'm like, that's not, that actually, that happened in Portland and I know, it's, I've heard it over and over, that's happened in other communities, and people coming up with clothing for each other, you know, family gets a pack stolen like a frame pack and other family will donate one I mean, and brands coming in and helping and that way too. I mean, there's just been so many instances of just people helping people. And that's what I love about community is that when you create a strong community, people really identify with it, and they see the impact of just hiking together what it's done, and then they feel this love and then they carry it forward, and it creates a pay it forward community.
34:27 Rob Konrad
Okay, talking about love, I'm sorry, I have to ask this but I was just curious when I read it. Your husband proposed to you on a trail and in the very strange way.
34:41 Shanti Hodges
We, I mean, we, we had a really, we had a really funny on and off relationship. You know, I don't think we ever meant to get married and have a kid and lots of people say that story you know. We were really different people. But, you know, it's really, I mean, he, he sort of nervously proposed to me on trail because I definitely – I was pregnant and we just weren't sure about, you know, what, what our future will be, but it just, it just seemed like it was the right thing to do. And then that said, it was still really hard, the first two years. I always tell people, when they're thinking of breaking up in their first two years of having a child, go for a hike, work it out, don't do it. Because the first two years or so hard, it's such a, it's a change of who you are. You lose your identity, you're suddenly in a relationship, you know, for Mark and I, it was Mark and I, and now we're in a relationship with this third person.
35:33 Rob Konrad
Yeah, and the focus shifts to the other person, there completely.
35:36 Shanti Hodges
So different and it's hard. And then, you know, you just got to keep working on it, working at it. And I'm so happy that we work through everything and that we, you know, that that my, I think the trail saved my husband and I so many times. So, like, I, you know, and actually, every time I hike on that trail, where we first decided like, okay, we're going to get married, oh, my God, we're gonna do this, we're really doing this like it's also special like it's also the very first trail I ever hiked on with Mason by myself, and the very first Hike It Baby hike, I mean it's just sort of this common, it's a very common town trail in the town we lived in. It was nothing. There wasn't an epic view to it. There wasn't like it was just a common trail that we hiked every day that was very familiar and I love that because that's also the beginning of hike it baby. It was about you know, the common. I wasn't saying to people go find an epic waterfall hike with your baby. I was saying, go find the trails in your town that you can all do together and that you can create community and create memories on. So, yeah.
36:42 Rob Konrad
Thanks for sharing. So how often do do people typically hike when they join the organization? Is it is every week, is it a few times a week?
36:52 Shanti Hodges
It depends I mean in some cities like in Portland at one point, when we were really a booming organization in Portland, we had 12 a day sometimes.
37:02 Rob Konrad
37:03 Shanti Hodges
But right now, you know, maybe four a week, you know, it just depends and like it goes through waves too, where we have a really active ambassador who fires up a whole bunch of people and gets them all excited and then all these people start hiking. Um, so it depends. We have probably around, we at one point did have about 2500 hikes a month. Lately, we've been around 2000, it's also winter, which slows us down. Also, a lot of hike groups started after us because they saw the success of our group and that probably pulled away from some ours. But again, like I said, we're not trying to be the biggest, most badass – we're just trying to, like, encourage and inspire wherever we go. So if it means another group takes off that has a bigger presence in a community, that's totally, that's awesome and it's all just getting people outside.
37:47 Shanti Hodges
So we just encourage people to use our calendar and like post because it actually helps us to be able to talk to parks in different cities and say, look how many hikes are happening in this park at this time. So we can, we're a record keeper of what's happening across the country for hiking, for families. So literally, in some parks, like in Portland, we noticed after we started doing a ton of hikes there that they and we, I even talked to a park ranger about how I wish there was more nursing benches at the beginning of the park trail head because I could only get so far on the trail. And a lot of the benches were way further in. And then all of a sudden, a bench appeared right at the beginning. Like, that's awesome. So I mean, I don't know for sure that we had that impact but they knew how many hikes we were doing there, and how many new moms were coming and to have a nursing bench when you're starting it's so nice. So you're like, because you're not really like, able to hike and nurse and stuff, that comes with time. Yeah, so it's, a lot lots happening out there.
38:52 Rob Konrad
How do I get started? What are you how do we get in touch with you, and how do you find my, my group my, my chapter, or how do you call them?
39:01 Shanti Hodges
We call them branches like branches of a tree, and we thought that early on, because it's just, it really is a strong, you need that strong root system, and then those branches to branch off and like really blossom. Um, and so you go on hikeitbaby.com, you can just post the hike, you need to have a branch in your city to post a hike, it will appear on a calendar and people can find it and then you just share that link on your Facebook, you share it with people around you, you can become an ambassador and start a branch in your city or you can, you can also just join a branch that exists or you can just post hikes and people will come. It's, you know, not every area like I live in southern Utah, which is really remote. I mean, there's a lot of little cities and so we sort of encompass the whole area and it's probably like 10 cities around little cities and, you know, and it's like, maybe an hour drive to some things, maybe an hour and a half, I mean, people still do it, they'll drive quite a long distance to find a community to hike with. The other thing for this area for example, people will come from out of the city or out of the country out of the state, like, all over and they'll hike with us because they know about our calendar. So you can use it and travel and go to other cities. Like if you came to America, and you were traveling around, you could just go from city to city and find hikes to do through the calendar.
40:23 Rob Konrad
So you've grown into a really big organizations you have, like, how many people that work for you currently, in terms of the management of the organization?
40:31 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, like 13 employees. But then there's like, probably over there's over 600 ambassadors, and those are people that are running their cities there and then there's people that work, about 100 people that work on teams that help us manage different aspects. So like training, or our trail guide, or helping with relations with different cities, with grants, with grant writing. So there's all these different teams and so what's cool about it, too, is that people that join can also just join and decide to help us on a national level, and learn all kinds of skills. So learning blogging, learning about newsletters, learning about photography, you know, how to inspire, you know, cities, work with cities, work with government, we have one woman who actually got elected to a government position after she was part of Hike It Baby for a couple of years, because everybody knew her in the park system, because she was always the Hike It Baby lady in the park. And so she actually is now on the park commission and she's just like, I never in a million years, would have thought of myself becoming like a politician and like, getting elected to this, and she was so excited and she's like, I feel like I'm faking it, I go to these meetings with all these grownups and I'm like, a politician in the room with them. So, you know so it's like, it's really neat to see how hike it baby can affect people and change their lives and, and give them different insight to maybe even different careers they want to have, because they worked with us and volunteered with us.
42:04 Rob Konrad
So with the donations that you get, so it's $10 a year to join?
42:09 Shanti Hodges
10 a year and it really helped we didn't have it but you know, I have to say, people are a lot more accountable, and they're are a lot more likely to show up and they're a lot more likely to submit hikes, and then it helped us have a base to know how many people were really, truly involved with us by doing that.
42:24 Rob Konrad
Okay. And that money money is used to cover expenses, and to to pay for the people who are full time full time in the organization and everything?
42:34 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, and it's also used, I mean, we have a $30 one that people can pay and then that helps us bring more people and create programming to get more people out on the trail and reach out to people. We have $100 lifetime membership that you pay one time, and it's all for your whole life. The branch ambassador fee is $50, but then it's like sort of sliding scale too. We understand that not everybody has that and, you know, if you really are passionate, you want to get involved there are so many ways to get involved in volunteer time. And the branch ambassador fee goes to training. We have a pretty comprehensive training program online and technology and all that.
43:10 Shanti Hodges
So the technology is, it's a huge piece that I think a lot of people are just like, oh, we'll just have a Facebook page. Well, Facebook can shut down tomorrow, like, you don't own Facebook, you don't run Facebook, and they change things all the time and people are like, well, I'm not getting notifications about anything anymore. It's like, that was Facebook, we didn't do that. And so it's really important to us that people realize that a website is another piece, that Facebook is an awesome communication tool. Our newsletter is great, but our website is also something that ties us together across the whole country, and shows you where you can go do things and people you can connect with everywhere.
43:48 Rob Konrad
Okay, and then how do you keep control over this branch groups? Is that this, they're like, do you check on them every now and then or how does it work, I was just wondering?
43:53 Shanti Hodges
We have the ambassadors, we ask them to be accountable and be responsible for their groups. You know, occasionally we've had groups go kind of crazy rogue-ish, I guess. But for the most part, no, I mean, if you just say, this is the expectation, this is our mission, this is our vision, this is our values. If we share those, then great, let's, let's make this happen. We've never had to, like, shut a group down or anything like that. Um, I think because at the core of what we're doing, we're just hiking. We're not like, you know, it's, it's, it might be different if we were an organization that was really dealing with, you know, Red Cross or something like that. But this is just hiking. And so really, it's a with good heart and good intention. And I think even when there's disagreements within the organization, everyone's really at the end of the day, just out there to support other people getting outside, support themselves, and create community. And so I think that keeps it really, so it does stay a really nice, happy, friendly community and, and brings in really good people.
44:52 Shanti Hodges
I mean, I, I'm blown away by the volunteers. They're incredible and they dedicate so much time to getting people out in their community and getting people hiking and, and outside and it makes it makes a difference. I mean, I've had some people say, Oh my God, people come up to me in the store and say, Oh, you're the Hike It Baby lady and it makes them feel so good to know that's how their community sees them. It's a great way to be seen like that you're doing something healthy for your community like that.
45:17 Rob Konrad
Okay. So you talked about your vision, what's the vision of Hike It Baby, what's the long term plan?
45:25 Shanti Hodges
So many plans. Really right now just stability for the organization so it's around for a long time. We are launching a trail guide in January, which is super exciting, which will make it so you don't have to go to five different websites now, you can go to one website and find out, ‘is this really a family friendly trail?', and that you don't need a membership for, everybody can use that, anyone, it's accessible for all. And so really just like making it so when people join our organization, they feel that support, they feel that love, they feel connected to others, they feel like they really got something out of being part of the community. And that helped them raise their kids in a really fun, outdoorsy environment and and that we supported them in, in taking risks, and going out in the middle of winter, or going out during a rainstorm or, you know, learning about how to read a map or you know, all those things. So, that's, that's the thing it's just continuing to be improve, improve, improve upon supporting people. That's the long term vision right now.
46:26 Rob Konrad
Okay. Okay. In terms of memberships, you talked about 1 million members would be the next big goal.
46:32 Shanti Hodges
I mean, I wanted to see a million people on trail and, you know, in some ways I think we probably have done it in that not only have we gotten a lot of people out, but we've inspired other organizations to get people out and to grow and we've helped other organizations grow in a healthy fashion too so that they didn't blow up like us.
46:53 Shanti Hodges
We have a couple of sister organizations and sister brother organizations that we support and so I think we, I mean, we've gotten there, in a lot of ways because when I started, I couldn't find – I found a few online hike groups, but they were like, in one town, you know, in Colorado, and then one was in Wyoming, or, you know, like, they just weren't, there were, there wasn't a consistent group across the country. So, you know, we've done it, and we've been, we've impacted a lot of other people and inspired a lot of other people.
47:22 Shanti Hodges
So I feel like we've done it and my goal is just to keep, keep getting people outside, and to show the outdoor industry that like, getting outdoors isn't just like climbing a big mountain and rappelling down or you know, it's not just it's not just like, hammering it out on a mountain bike or surfing the biggest wave out there. It's it's really like starting with just like creating outdoor lovers from childhood where children just, I mean, they will open your eyes, you go out with a child and they look at a lady bug and they're just fascinated and you're like, wow, I never I would have passed right by that lady bug or, I mean, I still always think about this tiny little red spider that my son found on the ground. I mean, there's no way I would ever in a million years seen that spider and he said, ‘Mom, look at that spider, look at it' and I mean it was like, I mean, it was like microscopic and he saw it. And sure enough, it was the same little spider. And and those experiences are so important and so that's what I hope we keep influencing and inspiring us is to all slow down and get down to that two year old level and appreciate and enjoy being outside.
48:35 Rob Konrad
Absolutely and I think it's really important because what I've noticed and also some some of the people I've talked to, they keep saying the same thing. There are a lot of kids nowadays that kind of have lost touch to to nature and to reality in a way. So there's there's they're enclosed in this system within cities and they never go outside and it's scary how little they know about about nature and how things work and could be a thing like gardening, or even just you know knowing where food comes from and it's like, anything that gets them in touch with nature is so so critically important for their development and also just doing things with their hands you know going outside and trying to climb trees, even if it's just little branches, but just just going there and having the experience that they are not not falling down if I just climbed this little thing and then that there's so much for them in terms of their sense of you know being in that who they are and what they can do it it's it's critically important and we need to do more to get people outside and to get kids outside and to have these experiences.
49:27 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, yeah, I mean, there's, I mean, it's so important now, more than ever, because it's so easy. We have become an inside culture, you know, we don't go outside in the cold. We don't go outside in the wind and the rain or a hot, hot, hot hot weather. Oh, my God, how am I going to go outside in hot weather? I mean, it's so it's really important. Like, we do need to get back in touch with being outside. And so the earlier you get kids interested, the better it's going to be, the more that you will impact your child's decision making when they want to be, when they're a teenager, when they're older when they start thinking about things they want to do with their kids.
50:02 Rob Konrad
Yeah. What did you learn about motherhood?
50:07 Shanti Hodges
From hiking or from?
50:10 Rob Konrad
From the past five years that you've been doing this, I mean, you've seen lots of mothers and, in a way it's reducing the whole thing to mothers, it's not only mothers, but but it's parenthood I guess, but parenthood but motherhood in particular.
50:26 Shanti Hodges
Okay. So our tagline for Hike It Baby is ‘Parenthood is an adventure. Bring it outside'. And I'd say I learned that like, if parenthood is not going, well, if motherhood is not going well, just go outside. I've done it at eight o'clock at night, when I should be putting my child to bed. I'm like, no, this day is not going well. We're going hiking and I've literally done that. Okay. So I have really learned just that, you know, there is just, there's no book, there's no guide, there's nothing that can teach you anything but your gut. And if your gut says like, get outside, go get some exercise, go, you know, explore a little more, trust it and go with it.
51:03 Shanti Hodges
And I I think the big thing I've learned in the last five years is when we think fear, you know, it's so easy to be scared when your kid's climbing up something huge, or like go near a ledge, be like no. And I actually have learned in the last year that all the no go away from that cliff, go away from that edge has not been good for my son because he's really a cautious person anyway. And he is quite careful and thoughtful and so I noticed he started getting really mad at me whenever I would do that, because I'm not trusting him. So I really have had to learn you, you really have to pay close attention to what kind of child you have, and if you have a child that can be trusted, let like, let them, they're not going to get I mean, as long as it's not like 1000 foot drop. But if there's a little bit of a ledge, like, let your child go to the edge, let them, give them some free rein. Even though it's so scary. Like, it's so hard to watch your kid climb that tree, and you're like that there's or they can so fall, like, oh, yeah, you do that because, because that is going to give you a strong child. And if they break their arm, they break their arm like, they will survive it, they will survive it. You know so just really, like, it's so hard to let go, you know, like you're going to have to do when they're 18. So you might as well start when they're three.
52:26 Shanti Hodges
Like, it's a huge thing for especially for mothers. I think mothers can just be so like, you know, um, you know, I see my husband the way he'll be with my son and I'm just like, Oh, my God, like, Oh, you know, but then I go you know, it's okay to have some consciousness but let go, like, let go of your child a bit, let them explore especially in the outdoors, especially in nature. I mean, don't let them go running off in the shopping mall. But if you're outside, and they can go ahead of you on the trail, let them go ahead. Let them be the leader because that's going to make them a stronger child. And that's going to make you a stronger person too because you're trusting yourself. You're trusting, your gut is saying your child is a smart child and sure enough, your child runs ahead and comes back and you were right. They're a strong child.
53:12 Rob Konrad
And kids are not as stupid as we sometimes think every day. They do stupid stuff but they're in many senses if you let them just go wild then they're quite reasonable. So they know their boundaries, they will they will learn how what how far they can go and they will be test it a little bit but still, they're not stupid, ___ can jump off a cliff just to jump off at least most case.
53:34 Shanti Hodges
I mean, I've seen there are kids that are whoa, like, you're like, oh, I'm so glad this is not my kid. But then you need to learn what are the boundaries are with your kid and get a really good harness.
53:50 Rob Konrad
Yeah, but in a way, you don't help your kids by over protecting them. I mean, you you help your kids by by exposing them to risks and to by by teaching them to, to learn how to manage that risk itself, that they…
54:04 Shanti Hodges
Yeah and bumps and bruises are great. I mean, you know, if your kid falls and hurts themselves, they're not going to, they're going to remember that the next time. That is an important lesson you know, I mean, when Mason falls off of things, and he's crying, you know, run over like, and then have to be like, nope, you're okay, come on, let's get up. You know, and, and you see parents do that and, you know, sometimes like, whoa, you know, are they being mean but no, I mean, it's you've got to do that. You've got to let them cry and cry it out and get up and have them do it again, you know, and then that said, there are times when you do need to. You don't want to scare them so much that they won't do it again. So it's a fine, fine balance.
54:43 Rob Konrad
And oftentimes, we're more scared than the kids. This summer for example we have, we have three kids seven, four and two years old, three girls and this summer the little one managed to bump her head twice, like falling backwards, on the stone and like, like cutting, cutting her head open and everything was full of blood. And then one time we had a garden party and that happened again, like two weeks out of the first time and you know, all these mothers like ohh, do we need to go to the hospital, there's so much blood and everything. And she was like, I want to go, play like, I don't know, what are you talking about like, and then we just kind of knotted the hairs again, and everything was fine. And so sometimes we just tend to overreact. I mean, it's kids, are fine. Then they _________ but okay. Do you feel fine? Yeah, I feel fine. Do you want to go play again, go play? I mean, it's going to heal.
55:37 Shanti Hodges
Yeah. No, it's it's important to give. I mean, I think it's really important getting them dirty, letting them get dirty. I mean, that's another thing. Like, don't be afraid of dirt .because it's like, it's good for them. They're going to eat it. They're going to roll in it, they're going to…
55:52 Rob Konrad
And it's healthy for them, it's healthy for them. I've read so many studies that one of the reasons we have so many allergies, we have so many health issues with young kids is that they don't get exposed to dirt as much as they used to. In the past you just went outside and just get dirty and then as you said, you eat whatever you could find and nowadays we have to you know it's just is clinical and everything needs to be sterile. Don't touch it.
56:17 Shanti Hodges
Even in the playgrounds like people worry about taking their kids to playgrounds in public. You know, I was never very wary, Mason didn't get sick a lot so I'm lucky. I mean, I don't know what it would be like to be a parent with a kid that gets sick a lot. But I'm yeah, I mean, I was really like, germ like, really into him getting dirty , Oh, I shouldn't come play with you, my kid's got a runny nose. I'm like, oh, no, come on, over, bring that because I just wanted I wanted to keep his immune system really strong. And I do believe the more you're out in the world, the more you're exposed to, the stronger your body's going to be. Now that said, with global warming and stuff there's a lot of there is some scary stuff out there. I mean, there are a lot of mosquitoes and bugs and things, you know, ticks. Ticks are huge problem in America, I don't know.
57:01 Rob Konrad
talk about it, talk about it. Our big daughter was in the hospital for two weeks because of that because she had a tick bite and we didn't, we didn't realize it. We usually check when she's coming back home from the woods or something where she's playing and we live in an area which is not critica,l but where my like my wife's sister lives, they have a lot of ticks that have there. There are. Yeah. And so she, she one a few weeks ago, she came back home and she had a really swollen knee. And we thought, okay, maybe it's from nowhere, she hit her knee some somewhere or something, but just wouldn't go back. And she, you know, it was hurting. So she went, we went to doctor and then they found out that she has antibodies from a from an older tick infection. So then they had to start turning on antibiotics and everything and then like two weeks later, the whole leg starts to swell and get red. Like, it was like, oh, that's not good. Then went to the emergency room, they they said, Oh, this doesn't look doesn't look nice. She had to be operated next day. And they looked at her knee and everything so it's like so and so there was some, some, some, like, cross infection with something else that that was caused by the basically the so it was really we, like, two months ago, we had this really, two weeks of hospitals in and out and hundreds of tests. It was crazy. So it is, yeah.
58:22 Shanti Hodges
It's scary, I mean it's a part of nature, you know, it's there. But at the same time, it's just the same thing of like, you can be in a shopping mall, and your kid could get run over by something, you know, it's like, there's so much everywhere. The fear, nature is not something to be afraid of because if you just keep an eye on what's happening out there, where your environment, where you're from, where you live, what what things are out there, you know, I mean, I really, I think I saw something in backpacker magazine that was talking about, like, being attacked by a shark versus being hit by lightning versus, you know, getting bit by a tick versus, you know. There's really, it's, you know, nature, there's, there's things in nature, but you can just as easily and there's more likely chance of getting hit by a car on the freeway, having an accident on the freeway. So, yeah.
59:12 Rob Konrad
Life is a risk and it always ends up deadly so at the end of the day, so it's something we have to learn, but not as bad. What was your biggest challenge this past few years when you were growing the organization?
59:28 Shanti Hodges
Um, I think just, it's just hard to grow something like this. And then like the first couple years when I was alone at first and then I had Jessica, who's now the executive director, she was in it with me, there were a few other people involved. But it just was really just not wanting to put the responsibility because it grew so fast and so much responsibility on on volunteers because at the end of the day, you know, I was accountable for it. I was the one responsible for it. So it's just hard, hard to grow so fast.
59:59 Shanti Hodges
I think social media is a wonderful thing and it can be a curse for smaller organizations as people think you're a lot bigger than you are. And because everywhere on social media, people think that you're this huge organization and I think for a long time, people thought we were really big, because we had all these cities that we were involved in, but, we're still just a small group of people. And I don't think people understood we were just a few of us working on it.
1:00:23 Shanti Hodges
And I see this so often with non profits and the burnout factor is really high. I mean, really, really high. And so then nonprofits can close. We have another non profit here in America that just closed down this year that was started, right when we started, and it was a baby wearing organization, and it just, you know, burnout and they had filed bankruptcy and, you know, that's just this scary thing is when you start something that's big, the responsibility you feel, you can't just walk away from it. I mean, so many times, my husband's just like, why are we doing this, and I'm like, I'm sorry, I can't just walk away. And so that's really hard.
1:00:56 Shanti Hodges
And then, you know, just learning all the ropes. I have no non profit experience. So learning the ropes is really intense. And there's no real guide to doing something like this, because Facebook and Instagram and all of that is blowing these organizations up so fast, there's no real guidance. There's no one there saying, this is how you should build your pages, this is how you should build your newsletter, these are things you should think about if you're a nonprofit, this is what your board should look like. I mean, it seems like it'd be standard, but it's not. There's so much to running a non profit. So many pieces. It's hard.
1:01:33 Rob Konrad
What were the biggest lessons? What mistakes did you make that you in hindsight, would say, okay, I could have worked that or if you do, if you do want to start the non profits, then then don't do that thing because that's bad?
1:01:45 Shanti Hodges
I mean, I think just slowing down and like knowing that, you know. I guess I thought we had to be really big to get a lot of support but then now, in hindsight, I see other organizations that started when we started, and they weren't big, and they were other other types of non profits, they weren't around children and hiking. They didn't get that big, and they're still really popular and growing and so I think working on the system's very first, right away, really understanding non profit world, working on the systems, getting the systems in place, and and then leaning on other big non-profits. Like I've been going more and more to big non-profits and saying, hey, help us understand this, like, we just went to really big one the other day, and we're like, hey, like, what are you doing about your international stuff, because we are dealing with international stuff. And, and it was great to hear what they were doing. Because we view them as like this huge, multi million dollar non profit. And they were struggling with it. We were like phew, you know. So it's really, I think, really getting those systems in place are so important, and not to be like, we're growing, we're growing, we don't time to get that in place. We'll just do it as we go.
1:02:52 Rob Konrad
By systems, what do you mean by systems? Like technical systems, or?
1:02:56 Shanti Hodges
Your technical, your team, your just all the pieces that it takes around your board, really picking your board smart, it's so easy to just pick your friends to be on your board in the beginning. But really think about like, who do you want in there in three years and five years and, and really looking for those financial those, the finances that are going to run help run the non profit because there's this notion that it's a non profit, you don't need money. ____ just as much money as a business. Like to never think that if you're a non profit, you're not a business. As a nonprofit, you are a business, you have to run just like a business, you may not have to pay taxes in the same way but you have to run it just like a business. And sometimes even more, because you have to account for every single dollar.
1:03:42 Shanti Hodges
So being really understanding that transparency is really key. You know, we got accused a number of times, for like not being transparent enough. But I think, you know, we were just busy running, running, running, we don't have time to do an annual report, we're too busy, we got too much going on.
1:03:57 Shanti Hodges
And so just not, um, you know, there's just so much sadly, a lot of non-profits are being, you know, fingers pointing, oh, they're taking money and doing this, you know, it's, it's too bad like that these big non profits that really are taking millions of dollars are kind of spoiling it for the little ones that are like, we don't have any dollars to take. We're paying for, I mean, in the beginning, like, I literally ran a thing called like, a hike it baby 30 a challenge to raise $3,000 to keep our website turned on. We had no more money. And so that's the thing is, like, understanding that, like, be transparent about it. Like I raising this money, because we have to shut off our website otherwise, money won't continue. So like tell people, like, tell people why you're doing it. Because really, there's nothing that you know, as a non profit, you're not really, there's nothing really to hide, you aren't, you aren't making money for a person you're making, you're doing an organization for the better of humanity, and for creating something that didn't exist before and to help people you know.
1:05:18 Shanti Hodges
And the other thing is like, don't give up on your, your dream of doing it. Like think small, start small, don't worry about how big it's going to get just think small, think about who you're servicing, find those super champions around you and ask them to help like with that vision, you know. I constantly am stepping back and saying like, okay, you guys got this, I need to not be part of this vision part because you got this and, and trust your team around you, let people take things on. I mean, I think I definitely micromanaged in the beginning. And that's temptation in the beginning. But then you have to start going, okay, it's a non-profit and it's for the better of all people so what other information can help this organization grow. Be strong, and be be for everyone.
1:05:50 Rob Konrad
You think there's gonna be a time when you will step back from everything, just like, let it go and say, okay, is it has like, the child has grown into something big and now it's it's zone, and then I, I'm out of here?
1:06:04 Shanti Hodges
I mean I'm doing it now, I'm just on the board now. I stepped back from the executive director position. I mean, I'm doing it now because it's really important that the team that that the organization is so important, if you start an organization that you let your organization run on its own, without you, because there is always the possibility that you as a human can expire, and they will not be around to run that. So it always has to have the strength to be a powerful organization without you. So that's been so on the forefront of my mind for the last year that like, you know, this is so, it's so critical that this organization is not about me, that it's about the mission and that it runs fine without me. So more and more the board has asked me to step back and like turn things over. And literally, they're like, even if it feels like they're going to thank you can't get in there. And you can't jump in there and like okay, okay. ____ , and every once in a while jump back in and be like, oh, maybe if you did this, but then I step right back out. And I don't offer it as you should do it. It's an advice like, hey, think about this next time, you're, you know.
1:07:11 Shanti Hodges
So yeah, I'm out sort of, because my son is five and I want to always be on the board be a part of the vision growing, but I have some other movements I want to help. And so that's the thing. I've learned so much from this, but I would love to continue helping other organizations. And so that's why it's important that I'm not so tied to mind that I can't step over and help other people, help other organizations grow.
1:07:34 Rob Konrad
Okay, so so what are these organizations, what are the next projects for you?
1:07:39 Shanti Hodges
Um, so right now, right now, my next project is raising my son. He's five years… So I'm focusing on spending more time with him and our family and stuff as he because he's getting ready to start school and getting him ready for that. And then, you know, I recently like in the last year, I did work with Facebook a little bit helping, like going to things and speaking with them, and I hope I can do more stuff like that, working with Facebook, working with other non profits that reach out to me that ask for help in figuring out what, how to grow out smart. Because it's so easy right now, for organizations to blow up overnight. It's so there's so many tools out there, but you don't, if you haven't built the structure the foundation, it's no good, you know, it can just collapse too overnight. So I'm hoping I'm going to have other opportunities that come my way to help other organizations grow out smart and to think about their board, to think about their staffing to think about alternative means of financial support, because grants are lovely, but they're really, they can be so hard for an organization and they can change your mission.
1:08:53 Shanti Hodges
If you get a sponsorship dollar and it's just like, you give us these dollars, and we are going to keep doing our mission, it may be actually a lot better for an organization. The tricky part in America is right now, if you get you can only get so many dollars from sponsors without it being taxable and entering into another ____ . There's there's a lot of things. So like for a small little nonprofit starting out, they just don't you don't think about all those things. You don't think about why a membership is important. I, you know, I'm watching another small organization I love that started out and they didn't think about, you know, they were like, oh, you know, we're just going to be a free thing. And now they're starting up a membership thing and they're just like, oh, man, we have to, and I was like, yes, you have to. And I, when I started doing a membership I said, no, no, I don't want to have a membership fee and other organizations said to me, you have to. So it's important to have people with experience that have been through it, to be able to help coach organizations coming up on how to build strong and smart and so.
1:09:56 Rob Konrad
You mentioned you're, helping humanity and then bringing humanity forward, what worries you about the state of humanity in the state of our planet?
1:10:06 Shanti Hodges
Just that we're not connecting in real life, there's such a huge movement for online like, oh, you can be part of this community on whatever XYZ platform, whether it's Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever, and, you know, but you know, Snapchat, and, you know, whatever it is, but there's just, that's not real life. Like, nothing can replace people connecting in a circle and talking on trail in, you know, around the campfire. This is primal. This is what we've done since the beginning of time and so that's, that's what worries me is when you hear about people not connecting, and people fighting and honking their horns at each other in their cars, they're in their bubbles, and they're not connecting person to person. And so, so that's what worries me about humanity is our lack, our support of people not having to connect in real life. You know, that's, it's time we have to connect person to person, it's not enough to just connect through a Facebook support group or a, you know, some kind of online support group, you have to actually go out and be with people face to face.
1:11:20 Shanti Hodges
So that's, that's what I hope is that, that I hope we will see a lot of rebellion against that, I hope that people will start to realize that they're burnt out on so much online, they're, they're burnt out on just FaceTiming with family members. I hope that people start going and seeing their family members. I mean, myself included, like, I just spent Thanksgiving with my whole family and my husband's whole family, we were just like, oh, my god, that was so hard. I'm so glad we did it because like, people don't do that anymore. It used to be like, when I was a kid, I remember families getting like, huge families get-togethers and stuff and it just happens less and less like, oh, too far to travel, too expensive, too. So you know, and we have this, this, this online tool, these online tools that allow us to not go see our family anymore, because you can see them on anytime you want by just picking up your phone. But that is not a replacement for real human interaction, for hugging your grandparents and being together. So I hope with movements like hike it baby and other movements that are happening where people are being gathered together more and more that that has an impact, that we use these nonprofits, we use these organizations and these gathering tools to really gather people, to bring people together instead of just sinking into them and having chat groups, you know,
1:12:48 Rob Konrad
I just want to talk about your book, you've published a book called Hike it Five, Hike it Baby. If you could just tell people what they can find in that book and I haven't had look, I really loved it, it's there's this wonderful, wonderful images, especially I love the pictures and photographs. It really makes you want to, you know, go out, but maybe you could talk a little bit about what people can find in the book and why they should get it.
1:13:10 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, so the book was really fun and really hard, took a year. And it was it was I went to shout it out to the Hike It Baby community, to the adventure mumbles??? community, to a couple of other hike groups I was a part of and said, hey, what are the best hikes out there across the country to get out and adventure with little kids? And so I got a bunch of different hikes sent back to me, I worked on, like, where can I find good photos forum, what were the best hikes and put the book together and was awesome. I mean, it's, it's a, it feels like, you know, I wrote it, but it feels like it's a collective of all kinds of great adventures by all kinds of families. There was lots of involvement by other families, sharing their stories, sharing their places, sharing their pictures and so it feels great, because it feels very real, like, it's not just like, a cookie cutter guidebook, you know.
1:14:04 Shanti Hodges
And it was really, I'm excited that that's out in the world now and that it's also opens up a possibility for other people to do guide books like that and for people to see that like family guiding books, family outdoors books are really important to getting people outside. Um, so yeah, that's in on Amazon, it's on ____ , you can buy it online all over the place. So that's, it's, it's, it's great.,it's out. I hope, I hope I get to do it more. We'll see. I mean, I've talked to the publisher, we've talked about some other book ideas.
1:14:34 Shanti Hodges
This year was just, it was too fast turnaround from when that book came out to like, getting it together to do another one. So maybe in 2020 we will see another book. I hope that the hike it baby community, you know, I hope we can do something more localized too for different states maybe or different regions because it wasn't enough, like a 100 hikes was really a lot of writing. It's like a 370 page book. It's not enough, it's not like there's like, that was like some states didn't get any trails and some states had like, four trails. When you start looking at the US and then the world, I mean, there's just so much out there wasn't enough.
1:15:11 Rob Konrad
Yeah, well, international versions would be nice. I mean, I love the idea. I love, you know, the descriptions of the hikes and everything. So I really, I think they are why is there nothing like that, in that form for Switzerland, for example, because we have a lot of great hikes where we are, you know,
1:15:23 Shanti Hodges
I'm so surprised. I would think you guys would totally have something like that.
1:15:26 Rob Konrad
Yeah, well, they're probably like general hiking guides. But then again, it's as you mentioned, in the beginning, is like, what does it mean? Yeah, it's family friendly, does it mean it's like a two hour hike for us carrying the kids or is it like two hours with the grumpy three year old it doesn't want to walk? Or is it like two hours, for two sixteen year old, so that's, that's the kind of stuff you don't find. That's the kind of stuff that at least I'd never found when I was looking for it.
1:15:51 Shanti Hodges
I know, I've tried to encourage like, even like Backpacker magazine here in the US. We're really partnered up with them on a bunch of stuff. When you get your membership, you get a free issue of Backpacker. So what I did, it's got beautiful pictures and great articles. But I always like you just need an icon like dots on the page, on articles that are like, this is family friendly, like family, family approved, hike it baby approved. Oh, I wish they would do that on their magazine because that would really help when you're reading through the magazine. Because I've looked at things and I remember like, hmm, I wonder if I could take Mason over there. There's nothing in here that tells me if I could take Mason or not to this adventure, especially when they're international or, you know, that's even more daunting. because the further you get away from the US, then you're like, you know, okay, that's in whatever country, is that going to be safe for little kids? Like, what does it take to get there? And yeah, so. I hope that there's more guides that come out for the world because I think we are at a point when people are very transient, people do travel a lot with kids.
1:16:53 Rob Konrad
And I mean, it's the we experienced it ourselves like, two years ago, we were hiking and we were like, two hours in and then it's like, that's okay for families to go there and everyone said, that's fine. Then we reached a point where we're like, the big warning signs, like, okay, you need to now is the point when you to put your kids on to rope, because it's like, it's like, 500 feet fall left and right. Like, okay, someone could have told us before. So it's like, so I had a rope luckily, but we didn't have any harness or something like that. So that's something we bought afterwards. Now we have it, but like, at that point is like, oh, that's, that's, that doesn't feel too comfortable if you had this big warning sign, like, okay, from now on, it's going to be dangerous. Like, what does it mean? So, so…
1:17:39 Shanti Hodges
Yeah, no, it's it's really common and I think that a lot of trails don't warn you, or, you know, they warn you, and you're already deep in and you're like, oh, well, now turn around or you get there and you've driven 45 minutes to get there.
1:17:52 Rob Konrad
1:17:55 Shanti Hodges
I've had people tell me that about a lot of the national parks. A lot of them are really friendly in the US but you know, like, you have to know which one. Like you go to glacier and it's, there's not a lot of trails for little kids, or like here in _____ there's a couple, but you know, a lot of times will be like, oh, so we're going to try a stroller around ____ and you're like no.
1:18:15 Shanti Hodges
I had some friends that came in and they were from Argentina and Italy and they were like, yeah, we're just going to a stroller through the park and I'm like, you won't be able to hike anything in Zion,with the strollers, I loaned them a carrier. And, and they were like, oh, no, carrier hurts our back, and they had this really old, junky carrier, and I loaned them one of mine. They were like, this is amazing so I like sent them off on their way with it because it does make a difference. Like you need to know what trails are good and if you're going out into the trails, like what gear do you need to get out there?
1:18:48 Rob Konrad
Okay. There's two last questions that I have. And I'm always asking these questions to everyone that I'm talking to. And the first question is, this is about extraordinary people, so people who make a change, who make a difference in this world and who do things like getting hundreds of thousands of people to hike and to go outdoors. So who someone who you would consider extraordinary?
1:19:09 Shanti Hodges
Um, so I was thinking about this question and the person that right now I'm just loving and I'm loving following her is Myrna Valerio. She is a motivator, she motivates thousands of women to get out running. She's a very positive, body positive person. She's a plus sized ultra runner so I don't know her clothing size. But, you know, she gets to the trailer and to the races and people are like, are you sure you're riding this are, you know, now people know this. But she's got a lot of that and so she's just incredible. She just blows my mind. She's super fun to talk to. She's also African American and so I really liked that. I can kind of ask her my uncomfortable questions like, oh, am I allowed to ask this question? Like, how do I, you know, not that you want to be leaning on your friends that are African American for that all the time. But I do feel really comfortable sharing a lot of things with her, learning from her. And she has just an incredible way of approaching the world and approaching all people. And she is, you know, when I look at her, she, to me is the ultimate American that you want to meet. Just like, full of energy, full of life.
1:20:25 Shanti Hodges
She's a mom, she's a singer, she's a performer. She's a writer, she has a book out I mean, she's just like, Renaissance woman. And, and I feel so lucky that she's my friend now. And I met her through Instagram and, and I saw a video of her which, you know, you got to post the link for this video. I saw this Rei video of her and I was like, I need to meet that woman. I don't, I just got to meet her. And she's just blown my mind ever since. And she always has time for everyone. And I don't know how she does it. Yeah, so I really hope that you know, Myrna is a runner and that's what's her platform is, but I feel like she is really a voice for the outdoors and a voice for, you know, a stronger, more loving America of people coming together and, and more compassion for the world and for creating community. She's just doing it by just living and walking and running the example and people are just following and flocking after her, it's awesome. So she's my extraordinary person.
1:21:35 Rob Konrad
Well, I'll definitely reach out to her. And the last question that I'm always asking and then I want to close it with this is to anyone who's watching or listening to this, what's your, what's your message? What's your message to the world?
1:21:48 Shanti Hodges
Get outside. If you're having a bad day, if you're having a good day, you know, the outdoors are beautiful and will heal so much. And you know, it just simply going and sitting in the woods or sitting in the desert or sitting for a moment of silence and taking in the world. Nature gives us so much that we can never get from, you know, our busy busy lives so, that would be my message. Oh, and perfect timing. It sounds like there's a kid walking in.
1:22:26 Rob Konrad
Shanti thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. And we'll stay in touch and I hope you come to Switzerland to go hiking one time.
1:22:32 Shanti Hodges
Oh I know, now I saw your pictures, that you sent, oh we so have to go. I sent it to my husband, I'm like we're going here.
1:22:38 Rob Konrad
Definitely well be my guest, definitely. It would be a big pleasure. So thank you for your time and we'll talk soon.
1:22:45 Shanti Hodges
Okay, thank you.
1:22:46 Rob Konrad
Okay. Perfect timing. Hey Just in time, wonderful.
1:22:59 Shanti Hodges
Oh no doggy broke a toenail. Oops ____ .
1:23:13 Rob Konrad
Hello. How are you doing?
1:23:16 Rob Konrad
Oh that's amazing, that looks so cool, wow. Well I guess you have little emergency there so I don't want to keep it longer. So could you just close, don't close that's Zen caster thingy for a while so it's going to need some time to process and upload it. So probably just, I don't know it's like five minutes. But yeah so thank you so much for your time really appreciate it and I hope you _____ . Actually I already reached out to Myrna and she's she's also doing the interview, she's just busy so we'll do it in January the first.
1:24:09 Shanti Hodges
Yeah she's always busy, but she always find time …
1:24:12 Rob Konrad
____ in January but I'll I'll send her that snippet of the video definitely and I'll send her my wishes from you and yeah so so this is going to be edited and everything and so it's going to be published somewhere end of January but I'll let you know ahead of time before I before I publish it. I'll send you a link before so if you want anything can be edited or cut out or anything just just I don't think there's anything there but yeah I'll send it ahead of time and yeah again thank you so much. I'll also send Shannon the video because she recommended you so she'll be happy that we talked and yeah,
1:24:24 Shanti Hodges
1:24:49 Rob Konrad
Again, if you come to Switzerland, then let me know and…
1:24:52 Shanti Hodges
Well let's stay in touch because I would love to, I mean, it looks so beautiful, I was like, wow
1:24:55 Rob Konrad
Yeah, absolutely, thank you.
1:24:59 Shanti Hodges
Anytime you come to America, let us know.
1:25:01 Rob Konrad
Will do. Thank you. Bye bye.
1:25:02 Shanti Hodges
Take care, bye.
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