What We Say and What We Want, with Nicole Antoinette
Episode 127: What We Say and What We Want, with Nicole Antoinette
When host of Real Talk Radio Nicole Antoinette quit drinking, she started running to “turn her life around”, as she puts it. Now, her excitement about the progress and physical challenge of running has translated into long distance hiking (she currently trains for the PCT trail). On this episode, Nicole talks about fear, stepping out of her comfort zone, as well as focusing on the journey and being present. As she is writing her first book, Nicole shares her tips on accountability learned through hiking, her podcast Real Talk Radio, and how she managed to close the gap between what she says and what she wants.
00:12 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, with my co-host Maricella Herrera. How's it going Maricella?
00:21 Maricella Herrera: Good.
00:22 KW: So you're gonna love this podcast today with Nicole Antoinette. She, I think, is facing all of my greatest fears. She is amazing, and she hikes all over the place, oftentimes by herself, and has this really cool Instagram feed. But just shares so many really phenomenal insights and experiences along the way and what she's learned. So that's one of my favorite things, I love it when people translate real world experiences into really actionable advice.
00:57 MH: That sounds awesome, I wish I had the guts to go hiking by myself.
01:02 KW: Yeah. Well, that's what I said to her on the podcast. You'll hear, I was talking to her about that and about how I would be so afraid, and she has a great response to that. But she really has an amazing journey and shared where this came from, the catalyst for it, and seems to be having just a lot of fun.
01:22 MH: Oh, I'm jealous.
01:23 KW: Yeah. And we've talked in the past about some of our favorite places to visit, but it looks like she's hitting up some really beautiful places in the world.
01:33 MH: I'd have to follow her, I'm gonna stalk her on Instagram.
01:36 KW: Yeah. I'm looking at her feed, right now, it's really cool and she has so much defined, because she talks about the good, the bad, and the ugly. She tells it like it is, which is great. But lack of sleep and getting chafing, and all kinds of different things, and food or no food, but it's just... I think what resonates with me is just this freedom of... We've talked about self-care, and we've talked about just pursuing your dreams and your passions, but this freedom that I see through her photos and through our stories of pursuing passion, living life to the fullest and doing things to challenge yourself, and help really better understand who you are.
02:22 MH: That's awesome.
02:23 KW: Yeah, that's great. Well, let's get to it. My conversation with Nicole, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did, and if you wanna follow Nicole on Instagram, she is Nic.Antoinette.
02:45 KW: So Nicole, thank you for joining us today on the Ellevate Podcast. We are chatting via Skype, but I know you're a hugger, so I'm gonna give you a little virtual hugger or over the internet lines.
03:00 Nicole Antoinette: I will gladly accept your virtual hug. Thanks so much for having me.
03:03 KW: So we'd love to kind of start giving you a platform to tell your story, 'cause you do it best. So share with our listeners a little bit about who you are and how you got to where you are today.
03:16 NA: No big deal, right? You want just my whole life history?
03:18 KW: Absolutely. From the day you were born through to now. We've got like what, two hours.
03:23 NA: So June 13th at at 12:24 PM... No, I'm just kidding. Although that is my birth date and time. So yeah, workwise, I host a podcast called Real Talk Radio, which I started at the end of August 2015. So all of a sudden, I feel like I've turned around and it's been two-and-a-half years already, which is pretty exciting. It's basically a show, basically by truth tellers, for truth tellers, just people being honest about their real lives. Not topic-specific, it's pretty wide-ranging. I'm just professionally curious, I guess. I really wanna know everything about everyone, all the time. And a podcast, it turns out is a really great way to do that.
04:00 KW: That sounds like, The Real World. What were the opening credits? "When the cameras are off, things get real." Or there's some gimmicky line, but just made me think of it.
04:12 NA: Yeah, something like that. It's been really surprising, I always joke, it's not really a joke, and tell people that having a podcast is really a secret weapon for making friends with cool people. [chuckle] You know, the people who are willing to give you two hours of their time, and it shows a long form interview style. And it's Oh, I'm always unbelievably grateful at getting to have these conversations, so it's been a fun couple of years, for sure. So, that's what I do workwise. It's obviously there's some things associated with the podcast to live events, and I'm gonna be hosting my first retreat at the end of the year, this year. Outside of that, I'm super into long distance hiking. I actually just started training, I'm gonna be attempting to hike the PCT this year, southbound, starting in July, so 2,650 miles. Got into long distance hiking a couple of years ago, and currently, I'm working on writing a book about, last year, I hiked the Arizona trail. So basically those are the three things that make up most of my life right now, is the podcast, training for the PCT and trying every day to not be too scared of the blank page, to actually get some words down to create a rough draft of this book.
05:20 KW: How did you get into hiking, long distance hiking? I'm so intrigued by this.
05:24 NA: Yeah. So I was never an outdoor or athletic kid at all. The most outdoorsy thing my parents have ever done is eat dinner on a patio in a nice restaurant, like no joke. So I really am a super, super beginner to this. Basically, the short version, I quit drinking on May 1st, 2011, and I quit drinking, and started running literally on the same day. I had never been even remotely athletic, had never played sports, no little kids dance classes, nothing even remotely like that. I couldn't run for two minutes at a time when I first started and running was really my way out of the hole, so to speak. It was kind of a transfer of obsession, really helped me turn some things around. And I ran really seriously for about four years and found myself kind of burning out, kind of not really enjoying it. And I realized it was because it had become something that I was gripping on to so tightly, that I was afraid that if I stopped running that I would start drinking again, and that didn't feel like a great reason to keep doing it.
06:22 NA: I took a break from running. I thought it was only gonna be a couple weeks, wound up being more than six months and started digging into sobriety more, some of the reasons behind wanting to get sober. And even though that was great, great self-reflection, I found that I missed having a hard physical challenge. With running, I really liked training for races. I like the progressive build towards something that feels almost quest like. So I was really in search of something else that would fill that need, but would be challenging in a different way. And I read a wonderful book called "Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart" by a woman and now friend named Carrot Quinn about her first hike of the PCT. And it was really refreshing to read, an outdoor adventure story by another woman who was also in her 30s, who hadn't grown up doing this kind of stuff. Obviously, once you're able to see yourself represented in somethings, so much of what I had seen about outdoor adventures was basically tall thin white dudes with beards and that was not me. [chuckle]
07:19 KW: Reading that book, I thought, "Huh, that's interesting", and I had recently moved to Oregon and I thought, "Well, the PCT goes through Oregon, huh, I wonder if I could do just the Oregon section." And that wound up being my first hike in 2016, and it was mostly just that I was looking for something else that was hard and I found it because it was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life. So yeah, now I guess it stuck and here we are.
07:40 KW: Do you do this alone?
07:41 NA: Yeah, alone. The PCT is pretty well traveled, so I definitely cross paths with people and met people on my first hike. Last year when I did the Arizona trail, because I did it in the fall, and in general it's not as highly used of a trail. It was the most solo experience that I had ever had. I would regularly go two, three, four, I think the longest was four and a half days without seeing not just another hiker, but another human, and that was... I'm an extrovert, I host a podcast, I need people to listen to my nonsense. I grew up in Manhattan, [chuckle] I felt like the sole survivor of the zombie apocalypse. [chuckle] It was a profound loneliness that I had never experienced and was incredibly painful mostly for that. But coming out the other side of it, definitely it sounds cliche, but I feel a lot more confident and a lot more able to just be with myself. And it was something that I didn't expect to necessarily get out of the hike, but I'm really glad that I did.
08:35 KW: Yeah, I can't even imagine what that must be like because sometimes if I'm running on the treadmill or doing something physical like that, you're like, "Don't look at the clock, don't look at the clock, don't look at the clock", and then you look and you're like, "It's only been 32 seconds", like, "Oh come on." And long distance hiking, is it just... How do you really, I think, get passed that intense awareness of time and progress to let go and just focus on the journey and how you're getting there?
09:10 NA: That's a good question. I'm not sure that I have a good answer other than for me, because I can obviously only speak from my own experience of having to come to this as such a beginner. I had literally never gone camping one night in my life before I decided to start doing this. I went on a two-night test trip with my husband to test my gear before I left for my first trip and that was the extent of... I had done research and talked to people who had experience, but... So I think for me, a lot of what keeps this such a thing that I'm really present in the moment is because it's so hard, right? There's just so much I didn't know. I had to learn how to read a map, I had to learn how to find and filter water, I had to learn how to pitch a tent, I had to, there's just so much that I felt like it's not the same kind of clock watching experience that you have on... I've had that same thing on a treadmill where you're like, "Oh my gosh, it's only been 32 seconds", or whatever, but because it's so different from my regular life. With running it's... The longest run I would ever do is maybe a couple hours then you come home, and you turn on the tap and there's water and you can shower and do your regular life. And this is so unbelievably different, that I feel like it almost takes me out of that. And that's part of what I like about it, that it's so uncomfortable, that it shakes me up in a way that I can't force in my regular life.
10:27 KW: I'm gonna ask way too many questions about this because I am utterly fascinated.
10:30 NA: I can talk about this. It's all I think about.
10:32 KW: Where do you sleep?
10:34 NA: What do you mean?
10:35 KW: When you're hiking on the trail, are you just like, "Oh that looks like a nice clearing", and you just put down your sleeping bag or are there...
10:43 NA: Yeah, pretty much. Obviously, you wanna be careful to follow Leave No Trace principles and not camp in fragile or delicate areas as far as vegetation goes and wanting to camp on durable surfaces and that type of stuff. But yeah, basically. Again the PCT, there's a lot more resources for, and so there are more established camping areas. But in Arizona, it was for me... Maybe I'll get over this, but I really don't like hiking in the dark, I don't like night hiking. I know some people love it, I find it terrifying. Mostly just because then my imagination goes crazy about all the things that are gonna come out of the dark and try to eat my face. [chuckle] That's not what I mean. Maybe it's logical, maybe it's not. I night hiked twice in Arizona, and I was terrified.
11:29 NA: And so for me, I wanna find a good place to set up camp before it gets dark. I found last year... 'Cause I was hiking in the fall, and there's limited daylight and it would be pitch black by 6:00, 6:15 PM. So every day basically around 5:15, 5:20, I would enter into this complete panic of, "Oh my God, where am I gonna camp? I need to find somewhere flat." And I always found myself stuck on some kind of a ridge, where there's [chuckle] no where to camp at that time. And I would just be hiking as hard as I could to try to find something, and I always wound up finding something. Sometimes better than others, but yeah, just need it to be flat enough and durable enough that I can pitch my tent.
12:01 KW: I always laugh because I grew up in a family of four kids, and then went to college and had roommates, and then pretty soon after moved in with my husband, who is now my husband. But I never had my own room pretty much my whole life, and I'm terrified still of being home alone. Because growing up in a larger family and always having roommates and people around, you're just used to having the comfort of someone being there. So your stories are terrifying me. I mean, literally my hands are sweating right now because it is just for me, I think something that would take me so far out of my comfort zone. And I'm just really impressed by what you do. It's so inspiring to me that you... Maybe you don't have such a visceral reaction to some of the things that I'm reacting to, but that you just were like, "Alright, let's go on a 500 mile hike, or 1,000 mile hike." And by yourself for days, but it's such a huge accomplishment.
13:08 NA: Well, thanks. You're very kind to say that. I think this is an interesting thing to talk about because when I started running, I had always been someone who I don't like things that I'm not good at, and I'm trying to sort of change that story that I tell myself about myself. But that had always been the case, and so if I started something, and I wasn't good at it, I would quite pretty quickly if I didn't see it as a path to some kind of approval or success. And I think that that's pretty common, and running was a real mine in the sand for me because it was the first thing that I ever started was terrible at and didn't quit, and it's not an understatement to say that that really changed my whole life. Because I feel like so many of the core, what I think of is now life lessons or foundational things that are really impactful for me, that I think about all the time, came from running and one of them specifically, this idea that I can do hard things. And it sounds so silly even, that I used to think that something was either hard or it was doable, and sort of marrying those two together. Be like I can be scared and also I can do it, I can be not in the mood, and also I can still do it.
14:13 NA: And sort of developing that over the four years that I was running have definitely helped a lot with the hiking, because while I don't have your same background of... I'm an only child, but so maybe more comfortable being alone, but I was terrified. I cried, literally see every single day of my first hike of my first hike. The first hike was 460 miles, it took me 26 days, I cried every single day. It was so hard, every single night I was so scared. Just like waiting for something. [chuckle] Like I said, "Come eat my face in the night." And so it was obviously as... When I did my second hike, as time has gone on, I think the best cure for fear is experience and exposure. And so doing it more, and then also the more skills you attain. The balance was so far off my first time, everything was so new and so scary that it was really quite overwhelming, and I feel now going into this third hike... I'm definitely still apprehensive, I definitely still have fears for sure, and I'm sure there will be plenty of times that I cry on the PCT. But I think we get over things over time.
15:13 NA: And that was part of what interested me about doing this, is the arc of being a beginner. Because so much of the adventure literature, or these women or men, or whatever, doing these incredible things always seemed like people that were doing them basically from the womb, and I couldn't relate to that. And so I always felt like, "Oh, this stuff isn't for me." And that's part of the reason why I'm interested in talking about this with other people. Because I think not in a, "Well, if she can do what I can do it." 'Cause obviously I know there's a lot of privilege in being able to do hikes like this. But everything that you're saying, I can completely relate to. It is terrifying, I think that's the correct reaction. [chuckle]
15:48 KW: I know you're on this mission to close the gap between what you want to do and what you do, right? And as you're talking and telling the story, part of me is like, "Oh man, I wish I could do that, I wish I could just become more committed to running or find something that gets me outside," but we can all do it, right? And I know you talked about privilege and that's absolutely correct. I mean, not all of us honestly have the luxury of time or resources to if it's go to the gym, or to run or to whatever, and it doesn't have to be physical. It could be starting your own company, or launching a new initiative but it's easy to talk about what you wanna do and it is so much harder to actually do it. So what advice do you have for our listeners on how to close that gap?
16:41 NA: I love that question, if I had one simple answer, I think I would be a gajillionaire, right? [chuckle] Because this is everybody's question like, "How do we close the gap between what we say we want, and what we actually do?" I don't think that there's one answer. I think that it's an evolving process. I think for me, sort of the first part of that is actually being honest with myself about what I really want, and the differences between what do I actually want versus what do I think that I should want because those really aren't the same. Because I do that too, where I listen to someone's story and I think, "Oh I wish I could X, Y, Z you know whatever they're doing. And then I have to stop and take a minute and say, "Do I actually want that or is there just a quality in there that's appealing to me, or do I feel jealous or... " I think it's necessary to do some introspection, whether that's journaling or conversations or whatever, to get clear in any given situation what you actually want. And I think for me, a big part of that has been giving myself permission to let go of the things that I maybe I'm supposed to want and don't want. For example, I'm not having kids, that's not something that I want. And that was a whole process of, "Okay, I don't want this, that's fine. What if I give myself permission to let this go and not pursue that path?"
17:48 NA: And that's just one tiny example, same thing with not having a nine to five job of working for someone else. That's never something that I've done in my entire working life, and okay, so what if it's fine to give myself permission to not want this or not want that? And then on the flip side, to actually really own what my true desires are, even if maybe they're less mainstream or they don't make sense or my mother doesn't understand that kind of thing. And I think that that alone is easier said than done, for sure. But yeah, that process of questioning what you actually want. And then I think a lot of this comes down to self-inquiry, I'm a big fan of asking yourself tough questions. And sort of the idea, then once you know what you want, it's the question of what would have to be true in order for you to get it. What changes are you willing to make, what changes aren't you willing to make, what are you willing to be bad at? Are you willing to fail, all of this stuff. The book that I'm writing right now is an interesting thing, I've written in some capacity for a really long time, but I have tried and failed for literally over a decade to develop a really regular consistent writing habit, and it kind of brought me face-to-face with that advice that you always hear of, "Well, if you want it badly enough, you'll find a way."
18:58 NA: And I actually think that the opposite is true. I think the more you want something, the more emotional baggage there is, the more likely you are to be a perfectionist, the more likely you then are to procrastinate. And so I've kind of had to go full circle to be like, "Okay I actually do want to write this book. How it gets published, whether it's good or not, that's down the line, but I want to write it." So, okay, what needs to be true? "Okay, I wanna be writing this many words a day. Okay, I'm way more likely to do it if it's the first thing that I do in the morning. Okay, that means don't check my email first thing in the morning." Sort of like going through the really tiny tangible things, and that's just one example. But for me, the only thing that's worked for this writing habit, is to put my phone on airplane mode at night and not take it off airplane mode until my writing is done in the morning and that's just... It's one tiny thing but it took getting honest about that with myself of how do I close this gap? I say that I wanna write a book and I'm not doing it. Why? What is that about? What am I afraid of? What changes am I willing to make? Those are the kinds of things that I think about.
19:53 KW: So another quick question just about the writing, because when you talk about running, I can understand the goal setting there, right? It's I'm gonna sign up for a race, I'm gonna try to do a better time than I did before, and I know where I fall in within the spectrum of other runners in the race. And so there's easy metrics to make progress, to track progress to see how you are against others. But writing is... Sure, you can say, "Okay, my goal is to get... " Is it like get this chapter done in two weeks and then get the next one done in a week and a half? How do you set those goals and how do you continue to motivate yourself to hit those goals, particularly if you're say a runner or an athlete that maybe motivation's more of a competitive nature, and writing's such a solo sport?
20:45 NA: Yeah. And again, I don't have a great answer for this because I'm fumbling through it for the first real time right now because the answer in the past has been, "Well, I just didn't do it." [chuckle] Right? And because I have... I used to blogged for eight years, I've done a lot of different iterations of writing and personal story sharing on the internet. So I'm very conditioned into the 800 to 2,000 word range of writing, and while writing is writing, it is different. Writing for the Internet is different than trying to do something that's more long-form. So for me right now, I can share... Literally this has been a goal just since I got back from Arizona, so since the very end of last year, and I really only started working on it seriously at the beginning of 2018. What has worked for me, I have found, and this isn't a great quality, I'm not super proud of this, but while I'm really good at keeping the promises and commitments that I make to other people, I am in certain regards, not great at keeping the promises that I make to myself.
21:44 NA: And so I found that to be true with running, the fact that no one's paying me for it, no one's waiting on it, no one really cares, I don't actually have to do it, there isn't a timeline. Those are conditions under which I tend to not do the work when I let my fear... And let's be honest, it's all fear, it's fear that the book isn't gonna be good enough, that holds me back for sure. One of my best friends and I set up an accountability partnership for the first quarter of this year, and she has things that she's working on, I have things I'm working on. The book being number one, and I said, "Okay I want a draft of the first 44... 'Cause the hike was 44 days long, so I want a first draft, even if it's really bad of the 44 days. Sort of like, here's what happened, done by the end of the first quarter. That was my ambitious goal, and it's really just checking in with her every week, and I promised her that I would give her my word count every week. And so some weeks are better than others, but that has been unbelievably helpful, and there were a couple of weeks where I was struggling, and she said, "Hey let's turn this into a text each other every single day.
22:39 NA: Text me every day, you're, "Hey, I'm sitting down to write. Hey, I'm gonna write at 2:00 PM. Hey... " And that, obviously, accountability works but it's been really helpful to have someone who I love and care about invested in the process, and that I can tell, like share those daily wins with. This is sort of the other answer to the question that you asked before, about closing that gap between what you say you want, what you actually do. I think it's also necessary to be honest about what you need. What are the conditions under which you're gonna succeed? Because for some people, they don't need external accountability, and for some people... I don't need external accountability for physical training, I'll get out there and do it. But for whatever reason, I do need it for this. And so sort of starting to ask yourself like, "What needs to be true in order for me to be able to make this happen?" and then not being afraid to ask for whatever that is. And to just for me to say, "No I'm worth it, I'm worth having someone else invested in this process." That's been really powerful.
23:29 KW: I love it. Alright, so one podcaster to the next, can you share your favorite podcast moment?
23:39 NA: My favorite moment on my show?
23:40 KW: Yeah.
23:42 NA: Okay, it's not necessarily a specific moment, but one of my favorite questions to ask guests, especially as a first question, as an icebreaker question, is to ask them what they're totally obsessed with right now. 'Cause people usually give fun answers. They're obsessed with a certain TV show, or a certain kind of lipstick, or a certain whatever it is. And I've gotten so many fun recommendations of things to try, and listen to and watch just based on the obsessions of the wide range of guests that I've had. So I know that's not one moment, but that's, I guess, the first on this thing that comes to mind.
24:13 KW: Oh, I'm gonna have to steal that. That's fun. I like that with you.
24:16 NA: It's the next question, right? I love it. [chuckle] Yeah.
24:18 KW: Yeah. So what are you obsessed with right now?
24:19 NA: Oh, what am I obsessed with right now? [chuckle] May be a really strange answer. I recently read this really good book about Michael Jordan. I'm perpetually obsessed with greatness, specifically physical... Like the people who are the top, top. Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, the people at the top of their physical game, and so I've been going down the rabbit hole of compilation videos. That they're basically... Again, it's like inspiration porn, basically. [chuckle] All of these amazing things about Michael Jordan, and I don't know, for whatever reason [chuckle] I'm totally obsessed with that. I mean if you ask me next week, it'll probably be something different. But right now, that's what I find myself continuing to do the deep dive about on the internet.
25:00 KW: That is great, that's awesome. Well, thank you for sharing everything with us today. This has been just such an inspiring conversation, it's been great to get to know you better and have you on the Ellevate Podcast.
25:12 NA: Well, thank you so much. It was a treat.
25:16 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't get follow us on Twitter at EllevateNTWK, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member, you can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, www.ellevatenetwork.com. That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E NETWORK.COM. And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice-over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much, and join us next week.
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