In her podcast, FOGO: Fear of Going Outside, Ivy Le takes on the great outdoors—very, very reluctantly. The result is a lot of jokes about poop, icky things in nature, and why people choose to sleep on the ground. But FOGO also offers a refreshing take on a nature show: Ivy is the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and she presents an alternative approach to the “reckless white men” she says have dominated this space. In her first season, Ivy learned to camp. This year, she upped the ante and tried hunting. Her experience proved to be more enlightening—and humbling—than she ever imagined.
Editor’s Note: Transcriptions of episodes of the Outside Podcast are created with a mix of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain some grammatical errors or slight deviations from the audio.
From Outside Magazine, this is the Outside Podcast.
Maren: If you're listening to this show, it's a pretty safe assumption that you enjoy spending your time outdoors. And, you'd be right to assume the same about me.
Besides being a producer on a podcast literally called Outside, I was lucky enough to be born to two public lands employees, directly into a life of outdoorsiness. Family lore says that I went camping for the first time when I was just six weeks old.
Which means that the subject of today's episode and I sit firmly on opposite sides of the indoor/outdoor divide.
Ivy Le: I'm like, this is Outside Magazine, so like literally 99% of your listenership are outdoor people and the other 1% is like me
Maren: This Is Ivy Le, a comedian living in Austin, Texas, who hosts a podcast called FOGO: Fear of Going Outside. She calls it a nature show, by the most reluctant host ever.
Ivy: I'm a huge fan of nature shows, which mostly I consume inside my living room. And, I wanted to be in one of those shows. I wanted to see if those things on my TV are real. But like, It turns out you actually have to go outside to do that
And by the time, I think I really grasped the reality, the concreteness of that, it was too late. It was too late to turn back.
Maren: The first season of FOGO premiered in 2021, and we shared an episode in the Outside Podcast feed to shake things up a bit. It was different and funny. Over the course of her first season, Ivy figured out how to go camping from a knowledge base she called "absolute zero." And she really meant it. She spent the better part of episode one trying to figure out what to google to find an outdoor gear store.
But FOGO is more than just silly bits about what it's like to be a newbie camper. Ivy is the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, and a big part of what she does with the show is explore a subject that is often considered, as she puts it, "white people's shit." Many people of color have historically viewed the woods as a dangerous place, not because of bears or lightning strikes, but because it's a place where they've been especially vulnerable to racial violence.
That's heavy stuff, but Ivy approaches it with an abundance of humor.
Ivy, on FOGO: It is funny. I'm gonna go physically away from people to get empathetically closer to people who I'm starting to think don't understand me at all, and have maybe never tried. Oh, Lordy, this is fine. We love irony. This is fine.
Maren: In her first season, it all played out the way you might hope. At the beginning, the mere thought of sitting in her backyard for a few minutes and observing squirrels filled her with dread. But by the end, she spent not one but two full nights outdoors–even if she was lukewarm about the experience.
FOGO guest: How about, I'll ask you a question?
Guest: Would you go camping again?
Ivy: Um, I might.
Maren: As a born outdoors person–and white person–listening to FOGO is equal parts entertaining, edifying, and humbling. Ivy's doing her darndest to understand us, and why we do things like spend six dollars on a one-serving bag of freeze-dried beans and rice. Or insist that our weekend outings are totally mellow when they actually include grueling hikes and hazards like poison ivy and rattlesnakes.
Poking fun at outdoor nerds–-plus making us take a good look at our history–turned out to be good entertainment: FOGO was a hit. And earlier this year, Ivy came back with season two. This time, she really upped the ante: her goal was to track, kill, butcher, and eat a feral hog.
Ivy: I think season one I was like, this is terrifying and this is gonna be extremely difficult. And, and I think, uh, and I think I was proven mostly right. Once I finished camping and I'm like, ‘oh, the obstacles were actually the hard part, the camping part was really not that bad.’
Like everybody kept harping on me about my shoes. Then I get there, like all the trails are paved, you know? I'm like, why are these people making such a big deal out of this stuff? You know? And everybody made a big deal about like pooping in the woods. Like there were bathrooms.
I feel like they just want me to not go, so that they feel like they're more badass than they actually were. And so that, I think that's where I come in with the attitude of like, how hard can hunting be? Um, and, uh, I, I have been, I have been deeply humbled. Deeply, deeply humbled.
Maren: It took Ivy nearly a year to actually go hunting, and her quest filled ten more podcast episodes, the last of which dropped last weekend. And just like in the first season, many of the challenges she faced had a whole lot more to do with the culture of the sport than with the actual task at hand.
In the first episode, Ivy looks for guidance from a couple of self-identified gun guys, who it turns out can't help her with her hunting mission because they are not actually hunters. But they do joke about making her cook and clean to earn a gun.
FOGO gun guy: We have to get you to work it out for a little bit and then, you know, we'll get you a gun. and I'm gonna hear it from my mother from that one. Why does she have to do the cooking and the cleaning? You know, why can't she do something else?
Maren: In episode 3, she tries bow hunting, and she's told that the way she's most comfortable shooting, from what she calls an Asian squat, won't work.
Lisa: That’s not gonna work for you.
(Rochelle belly laughs.)
Ivy: It might not work for you.
Rochelle, laughing: “This is the chair of my people.”
Lisa, politely Southern: Oh, you're- that's- okay...
(Ivy, from an Asian squat, shoots an arrow and hits a target)
Rochelle, impressed: Oof. Okay, so...
Lisa: Look at you!
Maren: Ivy quickly proved herself to be a good shot, and her squat worked just fine.
She later does research to find other Asian hunters who look more like her. This leads her to an alarming archive of news stories about Native Chinese Hmong people being shot in the wilderness.
Ivy on FOGO: There's a case of a Hmong Hunter being shot practically every year. It's something I have to keep in mind now, as I go into the woods with strangers with guns, that practically every hunting season, some guy who looks like my dad is gonna get shot in the woods and all these hunter-ed courses say that hunting is safer than bowling.
Maren: That helps you understand why, in the places where outdoor people are relaxed and looking for beauty, Ivy is stressed and scanning for threats.
But still, even though I admittedly know very little about hunting, I was sure that after a few years of making a show that had her romping around in the wilderness, Ivy would become an outdoors lover. Because that's a core belief here at Outside: no matter who you are, if you spend time in wild places, nature will work its magic on you. You'll come home revitalized, and wanting more.
To me, Ivy seemed like the perfect test case for that assumption. So when I connected with her, I asked her to tell me about some of her outdoor experiences for this season of FOGO. To be honest, I was fishing for the kind of woman-finds-nature narrative I'm used to finding.
Let's go from the top and start with hiking because I feel like it's a pretty outdoorsy activity in terms of like what you are comfortable doing.
Ivy: Yes, it is extremely outdoorsy. I spent hours outside in at McKinney Falls State Park with a super outdoorsy guy. He had like a very Robert Redford vibe about him. His name's Steve Hall. he was just a delight and a joy and just so full of knowledge.
His background was actually as a wildlife biologist, but his actual job function was a hunter educator. And he's a, he's really into bird watching.
Ivy on FOGO: So when you go out, do you kind of decide before you go out you're like, ‘Hey, this is gonna be like a nature hike’ or as like, ‘Hey, I'm gonna go find animals and kill 'em.’
Steve: I, I watch birds all the time even while I'm hunting.
So I might be hunting this hand. I'm over here, but I'm watching all the birds that are around too.
Ivy: And he takes me throughout, there's a point where he, he's afraid I'm gonna fall into a ravine cuz I'm getting disoriented trying to work the binoculars to try to see a bird that he's like is right there.
Steve: See that little bird that just came up on the tree there?
Ivy: I sure don't. Where?
Steve: That's called an Eastern Phoebe.
Ivy: And I'm like, ‘is it literally the same color as absolutely everything around it?’ Which of course it is. Of course it is.
Because especially the female birds, they're trying to blend in cuz they gotta hide their nests and stuff like that. And they're like, don't you see that bird? I'm like, ‘it's literally evolved over hundreds and thousands of years so that I could not see it. I don't know what you want from me.’
And he had to pull me back from the lens cause I was like trying to find it and almost fell down into the ravine cuz I couldn't see anything. It's like, it was so dangerous.
But something that I was able to contribute as a podcaster with super sensitive ears is that I felt like I could hear the birds before he could hear the birds. And he was pretty impressed with that.
Maren: So aside from, you know, your death defying trip to the ravine, how was your overall impression of the time outdoors? It seems like you had a good companion who you enjoyed spending time with, but what was your overall impression of your experience with birding?
You can hear in my voice how much I want her to say that she had a great time, and maybe started to see nature in a new way. But...
Ivy: Uh, yeah, birding was not impressive. It was really, I basically couldn't see anything he asked me to see. Uh, so that was super frustrating. You know?
And this is really hard as a nature show host, I have to describe to you in a podcast everything that I see. But everything in the woods is just brown. Everything is brown. And it just sounds like uncooked ramen noodles. Like, I don't know what to tell you guys. It just all looks dead and brown and dry, and more shades of brown.
Ivy on FOGO: Like if I wanted to do a Chinese painting about like a drought,
Ivy: And he was trying to tell me, he's like, ‘oh, well, I go out to hunt because I wanna be a part of nature. And like one time I was so still with my bow that a squirrel just crawled on me, didn't even know I wasn't, you know, a tree or something.’
And I'm like, ‘wow, that's disgusting.’
Maren: Even dead-looking nature is alive if you just know to look, I want to say.
But Ivy is NOT having it.
So, I move on. I ask her to tell me about a later episode, when she goes tracking in the woods with a 14-year-old girl scout named Isabelle. Who better to show you the joy and fun of the great outdoors than a girl scout, right? And from the start, this story seemed way more promising.
Ivy: It was magical, okay. Going tracking with the Girl Scout was magical.
First of all, I got to the camp and I was like, oh my God. It's just like on TV. I have, I have never really seen in real life one of these Cape Cod-like summer camps where white teenagers come of age in the movies and they jump off a pier into a lake and like have crushes on each other and, you know, run around and tell ghost stories and have tearful goodbyes and, and find themselves and get nicknames and, you know, things like that.
I wasn't sure that these places were real because they all kind of look like they're probably shot on like the same lot somewhere. Right?
These places are real. Girls Scouts owns so much land, like all of these camp type places. They own a lot of land and these kids just go out to them.
People who ostensibly love their children send them to stay in these giant chicken coops. They even call them chicken coops. I–unironically!
Maren: So, yeah, Ivy wasn't impressed with summer camp, either.
Ivy: Then we went off the trails. Because you have to leave the trail to find animal prints and animal scat, tree rubs and things like that because these animals, of course, are afraid of people.
And the people are all kind of where all these structures are, where the kids are. And kids are so loud, I mean, sometimes I'm annoyed at how loud my kids are, but now I'm like, oh, they have to be that loud or animals will like come eat them. And I'm super grateful for that defense mechanism.
So we have to leave all these noisy places that like animals don't like and go off trail. I am not a big off trail person. I don't know if you got the memo. We go off-trail, but I trust her.
But also I'm scared. I'm like, ‘you know what if, what if we, what if something happens and this kid doesn't go back home and I'll just feel terrible.’ I feel responsible for this child. You know, she's responsible for me, but I'm also an adult. I'm kind of responsible for her, you know.
So she took me out and she's telling me the stories of how she got so good at understanding nature. She had just practiced so many times, she had so much access to land.
Isabelle on FOGO: It's a lot of noticing little things. At first. It's like, uh, looking at different, um, patterns in the dirt is like, it's hard to look at and it's hard to explain how to get to that point. A lot of it was practice. I was not able to identify tracks and stuff, um, when I first started.
But it's looking at easier things to identify. Like scat helps bridge you into that cuz you can look and identify something that isn't a rock, that's poo. And then learn and take what you learned about that and take that and apply it to the dirt that you are looking at. And it's a lot of building up those skills before you're able to like just look at the ground and see something.
Ivy: And we see evidence of, of nearly every animal that is probably living on this land. It was really incredible.
Maren: Is that the sound of Ivy actually starting to get into this?
Ivy: I got to the point where I had just learned what deer tracks were and like 40 minutes later I was already bored of them cuz we had seen so many deer tracks. Right?
And then I, I thought the scariest thing that was gonna happen to me, was this giant stink bug just went straight at me. Like it was like aggressively going out specifically for me. I screamed, I went to the side, I thought everything was cool.
And where I had jumped to was right under a tree with a gigantic meat-eating centipede.
Ivy on FOGO: Oh, God. God. Oh God. It's a giant centipede. God. Oh my fucking God. My God. What's–
Ivy: Like there's no way this centipede got that big on like mosquitoes. Like I know that this centipede was eating rodents. I'm not saying all the centipedes in the woods are like this, but this specific centipede was a predator and absolutely did not care, was not afraid of us humans at all.
Maren: We'll be right back
Maren: As comedian Ivy Le told me about her magical experience going tracking with a girl scout in the picture-perfect teen movie wilderness, I thought maybe, just maybe, despite the monster centipede, she was starting to appreciate the outdoors. At the very least, she was learning how to see nature in more detail.
Ivy: So, basically what the Girl Scout taught me was how to see nature as not just one blurry giant magic eye puzzle, but to be able to pick out distinct things in the landscape. And so I was, I was starting to be able to spot tracks.
And I begin to piece together that animals also don't like being outside.
And so they themselves create roads for themselves. So they pave their own infrastructure and highways based on what are the stops that they need to make. I just kind of thought animals just win everywhere willy-nilly but actually they have roads and highways of their own. And they also don't like to leave them just like, I don't like to leave my trails. And if I wanna find them, I need to understand what their road and highway system is.
Maren: Uh... I would argue that animals making trails is not evidence that they don't want to be outside. In fact, my dad built trails for a living for years. And, he really likes being outside.
But, skipping over that, it really does seem like Ivy is developing a new relationship with the outdoors.
So, I mean, what I'm hearing is sort of like you started off the season going hiking and feeling like it was very homogenous and brown and not being able to see any of the detail and being like, what birds?
Like I can hear them but I can't see them. None of this makes any sense to me. And then you went, you know, out with this Girl Scout. And you were like, actually this is sort of starting to make sense. You were adapting to being able to see, you know, the things in the outdoors regardless of whether you care about that and like want to be able to do that, it was starting to make sense to you. Does that sound right?
Ivy: Yes, yes. Yeah. I, it's like I'm, I'm becoming a hunter and you know, Girl Scouts is not a traditional, uh, source of hunting knowledge. You know, and in, in fact you're not allowed to hunt on their land. I guess something about like safety in children or something like that. So you don't get merit badges for hunting or even tracking.
So not all girl Scouts know how to track this particular girl Scout knows how to track animals, and it was her access to this land that helped her practice those skills.
And when I started to try to see things through her eyes, I could begin to differentiate, you know, some of it. I couldn't, you know, I'm not somebody who's gonna go turn over rocks and play with the bugs like she does. But now I'm like, oh look, there's a rock. It's probably a bunch of bugs under it. I think I'm gonna avoid that rock.
So just kind of in one day it was magical because no one expects an indoorsy person who is just acting as a temporary tourist and visitor to their space to be able to see so many different things in one outing.
But I ended up being able to cross off almost every animal on my list from that area, and bonus Centipede and inchworm.
Like, like bonus animals, you know? So it was magical.
Not in the like, oh my gosh, I'm like a princess. But it was magical and like, oh my gosh, I think I'm a Disney villain. I think I'm a magical Disney witch, just summoning the darkness. And I kind of love that for me.
Maren: "Summoning the darkness" isn't exactly how I hoped Ivy would come to see convening with the wild. But it still feels like progress.
She's learning to see patterns in the animals and plants that live in the outdoors instead of just a bland but vaguely menacing landscape, and that's not nothing.
So you took these skills and you finally went hunting. How did it go?
Ivy: I did manage to hunt down an animal, but it was not a hog. Do you wanna know what it was?
Maren: I do wanna know what it was.
Ivy: You did? I did end up managing to kill a deer.
Maren: That's right: she went out and killed a deer. Then she butchered it, and she ate it, and she proved to herself that she could face her fears. In fact, she actually ended up going hunting three whole times! That seemed to more than fill the brief. So when I asked her if she planned to pursue her original mission and try to hunt down a hog, I fully expected her to say no.
So, you said that you're going to get yourself some feral hog. Does that mean you're gonna go hunting again?
Ivy: I think I might go hunting again.
Maren: Oh my God.
Ivy: I know. I mean, I don't know if I will or not. I think if people invite me out hunting, I'll go hunting.
But, the most obnoxious thing about hunting was finding a piece of land that you are allowed to be on and how much harder it is to get invited as a woman.
And that is just not something that I care to subject myself to again.
But if, if I didn't have to do that, if I got to just do the hunting part with some people whose company, you know, I don't mind sitting with in silence for potentially two nights on end, you know, I, I, I'm, I think I would do it again.
Maren: The hunting educator/birding enthusiast and the Girl Scout/animal tracker and me–what we all have in common is that a lot of the barriers that exist for Ivy don't exist for us. The birder is a white man who never had to look far to see people like him doing the activities he loves. When the girl scout's parents told her to go play, she went outside and did so in the dirt, knowing she'd be safe. My whole life I've had people around me taking me with them outside, with gear to lend and knowledge to spare.
When Ivy says that she's coming to these pursuits from absolute zero, this is what she means.
Learning how to shoot is the easy part.
Finding a community that will tell you what to shoot, and when, and where, and what to do next? That's much harder.
Ivy: I'm just a community minded person. You know, I'm Southern. Like, I always have a spare meal in my freezer just in case we have unexpected company drop by.
And what I found with hunting is that there are different subcultures and not all of them are welcoming.
They are not recruiting new hunters. Even among hunters themselves, they don't necessarily feel a sense of community. Even among hunters, they can be very cagey about places where they're hunting. Cuz they don't want competition.
Along the journey I figured out that they're distinct subcultures of hunters. There's old school hunters, is kind of what I call them. So your Teddy Roosevelt types, you know, old men with monocles and, and these hunting lodges with these, you know, taxidermied corpses on, on the wall of their bars and stuff.
And then there's new school hunters that are like, ‘this is so organic and this is like part of being in the earth and being a part of nature and knowing what you put in your body,’ you know?
And I thought that those are the two kinds of hunters. But actually there was another kind of hunter that Brandon Running Bear Herald told me about.
And I just didn't quite clock it cuz I didn't have enough context when I had met him.
Maren: Ivy interviewed Brandon Running Bear Herald, a self-taught Native American and Black hunter from California, in episode two.
Ivy: And he told me that he had a hard time finding other indigenous hunters to be in community with, because they don't think of themselves as hunters.
Brandon: Like I know this woman, Joy, in Alaska who brought her newborn with her on a caribou hunt in the middle of like on an icy flat hiking, stocking a herd of caribou with a rifle and a baby, killed a caribou, gutted the caribou out, packed the meat on her back with her baby, like on the front of her, and brought that meat home in like negative 10 degree weather.
And I think if you asked her if she was a hunter, she would probably pause and be like, I hunt, but I'm not… I guess like who's asking, you know, she wouldn't really consider herself a hunter. She's just an indigenous woman living in Alaska.
Ivy: All these people who are hunting are neither old school or new school hunters.
They are just hunters in the age-old sense that we are predators, we are animals. And we have hunted probably since the beginning of time. And that is what I was becoming.
I'm becoming a part of nature because I always was. Because I am an animal and I think I am biologically, not culturally, really predisposed to hunting.
Maren: So predisposed, in fact, that Ivy tells me that she's trying to organize a hunt for underrepresented groups that would allow them to feel safe in the outdoors.
Ivy: If I could just do one hunt where I know there was a critical mass of people who did not have to experience some of the more distasteful things that I experienced because I was able to guide them around those things and protect them from those things and just get them to the human experience that they have been disconnected from, uh, I, I would, I would be pleased. I would be pleased with that.
So if anybody wants to help sponsor hunt, we could use the money and the podcast money is not gonna do it.
Maren: Ivy's vision is to use borrowed guns or bows so that participants don't have to commit to owning a weapon before they know how to shoot it. They'd be on land that is welcoming to people of color. And perhaps most importantly, they'd have guides and mentors who understand all the barriers she and others face, and what it takes to overcome them.
Her bigger goal here is to enable people who might have felt uncomfortable in the outdoors to find a greater connection with nature.
Which sounds to me like just the kind of thing an outdoors person would do–even if she can't admit it yet.
After all of this, two seasons of Fear of Going Outside, do you consider yourself an outdoorsy person?
Ivy: Absolutely not. The minute I get a recurring role on Abbott Elementary, I will be gone from the outdoor space. The second I am famous enough to be traveling with Kristen Kish on Nat Geo going into restaurants around the world, indoors. I will never suffer on this RSS feed again.
Maren: Yeah okay... we'll see.
Maren: You can hear about Ivy Le's entire camping and hunting journeys on her podcast FOGO: Fear of Going Outside, available wherever you listen, and you can find her on all the socials at Ivy Le with one e–that whole phrase spelled out.
This episode was written and produced by me, Maren Larsen, and edited by Michael Roberts. Music and mixing by Robbie Carver.
Listener, if you want to tell us what barriers you've overcome in the outdoors, record your story as a voice memo and email it to us at email@example.com. And if you enjoyed this episode, leave us a review wherever you listen, or tell your indoorsy best friend about it.
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