Being an Outsider Made Josh Duhamel the Man He Is Today
As a North Dakota native, Josh Duhamel’s dedication to nature and the preservation of it are ingrained in his DNA. Just ask him to tell you about his cabin in the woods that only recently saw the installation of indoor plumbing.
“I love it up there. There’s something simple up there that’s ‘back to the basics’ that really keeps me sane. When I’m stressed out, I think about that and I can’t wait to get back out there this spring,” Duhamel tells me over the phone as we stare out into different corners of the New York fog on a rainy day.
He explains that the cabin’s guests over the past 80 years only had access to an outhouse if they needed to use the restroom.
“Finally we put a well in. There’s electricity there now, which is great, otherwise you had to wash your dishes and take your baths in the lake.”
I hear a burst of energy enter his voice while he pauses on that image, as if a whiff of fresh air from the lake in his memory just inflated his lungs. “I love that. For me, there’s something really simple about it. Maybe I’m just a simple-minded man, but you come back lifted when you experience nature, I swear to God.”
Duhamel remembers the days of his childhood when he spent from sunrise to sundown catching frogs and turtles, salamanders, and fish with his buddies in the comfort of spring. “We really developed this love for the outdoors. It’s something that I’ve carried with me and that I need in my life,” he says.
The facts show that we are no longer living in the society of Duhamel’s youth among the trees and wildlife. According to a new Columbia University survey analysis commissioned by Claritin, Americans are spending an average of 95% of their time indoors, which equates to nearly 346 days a year.
“As a guy who spends most of my life outdoors, even now, I feel like that’s an issue.”
Duhamel seeks to remedy this issue by partnering with Claritin on their #BeAnOutsider campaign that encourages Americans to get outdoors and to document it on social media for a good cause. Every time we take a photo in the outdoors and post them on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtags #BeAnOutsider and #Claritin, Claritin will donate $5 (up to $50,000) to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The first year of funds from Duhamel’s campaign with Claritin and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America will be used to develop a resource guide to support club staff at its local clubs to help get their local youth and their families outside more. In subsequent years, Claritin will work with the organization to determine key areas that funding can support, which may include the refurbishment of outdoor play areas for those clubs with the greatest need.
“If you can make a decision to do something indoors or outdoors, do it outside, especially if it’s a beautiful day,” says Duhamel. “Even if it’s not, go out in the rain! If you have kids, they love splashing through the puddles. Kids are tougher than we are.”
To kick off the “Be an Outsider” campaign on Tuesday (Apr. 4, 2017), Duhamel rolled up on a custom multi-seater bike to take Boys & Girls Clubs kids on a ride in New York City, which turned out to be a larger physical challenge for him than he thought it would be.
“We just tested out that five-seater bike and it’s not as easy as it seems. That thing is long,” he says, joking that he might need a degree from clown school to navigate the vehicle. “It works really well once you get it going in a straight line, but to try to turn it, you need like a three-block radius to make a turn because it’s so long. They overestimated my cycling abilities, but thankfully no one’s been injured yet.”
Duhamel is passing on his healthy relationship with the outdoors to his three-year-old son with Fergie, Axl. The actor tells me that he and his son will go on little adventures on a trail in the back of their house to collect sticks, rocks, and flowers. “We’ll go up there and pretend we’re ‘hiding from the bad guys’ or whatever’s in his imagination. He loves it,” he says.
Still, on some occasions, little Axl wants to retreat indoors to play with his toys, which is when Duhamel has to get creative.
“It’s not that I don’t let him play inside, but I push him to go do things outside. Kids, by nature, they want to be out there. It isn’t until they get older that they start retreating indoors, so I think it’s important for us to find something to do, which is made easy by going to Claritin’s Outdoor Activity Finder on their website.”
By advocating for the creatures nearing extinction that inhabit our natural spaces in partnership with WildAid, a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade, and using two simple hashtags in his photos of the outdoors on social media in partnership with Claritin, Duhamel honors the salamanders and frogs that he collected as a young boy in North Dakota and will give today’s youth the opportunity to engage with nature in the same way.
“It’s important to get out there and find something to do, whether it’s walking around the block or traversing the Yucatan,” he says. “Just get out there.”