Name: Sanni McCandless
Current City: Las Vegas, NV
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC & Seattle, WA
Occupation: Life & Transition coach and Cofounder of Outwild
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Cassandra McCandless and I am a life and transition coach for outdoor-minded individuals. My nickname, Sanni, came from a childhood friend not being able to pronounce my full name and, needless to say, it stuck. I am a child of both the South and Pacific Northwest and spent half my childhood in Washington State and half in North Carolina.
I like to think the process of rediscovering and recreating myself in two radically different cultures dramatically influenced who I am today: a social chameleon, an entrepreneur, an empath, strong-willed, opinionated, driven by compassion and focused on helping people make the most of their one life.
I studied psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and moved to Seattle for a marketing position at a tech startup after I graduated. Before my first job, I took two months to travel through Europe and vowed to myself that I would focus on saving money and continuing to take time to travel throughout my adult life.
Two years into my job, I decided it was time to hit the road again for a year of rock climbing and general exploration. When my savings began running low, I realized I was ready to dive into the career I'd always dreamt of – life coaching. Now, I work part-time as coach and I'm a co-founder of the annual festival, Outwild. I split my time between living on the road in the van and my home life in Las Vegas, Nevada.
What’s the origin story of Outwild and what can individuals expect from an event?
Outwild began out of the large amount of interest I saw in my coaching niche. People were hungry for the outdoors and lifestyles that felt more meaningful. I wanted to bring what I was doing in my one-on-one coaching to groups. In the winter of 2017, I was interviewed on The Adventurpreneur Playbook Podcast by Jeremy Jensen and mentioned my interest in group retreats. A few months later I got a phone call from him telling me he thought it was the time to bring this retreat brainchild to life.
Simultaneously, I was chatting with my friend, Courtney Sanford, and she mentioned group retreats as well! We took it as a sign and the three of us decided to start Outwild – an event dedicated to helping people lead more outdoor and value-driven lifestyles.
While we call Outwild a festival, it definitely has more a retreat layout. We start mornings with yoga followed by breakfast together as a group. We break into workshops focused on topics like life design, self-discovery, fear, career transitions, and getting outside. After lunch, we break for afternoon activities like additional workshops, guided hikes, rock climbing, mountain biking, or free time. In the evenings we come together for happy hour with group games and then dinner. We close the evening off with a movie or dance party!
For two and a half days we focus on getting in touch with our mind, bodies, and spirit, and building community while we do it.
How many events do you hope to host a year? Is it going to be seasonally in various cities?
As of right now, the plan is for Outwild to remain an annual festival. As our community and capacity grow, we hope to expand and host more events.
What attracted you to becoming a life and transition coach, more specifically, one tailored towards outdoor-focused individuals who want to live with intention?
I think I was always attracted to coaching because of the concrete way in which it helps people improve their lives. Unlike what is often assumed, life coaching is not advice-driven. My role as a coach is not to tell people what I think they should do or what I would do in their shoes. Instead, it's about providing a foundation to help them see themselves (their beliefs, thoughts, habits) differently. I ask them targeted questions and help them recognize when unnecessary fear is getting in the way. I hold them accountable for moving forward and making intentional decisions. I truly believe this process is one of the best ways possible to help people create real change.
How has your experience influenced the work you do for Outwild?
Over the past three years, my life has come to revolve around the intersection of life design and the outdoors. Outwild was simply a playful extension of that world – a way to not only bring was I was doing to larger groups, but also to add the community component (a piece of the puzzle that I think is integral to the magic of Outwild).
Do you have any upcoming events or collaborations you’d like the readers to know about?
Stay tuned at www.outwild.co for details on Outwild 2019!
Tell us about your first Outwild retreat. How many people showed up? what kind of experiences did they have? How was it as a co-founder and host?
Our first festival happened November 2nd - 4th of this year. 94 participants showed up as well as about 15 staff members. It truly exceeded all expectations – not just of the participants, but of Jeremy, Courtney, and I as well! Our participants showed up 100% ready to be present, be vulnerable, make positive life changes, connect and play outside. It was incredibly inspiring to watch people talk so openly about the fear involved in making big life changes.
How long have you been living life on the road, and what was the motivation behind your transition?
I've lived in a van on and off with my partner, Alex for the last 3 years. A year and a half ago, he bought a house in Vegas which is now our primary home base, but we still use the van throughout the year. I never really purposefully pursued “vanlife.”
Three years ago, I had just met Alex and was already planning on taking time off work to travel – settling into his mobile home to see what life on the road was like just seemed like a great option. Nowadays though, having time every year in the van to live with fewer possessions and get outside every day is a way to help me reset. I feel less anxious. I forget about social media. I spend more with myself and I get to enjoy a more intimate daily routine with Alex.
Climbing appears to be a huge part of your life, where are some of your favorite places to climb, and how did you get into the sport?
My sister taught me how to climb right when I moved back to Seattle as an adult. I went to the gym a few times as well as climbed outside three or four times with her one summer, but it took a while for climbing to stick. At the time, I was happy with my dance and boxing classes, but as time went out, I found that I couldn't stop thinking about climbing. I began to prioritize it more. Now, it's my main hobby, passion and form of exercise. I guess it finally stuck (:
As for climbing destinations, there are so many I have yet to go to, but from the ones I have traveled to, I really do love sport-climbing at home in Red Rock –largely because it's beautiful and close by. I love having a diverse schedule and Vegas' ease of access allows me to both work and climb easily in a day! But I also just love Yosemite. Whether it's the easy trad, bouldering, or hiking, I find it to be one of the most magical places on Earth.
Another place that comes to mind is Siurana, not just for the climbing, but for the incredible location too (so close to Barcelona and the coast). Haha, so I guess I love places that offer more than just climbing!
Discuss the importance of paying it forward.
Sometimes I struggle when people ask me for advice on how I got where I am today because my path has been so full of privilege. As a healthy, white woman coming from an upper-middle-class family with educated parents, so many aspects of my life have come easily. Not to say that I didn't work hard – I had jobs all throughout high school and college and worked my butt off for good grades at an affordable state school that didn't leave me crippled with debt. But I also had a safety net. I knew my parents were there if I needed anything. I had my sister for guidance around smart financial decisions. And I received a small early inheritance that enabled me to pay off my student loans more quickly than otherwise.
When I started my coaching business, I knew that my family would support me if I couldn't get it off the ground, and I had my partner's network to help me find clients when I first started.
Additionally, I didn't have kids to feed or elderly relatives that needed my support or attention. I had courage, strength, and determination to get to where I am today, but I also had a lot of luck. Paying it forward is important so that we can disperse the benefits of luck and privilege. So that we can give back to those who might not be getting the same step up or a lucky break that we received.
If you could give one piece of advice to young individuals around the globe, what would it be and why?
Just because something is uncomfortable doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.
Too often I see people stopped in their tracks because something is uncomfortable for them. In fact, I think there is such a high prioritization on making things feel comfortable in modern society that sometimes I really fear we've gone too far. Because I've found that I grow the absolute most in life when I toe the line of uncomfortability. Whether it's asking for a raise at work, going on an adventure that's bigger than what I've done in the past, participating in a group where I don't know anyone, being forced to hear the opinions of those I don't agree with, calling someone out on inappropriate behavior, or talking to my partner honestly about how I'm feeling, these are all moments that have helped me learn and grow as a human. They usually challenge me in ways that make me stronger and surer of myself on the other side. And I would miss all of that if I wasn't okay with being a little bit uncomfortable.
What/who are you grateful for?
My partner, my family, my friends, Barack and Michelle Obama, my clients, snuggly PJs, Yosemite, all cozy coffee shops everywhere, primary and secondary education teachers in America, the ocean, raspberries, seasons, music, wildlife sightings, sport-climbing in the sun on a cold day.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Taking ownership and pride in who you are and how you plan to leave the world a better place.
Do you have a personal mantra or quote that inspires you?
“The importance of showing up in relationships already loved”
“In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”