So we were out on the deck of Shane Curole’s family boathouse. It was docked in the middle of a marsh lease, somewhere in south Louisiana, sometime in February. Aside from the cold front that had just blown through, this is what I consider paradise – skinny, salty and sunny.
Rob and I were talking through our upcoming fishing and filming plans for the year. I was gonna head down to south Florida for a week or two, he talked about some canoe trip in upstate New York with Ben Duchesney. They were gonna do 100 miles, in 7 days, with some cold water rapids and it might even snow. Some place called the Addiraracks. Mark Vlaskamp and Jeff Herman were going too. I was already a little peeved that this cold front had put a damper on my tropical marsh dreams, but I laughed and asked, “Why would you do that?”
Rob laughed too, “I don’t know, something different.” That’s what’s cool about Rob, he likes to fish and film different shit. Me? I just don’t enjoy cold weather, wearing all these layers and most of the time you’re just wishing you could go back inside and be warm. It’s like people who love sunny days so they can go sit in the shade somewhere. It’s ironic. Instead of me being out in the cold elements to enhance my desire to go be warm by the fire again, I just stay inside and indoors during the colder months. Screw irony. I like to catch up on editing, business tasks, DIY projects and the housekeeping duties I’ve been putting off all year.
“I went snowboarding twice – hated it, won’t ever waste my time out in the cold again.” I told Rob, “Just not fun for me. F*ck that bro. If I’m gonna spend 7 days somewhere, it’s gonna be somewhere tropical!” That has been my long standing mantra.
A month later, I’m swapping emails with Ben Duchesney, he was putting together an article for Kayak Angler Magazine on the Louisiana boathouse marsh trip. He was digging the personality and vibe of the Cajun Country video and wanted to write something for it and share it out.
A week after, Ben sends out a blind group email, I somehow made that list:
Hey, I have a spot on a canoe trip that just opened up in the Adirondack region of New York for April 23-30. I know it’s short notice so I’m sending it out to everyone that might be interested. There’s nothing you need to plan and not much you need to worry about in terms of gear.
My immediate reply, “What’s the estimated cost of the trip Ben?” I don’t know why I was even considering it.
Then, “Put me down Ben as 90%. I just have to double check my schedule.” I was being driven by some random compulsion.
In all fairness, I didn’t really think it would be that cold, April and May in Texas is pretty warm. I had forgot the mention of possible snow and I was down for something different. It was by canoe. It was freshwater. It was forests and mountains. Pretty much opposite of how I like to adventure. I didn’t know what I was getting into, which I suppose is part of the excitement and why I choose to put up the other 10% and go all-in on the Adodondacks canoe trip.
The cost question was critical at the time. I had just launched ActionHat, I was living off my sales and all my money was in inventory. Funds were tight. Money was tied up. But there was something in the timing, and how it came about so organically, that made me agree to just DO it.
You see, May was an anniversary month for me. May would be my first full year not on a stable salary. It was my first year working for myself, both through the new business and through contract work. The autonomy to go on long trips and adventures, was the reason I wanted to be in business for myself to begin with. To have the control of my own time to do this trip, was the point of enduring the otherwise challenging emotional, mental and financial swings of being self-employed. I may not have my financial stability anymore, but I owned my own time and controlled my own life and destiny. I was supposed to go on this trip. I was driven by some “find yourself” hippie shit.
The Adonkadonk canoe trip, in the purest clichéd sense – was life changing. Here are the valuable lessons I learned from this trip. Lessons you only learn by getting out of your comfort zone and doing some different shit.
In life, you are doing one of two things: celebrating or coping. Nothing demonstrates this duality more than going on an extended adventure, beyond a weekend trip, when you are truly at the mercy or grace of Mother Nature. That first day, we were definitely celebrating life. The sun was out and the fish were biting. We were well-rested and amped, fueled by both caffeine and adrenaline. It was a celebration of freedom for all of us, the freedom to spend 8 days in a canoe. We were high on life and that fresh mountain air. It was the perfect set-up for an 8 day roller coaster ride. The following days we would experience new highs and lows – sometimes mere minutes apart. Adventures like this one reveals life in hyper-accelerated ways. Sometimes in traditional life, you find yourself in deep lows for long periods of time and hope seems impossible and distant. When you get back out in nature, you go from celebrating to coping and back again – real fast. You understand that natural cycle and begin to almost appreciate the ups and downs. You begin to enjoy the cold because it makes that fire feel better. Shit, I’m being ironic.
You HAVE to keep moving forward. I hate treadmills. Philosophically, I hate the idea of running in place. That’s why I enjoy outdoor activities. When I’m in a kayak, I HAVE to eventually paddle back to my launch spot. I HAVE to. When I get on a treadmill, I usually hop off after 5 minutes. I don’t have a strong enough reason to just keep running in place. When you go on a canoe trip, you are in constant motion the entire time. You are moving forward, one paddle stroke, one footstep at a time. Every view, every breath, every moment is new. That’s the feeling of living. That’s the feeling of being alive. That’s the reason to keep moving forward. Shit, I’m becoming a hippie.
You can DO MORE than you think. So, I watched this video about a Navy Seal concept called the 40% Rule. Basically, when your brain says you’re done, you’re only 40% done, you have about 60% more to give. The theory stuck with me. I didn’t grow up a physically active kid. I mean, I rode bikes and wandered around at the bayous, but I didn’t play sports or work out. I liked to write and read. I liked to tinker with stuff and make things. I didn’t grow up physically challenging myself. Well, at the age of 35, I was also the oldest guy in the crew. Everybody else was under 30. The paddling wasn’t too bad but the portages were a bitch. By the end of day two, my arms and legs were Ramen noodles. I was seriously concerned about how I would make it for 5 more days. But then, I remembered the 40% rule. So I pushed, I hurled one foot in front of another until we got to the end. We all pushed hard, every single day. I surprised myself and kept up with them. I now know what I am physically capable of. But shit man, when did I became the old guy?
We have it really easy. This was a leisure trip. We didn’t HAVE to do this trip. But, do you know how hard it was for me to release those fish? After all that paddling, after all the lugging stuff around, all I wanted to do was cook those fish up over an open fire and pick the meat off with my bare hands. Why? Because that’s the reason why people used to go on these expeditions. They went out into the wild to go get food, shelter and shit. We, on the other hand, had the luxury to pull up 100 miles from where we left and immediately stuff our faces with some Dunkin Donuts. What we did for 8 days, was what people HAD to do everyday to survive. What we did for 8 days, is what some people still HAVE to do everyday to survive. That’s perspective you don’t get from just reading this blog. That perspective you get only from doing different shit. Now get your ass off the couch and go DO something… different.