Just take that first step
May of 2009 I rented a car, strapped my used NDK on top, filled the back with kit, and set off to drive across the country, Orlando to Seattle, in a mere 48 hours. I had allocated such a small amount of money for the transit that I had to drive non-stop in order to pay the rental.
Three days after arriving, I stood on a beach in Puget Sound trying to fit into a dry suit that I had never paddled in before; cramming boxes of food and kit into my orange kayak; and then shoving more kit into my lap as I set forth to paddle the inside passage. I had never even navigated before. I had only camped 4 days in a row out of the boat, and here I was preparing to travel for 3-5 months to a remote and wild destination.
I remember the pit in my stomach, it felt hollow, almost sick. Yet, emotionally I was on a high, excited about the prospect of doing something that at the time everyone around me thought was unachievable. I pushed off and paddled more than 1800 miles into some of the most beautiful and remote country of North America.
January 2010 I sat on a beach in Key West Fl surrounded by friends and family. The scene had a sense of deja vu as I struggled to cram gear and food into my Orange NDK. Lessons learned from my passage to Alaska seemed to be forgotten as I once again struggled to fit it all in the boat. What was I doing this time I thought? How was I going to manage paddling in Oceans with surf and rock? I had never been in swell let alone any type of large surf. How would I get out each morning through breaking waves and how would I surf in each day with a fully loaded 18ft sea kayak. I was nuts!!
Now I would have to navigate the breakers of Florida and the shipwreck capital of the Atlantic, the outer banks. I would have to navigate the shipping channels of major cities, the rocky New England coast line and the fog laden islands of Maine. The goal, transit more than 3500 miles up the Atlantic Coast, Key West to Nova Scotia.
I was excited and filled with a raw sense of confidence that was some how lacking the year before. I just knew that anything was now achievable and all I needed to do was push off that beach and begin paddling. No route this time, just keep the coast on my left, and let the winds and currents take me where they may. 3,300 miles later, beaten and exhausted I landed on the shores of Nova Scotia and achieved most of what I had set out to do. My goal had been to go a bit farther, but the satisfaction of once again following my dreams and doing what others saw as unachievable, brought great satisfaction to my soul.
January 2010, I stood at my sisters looking at my B.O.B trailer attached to my used Salsa Fargo thinking what I am I doing now. The routine of 'Start Day' was now firmly entrenched in my psyche, so the feelings of doubt were no longer there, replaced instead with a firm respect for my abilities to succeed at whatever I set out to do. Still, looking at the bike and trailer, thinking about the goal of pedaling more than 10,000 miles around North America seemed somewhat daunting if I actually took the time to dwell on what I was attempting to do.
Instead, I focused on the routine of making sure I had what I needed and that my plan for the first day was set. I had learned that it was all about the first day. The desire to put a static object, me, into motion, was the key to moving forward. Hopping on the bike, waving goodbye to my family, I once again set out to achieve something that I had never done before. It had been years since I had owned or ridden a bike. Now I was going to live on one for the next 6, 9, or even 12 months.
Was I nuts or had I just discovered a new and profound sense of freedom, something akin to a drug that makes us feel fully alive? I pedaled off that day with a smile on my face, secure in the knowledge that once again I was taking the first step towards achieving something grand, something that on the surface seemed completely unachievable. I knew that all I had to do was take the first step, and the path would unfold before me.
I pedaled more than 7,000 miles, not quite what I set out to do, but still, not bad. I had once again been set free by simply putting myself into motion, putting the grand plan into play and by taking that first step. I look back now and see that over the past three years, some 12,000 miles later, I have simply taken one step at a time towards achieving my goals. If I had set out three years ago to travel as far as I have, I don't know if I could have done it. By breaking things down into a single step at a time, I was able to build a path that was far greater than anything I had every imagined.
What first step will you take towards achieving the next greatest thing in your life?