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A trip south: Reflections from the road

Posted: October 11, 2012 - 11:02pm
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During the kayak portion of their journey, members of A Trip South gather for a meeting while in Tracy Arm, south of Juneau.   Courtesy of A Trip South
Courtesy of A Trip South
During the kayak portion of their journey, members of A Trip South gather for a meeting while in Tracy Arm, south of Juneau.

As young people we are constantly searching for our place. With each stunning sunset, colorful character and group argument we learn a little bit more about ourselves and where that place might be. This journey south has allowed for a surreal detachment from society. We have been able to resist the demand for a rigid schedule; seeking an alternative approach to life.

Now, more than four months after leaving Juneau, I find myself on a bicycle saddle rather than in a kayak cockpit. The monotonous melody of the turning pedals has allowed me to reflect.

From the first email we sent out explaining our vision, we have received nothing but encouragement, guidance and help. The community of Juneau rallied around us to ensure that our seemingly far-fetched ideas were celebrated rather than scrutinized. Companies, from local to international, were quick to offer help of any kind to make our shoe string budget mesh with our giant imaginations. Paddling away from Sandy Beach we were not quite sure what we had gotten ourselves into, but I felt an overwhelming sense that we were undertaking something great. These past months have done nothing but reaffirm that feeling.

I will never forget huddling under a tarp in a make-shift beach hot tub with eleven giggling friends during a violent downpour. Nor will I forget our stubborn politicking for each group decision and the inevitable tensions that arose. Each day presented unknown adventure and tested our ability to communicate. Life was reduced to a simple state. Free to explore, we were pulled in every direction; pushing up inlets, floating through fjords and ripping into tidal lakes. Meals were cooked over beach fires, televisions and computers were replaced by books and journals. With twelve minds firing, someone was always willing to lead us. We went hiking, played Frisbee, snorkeled in kelp beds, built human pyramids, covered ourselves in mud, and told stories. I do not have a single regret. In the communities along the way we made connections with the local people. Each encounter revealed a valuable lesson.

Receiving salmon from the fishing vessel “Misty”, Captain Chuck taught us the power of a gift. In Kake, we were absorbed by Mike Jackson, a native man who radiated a deep appreciation and knowledge of his land. Cameron Hill, a leader of the Gitga’at people in Hartley Bay, related the nature and value of trust. A life-long kayaking artist of Sointula, Stewart Marshall showed us that it was possible to dare to live life differently. Gordon and the Benson family impressed upon us the importance of singing songs with friends; laughing all through the night. World traveling sailing enthusiasts, Rob and Grace demanded that we never stop dreaming. Many more impacted the trip; there is simply not enough space to include them all. Every interaction built upon the previous one, each person led us to the next. The rarity of these intra-group relations compounded their significance. Moving south we were left to delve for meaning within our memories. Our mode of transportation has changed, but we continue to seek profound experiences.

Rushing cars now pass us narrowly; a continual reminder that we have left the tranquility of kayak travel. The vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean is now only a view from our sliver of coastal highway shoulder. Still, the magic brought forth from slow-paced exploring lingers. All that is required is an enthusiasm to learn; the world is full of willing teachers. In turn, we end up hearing their stories, sometimes over several hours, sometimes over several days. We could not be more grateful to have this opportunity. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people in the world.

More than 10,000 miles are left to the south. We will continue to pedal, we will continue to learn.

For more information and updates please visit www.atripsouth.com.

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