Canoe Trip in Kejimkujik

A Perfect Pace: Kejimkujik National Park by Canoe

If I could choose one word which sums up the success of this trip from July 2020, it is pace. It’s an important factor to consider for any adventure. How fast do you want (or need) to move through each activity? How far do you want (or need) to go?

Travelling at the proper pace for you

Something that I’ve realized over time: it doesn’t really seem to matter how far I go, it can be a kilometer, or ten, or fifty, once I find a really nice place to sit and be, I feel like I’ve made it, I’ve arrived! And that’s where I want to be. At least for a while.

Sometimes this means I won’t end up travelling as far as I’d planned, or do all the activities I wanted to do. This can in turn make me feel an urge to go faster to make up time or triage my activities, but being intentionally present, curious, and compassionate with myself and the situation allows me to strike the proper balance.

For me, travel is a mixture of these three urges:

an urge to explore and see new things

an urge to truely savour, understand, and connect with each new thing I find, and

an urge to share those findings with other people.

Pace is the variable that determines the balance of these three things. If I’m moving too fast while I explore, trying to cram in as much as possible, I don’t have time to savour, understand, or connect, which means I won’t have as much depth to share with others. But, if I move too slow and spend too much time savouring, I won’t get very far, and therefore won’t have much to share. If all I want to do is find things to share with others, I can’t be present for myself, therefore I’m not able to truely understand and connect and reap the benefits of the experiences.

Being intentional with pace

When I feel an urge to speed up to see more or go further, I ask myself: why?

If it feels like my motivation is pride based, like I want to prove something externally by travelling further, to try and make my trip feel more extreme, or sound more intense, I ignore the urge. If I’m enjoying where I’m at, or I’m moving slower than I thought I would, I just roll with it, adjust and adapt.

It’s important to remember that one can’t see everything there is to see, and you might not ever return to the place you are at! This might be the only time you’re standing on that beach, so go ahead, skinny dip.

Now I will say this: if it feels like I need to speed up to stay in line with my trip plan or to mitigate safety concerns (weather, for example), or I just genuinely want to satiate my curiosity to see what’s around that next bend, then I do push on, adjust my speed, and perhaps cut out certain activities from my plan.

A great piece of advice given to me by a mentor: never put blinders on.

Horse with blinders on
Photo by Sue Hughes on Unsplash

And I think it’s easy to put blinders on when we start to let pride motivate our decisions. I can’t speak for everyone who explores the outdoors, but I do know how easy it is to let notions of extremity be the measure of memorable or noteworthy adventures. Especially in wilderness travel.

Want to learn more about the magic of wilderness travel? Check out my interview with Ric Driediger of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters of Northern Saskatchewan.

I’ll speak personally when I say that there can feel like a pressure to “prove myself” on trips, to go to the extreme, toil over long days, do things others wouldn’t; to live up to the stories in film festivals. And while I am a firm believer in stepping out of one’s comfort zone, I’m always cautious of that pride-based motivation trap.

To push yourself out of your comfort zone is for you, it’s a personal growth action. To try and live up to the standards of other adventurers is to attempt to grow by comparison. And I don’t think you can experience genuine growth by comparison.

This self-check-in is important, and likely always going to be neccessary. Especially in today’s age where comparison based evaluation of self is so prominent. As adventurers, outdoor recreators, and explorers, we don’t have to perform for anybody, to prove anything. We need to serve the goals of our own trip, to satisfy ourselves and those who travel with us.

It may be that sometimes we are out there to push our limits, travel incredible distances, go to the extreme – that’s great! But it’s just one kind of trip. Sometimes we are out there to move slow, connect deeply, and swim off every jumping rock.

And that’s what we did on this journey into Kejimkujik. We savoured the sun, the water, the wildlife. We made good food and music, swam – a lot – and allowed ourselves all the little detours we felt like taking. And for us, at that time, for this trip, we struck a perfect pace.

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