The Neighborhood

Posted by Ken Campbell January 17, 2010 0 Comment 906 views

In 2000, I was in Newfoundland, on a 91-day kayak trip around the ancient rocky shores of Canada’s easternmost Province. In 13 weeks, I paddled almost 1800 miles; Mary joined me for the 300-mile section along the south coast and the rest of it was done solo. In fact, it was on that trip, on my birthday, that I asked Mary to be my wife. It was a defining trip for me, with all the ingredients: adventure, danger, love, a sense of history, and an exotic and beautiful location.

It’s hard to shake the idea that exploration is something best done a long way from home, preferably in a harsh environment with a modicum of danger (either from meat-eating mega-fauna, weather that can kill you or armed rebels), and where drinking the water is simply not an option. After all, it can’t really be an adventure if it’s too close to where you live, right? Complicated travel arrangements and the possibility of Turkish prison are just a couple of things that will spice up anyone’s travel report.

The thing is, wherever it is you plan on going to “get away from it all,” there are people who live there. I think Tahiti is pretty exotic. And Bali, and Kathmandu. I don’t know the name of the village closest to the trail at the foot of Kilimanjaro, but I bet that’s a pretty damn exotic locale as well. The people who live there, on the other hand? I have a feeling they’re probably bored with all that nature and beauty and reality… they would almost certainly jump on the next flight to Tacoma if given the opportunity.

One of the reasons I want to paddle around the Olympic peninsula is to try to link the ideas of adventure and home in a practical manner. There won’t be many points along the route where I’ll be much more than a hundred miles from my house – very different from Newfoundland – but at the same time, it will still be a demanding and varied endeavor. I expect to experience many of the same stresses and emotions that I have been through on other expeditions in other, more remote, places, but the difference is that I will be interacting with my environment as someone who belongs there. It is my home, my back yard, and I want to know it better.

Exotic just means “somewhere you’re not.”

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