Kula Adventure Series - Susan Conrad: Author and Expedition Kayaker
Hi Kula Fans! Today I'm absolutely thrilled and honored to introduce the incredible Susan Conrad on the adventure blog. In 2010, Susan performed a solo kayak expedition of the Inside Passage. She has written a book about her experience on that adventure and now travels the world speaking about her experience and inspiring others to pursue their ideas and dreams. I hope that you are just as inspired by her story, and I hope that it encourages you to follow the passions and adventures that you've always wanted to pursue in your life. -Anastasia Allison
Expedition kayaking is my true love because it exposes me to adversity, which often makes me a better, stronger version of myself. Inspiring and motivating other people to get outside makes my heart zing!
I’ll never forget a hiking trip in Southern Oregon, circa 1985. We had stopped for a lunch break and a friend peeled his orange and tossed the peels into the forest. I commented that it would be best if he packed those out and he came back with “why, it’s biodegradable.” The only thing I could think of to say was “so is human shit, but you wouldn’t leave that there, would you?” He said “point taken,” picked up the orange peels and put them in his backpack. We’re still friends today!
Leave No Trace means leaving an area you’ve visited in the backcountry, or the front country for that matter, just as you found it, if not better. It’s about limiting our impact, or making a positive impact. It means respecting the precious places we have the privilege of recreating in and the wildlife that makes their home there. It means setting a good example for others. Practicing good resource stewardship means being a part of the Greater Good versus being part of the problem. I spend a lot of time paddling along remote wilderness coastlines. I’ve seen firsthand how plastic and marine debris are seriously impacting our coastlines and oceans. It’s critical to keep our human impact in nature in check—we ALL need to take action. Wrapping our brains around the key principles of LNT is a fantastic way to start. Pack it in, pack it out!
There were many catalysts for me to consider this expedition, starting with the spirit of adventure and the challenge of self-discovery. There was also that “because it’s there” mentality. Just like mountain climbers have their summit or peak that they have to reach, my proverbial summit just happened to be Juneau, Alaska. There’s was the “holy-grailness” of it, too. The Inside Passage is considered to be one of the most scenic and challenging paddling routes in North America. But my decision was really more about coming to terms with this rather unfortunate chain of circumstances that was unraveling in my life at the time. My father had recently died, my long-term relationship had fallen apart, a close friend died—things were spinning off kilter and I was looking for a way to bring my life back into balance. I’ve always been a very goal-oriented person with this oftentimes insatiable curiosity to have to know what’s around the next corner. For a short period of time, I lost that curiosity and I so desperately needed a “next corner.” Being on the water has always put things in perspective for me, so I decided that the Inside Passage would be that next corner.
Lessons Learned! I’ll bullet-point this one because there were oceans-full of lessons presented to me!
I learned that:
- I can do anything I set my mind to.
- I can indeed be patient! The sea will teach you patience, whether you are a willing student or not.
- I can be ridiculously stubborn.
- I can let go of what no longer serves me and also have acceptance – of myself, my past, of what I can’t change.
- The courage and strength that took me through the Inside Passage is the same courage and strength that will guide me through the undulating seas of everyday life.
- I can trust in myself, in the order of things, in the disorder of things.
- Whenever possible I should go with the flow, because isn’t that what kayakers do, after all?
- Everything in life, no matter how challenging, is there to point us toward healing and growth.
- Paring life down to the basics for an extended period of time taught me to value the pleasures of everyday life. (like warm running water and a flat spot to sleep!)
- There is no better “there” than my “here.” My memoir reveals why I’ve always been a runner: running from one problem, one situation, one catastrophe to the next. Through all those moments of soul searching while paddling the Inside Passage, what I’ve finally “gotten” is that there will always be another there that is better than my here. That when my there becomes a here, I’ll simply try to obtain another there, that will, again, appear a better option than my current here. It’s about staying grounded, living in the moment, and appreciating what I’ve got.
There were so many magical moments during my 66-day adventure. If I were to pick one, I’d say it was the day I took the photograph that is now on the cover of INSIDE. I was just a few days shy of Juneau, my final destination. The weather had been miserable for quite some time but on this particular day, the clouds suddenly lifted, revealing icy blue glaciers creeping down to the sea, a deep azure sky, glassy water mirroring snow-covered peaks, a parade of icebergs, whales, loons, seals, sea lions, and a boisterous waterfall cascading off a nearby glacier. I remember floating in that bay for hours, deliriously snapping hundreds of photos. I was immersed in the art of lingering and utterly spellbound by my surroundings, paddling from one paradise into another. All these things flirted with my eyes and are forever imprinted in my memory!
Actually, I never intended to write a book; I was simply going on an adventure! It wasn’t until I returned and eventually started giving informal slideshow presentations to my friends that a common question kept popping up: “When’s the book coming out?” At first I just laughed and shrugged it off. I was too busy to write a book and at the time I thought that I really didn’t have that much to write about. But something kept nagging at me. Something kept telling me that I had something of value to share with the world. And so the process began.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou, there is no greater sadness than a story left untold. I eventually refused to be that story. But my refusal didn’t come easy while navigating the birth of this book. For it’s much easier for me to sit in a wobbling kayak on the ocean, than in a steady office chair in front of a computer. I discovered that paddling the Inside Passage was the easy part. Stringing words together that properly conveyed my feelings, and the facts centered around those feelings, was much more daunting. At times, nothing felt as exasperatingly impossible, not even arduous forty-mile days, fierce head winds, or mountainous swell—as writing did. It took me five more years to bring those words into a tangible reality: a book that I could actually hold in my hands, turn the pages and share with the world. And it was worth every ounce of effort!
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.
~ Amelia Earhart
I tend to get quote happy when it comes to adventure, and this quote is one of my all time favorites.
We all strive to be better versions of ourselves. I encourage all women with a passion for adventure to get clear on what they really want to do, set a date, and GO FOR IT! Approach your dreams and goals with urgency and determination. Your preparation should involve a lot of baby steps on your path to stepping outside your comfort zones. My advice with each baby step is to have an easy bail out, where you can quickly step back into what might not be quite so intimidating. Then go back to your goal—take a bigger step. Stay the course, and up the ante each time and you’ll quickly develop the tenacity of a bulldog. Most importantly, believe in yourself and you will achieve great things! You don’t have to paddle 1,200 miles to learn all the lessons I did — you simply need to believe that we are ALL infinitely capable of accomplishing anything we set our minds to.
I believe everyone can be an adventurer. It’s simply about getting outside and exploring the natural world: on foot, in a kayak, a hot air balloon, a camel, your bicycle, it doesn’t matter! Follow your passions, open your mind to the beauty and magic ‘out there,’ And in doing so, I hope it imparts a stronger connection to the natural environment, and inspires people to not only explore it but to cherish and protect it! Get outside and find your INSIDE!
Life’s an adventure—live it wildly!
My solo, 1,200-mile journey changed my life—profoundly. I now use this expedition, and the resulting life transformation, as a springboard for all my work, focusing on inspiring people to reach their full potential and discovering that mindset is everything. Since my adventure memoir was released in May 2016, I have been traveling extensively throughout the U.S. and British Columbia, sharing my stories and images and inspiring people from all walks of life. My key takeaway message is that whatever your personal challenges, whatever your dreams, you are infinitely braver, stronger and more resilient than you imagine.
Connect with Susn:
If you would like to book Susan to speak to your group, club, organization or whatever, please contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan's website: SusanMarieConrad.Com
You can find Susan's book by clicking on this link : Inside, One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage