Friday, July 18, 2014

The Practical Minimalist.

For me, my minimalism started out of divorce. Shortly after I found myself alone in an apartment in lower manhattan - before I owned a kayak - While Desperate for an end to sadness, I discovered Feng Shui. I read that my environs affected my emotions, and the first step to happiness was an organized space. And the first step to an organized space, was decluttering. I threw out a lot. Honestly, I threw out, gave away, or sold most of what I owned, and it was freeing. I don't know if it was Feng Shui or not, but I definitely felt better.

Today - nearly 20 years later - I consider myself a practical minimalist. I have made up that term so let me explain what that is. The past year or so I have spent a lot of time at a couple of specific subreddits at the website reddit. Particularly r/minimalism and r/tinyhouses. I enjoy both because they both align with more simplified life. There is r/simpleliving as well, which I like, but it doesn't grab me as much. Here is the problem with r/minimalism. probably 50% of the posts relate to a lifestyle that isn't practical. I love the photos of the desks with just a macbook air on it claiming to be a 'workspace', but that isn't going to be me. I do too much video work to edit on a little screen, and my desk is always covered with a) the piece of gear I need to fix b)the piece of gear I just fixed c) the Gopro camera that is charging d)the materials from the class I am about to teach, or did just teach. Another popular post subject on r/minimalism is "everything I own fits in this 30 liter backpack". Which is invariably posted by someone who writes code for a living, and can do it with a macbook air at a cafe in Paris for his client in wherever. He doesn't need a desk, he sleeps in hostels and has one change of clothes and two pairs of underwear. This is a great lifestyle, and I wish I had it, but I love my wife and my dog, and I am not getting rid of them because my entire life doesn't fit in a back pack. And apparently to be a minimalist you really have to have a macbook air, apple should use this in marketing. But despite the fact that I don't live my life on a 13 inch screen most of my friends and acquaintances are fascinated by my lifestyle. A month ago if you came to my house and wanted to sit in the living room, you were either on the floor or a piece of folding camp furniture.

I recently moved, and everything my wife and I own fit in half a 14 foot U-Haul. I don't have a TV. I don't have a DVD collection. I didn't move a bed - I got a new Tuft & Needle discovered on r/minimalism - and I didn't have a couch.  I own about 20 books. I am constantly giving away gear, and books. If I am done with a book, and I think you might enjoy it, I am giving it to you. I am regularly selling old gear when I need to upgrade. I don't buy a piece of new gear unless I need it - not want it. If I have no use for a piece of gear, to me, it has no value. If you would enjoy it, I get pleasure out of giving it to you! I actually own dishes (okay, only 8 dishes and 6 bowls) and cook wear, but I am not buying a unitasker kitchen item.  I have a very small wardrobe and three pairs of shoes. I do one load of laundry per week - As a side note, if you live your life in the outdoors and most of your clothes are wicking/quick dry, your 'drier time' is very short.

I moved recently because I bought a house (This kicks me immediately out of the minimalist club!). My wife and I have been renting for years. Burned in the housing bubble we were hesitant to make the investment again. But we realized that we are going to be in our present location for at least 6 or 7 years, and a mortgage would be a few dollars more than our rent. Literally a few dollars. So we found a house we liked, in a neighborhood we liked and I moved the kayaks. We didn't move into a tiny house, even though I love the idea. We did move to a house that was smaller than our rental. My rental landlord, was flabbergasted to hear we were moving to something smaller. This smaller home will be easier to heat, and cool. And because we don't own much, it still looks and feels  roomy. At the moment we think we may retire to a tiny house. It would really only be about 700 Square feet smaller then what we are in now. My friends are amazed because we actually bought a couch. The living room in the rental was mostly empty.

This is what I consider a practical minimalist lifestyle. I have the things I need. If I don't need it, I don't own it. The important distinction here is need versus want. Most Americans buy what they want. I am not purging absolutely everything I own so that my life fits in a 40 liter backpack or dry bag, but I am also not buying things I don't need. When we moved I realized that for some reason we had 18 spoons. I got rid of 8 of them. If there are four people in my house for dinner, and we have dessert, I could need 10 spoons. Twice a year I have six people for dinner. I may end up washing a couple of spoons, but that's okay.

My house has a very uncluttered feel. In fact it feels very open. It is soothing. It is lovely.

This is one of the reasons I like expedition kayaking. Everything I need is in the boat. If it isn't there, I am living without. But even this is open to change. Because we were making the film on the last trip I had a lot of gear I didn't have before. Solar panels and Sherpa Batteries, and multiple cameras, and tiny tripods. I felt like I had more gear than I needed. But after thinking back through the trip, there are only a couple of things I had in my boat that didn't get used. The first is my first aid kit. I carry a large one on expeditions. I am not getting rid of that. The other was my fire starting kit. Despite the fact that AJ really got into making fires on this last trip, he only used one thing from my fire starting kit. The whole thing can be made much simpler. Certainly smaller than the pelican case it is in now.

Also on this trip Beth used my backup paddle as her primary paddle. The wiggle in the joint got noticeably worse, so when I got home, I put it on craigslist and sold it. I  decided on the trip to make my Kalliste my back up paddle, and I want to downgrade my primary paddle to the Werner Camano.

I am downgrading for a couple of reasons. The biggest, is weight. The Camano weighs less than the Killiste (and costs less). The other reason is, I am not sure the foam core in the blade is actually benefiting my paddling. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but if it isn't helping me, it is hurting me. So why not go back a step. It is simplifying, plain and simple. Much like the reason I don't use a bent shaft. It weighs more, costs more, and I don't think it is actually providing a benefit. I don't have to have it, just to prove I am a great kayaker. (and for the record, I have a long way to go before I consider myself a great kayaker)

For a long time I felt like people didn't take me seriously as an instructor because I didn't use a fiberglass boat. I came to learn my gear isn't dictating my skill level. It may however be dictating your perception of my skill level. And that is a level of crazy I am not interested in dealing with.

Similarly, when I go back to New York - where I am from - I am very self conscious that my peers will think I am a failure because I don't have a high power job, making a lot of money. I have a friend who is a successful chef. I have a friend who is a photographer for the NY Times - and does many books. I always wonder what they think of my job teaching kayaking, and map & compass and things like that. The last time I was there, I met an old friend for lunch. She is a judge. An actual NYC Judge, and she makes a very good living. She asked if I was going back to Alaska this summer, I said I was. Then added that I wasn't making any money - projecting my own concerns on what I thought she was thinking - Her response was "You are living the dream!" So while I was concerned she was judging me for my simple job and lifestyle. She was actually envious of me and the things my lifestyle allows me to do. There is no way a chef, or a judge, can take off 5 weeks to go kayaking. I stopped worrying about it then.

So what do I want? Well, I am practical, and I am a minimalist. So my wants are both of those things. There is a list of places I want to paddle that I haven't. Cape Cod. Newfoundland. Norway and Patagonia. I do want to continue to shrink my personal possessions but it is getting more and more difficult. I simply don't own that much.

My goal, as a practical minimalist is a simple lifestyle. With very few worries and stressors. I want to enjoy my life, while having a minimal impact not he world around me. I want to have the time to enjoy little things. The swell rolling under my boat. The sound of rain hitting the water as I paddle through the ice. A good cup of coffee on a cold morning. Of course, I only have one coffee cup. So I won't stress over which one to use.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

From the Craftsman Series

A nice short film about a bread maker. Well, really a pizza maker, that makes bread. This appeals to me, for a couple of reasons. Someone who is passionate about what he does, and does it better than anyone. It also appeals to my minimalist side. there are few things as simple as bread and butter,  and yet this man is elevating it to an art form.

As an apprentice says to Jiro (in Jiro Dreams Of Sushi) - Always strive to elevate your craft. This man has done just that, and look at the results.

The 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' of Bread & Butter: Razza Pizza Artiginale from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I want an iPad, and a mini drone.

Wait, I already have one. An iPad mini with retina display, and I love it. Having grown up watching star trek it really is something out of Science Fiction. But when I say I want an iPad, what I really mean is an iPad for kayaking. 

On the Inside Passage we had several rolled charts that we folded up to use every day, we also had a spiral bound book of maps - topo maps - also in a chart case. Then we had GPS with maps loaded. If I did it today I would have the GPS preloaded with satellite imagery. We also had a guidebook, in a ziplock bag. 

In Prince William Sound, we had charts and another spiral bound book. We had a GPS but I didn't preload it with waypoints or maps - because I am very familiar with PWS. But a life using an iPad has spoiled me. In my previous two posts I have talked about the encroachment of technology where I don't want it, and the spread of easy communication when I don't need it. To prove that I am a complex person, this is where I would be okay with technology encroaching a little. 

I want a tablet that is highly water resistant - I am okay putting it in a case for both complete water protection and impact resistance. No bigger than a standard iPad, so I can use it easily in the cockpit, or perched on top of my spray skirt. It should be miserly with power usage so that I don't have to worry about charging it. Maybe it has solar on the back, so every time I turn it over it charges. But what I really want is digital, zoomable mapping like on an electronic chart table on a ship. There is nothing like having to remove a map from a chart case, and refold it - because you have paddled over the fold - in rain and high wind in the cockpit of a kayak. I want to scroll with my fingers and zoom as need be. I want both Nautical information (like a chart) and Topographical information (like a map) on display at all times. But I would also like to be able switch to satellite imagery quickly and easily. 

It should have sensors for Barometric pressure, and temperature, and keep me alerted to localized weather - like the Dark Sky app. 

On the inside passage, Sarah and I got forced off the water one day by high winds. We found a camp site, but as we were checking it out, it had a huge, fresh, bear print on it. So we were forced back out onto the water. We knew we had to go around a point of land but had no idea really what was on the other side. Here I would have liked a mini drone. I would like to pull something out of a pocket no bigger than my hand, unfold it, and throw it into the air like a frisbee. Once in the air it flies autonomously. Sending live video to my mapping tablet. I can control its path from the tablet as well. But this would give me the ability to look around corners to see what is there. Or view the coast for a couple of miles ahead to see if there is a good beach. 

This may sound unreal, but I think it is only a few years away. For under a thousand dollars I could buy a drone today for my GoPro. A little more money and I could have an image steadying gimbal on it as well. 

So while I am against the idea of communication encroaching on the wilderness world, there are areas that I think could use improvement. It is time for digital mapping to go from ships, to kayaks. You know kayak fisherman - the largest segment of the paddling world now - would love all these features. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gear Review: Spot Connect

On this trip we chose to use a SPOT Connect personal locator beacon. On the inside Passage Sarah had an original spot device. The connect was a little different. The reason I chose it, was that I didn’t choose it. It was given to me by someone who didn’t need it. I spent a couple of hours buying a usage plan, and setting it up. 

When you get your new spot connect, you need to go their website to register the device and then pick out a plan. I chose the most basic plan, which was $99. I then downloaded the spot software to my iPhone 5c. The original spot that we used on the IP has three buttons, okay, help, and sos - The Spot connect has only a power button and an SOS button. To do everything else you need to use an App on your phone. Our primary usage was the “okay” feature. Essentially telling our friends and family that we were all right, and where we were. When you go to their website, you create a contact list of people, and then you create message groups, then you apply contacts from your list to the message groups. Then when it is time to send an okay message, on the app you select the message you want to send - okay - and the message group you want to get the message to. Then hit send. 

The spot connect then gets a GPS fix and sends the message along with location info to satellites, which relay the message to SPOT, who then send out the message. It sends the message to the satellites 3 times - it only sends the actual message once, but sends it to the satellites three times to ensure delivery. It waits 500 seconds between sending the messages, which if you can do math is over 8 minutes. Spot recommends allowing the device to run through the three message cycle, which can take up to 20 minutes. 

The real beauty of the connect is also the real reason it pairs with your smart phone. It has the ability to send custom text messages - one way - to the people on your list. This is a nice feature, but I chose not to use it, primarily because I didn’t want to spend more money. The more text messages you prepay the cheaper they get. And if you don’t prepay you can send 5 text messages for free, before being charged one dollar per. 

I didn’t like that I had to keep two devices handy in case of emergencies- though in a real life or death emergency all i needed was the spot connect and I could hit the SOS button. I took to keeping them both in a small pelican case along with a pair of extra batteries for the SPOT. The Spot is waterproof, but my phone is not, so that was always a concern. I also think the spot connect should have all three buttons - okay, help, and SOS - so that if I am not sending text messages I don’t need to worry about my phone. 

In general the spot connect worked fine, but I didn’t like having to use my phone, that paired with the long wait time to send all three messages make this device one of my least favorite tools we used on the trip. If I have a choice in the future, I won’t be using this product. 

It seems that every outdoor company, over time, makes their gear more complicated, with more features - so they can then charge more money. I used the Spot Gen 1 and Gen 2 in the past and they worked really well, but I don't need this ever more complex product line in something that I am only using in case something bad happens. I like the idea of one of the ACR PLB's that just does one thing really well. I wish spot would make something similar. A smaller device, with one or two buttons, that when something really bad happens will get word to the appropriate people quickly and reliably. That is what I want in a Personal Locator Beacon. 

Which brings us to something else that I want. If you are a cyclist you probably know Planet Bike. They make Bike Lights, like this one. Since both Beth and AJ are avid cyclist - both having ridden cross country - they had these bike lights. I asked them to bring them along as emergency signaling devices. AJ chose to connect his to the back of his PFD. These little lights are tiny, ridiculously bright, and inexpensive. They also have several flashing modes, and the battery lasts 50 to 100 hours. 

It is time for Planet Bike to get into the kayak business, because there is no light in the paddling world that works as well as this. With the exception of the C - strobe - which I have used and is a great product! but the battery last 4 to 10 hours is double the size and weight of the planet bike light. I stopped using my C - strobe when it leaked and corroded. - Here are the changes Planet Bike should make. Make it more rounded. Make it water proof instead of water resistant. And what I really want, which even the C - strobe doesn't do, is to have it automatically turn on when submerged. This is what EPIRB's do, so it isn't hard. 

The paddling world is severely under served, and this would be a great first step. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Gear Review: Goal Zero Sherpa 50 & Nomad 13

The star of the AGAP show was without a doubt our goal zero devices, of which we had many. I had two sherpa 50 battery packs, one of which had an ac inverter attached to it. I also had a nomad 13 solar panel. These were purchased specifically with charging my cameras in mind. I had one sherpa to charge GoPro batteries via USB. I had another sherpa - the one with the AC inverter - to charge Nikon DSLR batteries, which I could only charge with a standard wall plug charger. I also used the Sherpa to charge my iPhone, which I needed to run the SPOT connect - which is a separate, and depressing review. 

When I first got the Sherpa in my hand I was amazed how small it was. In photos it looks pretty big, but it is actually only 6 x 4 x 1.5 inches. 

Beth had her own goal zero products, but they were smaller devices than what I was carrying. She had a Guide 10 power pack (primarily to charge her kindle and her phone (as a secondary point and shoot camera) She also had two Nomad 7 solar panels. 

When we got ashore, after setting up camp, we would both break out solar panels (if there was sun!) to charge batteries (sherpa and Guide 10) and then at night we would use the batteries to charge devices. 

I started the trip with both sherpas fully charged. I used them to charge the above devices - as well as an iPod nano - Using this system I found that my sherpas never dropped below 60% charged. I was supremely impressed with both how much the sherpa 50 could charge, and how effectively the large Nomad 13 panel charged both the sherpa batteries as well as devices directly. One particularly sunny day - with both Sherpas fully charged, I plugged a go pro with a fully drained battery into the nomad 13 directly. The first impressive thing was that the light on the GoPro - indicating it was charging - came on less than a second after unfolding the panels and placing it in the sun. The second impressive fact was that the fully drained battery charged in about the same amount of time as plugging it into a USB port. That shows me the efficiency of the panel. We did keep track of the position of the sun, and made sure our panels were directly facing the sun. A benefit of being in Alaska in June is that if it isn’t raining, you get a lot of sun, as it doesn’t set until close to 11pm and rises around 4:30am (and it never really gets dark, just sort of ‘dusky’) 

The only bad experience I had with my set up was that I was keeping the solar panel and sherpa in a clear map case, on my back deck. I tested this in North Carolina. With the panel deployed inside the bag and the sherpa connected to it, I could charge the battery while paddling. In NC it worked perfectly - though granted it isn’t ideal to operate the panel through the plastic map case, as it will decrease the amount of light hitting the panel. - When I tried it in Alaska the Sherpa over heated and turned itself off, as well as turning on a fan which I can only assume drained the battery. I didn’t try it again, as I never needed too. 

The only problem beth had with her system was the relative capacity of the guide ten battery. A fully charged guide ten only got her kindle between 15 and 20% charged - because of the relative sizes of the batteries in each device. 

Not actually a problem, but I found the directions to the sherpa too simple. Nothing said where the power switch - which has multiple settings - should be set to charge the device. I soon found out that simply plugging in the panel to the sherpa - without turning on the sherpa - will charge the device, I would have loved a video made by Goal Zero explaining usage and best practices. 

Not only do I highly recommend these devices, I will probably be buying another nomad 13 panel to pair with my second sherpa. 

Now here is your bonus:

I generally add to my gear set an iPod Nano. I use it to listen to audio books when I go to sleep. First, this thing is tiny. Measuring about 1.5 inches square, and a 1/4 inch thick. Besides being tiny, and weighing nothing, the battery lasts forever. A full charge gets me around 24 hours of playing time. This is the kind of little device that can have an amazing impact on your level of enjoyment. Though I do only use one earbud so I can hear if a bear is in camp. 

Now here is the down side of all this power. As I said we used the iPhone to run the Spot Connect, as well as a point and shoot camera. This meant we couldn’t help but turn on our phones, and then couldn’t beat the temptation to see if we had cell service. The last time I had been in Prince William Sound was in 2008 or 2009. At that time I am not aware that there was any cell service. Because we were turning on our phones to do various things, we would always look and see if we had cell service, and were constantly surprised as to how often we had not only cell service, but strong coverage. A number of times we were able to make phone calls. 

This sounds like a good thing. It does add a measure of safety, but it takes away the separation that we experience on a trip like this. And that separation is one of the reasons that I enjoy trips like this. There is something to be said for that level of deprivation. When you separate from the phone, you get more in tune with the world around you. On this trip I found myself not getting in tune with the tides. Which is something I tend to enjoy. So the moral of the story is, bring your iPod Nano with you for some music or a book, but leave the iPhone turned off. The time away will do you good. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

So much to say, so much to do....

Well... We are back.

The trip was ultimately very successful. I have a very short look at some of the video, and I am pretty happy. I have a lot of viewing and editing to do. I have spent the last two days dealing with gear. Gear that worked wonderfully, and gear that didn't. I have many gear reviews to write, and since I am an unsponsored slug  - almost completely, with one notable exception - My reviews will be truthful, and unbiased.

It was interesting doing a trip like this with two relative novices. I was able to ask gear questions of them, and with their limited experience it was very telling.

We saw a ridiculous amount of wildlife. Both on the drive - if you have never driven the Alaskan highway between Tok and Dawson Creek, make it happen, it is incredible. We saw So many bears, Bison, Ram, Moose, Caribou, and believe it or not, a Wolf - And on the paddle, Whales, seals, sea lions, Sea otters, a ridiculous number of bald eagles. I didn't manage to see an Orca (I guess I am going to have to paddle with GeckoPaddler!), which was really the only major marine mammal I haven't seen in Alaska, but we did mange to see the Rare PWS porpoise.

It was an incredible trip, and I have a lot of work to do. Many posts coming.

But, that is all for now.

I will be posting some pictures to both Instagram, and Facebook, so check us out there.

And if you are wondering what we found in terms of the state of the glaciers, we were amazed.

That is all I am going to say.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

....Aaaaannnnddddd.... GO!

As I type this I am at the National Outdoor Leadership Schools, Palmer Alaska location. When I was a NOLS instructor this was where I worked courses out of, and they were nice enough to allow us to spend the night, and finish prepping gear. Tomorrow morning we will head to Whittier, Alaska and hit the water with the goal of photographing at least six glaciers - though we have photos from 12 glaciers from 1957 we will see how many we can actually match.

The last six days have been whirlwind to say the least. We departed North Carolina on Sunday the 25th and moved pretty much non-stop to get here - if you’re counting, that means we have done 4400 miles in six days. We really have only done two long days, The last two nights of the drive. Most of the drive is pretty boring. It is really just about keeping the entire team fueled and moving. But once you hit Dawson creek and get on the Alaskan Highway proper it starts to get very interesting. You go from highways to two lane roads, with very few services, but what really changes is the wild life. We saw a massive amount of bison, we lost count of how many black bears we saw. We saw Elk, Porcupines, rams, foxes, and a moose. It was really pretty incredible. It was also weird that I had driven most of the road in the past - when I paddled the inside passage - and by myself. So I was constantly feeling like I was just vaguely remembering things, which I was. I was also constantly wondering how I did this drive by myself. 

My companions are getting along wonderfully. The first is an old - but younger than me - friend, named Beth. Beth and I met through work, but she quickly became a paddling student of mine, and then a friend - which is generally what happens with my paddling students. She almost did the inside trip with me, but wasn’t able to make it happen. As she has just finished her Masters program the timing for this trip was excellent. She has her masters in exercise physiology so it will be nice to have someone with us that knows about exercise and the human body. 

The other person joining us on this trip is a young man named AJ. Two years out of college, he has spent the past few years working, and gaining experience in the outdoors. He has an even more extensive knowledge of martial arts than I do - though he would never admit that. He too is a paddling student of mine. He also happens to be my step son. 

They are both 24, both very physical, and excellent - if relatively novice - paddlers. They also share something else. They have both ridden bicycles across the United States from coast to coast. AJ did it with a charity called journey of hope. Beth did it with a charity called bike and build. This tells me that if nothing else, they know how to persevere through a lousy situation. And since the next four days are calling for rain, they may get to prove that. . 

The biggest issue I am having at this point is guilt. In 2006 when we moved to North Carolina, I left a week after we moved to come here - Palmer Alaska - to work a course for NOLS. It is amazing that my wife was okay with me doing that. This time, I feel very guilty about being here with her there. We are again moving - the coincidence is amazing - and she is forced to do the bulk of the work for our coming house purchase, and again I am going kayaking. I should point out, she has never tried to make me feel guilty. I have done that all on my own. ( and it isn't really guilt, it is a sadness that I am not supporting her, as much as she is supporting me.) So as I prepare to do this trip, I also realize this will be the last trip I do like this. Certainly I will paddle in the future, but no more five week trips for this guy. She has been extremely supportive, and has always been happy for me to do the things I want/need to do. I think it is time for me to dial it back a notch. 

So tomorrow it begins again, and for the last time - at least at this scale. I am excited to get it underway, make it happen and get home to move and edit a movie!

Super big thanks to all the kickstarted supporters, My employer for allowing me to go and do this again. And of course, my amazing wife. I miss you, and I will be home soon. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

In about 13 hours

Tomorrow morning at 7 am it all begins. The three of us will meet at my house, and cram all our gear into my little car. We will then head to a location to shoot some video, get some coffee, and then - because what else are we going to do on a sunday - we are going to drive 4300 miles to Alaska.

I will not be posting here during the trip, but will be posting on instagram during the travel. That is the best place to follow us.

Our plan is to be paddling on June 1, and off the water on June 21. I would like to spend my birthday in Anchorage, on the 22nd.

I want to thank all the people that helped make this possible, in particular, our kickstarter backers. You all rock.

See you all in a month.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

So little to do, so much time...

Wait.. Stop... Reverse that.

Here is today's agenda:

Test the SPOT
new guyout lines on the tent and tarp

Pack spice kit
Repack food in different bag
Repack coffee
Repack personal bag
Re fold charts in map case

Buy whiskey
Buy filters for coffee maker

Print tide charts
Print list of kickstarted backers

Charge and update iPod
download a new audio book (or two) and some podcasts

Here is the tough one... Make sure everyone else has all the gear they need.

All this while working 11:30 to 8....

yeah, its going to be a full day.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Nicest thing

I think it is important to do nice things for people, and I don't think we do it enough. And what I am talking about is doing something because it is the right thing to do. Not because it makes you money, or you are required to do it, or the person you do it for will some how repay you. I am talking about selfless acts of kindness.

We don't see enough of them, and I think it is the biggest problem our world is facing. Wars are fought, people are trafficked, food that is harmful is marketed as healthful all to make people wealthy(or wealthier if you prefer). A quarter of Americans don't believe climate change is real because politicians are lying to them, and those politicians are lying because they are getting paid to lie by companies making billions who don't want the status quo to change. Negative of me to think this way, I know, But it is hard for me to escape reality.

This is a commercial for a bank in Thailand. And while this bank probably isn't doing anything great for the people who use it, the message is amazing, and it makes for a heart warming ad.

I mention this because someone did something for me recently that in retrospect was amazing. About two years ago when we started planning AGAP a young woman I worked with named Mel, asked me about the trip I was planning and said she always wanted to do a trip like that. I said "why can't you" she came up with all the reasons she had not to do a trip, and I refuted - as I am practiced at doing - each and everyone. She finally realized that I was right, and that there was no real reason that she couldn't do a trip of this nature. She delved into the planning with me whole heartedly. She bought a boat, and a drysuit, and a paddle. She worked on her paddle skills and became an amazing paddler in just a year or so. I was excited to paddle with her in Alaska.

Then she got a job offer she couldn't refuse, and that put her dreams of a big Alaskan paddling trip on hold. She immediately offered up her boat and a large portion of her gear to anyone who might need it. She was never asked, it was completely selfless, and at the time it didn't occur to me how wonderfully selfless it was. She did it because she wanted to make sure the trip that she had worked so hard on, happened. With her or without her. Her reward was the trip being completed.  I don't know that I would loan out my boat without being asked... I don't know that I would loan out my boat anyway.

A number of people have come forward with gear loans to help make this trip happen, and each and every one is doing it for no reason other than to help us out. It is a really wonderful thing to see occur.

This is what the world needs more of, because it makes the world a better place.

Thanks Mel, You are amazing.