In the summer months of 2016 ALIVE instructors Jackson Moores, Emily Cole, Benjamin Scott and Julie Bremner will embark on a sea kayak expedition traversing the Western Canadian Arctic. The planned route is long and remote, 2600 km with only a handful of small fly-in coastal hamlets along the way. The ALIVE community has done more than just foster the connections that led to the formation of this team; instructing for ALIVE challenged each of us to be curious and engaged, to focus on connecting to place and people. It is a community where the bar for dreams is set high, where it feels safe, even encouraged to voice audacious goals. Ours is an adventure in the spirit of tremendous dreams born at camp. Taking on this lofty of a goal feels important. Already the challenge has inspired much personal reflection and growth. As we go forward we are striving to find ways to relate our learning and to honestly and openly share a complete view of what it is like to pursue this dream.
As outdoor educators we ask our students to balance many new experiences. We intentionally seek to inspire and empower young people to explore their comfort zones. We push, gently, affirmingly, to unlock emotions and ideas that are challenging and that lead to growth. To do this effectively, especially on remote wilderness trips, we operate safely within our own comfort zones, permitting us a facilitating role in the experience while also the ability to comfortably manage risk. This Arctic adventure feeds a personal drive to push our own comfort zones. We are seeking to re-inspire that feeling of growth in ourselves. We have taken on a dream that feels huge and daunting. The scale of the northern landscape we wish to explore feels vast in context to the challenge we crave.
We are grateful that ALIVE has provided us space to more fully share this process. We are cognizant that thus far we have put forth an image of expedition planning that is joyful and optimistic. Our facebook page and website are highlight reels, rich with photographs of training paddles on the west coast of Canada featuring wildlife sightings, sunny days and dramatic landscapes. They represent much of the joy we have felt while following this dream. These moments drive us forward, but are an oversimplification of our process. Over the winter months of this past year we dedicated ourselves to team building, physical training and meticulous logistical planning. We indulged countless ‘what if’ scenario discussions. We wrestled with the modern realities of expedition planning—branding, marketing and fundraising. The learning curves have been steep. The vulnerability that comes from publicly voicing our dreams has at times felt terrifying. This project has become a piece of our identities and a full time job, one which we have been balancing with our paying jobs and relationships for over a year. It is hard to remember the days before this process when we basked in comfortable routines.
The truth is this journey has had more challenging moments than easy ones. We worry a lot. We worry about funding—taking the summer off work to paddle in a remote area adds a cost burden; we worry about polar bears and other hazards of this new environment; we worry about how we will be perceived, especially in this age of online promotion; we worry about leaving behind loved ones for 3 months and our limited ability to call home; we worry about our stress levels and how we will balance those together. Yet, we remind ourselves that we went looking for challenge. We have found it in more places than we expected, but are determined to let it propel us forward. From our worries, we find more drive. We focus in on one small task at a time, cultivating each little success to build momentum. The value of those hard moments comes out in the joyous feeling of triumph we get each time we realize this dream just might be attainable.
As our adventure goes forward we are able to articulate more of this process. We invite you to follow our journey, either through ALIVE Outdoors who will share our journey with you, or our website (www.arcticlink2016.com), where you will find our blog, photo gallery, crowd funding initiative and ways to get in touch with us. We will be heading north in June, look for a live updated map of our journey and periodic stories along the way. We will paddle all summer long and plan to fly back to Ontario in time for the fall ALIVE season where we look forward to sharing more tales under the starry nights and around the campfire.
Written by: Julie Bremner