Then Again, Sometimes People Are Pretty Amazing…

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Last week, or somewhere thereabouts, I wrote a piece talking about how people can sometimes suck. (It was aptly titled “Sometimes People Suck.” You can click HERE to find out why.) While that post was significant, accurate and truthful, it was also a bit on the negative side. Ever since, I’ve felt the need to offer a counterbalance; especially considering the subject matter.  I mean really, sometimes people are pretty amazing too.

Case in point- a few followers of this blog might remember that about this time last year I began writing about my friend, Daniel “Out of Order” Alvarez.  (“Support Out of Order”, June 2012.) Daniel was up to his usual questionable antics, and about to embark on this harebrained scheme to paddle a big yellow kayak the breadth of the contiguous United States- from the remote Northwest Angle of Minnesota all the way to Key West, Florida. The idea was just crazy enough that it had earned him contention for an Adventure Grant from Outside Magazine, and at the time he was tops in the voting.

Like any true adventurer, Daniel didn’t wait around to find out if he’d win the funding. Instead, he just went for it. By the time word reached Daniel that he was in fact the grant winner and would have a sizeable portion of his journey bankrolled by Outside Magazine, he was deep in Minnesota’s north woods. The initial adrenaline fueled euphoria of starting a quest had probably worn off, and I’m guessing he had progressed fully to the “what in the hell have I gotten myself into” stage. If this hadn’t set in then it soon would, as Daniel began working his way along historic voyageur routes. He navigated a series of waterways and difficult portages to slowly but surely inch toward Lake Superior. The journey was arduous, and some nights left him in exhausted despair at the realization that after a full day’s effort, he had managed only a handful of miles. Still, he wouldn’t give up.

Despite the hardships, Daniel remained appreciative of his opportunity and ever vigilant toward his surroundings. In addition to and separate from the Outside Magazine grant, Daniel was also provided his boat by Necky Kayaks. Before the trip began the company learned of his ambitions, called him up with the offer, and simply asked where he wished to have his new “Looksha” delivered. Respectfully, Daniel then donated the money he had already saved for this purpose to a number of environmental organizations working to protect the waters he would travel along his way. Through his blog Daniel continued to share his observations and advocate for environmental protection, as well as offer a tantalizing glimpse at the trials, friendships, discoveries and achievements that embodied the spirit of his venture.

In time Daniel made it to Superior, braved the big open water for side trips to Isle Royale and the Apostles, slogged his way through the long forgotten Savanna Portage and pushed to the headwaters of the Mississippi. Winter was soon fast on his heels but he managed to keep one step ahead, a modern day Huck Finn dodging barges all the way to New Orleans. Out of the bayous and along the Gulf, Daniel paddled past his native Tallahassee and finally down the long home stretch of the Florida coast.

Battered, bruised and weary, he arrived at Key West on March 9, 2013. Nine months he’d been on the water. 4,000 miles he’d traveled- through the heart and then around the edge of the continent. Even more impressive than the numbers was what he had proven- that it really is possible for one man with a kayak, a stockpile of determination and a bold dream, to paddle all the way from Minnesota to Florida.

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And after that, he shocked us all by announcing he would turn around and go back again…

Right now, Daniel is paddling up the eastern seaboard; I believe somewhere along the coast of North Carolina. His plan is to follow the shoreline up to New York Harbor, paddle up the Hudson River, work his way to Lake Champlain, then Montreal and eventually back to the Great Lakes. I don’t exactly know how that’s all going to work, but that’s okay. He probably doesn’t either. (Like he says, if giant ocean going freighters can make it inland, he can too.) The ultimate goal will be to come full circle, literally, and arrive back at the Northwest Angle before winter sets in.

I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight Daniel and his amazing journey for a number of reasons. For starters I hope to offer a counterpoint to that previous post, one that demonstrates the wonderful things people are capable of when their spirits are pure and their hearts are true.

Second, I wanted to suggest that anyone who may live along Daniels route, or have family or a friend who does, consider offering your assistance. I know that he is pushing very hard and may perhaps be unable to stop, but the prospect of a warm meal, a hot shower, and a roof over your head can mean the world when you’re pressing into the unknown. Daniel is set on avoiding motel stays at almost all costs for the sake of experiencing the world around him, and he has already met and touched countless lives along the way. He is truly one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and an evening in his company listening to tales of this epic voyage will not soon be forgotten.

Finally, and most importantly, if you’re not doing so already I would strongly encourage you to look up Daniel’s blog and follow along. His entries are set to publish on delay, usually a couple of weeks behind actual events, and are timed to appear first thing in the morning. For the past eleven and a half months I have sought out his musings to start my day. They are a source of curiosity, entertainment and inspiration. Daniel is extremely intelligent and an excellent writer, probably the best I’ve ever known, and offers phenomenal insight that transcends his personal journey to reverberate topics and values that relate to us all.  Each day he offers a powerful post; something to make me stop and think, to reminisce on my own experiences, to consider the environment or life in general. His words can even provide a distraction. Sometimes, when you’re dealing with the usual nonsense here in the “civilized” world, it’s reassuring to know there are people like Daniel, still out there paddling away.

With that said, here are a few links to take you to the Predictably Lost blog or view updates through social media…

Recent Blog Post and Link to Outside Magazine article explaining decision to keep going

Predictably Lost Blog and Website

Predictably Lost Facebook Page

Predictably Lost on Twitter

Join along with the adventure now, and when you have time, go back and start from the beginning. It’s definitely worth the read. The biggest thing Daniel wants to achieve by sharing his stories is to prove the power and potential of a dream. While reading his words let your mind open to your own possibilities, and you’ll be amazed what life has in store.

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10 thoughts on “Then Again, Sometimes People Are Pretty Amazing…

  1. Thank you! I also often feel dispirited by the happenings around me, and this has lifted my face into a smile 🙂

  2. Josh, this is a terrific recap of Daniels adventure. Thanks for sharing on your blog. I’ve been following Daniel since I met him in the Apostles last August. His journey is an inspiration for all of us.

  3. Josh: This is Daniel’s dad. You truly captured the essence of Daniel. Thank you so much for your words and the clarity and beauty of your writing.

    Here are my quick thoughts on the “suck” versus “amazing” perspective. The vast majority of us are driven towards helping each other in some way towards a better place in our lives. In many aspects, Daniel’s trip and the people he has met are great examples. Others need our help and/or understanding in some way. And sometimes it is simply our perspective that needs adjustment. What a learning and teaching environment all of our lives are! Do the very best you can (enlightenment/understanding/compassion/you name it) and remember that it is all a journey and not a destination. I have a feeling you are probably aware of all of this but if, you are like me, we all need a reminder every once in a while when that “suck” moment intrudes.

    • Very true, Carlos, and well said. I guess a more appropriate statement would be that sometimes people’s actions suck. I tried to be blunt in that post to relay my disgust, frustration and confusion- but even while experiencing this, and later while writing I felt remorse at the suspicion that this person had somehow known no better. You are entirely right though in pointing out that compassion is a better response- and that would apply in both interacting with the person in question or sharing the story as a lesson for others. Thank you for this very important reminder!

  4. Josh: my wife and I had the opportunity to host Daniel this weekend. The weekend was one of the most enjoyable we have had for a long time. Daniel is truly a gracious, unassuming and grateful man. I loved his positive outlook on life and the way he told his stories of the journey in a manner that was uplifting and encouraging. It was a pleasure to host him this weekend. Today he is going to push across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and then up the eastern side of the Delmarva Peninsula.

    • That’s great to hear, Bob, and a very accurate summary of Daniel. He and I actually met through the endeavor of long distance hiking, so I have a little perspective on setting out on one of these trips (but nothing to this magnitude.) In my experience, and I think Daniel would agree, there are at minimum three different levels of discovery. One relates to the physical landscape and getting back to nature. Another is in learning about yourself, pushing your limits and realizing all that you are capable of. And finally, the one that is often least expected but most profound, is developing renewed faith in the kindness of strangers and the goodness in humankind. It’s amazing how many friends you make out there, and the mutual impact a shared hour, evening, or weekend can have. Thanks for the update, and for joining the ever growing network of support for our mutual friend!

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