I am a grandmother paddling alone over 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala. Along the way I will be:
- telling the story of the children who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump community
- honoring their entrepreneurial mothers
- talking about the success of the Safe Passage model school and
- raising funds for additional grades for the school.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Internal Journey: Why it feels like jumping off a cliff

Today, in the cold and the rain and with yet another small craft advisory, my husband dropped me off and drove back to Maine.  It was great being with him for the past week, visiting the grandchildren and being helped with portages past areas I'm not allowed to kayak. But it is so hard to leave the comfort of a dry, warm car, and especially a loving husband, to start kayaking again.  Heading off into the unknown, to paddle new waters with new challenges, feels like jumping off a cliff.  There is an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I don't know the new hosts I will be staying with.  And we don't even have hosts arranged from five days from now until I reach Annapolis, Maryland a month from now.  That uncertainty hangs heavy as I try to figure out whether it will be better to land in a populated area and beg a spot to put up my tent, or to land in a less populated area and find a little corner to hide my tent in.  My support team back in Maine has spoiled me to this point by having hosts arranged for me for every night so far, but somehow the folks along this next stretch have not been responding to their requests.

The environment I'm paddling in now is so different, since I'm in the inland waterway.  One boater told me there were no currents here on the inside.  Maybe to him in his power boat these are not noticeable currents,  but to me in a kayak they either speed me up or slow me down significantly.  I'm back to using the tide tables to estimate the currents, and it's hard to find the offsets for the little communities in the bays.  The kayaking is now not as exciting, which means it gets boring at times.

I'm wondering why I decided to do this expedition.  What was I thinking!

Paddling in the epicenter of the destruction from Superstorm Sandy also adds to my low feelings. Yesterday I kayaked past houses that they are just now razing, two years after the storm.  Other houses are just now being raised - lifted high on big pilings.  Other houses are standing boarded up.  Many lots are empty.  But many houses have been rebuilt.  There are plans to put in sand dunes and plant them with the sea grasses that may preserve them from the next big storm.  Seeing the effects of Sandy reminds me of how our world is changing, and how difficult it is to find solutions to the many problems that are arising.

I think about all the good that Safe Passage is doing in Guatemala, and making such a positive change in the lives of so many children and families.  I think about how the graduates really are breaking the  multigenerational cycle of poverty.  This is so wonderful.  But I also think about the changed world of their future, and the challenges that this change is already bringing to Guatemala.  Crop failure due to drought one year and then crop failure due to torrential rains and landslides the next year, as the changing storm patterns from both the Atlantic and the Pacific collide in Guatemala.  Several years ago, Guatemala was one of the countries most effected by these worldwide changes.

Should I let these low feelings stop my kayaking expedition?  Of course not!  All of the best experiences of my life have come after listening to, and then overcoming the low feelings, and then going ahead and jumping off the cliff.  And that keeps happening again and again on this kayaking expedition.  I meet such wonderful people who are so fascinating and giving.  Every night or two I have a new little nest for myself in someone's home, surrounded by caring people.  I hear their stories about Sandy and 9/11, and admire their resilience and their hope.  And as I share the stories of the children at Safe Passage, I am continually inspired again by their determination, grit and persistence.  Of course I'm going forward.


  1. You, too, are full of resilience and hope and an inspiration beyond my imagination! You and your mission and adventure are never far from mind. Sending you all my warmest wishes for a safe and memorable remainder of your amazing journey. Cousin Lou

  2. Hi Dr. Deb, I’ve been following you off and on since I said goodbye to you in Marblehead Harbor. You are so honest! It is uplifting to listen in on your deepest feelings — highs and lows, good decisions - not so good decisions. You may be solo on the water, but so many people are with you in our hearts. Safe journey, Bette