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Experiencing Freedom and Strength in the Wilderness with Kayaker Susan Conrad

Charlene Gibson - Oldest British women to summit Cho Oyu in 2016 and now heading to climb Ama Dablam in 2018!

Going on an adventure will undoubtedly lead you to see amazing sights and undergo changes in your fitness and physical capabilities, but it can also lead to life-changing inner transformations. This was the reality for Susan Conrad as she took on the Inside Passage, an extraordinary coastal route in North America.

For 66 days, Susan kayaked the Inside Passage amidst drenching rains, fierce winds, and violent seas. She wanted to see how she’d handle adversity and what kind of transformation a truly challenging adventure would create.

During her expedition, Susan experienced a unique sense of freedom and strength which will inspire any adventurer.

Embracing Solitude and Adventure

In her college years, Susan stumbled into her University’s outdoor program. From there she found herself whitewater kayaking. Getting out on the water in a kayak gave Susan an experience of autonomy that she hadn’t encountered before and she was hooked. With each challenge she underwent, Susan upped the ante running bigger and bigger rivers.

Trying a long skinny sea kayak for the first time was a game-changer. Susan immediately recognized the potential for solitude and adventure. She ended up getting certified as a guide and instructor, later started her own kayaking company, and gained the skills and confidence to kayak the Inside Passage.

While some may be frightened by the solitude that comes with certain adventures, Susan found it exciting. As you try your hand at different challenges, listen to your heart and see what calls to you.

Pressing Reset

After a difficult period, Susan found herself working indoors a lot and not getting her salt water fix. She recognised the need for a new goal in her life. The Inside Passage was Susan’s solution to pressing reset and mixing things up.

Once she set her sights on the Inside Passage, things moved quickly. Susan started talking about her dreams with the people around her and a fierce determination led Susan’s plans.

Susan had seen bits and pieces of the Inside Passage with friends, so she was thrilled to take on the entire journey. The Inside Passage begins in the Southern regions of the Puget Sound in Washington State and winds down the San Juan Islands, crossing over into Canada and the British Columbia coastline. The route ends in the Alaskan panhandle in a charming community called Skagway.

Going on an adventure can be one of the best ways to reset your life after a difficult time or major transition. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself and see what you’re truly made of.

Preparing and Pausing

After about ten months of preparation, Susan was ready to take off. She decided that a solo venture would give her the best chance for success and spent a lot of time preparing physically, mentally, logistically, and emotionally.

One important tool Susan acquired was positive visualization. This involved finding her centre and tasting, feeling, and seeing what it would be like to successfully make it to the finish line. Susan also practised focusing emotionally on the intent of the journey.

While there were many magical moments and a few miserable moments, Susan struggled with feeling like she was rushing from one shore to the next. With a Type A personality, much of the trip was focused on simply getting it done and checking off miles.

On the last evening, Susan had the blissful feeling that she could just be in the moment. It wasn’t all about the big goal, but about the process and being open to everything placed in her path.

Managing Fear

During her months on the water, Susan spent plenty of time compartmentalizing fear and having a conversation with herself about the difference between fear and being scared. She defined fear as an unpleasant sensation associated with a belief that hasn’t happened yet and being scared as an in the moment feeling caused by actual threat. Acknowledging and defining if something was a perceived threat or if it was actually happening made a big difference in Susan’s reactions.

Susan had numerous opportunities to practice this skill along the Inside Passage. As she encountered big waves and narrow stretches of sea she learned that you can’t always control external circumstances. You can control how you react.

This lesson carried over into Susan’s everyday life. She learned to let go of things that no longer served her and trust in the ebb and flow of life.

Making Adventure a Priority

In Susan’s final words of advice on the Tough Girl podcast, she shared that it’s easy to come up with excuses, but if you make something a priority no matter what issues you’re dealing with, you’ll experience the extraordinary. She encourages blabbing about your dreams and trusting that you’re infinitely capable of accomplishing anything you want in life.

Susan considers herself an ordinary person who made the commitment to bridge the gap between her dreams and reality. On making that happen, Susan said, “The distance between the two is action. You have to act on that dream to bring it to fruition.”


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Social Media

Twitter - @SusanMConrad

Instagram - @susanmarieconrad


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