Rich Brand lives the type of life that most people can only dream of. His life is a series of once-in-a-lifetime trips in which he endeavors to notice the little things and capture the experiences of ordinary Americans through adventure travel, like paddling the Mississippi River and, most recently, sea kayaking the Pacific Coast of the United States from Seattle to San Diego. Brand completed his West Coast odyssey in September, returning momentarily to his Denver-based graphic design business.
We caught up with Brand to hear more about his adventures and his life mission, and to find out what's next.
CanoeKayak.com: What did it feel like to paddle into San Diego and accomplish your goal?
Rich Brand: There was an overwhelming sense of happiness. I made the corner at Point Loma and saw San Diego. I raised my hands in the air and smiled. It was a lot of hard work with a lot of challenges. I was proud that I stuck through it and completed my goal.
After the Mississippi and your other adventures, has this feeling become familiar to you?
Yes and no. Yes because I know what that feels like. No because as soon as it gets familiar or comfortable, that means I am not pushing the limits far enough. While I will continue to chase that feeling, I do not ever want it to be familiar. Each time I reach my goals, it is something special.
Looking back, what was the most meaningful part of the West Coast journey?
It is hard to put something at the "most meaningful" because of the scope of the adventure. The thing, like on the Mississippi River, that will stay with me was the kindness of all the strangers who turned into friends. I met the kindest of people that were generous with their time and energy. I had new friends at every port.
Personally, it was an inner fight to persevere in challenging conditions. The extreme isolation and tough surf made for some hard times to overcome. I turned the challenges into opportunities to learn something about myself and the environment. The challenges became blessings in disguise.
Where there any moments where you felt tested—physically or emotionally?
Absolutely. There were days in Washington and Oregon where I would not see a single person. There was just the expansive blue ocean. There were days where I took some hard beatings landing in rough surf and some vicious hits from waves on my launches. I allotted a certain number of beatings before I was going to think about quitting. As I got closer to that number, I added a few more because I had made it that far. Then I decided, if I was going to add a few more, why not make it 20. I never made it to the teens.
What were some of your favorite pieces of gear on this trip?
Good question, the short answer is my drysuit, my dehydrated meals, my bivy sack and my satellite communication/navigation device.
[Read the full details about Rich Brand’s gear essentials HERE]
What do you say to people who want to follow their adventure dreams, but are afraid to take the plunge?
The heaviest thing you will ever carry around with you is regret. While I understand it is not easy for some, I fully encourage everyone to chase their passions, pursue their dreams, and to never give up. Once you make that first step, the rest will begin to fall in place. Find the opportunity to be a hero to your kids or to yourself. You will never regret doing that.
My upcoming expedition is set to begin on January 1, 2016. It will be close to twice the scope, scale, and duration of both my Mississippi River and my Seattle to San Diego adventures combined. I am going to do a solo sea kayak circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States.
I will start in New Orleans, paddle through the Everglades and around Florida, up to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, up the St. Lawrence River, through all the Great Lakes, catch the Illinois River out of Chicago to the Mississippi River and back to New Orleans.
— C&K will be running a series of Dispatch entries from Brand’s expedition. Follow Captured Heartbeats on Facebook.
Read more about paddlers living their expedition dreams: