The last time I rode in a kayak was nearly 13 years ago. I remember loving how I was so close to the water that I felt a part of it, and could reach in and feel it at any time. Going out in a kayak on a nice calm lake invited a sense of peace like nothing I’d experienced in my life until I spent a few summers on a lake, and it’s stuck with me as a favorite way to disconnect with the world outside of me, and reconnect with myself.
Riding a kayak is one of those things where the repetition of the task allows your mind to wander, something I seem to have less and less space for nowadays. Kayaking requires a certain amount of focus on your surroundings, the direction of the wind, and how far you can ride before you only have enough energy to get back. It also allows for a chance to take in nature, and appreciate it exactly as it is.
Today I broke that 13 year span and finally hopped into a kayak again. A different place this time, and even a new style kayak, but the moment I was seated and had paddle in hand, I was right back to that sense of calm I’ve long loved about it.
I opted to leave all manner of technology behind on the shore. I love photography, and didn’t bring my phone or my camera (in this case, my phone is acting as my only camera on this trip). I enjoy taking photos of what I’m up to, either to share with others or to reflect on myself later. I was an early adopter of social media and one who used to laugh and share pictures of random things with the caption “current status”. I joked with others who understood that what a shared picture of lunch wasn’t just about that, it was about connecting with others. The Internet brought a bunch of strangers together who had one thing in common: we all loved the Internet and we all used its varying means of publication to express ourselves.
Fast forward a bit and it’s clear that some companies recognized a way to make money off this fervent sense of connection. If they knew what we liked to do, where we liked to go, what we liked to eat, and more, they could sell advertising to places to market directly to us. Our silly sense of sharing was exploited for someone else’s gain, and those large companies sought more and more of our attention, our time, and then our pictures and our words. “Just post it here,” they’d beckon. No need to post anywhere else, we’ll handle everything for you. And slowly but surely, our every thought, photo, conversation, and quip came to be shared in those places.
Bloggers have given way to “influencers” and social media stars, who wield extreme numbers of followers and whose every move can be scrutinized and whose following count is taken a sign of how trustworthy they might be. More followers? They must have their finger on the pulse.
On this beautiful day, I had no camera, and no phone on which to document my journey through the bay. Nothing to capture the ducks floating nearby, the mansions along the beach, or the sailboats cruising by, their vibrant colored sails majestic against the gray marine layer above. No way to take a video to show the movement of the water or show off how far I went. No selfie on the kayak to prove that I was there and that I had a delightful time.
Instead, I had a kayak to myself on a cloudy day. I rode where I felt like riding, stretched back and let the tide rock me, and let a sense of calm overcome me. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a moment to feel such peace. In a world that feels ever more frenzied, ever more scary, ever more intense, it’s these moments which matter more than ever. We can do something about it. Find yourself a kayak, walk a trail outside, ride a bike, read a book. Lose yourself in the moment and let it take you somewhere you didn’t expect to go.