When we clicked on the Delorme inReach map for Wild Raven Adventure and saw they were in our local city, we dropped everything and went to meet them. We brought Tim Horton’s coffee (a pretty Canadian gesture I suppose) to make them feel more comfortable. The tables were immediately turned as we were offered the comfy Helinox chairs and were made to feel like guests within their own camp along the shore of the Trent-Severn Waterway.
Having already completed a 2,200km canoe expedition in 2012, Jennifer Gosselin (who was an operations manager) & Pierre Pépin (who was in construction) have gone all-in on the current "NorAm (North America) Odyssey". They sold everything they had, quit their jobs, and are now canoeing in the comfort of what they have with them along with their pooch, Jasmine.
They estimate this journey will take 2.5 years but they are travelling at their own pace and the day of the interview was a 'weather day', so we caught them at a good time.
Jennifer found the whole experience of parting with their worldly possessions "liberating" despite the final 60 days leading up to their journey being very hectic. "When you lock the door for the last time, you have no more house, no more furniture, you've got nothing! Maybe you shed a tear, but then you start your trip and you realize that it was the right decision." says Pierre.
"Material is overrated. Usually you have a pair of pants for each day of the week, then on a trip like this you realize you wear the same pair of pants all of the time." Pierre confesses that they had many things in their house, but after venturing out on a trip like this that he doesn't miss them. "Well... it was nice to have a TV, but there wasn't anything on it and the news was always negative. Everything on this 14 month trip has been positive".
Despite it being a canoeing journey, they have been surprised by many things along the way, most of all, stranger's generosity. "It's overwhelming. Something nice would happen and you won't have time to process it and then another kind thing will happen." says Jennifer. People have provided overnight lodging, meals, great conversation and even one engineer whipped up a canoe cart (that was also easy to disassemble) to help them portage their Clipper canoe. People seem to open up to Jennifer and Pierre and have even told them stories that they haven't even shared with their own family.
"We knew our neighbours in the condo where we used to live. You would pass someone and say "Hi, how are you?", but maybe not even remember their name," relates Pierre. "But now you meet people and right away you are inside their life and in turn they want to be part of your trip and follow along with your life. We should have done this trip years ago, as it renews your faith in mankind. It's not all what you read in the paper or see on TV".
They have faired well with the gear they have brought and it has stood up to the test of time. They originally set out with a canoe made in the States, but found that the company didn't care about them or any of the problems they were experiencing with it. Since their switch to Clipper (made in British Columbia) they found the complete opposite and even have the owner of the company frequently checking in to make sure everything is going smoothly. "This is what Canadian companies are all about" says Pierre proudly. "We're not sponsored by Clipper and bought this canoe ourselves. They are standing by their product".
When looking for a tent they had manufacturers saying "Don't worry Pierre, if the tent breaks, we'll send you a new one"... but they were looking for a tent that wouldn't break in the first place. "It's your home" says Jennifer. So far their Hilleberg tent has stood up to everything they have thrown at it although it was a little more red when they started their journey. Pierre and Jennifer also wanted to give a shoutout to Harvest Foodworks for helping to supply some of their dehydrated food and inReach for helping them map their journey every paddle stroke of the way.
Although they are looking for work this Winter back home in Quebec, they look forward to heading back out in the Spring. They have been taking photos so that they can remember the people they have met and the fantastic stories they have collected along the way. Head over to their blog (and follow them on Facebook and Twitter) so you too can read about the good that there is out there... all via canoe.