What You Learn When You Paddle the Entire Amazon River (Darcy Gaechter)

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What inspires a person to conquer big things outside or try for the seemingly impossible? Those are questions this week’s guest Darcy Gaechter had plenty of time to ponder as she became the first woman to ever paddle the Amazon River from source to sea. A journey now detailed in her new memoir, Darcy takes a break from her kayaking adventure business, Small World Adventures, to join us on the podcast to talk about that adventure and what she learned along the way.

Some of the good stuff:

[1:41] Darcy’s favorite outdoor space
[2:21] The problems with the Amazon River
[4:00] The challenges of taking on the Amazon
[5:35] Why Darcy decided to take on the Amazon
[7:10] Why Darcy likes going outside
[9:16] What Darcy learned on the Amazon
[11:05] Is defying stereotpyes an important part of Darcy’s “why?”
[13:36] How to become an amazing kayaker
[16:40] Did Darcy make the self-discoveries she thought she would?
[18:50] Is she could do it again, what would she do differently?
[20:35] How to mentally prepare for a big challenge
[25:15] Darcy’s favorite outdoor gear
[25:45] Darcy’s most essential gear
[26:12] Darcy’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Mentioned in the show:

Amazon Woman: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and a Quest to Kayak the World’s Largest River from Source to Sea
Amazon River
White water
Class IV white water
Class VI white water 
Flat water
Class II 
Shining Path terrorist group
Peru “Red Zone”
Drug trafficking
Ashanika people, Peru
Illegally logging
Ecuador kayaking
Stikine River, North British Columbia

Favorite Gear: Jackson Kayak Nirvana
Most Essential Gear: Kayak dry suit

Affiliate links above.


Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz: It sounds like the kind of thing just crazy enough to make you really want to try it. Travel the Amazon River from source to sea, stretching from high in the Andes Mountains deep in Peru, to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil and spanning 4300 miles. The grueling, exhilarating, exhausting and amazing adventure made Darcy Gaechter the first woman to ever complete the task and one of only three people to ever do so completely by kayak. The story is now detailed in the exciting new adventure memoir, Amazon Woman: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and a Quest to Kayak the World’s Largest River from Source to Sea. And here to talk about the adventure and the lesson she learned is Darcy herself. Just a warning though, we had a little bit of trouble with the sound when we were recording this one. So thanks for your patience. And without further ado, here’s my interview with Darcy!

Darcy, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

Darcy Gaechter: Thanks, Amy. Thanks for having me.

AB: So first of all, congratulations on your incredible accomplishment.

DG: Thank you.

AB: We like to start each show imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space, which might not be the Amazon River for you, just hanging out and talking. Where are we with you today?

DG: I’m in Colorado right now. And my favorite outdoor space. Am I allowed to just say , like a deep river canyon? I’m not too picky about which river I’m on. But I’m definitely happiest when I’m on a river.

AB: Very good. I don’t think we’ve ever imagination-recorded a  podcast in a river before so I think this is a first and that’s great.

DG: All right, and it’s a lot warmer than it is in Colorado right now in our imagination.

AB: Excellent. That’s why we like imaginations.

So why don’t you start by telling us about the Amazon River? Why is it something that no one, no woman has kayaked in its entirety before?

DG: Um, well, there’s a lot of problems with the Amazon River. The reason that we, I was with two other people, Don Beveridge and David Midgley, when we did our expedition, and the reason that we were the first group to kayak the whole thing is because the trip is mostly flat water. We did it in 148 days, and only 25 days that were whitewater. The rest was flat water. So most people that have done the Amazon before were mostly flat water kayakers, and they didn’t have the skills to do the whitewater. There’s a lot of class five whitewater in the headwaters and class five, the whitewater ranking system goes from class one which is moving water but pretty flat up to class six. Class six normally means that something’s unrunnable, so class five is the highest, the most difficult runnable whitewater. There’s that problem and that’s why we got to be the first people to kayak the whole thing because we had the skills for the whitewater. And then we’re also slightly crazy enough to also think that doing the flat water was a good idea.

AB: So if I didn’t know anything about kayaking, can you tell me when you mean by ‘flat water’? You mean like a lake?

DG: At the beginning of the flat water there was still good current and it was maybe class two, so some small rolling waves. But towards the bottom of the river when we’re getting close to the ocean, it truly was like a lake. And there was basically no current moving down the river, there were tides coming up the river and wind constantly coming up the river. So for about the last month or maybe two months, if we stopped paddling, we would get blown back up the river. So that’s like very flat water with no real moving current.

AB: And when you are on a river with a current, obviously, it’s helping you go forward. And when you’re on a river where the tide is coming up the river and the wind is pushing you back up the river, it is not helping you go forward, it is making you go backwards, which makes things much more difficult. And it’s like the opposite of progress.

DG: It actually makes your goal feel further and further out of reach.

AB: But that’s not the only reason why no woman had done it before, or why kayakers in general or travelers in general don’t do it. So talk about that. What are the other challenges?

DG: So some other challenges are that you have to have a really big chunk of time, you know, not everybody can just drop out of life for five months at a time, you’ll have to have a fair amount of money to because expeditions are expensive, even if you do it kind of as cheaply as possible. There’s a lot of moving parts and things that have to get paid for.

And then there’s also a lot of dangerous parts of the Amazon, you know. Take out the danger of the whitewater for a minute, but like we traveled through a part of Peruthat they call the red zone, and we were there for 30 days. And it’s a dangerous region because the Shining Path was very active there in the 1980s and 1990s. Shining Path started as a Maoist intellectual movement, but it kind of devolved into a very violent toward terrorist organization. And they were really active in this part of Peru that’s called the red zone. Now there’s a lot of drug trafficking there. In 2013, Peru overtook Colombia as the world’s number one cocaine producing country in the world. And then there’s the local people called the Ashaninka People who live there. And they don’t like or they’re very afraid of outsiders, because basically everyone who comes into their territory either wants to kill them, like the Shining Path did or the drug traffickers do, or they want to take their land like a lot of both legal and illegal loggers want to do. And so in the two years before our expedition, six tourists had passed through this area, and two had been murdered, and one had been shot but survived. And so, you know, these aren’t good odds. And I think a lot of people, very rightly so, don’t want to put themselves in danger, because of the human factor.

And this is also a problem as you get into Brazil, too. There’s a lot of drug gangs down there a lot of what they call “river piracy.” And at that point the river is so huge and wide. And there’s thousands of side channels that cut off the main river. So it’s really easy for bad guys, for lack of a better word, it’s easy for them to hide and there’s very little police presence. So they pretty much get away with whatever they want to do. So besides whatever natural and physical dangers, you could think of like the white water or the bugs or the animals, there’s a very strong human element of danger there too. And for me, that was the scariest part because it’s less predictable. You know?

AB: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so, given all the things we just described, why did you decide to be the person to do this?

DG: Maybe just because I’m not very smart.

AB: That I doubt! I read your book.

DG: Um, yeah, I guess there were a lot of factors for me. I’ve always really liked adventure, and unknown, and challenges. So it had appeal for me in that regard. And, you know, I also thought it sounded pretty cool to have the chance to be the first woman to do something in the world because I’ve never really had the chance of doing that before. I have been the first woman to kayak some difficult whitewater sections, but somehow, that just felt more obscure and like — who cares? Nobody’s ever gonna know. But like the whole Amazon that sounded pretty cool. And another part of it was, I talk about this quite a bit in the book, but right before we went, Don, my boyfriend and business partner, had sold our whitewater kayaking business in Ecuador. And we were kind of at a point of starting over in our lives, and we had lived very non traditional lives up to that point, and Don was not at all on board or maybe not even aware of my plan, but I was thinking like — oh, the Amazon will be perfect because it’s this gigantic adventure. And it will satisfy all of our adventuresome cravings, and then we can move on and do all the normal stuff that everyone keeps asking us why we’re not doing in the first place. And this will be like the perfect transition point for us.

AB: And how did that work out?

DG: It didn’t work out very well. I’m still working on it. But yeah, going down the Amazon, we had a lot of time to think, obviously. And I spent a lot of time trying to think of what would be next in life. And every single option that I came up with, was, I had just thought of it because I was like — Oh, I could make that work. But nothing was born out of a passion or a strong desire, and it was all just kind of things that I could do, you know, in desperation, sort of feeling and I thought, why am I going to do this to myself? Why don’t I just keep doing what makes me happy because that’s, you know, that’s always been my most important metric for success, I guess. And it’s just stupid of me to try to force my life into some other box when I don’t really want it to look like that.

AB: Much of your adult life has been focused on outdoor centric activities. You mentioned your kayaking guide company, and of course kayaking the Amazon from source to sea. But you know, if our listeners read the book, they’ll find out that it goes sort of beyond that in both directions. What is it about spending your time in nature that speaks to you?

DG: I feel my best when I’m outside and doing something physically challenging. This has definitely gotten worse the older I get and the more technology becomes a part of our lives, but I find it really easy to get sucked into work or a project and spend way too much time sitting in front of the computer or on the telephone. And getting outside is just a great escape from all of that. To me, it’s also a really great escape from whatever stress I have in my life at the moment. If I get outside and go kayaking, or go running, I can just, you know, forget isn’t the right word, but I can see the big picture better. And so something that might feel totally overwhelming and stressful at the time, if I can just get outside for an hour, I can see — Oh, this is not as dire as you’re making it in your head. The world’s a big place, you’re a tiny part of it, it’s all going to be okay. So I think it really puts things in perspective for me.

AB: And I would imagine that being one person on the Amazon River – well, in your case, one of three, but you know, in that moment, just one – really adds to that. Context is king and it’s a big place.

DG: It is a big place. It’s truly mind boggling how big that river is and as much as I tried to Imagine what it would be like, there’s just no frame of reference in most of our brains for a river as big as Amazon. It’s truly insane. And yeah, it did. It really helped put things in perspective for me.

AB: Kayaking for all the days, 148 in your case, gives you plenty of time to think about your choices. What did you learn about yourself while you were out there?

DG: Well, the first thing I learned was that I’m extremely impatient. And I kept on getting annoyed by Midge, that’s David Midgely, who I felt was paddling too slowly for my liking. So I learned that about myself. And I thought, you know, over the years of guiding that I had really worked on my patience and become a lot better at it. But that trip told me that I still have a lot of work to do in that regard.

The other thing I learned about myself was that my happiness was really important to me, a lot more important. I had started to think that I should be focusing more on a respectable – in quotation marks – career and making more money and having more security because those were the kind of questions I was getting a lot from people. Especially the older I got, you know, when would I settle down, get a real job, all these sorts of things. And I really thought like, Okay, this is my time to do what everybody else wants me to do. But over the five months, with nothing else to do to think about life, I realized that I won’t be happy if I’m doing what I feel like society wants me to do. And that is just kind of dumb of me to try to chase those sorts of, I don’t even know the right word, should chase those dreams of other people when I could just follow my own dreams. I might be poor. I might lack security, but I’ll be happy and I’ll feel like I’ve been making good decisions for my life.

AB: You talk in the book about overcoming the stereotype and expectations that you kind of just mentioned, that had been put on you over time, whether that be about your height, I understand that you are not particularly tall, you say in the book. How tall are you?

DG: I’m 5’ 4” and 120 pounds, which isn’t really that small. But it’s funny to me that all the time people are coming up to me and making comments about my size. Before coronavirus shut everything down, I was at a bookstore doing a talk about the Amazon. And before the presentation, a guy came up to me and said, “Are you the presenter because you don’t look big enough to kayak the Amazon?”

AB: Oh, my goodness. He clearly had not read the book.

DG: Yes, exactly. Hopefully he bought it.

AB: Maybe it’s not that you’re so small. Maybe it’s that they’re so big. Ever thought about that?

DG: Yes!

AB: So you’re talking about overcoming stereotypes, whether it is about your height, about being female, or you’re also a vegan. Do you think defying those things outside is an important part of what you do and if so why?

DG: Yeah, it’s definitely an important part. My whole life, I’ve kind of been doing things outside of the box of things I should be doing, you know. I was sort of a tomboy as a kid, I love playing sports, I loved raft guiding and kayaking. And I was always, like, people were always asking me like — how do you function in a man’s world? That was the phrase they would use. And, to me, these sorts of things are important because I just found it so frustrating that without, just like the guy at the talk, without talking to me for a minute or having any clue of my capabilities, people just make these snap judgments, which I’m guilty of, too. You know, I look at people and make judgments and that’s kind of a hard thing not to do, but in everything that I’ve done, I want to show people that you’ve got to get past your snap judgments. You’ve got to give people a chance. Don’t just label them as incapable or you can’t do this, you can’t do that just by looking at them. And, you know, in my life in kayaking and business and other things, I see a lot of women in particular who listen to all this feedback from the world. And so they don’t ever get a chance to try the things they really want to do because they hear too much like — No, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t. And I definitely feel like I was lucky because even though I heard all this stuff, my reaction was — I’m gonna do everything in my power to prove them wrong. No, it didn’t make me shy away. And I feel really lucky about that because it is really sad to me how many people I do see shying away from what they want to do because of other people’s judgments and people’s judgments who know nothing about them. So yeah, it is important. Hopefully this sort of leading by example kind of idea, if people will see me and see what I’ve done — Oh, if she can do it, I can do it, kind of thing.

AB: Yeah, absolutely.

So runners and thru-hikers have this thing on trails, the fastest known time or FKT, do you think your journey will inspire others to go out there and try the source to sea Amazon trip and maybe beat your time?

DG: They would definitely, I think, have an easy time beating our time if they wanted to do that. I kind of imagined that the book is not going to inspire a lot of people to go out and try to do the Amazon from source to sea. And I think it’s probably you know, unless that particular thing really is their dream, I think it’s probably smart not to try it. But I hope that it gives them some encouragement to try something else that they really wanted to do. And one thing I like about my book or the story in general is that the Amazon wasn’t my idea. The idea came up. David mentioned he came up with the idea and he was not a kayaker. He was not an outdoors person. He had never camped out a day in his life. But he decided that he wanted to kayak the Amazon from source to sea. And he worked towards his goal for an entire decade. And he got good enough at kayaking to kayak all the whitewater, and he succeeded in his goal. And I think that’s an important message in itself. It’s like you can have a super crazy outlandish goal that everybody in the world thinks you’ll never accomplish. And if you’re dedicated enough and work hard enough for it, the impossible truly is possible.

AB: Your book describes some very serious whitewater conditions that are not an amateur playground, by any stretch of the imagination. So talk to me about what it takes and the kind of dedication it takes to get to the point where, from where you don’t know anything about kayaking and you are not a kayaker, to — I can handle this and not die. What’s the level of work that it takes?

DG: Well, to put it in perspective, of all the kayakers in the world, I would say that 95% of them will never kayak class five. It’s just kind of on a different level, a different level of commitment and danger and everything else. And so, however many kayakers there are in the world, 95% of them won’t ever get to the level that Midge did. And this includes people who truly love kayaking as their passion. They do it a lot and they’re very dedicated to it. And so, getting to be a competent class five kayaker is a very hard thing to do. You have to, you know, accept a certain level of risk. You have to get physically good enough to be able to overcome the challenges and therefore minimize some risk and hardest of all, you have to get mentally prepared. And the mental aspect of it is extremely hard because, if you get into a class five river canyon and you start to panic, then it’s just not going to work out. You know, there’s no way that a panicked brain can safely get you through class five whitewater.

And another thing about it, like climbing or you know, depending on what kind of climbing you’re doing, if you’re just not feeling it, you can stop and come down. And that’s true to a certain extent on a river, you could stop and get out of the river. But particularly on the Amazon, we’re in some really deep and committed canyons and it was quite continuous whitewater meaning there weren’t big pools or big breaks between the rapids. Midge didn’t really have the option, or none of us had the option to say — now let’s just get out of here. It’s like once you commit, you really have to fully mentally commit to it so that your mind can be happy being where your body puts it. And, you know, for all the physical aspects of kayaking, you can kind of follow a training program or strength training, do drills on the river, practice this skill, that skill. But for the mental side of things, number one, I think everybody’s different. And so what works for me might not work for you in terms of the mental training. But, you know, I think that’s the biggest thing that holds a lot of kayakers back, is they might have a lot of fun in class three, as soon as they push into class four or five, their brain starts thinking — Oh, this is stupid. This is too risky. What am I doing? And like I said, once you’re scared or you’re panicked, then it’s just not gonna work out.

AB: Yeah, your book describes some really imposing sounding canyons where the only way out of it really is on the river and then also some places that you can cross the river on some very sketchy sounding bridges. I spent a little bit of time on your website, so I watched the videos that you have posted with sort of footage of it, which was really fun, by the way after reading the book to go and watch those. Because, of course, I had a vision in my brain of what this stuff looked like. And so it was pretty fun to then match that with the actual video, so we’ll post that in with the show notes so that other people can do the same.

You described this very suspicious sounding bridge way over this canyon and two farmers trying to shove a cow across it and I gotta say that what I had in my brain was not as fun as what the video showed. That cow did not look happy to be there.

DG: No, no. And I don’t blame him because we tried to walk across a different bridge, later – a better bridge – and I didn’t walk across it successfully. I was like — no way. So I really don’t blame the cow for not wanting to try.

AB: No kidding. Note to self: do not cross. But I think in one of the videos someone was humming the Indiana Jones theme song. And that’s about right. That’s about right, because if that theme song isn’t playing, you shouldn’t have to cross that kind of a bridge. And that’s all there is.

You frame the journey in this book as being about self disclosure, and we’ve talked about that a little bit. You saw I mean, hindsight is 20/20. Right? So without giving anything away, though, when you take yourself back to when you were in those moments. Did you make the self discoveries you thought you would?

DG: It’s kind of a tough question. It was interesting to think about this. I didn’t go into the trip with any huge expectations in terms of what I would discover about myself. I went into the trip with some big expectations of what I was going to force myself to become throughout the journey, which to me is different than — Yeah, what did I find out about myself? Maybe I was lucky in that regard that I didn’t place discovery expectations on myself. And I guess one one thing that I did surprise myself with is that I’m a really shy person and don’t typically go out of my way to meet new people or talk to other people. And I definitely love helping people, but more so you know, if they come to me to ask for help. I’m not running out in the world, like — can I help you? I can help you! And it’s a lot stemming from my shyness. And I was blown away by how many people were willing to help us. And again, even in this red zone where I went in there being super scared of the Ashaninka people, and they were scared of us too. But we got some permission letters from their community leaders, which basically just served as explanations of what we were doing so that they knew we were coming. They knew our intentions, and they didn’t have to be scared of us. But these people had been through so much, and they had so little, but still, they were willing, you know, once they read our letters, found out who we were, they were offering us food they were offering us to camp on their beaches, and I was really blown away by how truly kind and helpful everybody was. It made me kind of realize this fault in myself and made me want to try to be more outgoing and try to be more helpful to others because it really meant so much when I was on the receiving end of that.

AB: You know, I heard somebody say recently that asking somebody for help is giving them a gift. It’s the gift of being able to help you, which I don’t think we like to think about as a gift, right? It’s not a gift. It’s an ask, you know, it’s a take. But if you think about it, like, I mean, I personally am grateful when someone gives me the opportunity to step in and be a part of their lives and to maybe live a little bit of their adventure with them. Very, very rarely am I resentful of being asked for something. Of course there are boundaries and all that good stuff, right? But most of the time being asked for help is a gift and then I get to do that and it’s just so hard to remember that.

DG: I agree.

AB: If you had to go back and do things differently, would you still kayak the Amazon or would you make any part of the adventure you had different?

DG: I’ll answer that question two different ways. I feel really happy and really lucky that I did get the chance to kayak the Amazon and that everything went well and that all three of us who began the journey ended the journey together and are alive. I wouldn’t go back, because I think that a big reason why we did make it had to do with luck. And including in 2016, a woman named Emma Kelty was kayaking the flat water portion of the river by herself and she got murdered in Brazil. I just think that sort of thing is common enough there that it’s too big of a risk for me to want to take again.

So I wouldn’t go back to the Amazon, but if I did another big trip I guess another really important lesson that I learned on Amazon, which I already knew. But there’s a famous quote, and I can’t remember who said it, but it’s something like your attitude is a tiny thing that makes a huge difference. And I had known this for a good portion of my life, but on the Amazon, I really forgot it. And for a few weeks, I had a really bad attitude about Midge’s pace of kayaking down the river and his schedule for kayaking. And it just made me hate the journey and hate him for about three weeks. And as soon as I kind of brought myself back to a rational place and changed my attitude, it truly was like night and day. You know, all of a sudden, I was totally happy to be there. I didn’t care how fast Midge paddled. I was very appreciative of all things we got to see and the experiences we were having. No external factor whatsoever changed. It was 100% my attitude about it. And I think I would, if I do another long journey, I would definitely spend more time preparing myself for the mental and the emotional side, which I did absolutely zero of on the Amazon. I just thought of it as a physical challenge. And I’m ready for a physical challenge. We’re good to go. Let’s get on this plane and do this. But yeah, moving forward, I would definitely get myself in the right mental state, and do what I need to do to keep myself there for the whole time.

AB: Yeah, I don’t even know how you would prep for that without having tackled something that long. Like I think about the mental challenge of running a really long race, right? But if even thinking ahead of time about the mental challenge of running an even longer race, so 200 miles, 1000 miles, whatever, right? I don’t, I’ve never done that. So I don’t even know how I would mentally, you know, like, amp up to tackle that challenge other than to know that it’s coming. But you know, it’s just so hard to train for that. I don’t know what else to say.

DG: One thing that has helped me in my challenges and adventure since the Amazon is my expectations, you know, now I’m really careful to go in expecting things to go wrong and that sounds kind of negative, but I don’t mean it like — oh, the race or the adventure or whatever, it’s gonna be horrible. I don’t mean that like that at all. I just mean, like, I’m still super excited to go, I’m still looking forward to the challenge, but in my mind, I’m like — you gotta be ready, because who knows what’s going to go wrong, but things are definitely going to go wrong. And you just need to be ready to like, think of these like little puzzles that you have to figure out and it’s amazing how much that helps for me. Everyone is gonna have some different training or trigger whatever that will click in their brains and make it better for them, but I think it’s impossible to know how to prepare for that. But the Amazon maybe helped me figure it out for the future, managing my expectations.

AB: I think thinking about them as challenges, as opportunities, not failures, right? As challenges, not like not negatives. They’re not bad things, they’re opportunities you know, which is like such a cliche sort of corporate thing to say. But at the same time, it really does change your perspective. You know, when I’m out hiking or you know doing an adventure out with my family. We stayed in a cabin and because it’s still winter here and I am a big wuss about winter camping. Let’s start there. So I do not with the camping in the snow. I do not do that. But I will happily stay in a dry, warm cabin. This particular cabin has a propane heater which was broken, which we did not discover until it was too late. So, you know, in that moment, and I will confess that I did not handle it very well, right, then I look back, I wish that I had taken that moment to be like — Okay, this is an opportunity. How will this be looked at by me later? Instead of in this moment. Give myself a little bit of perspective, because the reality was like, we were warm, we had sleeping bags, we were dry, you know, the roof wasn’t leaking, all was well. It wasn’t that cold of a night. And we had a great time. And I think the only person quote unquote, who was cold was my little dog, who’s about 10 pounds and is looking at us like — well, you guys have body fat! Like we had a great time despite that challenge. And despite that opportunity, I should say. And in the moment, we could have had a better time if I hadn’t been so grumpy about the fact that the heater was broken, and there’s nothing that we could do about that.

DG: You said earlier, like, it sounds so corporate or cheesy to say that, and I think for a long time, that’s what held me back from even thinking about the mental aspect. I don’t want to be some, you know, cheesy, like Yogi guru who spent all my time in my head, so I’m just gonna be physically fit, and that’s gonna carry me through. But, you know, just like you said, if you look at the heater not working or whatever problem you’re having as an opportunity, not a problem, it really changes how you tackle things. I think because it’s like — No, okay, I’m not going to get mad about this. I’m just going to figure out what to do about it. And, you know, for people that like puzzles or challenges, I think it can be kind of a fun mental activity if you choose to look at it that way.

AB: Absolutely. But it takes intention, right? It’s not your go-to gut response. Yeah, you have to practice it.

DG: Exactly. You definitely have to practice it a lot.

AB: Not all adventures, of course, are being the first woman to kayak the Amazon from source to sea. I think the thing I took away from your book is the process of living moment by moment when you’re in the middle of something big. Sort of like what we were just talking about. Do you have any advice for women or men facing down a big decision or maybe even standing in the middle of a big adventure? Any advice on making the most of it?

DG: Yeah, again, it comes back to the perspective or the attitude thing. If you’re in the middle of something challenging, you know, your best course of action is to get through it. And again, I think I said in the book, like, when I realized one day that life is just one big string of problems, and no matter if you’re the richest person in the world, or the happiest person in the world, or the most famous person in the world, your life is still just a string of problems that you have to tackle and figure out. And I think if you expect that, you’ll just be in a lot better mental place to deal with it, rather than you expect, like, everything’s going to go perfectly, because then you get really upset when it doesn’t. And we all know that nothing ever goes perfectly No matter how much we plan it, or we will it to be perfect. It just never works out that way. So we should stop thinking that way. And just in terms of people wanting to face a challenge, kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier of, you know, it’s important to listen to feedback from your friends and from people you care about. But try not to listen to feedback from the world at large or people that don’t know you. And if there’s something that you really want to do, you should do it and just know it’s going to take a ton of work. It’s going to take that dedication. But I don’t know a single person who regrets trying for their dream or their goal or to something they want to do and failing. And maybe bummed out that they failed, but they definitely don’t regret trying. But I know a lot of people who, as they’re getting older, looking back on their lives and like — oh, why didn’t I do X, Y and Z? Why didn’t I try for it? And so, yeah, I mean, you might fail, but you might succeed, and you might as well just go for it.

AB: That’s great advice.

Alright. So we’ve come to the part of the show where we like to talk about the things we didn’t get to talk about earlier, which is just sort of like our leftovers. So I want to know, and maybe it’s kayaking related, maybe it’s not. What is your favorite piece of outdoor gear?

DG: Am I allowed to pick my kayak?

AB: Oh yeah, sure.

DG: Okay. Yeah, I’d have to say my kayak because it’s taken me to really amazing places. Sometimes I hate it when I’m trying to haul it over giant bolders and it’s really heavy and I sometimes call it bad names, but I’ve spent a lot of time traveling down really remote river canyons in a little kayak getting to see places of the world that a lot of people don’t get to see. So I’m very grateful for my kayak for that.

AB: Is there a particular kayak? Like if I was going to go buy a river kayak, what should I look for? What do you suggest?

DG: Well, yeah, right now I’m kayaking in a Jackson kayak in a model called the Nirvana and I definitely love it.

AB: Cool. And Kikkan Randall, when we had her on the podcast, picked her skis as her favorite gear, so I think kayaks, totally a safe, safe bet.

What is your most essential outdoor gear? It could be your kayak, but I think you should pick something different for this.

DG: I’ll pick my dry suit.

AB: Alright.

DG: I like to kayak in all weather. Actually, a little part of me likes kayaking in cold weather a little bit better because it just adds this extra layer of necessary focus and concentration to survive. And the dry suit is definitely crucial for me in kayaking in the cold weather because I get cold pretty easily, but with lots of fleeces and my dry suit on, I stay warm and happy.

AB: Yeah, good call. Being dry and warm and happy are three of my favorite things.

If you close your eyes and picture your favorite outdoor moment ever, where are you and what are you doing?

DG: Northern British Columbia on a river called the Stikine River. And it’s really hard – three day section of river and Don and I went and did it. Just the two of us. And we had like we didn’t see anybody else. There were tons of really agile mountain goats scaling these insane cliff walls. I really remember thinking at the time like — this is the perfect trip– even though I said earlier in this podcast that nothing is ever perfect. This is my one moment of perfectness in my life.

AB: Thank you so much for being on the Humans Outside Podcast today.

DG: Thanks for having me.

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