I grew up two kilometers away from the Pacific Ocean, but it wasn’t until I moved to another country that I paddled a kayak for the first time. At this time, I discovered that the spout produced by a whale is not actually water, but warm air blasted through the surface, dromedary bags can hold up to 10 liters, and maps are called charts when it comes to the ocean. My entire life experience was transformed by a 70 km sea kayaking trip through Johnstone Strait. The journey made me want to explore, learn, and care for the environment every single day of my life. I was determined to start living with the planet and not just on it.

At this very moment, we are living amongst approximately 8.7 million other species. This realization came to me through a humpback whale’s breath. Every night, after setting up camp, we would lay down in silence and listen to the humpbacks breathe. The only sounds that echoed through Blackfish Sound were the multiple blasts of warm air that made water droplets condense midair as the whales emptied their lungs. It’s easy to forget that the air we breathe out could be the same air that enters the lungs of a humpback whale. I came to recognize the interconnectedness of our planet through this unique experience.

Arriving at a campsite after a long journey of paddling and with the taste of salt still on my face is a feeling I will never forget. The coolness of freshwater, the satisfaction of a warm meal, the heat of a campfire all seem to gain a greater value when their availability is limited. I noticed the caution displayed by others and myself every time we poured water out from a dromedary bag. Knowing that the bags can hold up to a maximum of ten liters and humans need at least two per day reminded everyone of the importance of conservation. I began to ponder how different the world would be if we decided to carry these principles into our everyday lives. I want to treat the resources I am privileged to have like a 10-liter dromedary bag.

The bright tangerine kayak I paddled was a minuscule dot in the vastness of Johnstone Strait. Or at least, that is how I imagined it to be as I stared at the nautical chart attached to the bungee cords in front of me. Every single piece of land and ocean was outlined in detail on a piece of paper and when I looked up, it was there in front of me too. Kilometers of progress were represented by short spaces between islands in the chart. This was never discouraging. On the contrary, it made me passionate and curious about the vastness of the world and the actions I can take to explore it throughout my lifetime. If this was just a corner of the world, and yet it felt enormous, what other gigantic corners are there to see? And where can I get the charts?

Our route 2017

The five-day journey through Johnstone Strait alongside others is a turning point in my personal story. My outlook on life now recognizes the interrelation between earth systems and species, the significance of actions geared towards sustainability, and my duty to explore this vast world. The nautical chart of Johnstone Strait has been pinned to the corkboard in my room ever since. Pictures of whales, tangerine kayaks, a snow-covered campsite, and the people I shared these experiences with remind me of who I am, who I aspire to be, and what I am grateful for.

BC, Canada 2017