Tamia and Farwell have taken a few Big Trips in their day, but none compares to their Big Trip with Paddling.net (as it then was). It lasted 18 years, but as a bank clerk turned poet once wrote, “to make an end is to make a beginning.”
by Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest | August 29, 2017
Most canoeists and kayakers yearn to take a Big Trip. The details don’t matter all that much. Where, when, how — these are incidentals. There’s a new horizon on view at every point of the compass, and once you’ve made the decision to set off, one day (or one year) is as good as another. What does matter, then? That’s easy: the desire to lose oneself in the journey, “to seek,” in the words that Tennyson put in Ulysses’ mouth, “a newer world,” to see new things (or see old things in a new light), and “to sail,” literally or figuratively, “beyond the sunset.” Yet, as Ulysses knew very well, all Big Trips must end sooner or later. Sometimes the end is just that, the end. More often, though, it’s a beginning. As T. S. Eliot observed, “The end is where we start from.” And that’s where we found ourselves in August.
For 18 years, In the Same Boat was a weekly feature on these virtual pages. But nothing lasts forever, and our last column for Paddling.com was published in late August 2017. Make no mistake: it was a very Big Trip. Eighteen years can see a toddler grow to maturity. Or a white ash rise from a struggling sapling to a towering tree. It’s even enough time for an ordinary malt to mellow in cask and be transformed into an heirloom whisky. In our case, though, the span of years was been marked by something much less tangible: an outpouring of words — more than two million, in fact.
That wasn’t in the cards back in 1999, when we wrote our first column for what was then Paddling.net. We had no idea that In the Same Boat‘s Big Trip would last so long. Indeed, we stopped writing the column at the end of our first year, thinking that was that, only to be invited to return to Paddling.net in the following spring. But we never dreamed we’d still be writing weekly columns well into the second decade of the new century. Of course, this wasn’t down to us. Without the support — and, yes, the encouragement — of Paddling.net’s founding partners, In the Same Boat would have remained eternally landlocked. They gave us the freedom to write as we pleased, about whatever we pleased. And the check was always in the mail. (Writers will appreciate how rare these two things are.)
As important as this in keeping us at our keyboards, however, our greatest debt will always be to you, our readers. Your e‑mails — thousands of them — filled in‑boxes on four (or is it five?) generations of computers, and they made starting each day of the previous 18 years a journey of discovery. You’ve set us straight when we got something wrong, showed us better ways to do things, shared photos of your boats, invited us to stop by if we ever found ourselves in the neighborhood, and given us countless ideas for new articles. It’s largely your doing that not once in all 18 years did either of us face a deadline without knowing exactly what we’d be writing about.
Then in August 2018 the Big Trip that began in 1999 was over. But another was in the offing. After all, “to make an end is to make a beginning” — Eliot, again — and we were not about to scuttle In the Same Boat. We just shifted her moorings. After a short break from writing a weekly column, In the Same Boat embarked on her next Big Trip.