Have you ever been on a canoe adventure? I’m not talking about canoeing at Grandpa’s lake either. I’m talking about a serious 12 hour canoe adventure with horse flies swarming your head to start, pit stops to explore old buildings (I know random), walking in the water pushing the canoe for a couple miles, and then after all that carrying the canoe above your head for 1.4 miles.

This is the canoe adventure I went on this past weekend and it was life changing. I was amazed at everything I learned, the people we met, the conversations we had, and how physically demanding it was.

I had one of the greatest times of my life. You don’t realize what 12 hours in a canoe can teach you about leadership, productivity, and life, until you pick one up, throw it in the river, and start paddling you’re ass off.

A few weeks ago, being that I am a crazy adventurer and thrill seeker, my friend Matt Fulk who owns a t-shirt company – yeah that was a plug for him, asked me to join him on a 12 hour canoe adventure from Grand Rapids, MI to Muskegon, MI.

With no idea what I was getting myself into I immediately said, “Hell yeah, lets do this thing, how hard can it be?”. However, in my head I was thinking, 12 hours in a canoe with no experience, this could be interesting. I’ve never “truly” canoed in my life. The only time I had ever canoed was around a lake when I was a kid.

We launched the boat in the river and started paddling around 9-am. The water was as smooth as glass and you could see the light rain drops bouncing off the water. It was quiet and peaceful.

I started out in the front as the “motor” while Matt started out in the back as the “steerer” – I found out these terms that day! We paddled like this for about 4-5 hours when we pulled over and switched positions.

Matt went to the front and I went to the back. I wasn’t in the back for but a few minutes when Matt started whining about my steering. I said, “Steering, how do you steer this thing then?” I had no idea how to steer a canoe other than paddle on opposite sides and do my best to keep it straight. I was way off on that!

For the next 30 minutes or so Matt did his best to explain how to steer the canoe and teach me to keep the thing as straight as possible. Although I started to get better, that didn’t mean no more run ins with weeds and swerving around the river and lake like a drunk driver.

We went back and forth switching positions for the duration of the trip and finally reached our our destination where we then had to pick up the canoe and carry it on our shoulders for 1.4 miles. This seemed like the toughest part of the trip and took everything we had left in us.

While walking back to Matt’s Dads with the canoe on our necks and shoulders it made me think about all the things that I had learned on this 12 hour adventure.

Here are 12 things that I learned:

  1. We are in this thing together.
  2. Don’t give up.
  3. Sometimes the hardest part is at the end.
  4. If you want to go fast you go alone and if you want to go far (12 hours in a canoe) you go together.
  5. If we wanted to go anywhere, we had to figure out how we were going to work together.
  6. Make sure that you have the right gear and you are prepared for anything.
  7. Live life, take adventures.
  8. Experiences drive conversation, that drive creation.
  9. Don’t be afraid to step out and try new things.
  10. Do your best to go in a straight direction. It makes your trip a lot shorter.
  11. Winners work together as a team.
  12. Finish strong.

Don’t be afraid to step out, change, and take on new adventures. It will be these unusual, exciting and sometimes hazardous experiences that will change your life forever.


Discussion Question: 

How about you? Have you taken any new adventures lately that have changed your life? You can comment below.