Kayaker visits Amherstburg on trip of a lifetime



By Christian Bouchard


When 39-year-old Rich Brand paddled into town this month, it was just another stop on the Colorado man’s trip of a lifetime.

Brand left New Orleans on Jan. 3, 2016 on what he intends to be a 15,000 kilometre trip ending up in Jacksonville, Florida. Along the way he stops at middle schools and colleges to give motivational speeches to show them what’s possible by getting out and doing.

From adventure to adventure, Brand hopes to move a younger generation.

“You can’t inspire people from the couch, so I go out and go for a big journey to show them,” said Brand. “Only a handful of people have done this. People don’t take the time out of their lives to adventure anymore. There’s not enough role models doing this stuff anymore, so I decided to become one.”

Colorado native Rich Brand visited Amherstburg recently as part of a 15,000 kilometre trip around North America. His final destination will be Jacksonville, Florida. (Special to the RTT)

Brand first started kayaking in 2001 when he kayaked three miles in New Zealand, but he wouldn’t kayak again until 2014 when he paddled the Mississippi River. He followed that expedition with a nearly 2,500 kilometre trip from Seattle to San Diego in 2015.

‘Expedition Inspire’ is Brand’s adaptation of a 120,000 kilometre route power and sail mariners call the Great Loop. According to Brand, he travels 30 to 40 kilometres a day, but sometimes pushes up to 50 to get away from a storm if necessary.

Along the way, Brand takes photographs, sharing them, along with his stories on his website, www.capturedheartbeats.com. Brand is trying to document his experience, and hoping to turn it into a book when he’s done.

The trip is possible, in large part, thanks to sponsors and the kindness and generosity of others. He said when he first landed in Amherstburg, it was a pleasant and welcoming surprise.

“I pulled up to some people, they were out on their boat having a house party,” said Brand. “I asked them if there was a beach around that I could land and told them I was running out of daylight. They asked me where I came from and they invited me out to their house party with their family and gave me a place to set up my tent right on their lawn that night and I had breakfast with them the next morning.”

Despite having a final destination, Brand said it’s important for him to enjoy the moments along the way. His favourite spot on any given day is exactly where he’s at because he has no idea what’s to come.

“Every day is a good day out here,” said Brand. “Yesterday’s done, and I have no idea what’s coming tomorrow. I enjoy the moments, but I look forward to the future as well.”

Bad weather and mental or physical exhaustion are just some of the challenges Brand might face on the water or landed for the day. He looks at each obstacle as an opportunity to grow or learn a life lesson that he can pass forward.

The route that Rich Brand is taking on his 15,000 km trip is depicted in this graphic. (Special to the RTT)

“The first step is the most difficult, but everything is possible, you just must figure out how,” said Brand. “We get one little short opportunity. The world is going to judge you no matter what, so you might as well do what makes you happy.”

Now on the last leg of his trip, Brand plans to finish in Jacksonville, Florida sometime in June 2019. He expects the trip to be around 15,000 kilometres in length, but if it takes 20 to 50,000 kilometres, he’s up for the challenge.

Brand is heading to Detroit next, then around Michigan towards Chicago, down to St. Louis then paddle the Mississippi River to New Orleans. From there, Brand will enter the Gulf of Mexico and then the Atlantic Ocean until Jacksonville, completing his trip.

Brand acknowledges there are only a handful people who accomplish what he’s attempting.  He’s is grateful to be alive and be above water and enjoys meeting new people, new cultures and having new experiences every day. Like the true adventurer he is, the unknown is what he looks forward to the most.

“There are so many things that are good and amazing out here that I wouldn’t be able to fit it all in one story, that’s for sure,” said Brand.

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