Jimmy Buffett died yesterday.

When his box set Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads was released, I was pushing rubber down the Ottawa River and pouring tequila over ice crushed in a SealLine drybag with a rock. I was a two-day drive from the closest palm tree, still those four CDs were the soundtrack of my life as a river guide.

A life well wasted

Margaritaville,” released on February 14, 1977, became a state of mind for those of us “wastin’ away” on beaches and rivers. Buffett built a career around “Margaritaville,” an excuse for a life of low-key fun and escapism for those “growing older, but not up.”

“What seems like a simple ditty about getting blotto and mending a broken heart turns out to be a profound meditation on the often painful inertia of beach dwelling,” wrote Spin magazine about “Margaritaville.” “The tourists come and go, one group indistinguishable from the other. Waves crest and break whether somebody is there to witness it or not. Everything that means anything has already happened and you’re not even sure when.”

a paddler's deeply suntanned feet in black and white
I blew out my flip flop; Stepped on a pop top; Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home. | Feature photo: Garrett Fache

The antidote to apathy

If you haven’t heard about Tim Urban’s motivational poster, The Life Calendar, let me explain why it’s so awesome. And why it’s not.

Imagine a giant sheet of white paper with 52 columns and 90 rows, which makes 4,680 little boxes. Urban is optimistic we will all live 90 years and so each box represents a week of our lives. Are you with me so far?

When you order the poster you enter your date of birth. It arrives in the mail with the weeks you’ve lived already shaded in. The rest you color in as you go. Motivating message: Life is short, don’t waste it.

You could use The Life Calendar in conjunction with our Paddling Trip Guide. Many of the 156 adventures in this issue are a week, two or three in duration. Urban suggests shading fun things in different colors. This way we can look back on our lives to see blocks of enjoyment.

Wastin’ in my own way

If you look at my last 25 years of magazine deadlines, trade shows and raising a family, there are too few fun boxes shaded in color; some years none at all. This doesn’t mean my life has sucked.

Lost in Tim Urban’s motivational model are mini-adventures. Mini-adventures are quick blasts of enjoyment and escape, too small to track on a stupid poster.

I checked Strava: I’ve logged 77 gravel, road and mountain bike rides so far this year. My Garmin watch says I skied 69 days. And, my river log says 27. So far I’ve had 173 fun times riding, skiing and paddling. But compared to my son Doug (he was a canoe and kayak guide all summer) and his clients, my poster looks empty, like I’ve just been wastin’ away—but not in the “Margaritaville” way.

Buffett once wrote, “I think it’s really a part of the human condition to have some fun. You’ve got to get away from whatever you do to make a living or other parts of your life that stress you out. I try to make it at least 50/50 fun to work and so far it’s worked out.”

I don’t know if work-life balance needs to be split evenly for true happiness, but I do know it’s five o’clock somewhere. I’m closing my laptop now and going for a paddle. Then to find my lost shaker of salt.

Carpe diem.

Scott MacGregor is the founder and publisher of Paddling Magazine.

Cover of the 2023 Paddling Trip GuideThis article was first published in the 2023 Paddling Trip Guide. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

I blew out my flip flop; Stepped on a pop top; Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home. | Feature photo: Garrett Fache



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