By the time you read this, I’ll have eaten my 33rd birthday cake. It doesn’t seem that long ago my winters were spent prostrate to a higher mind and my summers free on the water. From final exams to frosh week my only concerns were enough sunscreen and fresh water for the day. But at 33 I find myself living the rat race I swore I’d leave for other people.

Editorial: Still paddling away from the rat race

One evening, age 25, Tanya and I were camping at the Whitby Yacht Club on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Camping might be a bit of a stretch; we’d been invited to stay aboard a sailboat in exchange for tales of our journey. After our talk we mingled and answered questions. A fellow got to telling me with unwavering certainty and pompous righteousness that the rat race—from which I’ve been running—is just life. I should get on with it, he said. He also mentioned there was a barbershop downtown, in case I was wondering. The salted rim on the drink he bought me stung my UV-burnt lips.

portrait of Scott MacGregor
Feature photo: Adventure Kayak staff

I hope that I thanked him politely for the drink and his worldly insight, insight that tore at my free spirit still awash floating in the swells. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember thinking of places he could park his Mercedes.

Responsibility comes calling?

Eight years later I’m living what he may have meant as just life. I’ve started a sometimes very hectic business with looming deadlines. I got married. I’m building a house and therefore signing a mortgage. I’ll admit this is a fine list of grownup things to do, by anyone’s measure.

How, you ask, am I coping with all this?

I’ve followed a well-travelled path behind the forefathers of sea kayaking in Canada. There is a long tradition of making paddling part of life. The men and women who began the companies that build the boats we escape in just wanted to paddle, and when life came knocking they, like me and every other paddler over 30, built a life for themselves around the water.

Don’t let the shorter hair fool you

If that stodgy fellow is reading this, he’ll be pleased to know my hair is shorter now and my idealism very much alive but slightly more refined. I’m still paddling away from the rat race except my summer expeditions are now divided into daily lunchtime paddles and weekend trips. Which, looking at it at 33, is probably better—salted rims don’t sting my lips anymore.

Cover of the Late Summer 2004 issue of Adventure Kayak MagazineThis article was first published in the Late Summer 2004 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Feature photo: Adventure Kayak staff



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