Spent a while going through all the footage I got this summer and put it into a film that attempts to document the essence of my experience this summer. Enjoy!
The River and Life on the Road from Bobby Voit on Vimeo.
Monday, October 2, 2017
As the summer ends so does my time living on the road. Before settling down I went on one last adventure. I was fortunate to get to spend time in wild places tucked away in Idaho, Utah, and Northern California. I experienced a feeling of remoteness like no other as I traveled to far away trail-heads before spending nights in the snowy wilderness of Idaho and Utah.
The night I spent in the mountains of Utah was a hard one. On this mission, I hiked alone through valleys and up mountains in search of the beautiful lakeside where I would sleep. When you’re alone in the wilderness you must be alert to every change in condition. The moment I got to my camp spot it began to rain and I knew I was in for a long night. The storm beat down on the mountains with howling wind and frigid rain. I cycled in and out of sleep through the night as most of my gear became soaking wet due to the puddle accumulating in my tent. Through the fear and discomfort, I remained calm as I knew inner resistance wouldn’t help me. In the morning the rain had stopped and instead was replaced with six inches of snow. I made the decision to play it safe and leave the mountain early to avoid the threat of hypothermia. On my descent of the mountain I witness an ecosystem awaking from the storm. Bird calls echoed off the mountain walls, surprised deer sprung from their hiding places, and small mammal prints covered the freshly fallen snow. I was at peace within this beautiful valley and felt reluctant to leave.
In California I met up with friends from the summer for the best river festival on the west coast. Hundreds of people congregate from all over the west for Feather Fest to enjoy a weekend of camping, kayaking, and lifestyling. Enjoying the river with friends from each part of my trip was the perfect way to conclude my travels.
Time moves forward and things change. The beauty of time lies in its finite nature. My trip is over and now I start my new challenge of settling down to city life in the pacific northwest. The summer has had an incredible impact on the way I view the world. The world isn’t as segregated as we think it is. It isn’t as hard to break your routine and venture into the unknown as we think it is. Everything is interconnected and if you’re open to new experiences the world itself will be your guide as it reveals the treasures it has to offer. As I reintegrate into society I won’t forget what I have learned. I’ll use this summer as a guide for my life as I move forwards. This won’t be my last adventure.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
I set out on this trip to become a man. Becoming a man is no easy task, many never fully realize their manhood. In our world of conflicting societal pressures and natural instincts, the process of masculinity is vague and complicated. One must define their own view of man or become a pawn of a system conspiring to produce a manageable population. The only one that can empower an individual is one’s self, so that is what I choose to do.
What makes a man? Purpose. Strength. Energy. Discipline. Confidence. Intellect. Pride. These are words that everyone knows. Until one experiences the true meaning of each of these words, they are ultimately meaningless. I can’t claim I know the full meaning of these concepts, but I know that I’m trying.
Purpose is the most important. A man’s purpose is his compass guiding him towards the goals he hopes to achieve. Without a purpose a man is lost. Everyone has potential to build their own purpose. Once one’s purpose can be vocalized it can be acted upon. Through my travels I have confirmed what is important to me. At this point in time this is my purpose:
Learn the nature of this world to provide for myself, follow my own path, and share my knowledge to better others. Ultimately give more to the world than I take. Get the maximum experience from living this short time on earth and connect with those I meet along the way. Challenge myself every day. Continue to learn and grow constantly; stagnation and submission to temptation are the enemy. Be a leader rather than a follower. Develop meaningful relationships. Support my family and loved ones. Give back to those who’ve supported me. Stay open, kind, honest, and positive.
This is what I will strive for. I’ll go with the flow of life and adapt to my surroundings. I’ll take risks while being aware of the stakes. I’ll slip up and I’ll correct my faults. Excellence is won by training and habituation.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
After leaving Fernie, BC I hit the road by myself to drive further north than I have ever gone. I drove along an empty two-lane highway as the sun faded and the sky turned to pastel colors. The scene was set against a backdrop of the massive mountains creating the continental divide to my east. As I moved into the night towards an unknown destination I felt strong. I felt no fear as I travelled alone into a vast territory I had never imagined.
I spent a couple days kayaking with my friends Mitch, Zea, and other new friends deep in the middle of British Columbia. I had reunited with them many times during my time on the road and it was always nice to see familiar faces. Before long, our paths were diverging again and I made another solo trek west towards the Whistler area. I spent a night in the grasslands of central BC after driving down a long dirt road to nowhere. Sometimes it is fun to realize that no one on earth has any idea where you are and no way to find out. I gazed out into the Milky Way a long while before I falling asleep in the dirt.
The next day I completed my drive to Whistler and continued my habit of finding new friends to kayak with. Within a few hours I had found where the local kayakers congregate and had been accepted to camp with them. I thought this journey would be a lonely one, but my expectation couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve made so many friends and many of them have profoundly changed the way I view the world. However, at a certain point meeting entirely new friend groups every few days gets exhausting and I was missing home. I didn’t let my fatigue stop me from my goals. My adventure was nearing its pinnacle and I wasn’t about to turn back now. In those few days near Whistler I accomplished more than I ever thought I would achieve in my career of kayaking. I paddled with some of the most skilled kayakers in the world on rivers renowned for their quality, danger, and remoteness. I paddled Fear Canyon and the Ashlu Creek with confidence in my abilities as I finished each run with style. It felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders as I knew the dangerous part of my trip had been completed and I could momentarily bask in my success.
As I drove towards my next adventure I reflected on my journey. Everyone has big dreams of things they want to do later in life. Many people put off their dreams and never end up doing what they really want to. It is an indescribable feeling to be able to live out those dreams in real time. I had a simple, yet bold vision for my summer. I was setting out to wherever the road lead me with intention to connect with as many people as I could, kayak the best whitewater in North America, and discover the wisdom I needed to find where the next phase of my life would lead me. I never thought I would be able to take my vision so far. The vision I created was for myself. Following through on the idea I created has given me a confidence in my power to shape my own life in any way I see fit.. The hardest part is finding out what you want to do and committing to it. Once you learn how you become the master of your own destiny.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
As soon as I had gotten comfortable where I was it was time to leave again. I drove into the north by myself with a loose idea of where I was going. As I travelled through Montana I caught glimpses of a wilderness that was foreign to me. One night I drove to the top of an old forest road and watch wildfires ravage an opposite ridgeline. It was a powerful experience to be alone in wild to witness such destructive forces of nature. I decided not to spend the night here so that I wouldn’t wake up in a blaze.
Crossing the border into Canada began the pinnacle of my adventure this summer. Everything is bigger in British Columbia. The wilderness is more rugged, the rivers more intense, you feel more remote, and I can no longer rely on the support of cell reception. Soon I was alone in the town of Fernie looking to paddle the Elk River. The whitewater community came through for me again and before long I had made new friends to camp with. The Elk had been a dream of mine for a long time and it was incredible to be able to check it off the list. The waterfall was the highest single drop I had kayaked. Riding the force of the water driving off the lip of that waterfall and plummeting forty feet is a thrill that is hard to describe.
I have come a long way on this trip. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve met some incredible people. This lifestyle has become who I am. For years I’ve dreamed of hitting the road by myself and chasing horizon lines. I’m living out my dreams every day as I travel without a safety net sleeping alone in remote settings through British Columbia. I’ve had to push myself outside of my comfort zone as part of my body craves a familiar sense of security. Sometimes it is hard not to turn back. It is worth it to keep pushing forwards as you gain something that cannot be taken away. A few months ago the idea of sleeping solo in the wilderness terrified me. Now I can comfortably sleep under the stars by myself as I let the cackles of nearby coyotes lull me to sleep.
Humans have an innate fear of what is unknown. Fear is a primitive emotion and most of the time it is unnecessary. In our age fear does a better job at keeping one from living rather than keeping one alive. Awareness and good decision making are responsible for self-preservation. Fear holds you back by making you complacent to continue to experience what is familiar. To take hold of your life you must learn how to conquer your fears. The best parts of life lie beyond your comfort zone.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness can be elusive. Sometimes what you think will make you happy doesn’t and sometimes you find yourself in inexplicable good moods when it seems like nothing has changed. Lately I have been considering the conditions that contribute to finding fulfilling happiness.
During this trip I have found myself happy for the longest time I have ever been. I had a vision of what I wanted my life to look like and as I have followed it has lead me to places that have far exceeded my high expectations. In my time spent in the town I have previously described I felt a deep sense of fulfilling happiness. My adventure lead me to this town where I found myself in a tight knit community, developed meaningful relationships, and pursued my passion for kayaking every day. I experienced sense of bliss in that space and time which I will never forget. After my experience with observing death the blissful moment had faded and the road was calling my name again. It is the nature of happiness to come in cycles of lows and highs.
In my search for the underlying truths of happiness I was lead to some of the teachings of Aristotle that resonated with my experiences. Man’s happiness will lie in the full functioning of his human qualities. The achievement of human experiences will develop these qualities and lead to fulfilling happiness. These human experiences that I seek are not complex ones. It is the simple things in life that matter most. The thrill of venturing into the unknown, gazing at the stars pondering their vastness, the tender warmth of a lovers embrace, and persevering through a dangerous situation are the types of experience which I allude to. The happiness to be gained from such distractions as social media or material wealth will never be as fulfilling.
Happiness is most everyone’s end goal in life. “For we choose happiness for itself, and never for a view of anything further; whereas we choose honor, pleasure, intellect… because we believe that though them we shall be made happy” (Aristotle). Happiness is fostered by the middle ground of human qualities. “Between cowardice and rashness is courage; between sloth and greed is ambition, between humility and pride is modesty” (Will Durant). Happiness is found in moderation rather than indulgence. Happiness is experienced as pleasure of the mind rather than pleasure of the body. Let us not confuse the noble pursuit of happiness with the potentially unhealthy pursuit of pleasure. Friendship is perhaps the most important external aid to happiness. It has been said that happiness is only real when it is shared.Through this trip I have discovered my path to happiness. I now know what is important to me and what isn’t. With this knowledge I will go forwards to shape my life in the way that I see fit. I will continue to chase adventure, build meaningful relationships, challenge myself physically, develop myself mentally, and give back to those who I meet along the way. These are the things that make me happy.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
I had been having a lazy day in town. As I am solo on this trip now I will often lounge around the center of where people meet and wait for what happens next. As I was relaxing an old friend appeared and invited me on a booze cruise down the main section of a class III river. I couldn’t come up with a reason not to go so I agreed to join them. The craft we were to take was monstrosity stacked rafts strapped together four rafts high. The crew captaining this vessel was about twelve raft guides, my friend Kaylie, and I.
Spirits were high and many beers were drank as we departed from shore and made our way through the start of the river. The raft guides were hospitable as we shared alcohol and laughs together. The stack of rafts teeter-tottered and felt quite unstable with so many people on top. As we successfully maneuvered the biggest rapid everyone shouted with joy. We may have gotten over confident with our abilities as we went for one of the most technical moves on the river which requires launching the whole ship over a pour over rock about 4 feet high. We launched alright, we hit it everyone tumbled out into the water. I had one of the most interesting flight as I was slingshotted out of the raft ten feet through the air landing head first and going deep under water. Everyone was recovered quickly and more alcohol and stories were shared. Everyone was ecstatic with the excitement of the trip.
At this point we saw something was wrong. An empty cataraft was at the shore of the river with two men shouting at us. We could hardly make out what they were saying, but we managed to hear that a man had gone missing on the river. The man was wearing a red T-shirt and no life jacket. After hearing this news the tone of the trip changed immediately. This was no longer a cheerful booze cruise, it was now a search and rescue mission.
The group of raft guides sprang to action immediately. We pulled to shore to break up the rafts so we could search and cover more river. It was hard to find direction of what to do as we had little information, many people trying to lead the situation, and the added element of impaired decision making. I had no voice of authority in the matter so I sat back and waited for the opportunity to help. Time had passed and it was now dark outside. We floated down river not knowing what we were looking for. For all we knew the man may have gotten himself to shore and hitchhiked back to town. The confusion was the hardest part.
As we got close to the take out the confusion was cleared up. A policeman from the shore informed us the man had been found and he was not alright. As we arrived at the beach to take off the river I got a glimpse at the sight. A crew of fifteen or so volunteer rescue workers trudging through the thicket of the riverbank carrying the man in the Red T-shirt. The ground was illuminated by their head lamps and as they all struggled to make headway. It was a surreal sight to see as we floated by unable to help.
We got to shore and witnessed a massive operation unfolding. There were many police cars, an ambulance, and a rescue helicopter landing in the parking lot. There was so much happening that I thought the best way to help was to stay out of the way. While I held on to a raft on the river bank I was called into action. The crew carrying the man had become exhausted and needed help to continue transporting him. I held the metal backboard by the left side of the man’s head and witnessed a lot at once. The man was dead and had an automated CPR machine working to revive him. There were massive lacerations to his head and blood covered his face. He was a middle aged obese man and the crew carrying him had to put in the extra effort to get him to the ambulance. I helped load him into the back and my part was over. The whole operation was over as the ambulance never even left the parking lot. He was past the point of saving. The man was dead and not twenty people working together could bring him back.
We loaded our rafts to our trailer and made our way back to where we departed from. Everyone recounted our crazy experience as we made our way back. I remained silent. I had never been a part of a body recovery mission and I had no idea that it would have been that day. We got back and I decompressed by talking to my friend Kaylie for a while before making my way back to camp.
It was only when I was alone that I was able to start processing what had really happened. The man had little experience, no safety equipment, and no fitness to help save him. He was unaware of the danger of the river and paid the price for his mistakes. The river can give so much and it will take it all away when it isn’t respected. What he thought would be a fun afternoon on the river turned into the last trip he would ever make. I learned that he was in town with another woman who I assumed to be his wife. She is the one that lost the most.
As I have been kayaking more and more dangerous rivers I have been having mental battles considering my mortality. I knew I would witness something like this at some point and I dreaded the day that it would happen. There are many forces at play when you decide to spend a day on the river. The river is extremely powerful and tempts your fate as you choose to play on its surface. It is hard for us to look past that surface level to see the powers at play beyond our observations. Witnessing the effects of the river’s destructive powers made me feel small. I feel like I’m dancing a fine line on rivers I don’t really understand with consequences I have no grasp of either. After witnessing the reality of what a mistake can mean it is harder for me to rationalize what I do. The man’s loved ones are the ones that pay the real price of his mistake.
As I fell asleep I imagined myself in that man’s position. I imagined paying the price for a negligent risk that could have been avoided as a crew of twenty trained rescuers fail to revive me. I imagined the news being brought to my loved ones. I thought about the man and his wife. I thought about the times my adventures could have ended with me in that ambulance. I thought about how I had felt so small in a world of risk and consequence that I don’t understand. I didn't sleep well that night.
This experience was a terrible one, but not one that I regret having. It showed me how quickly lives can truly change on the river. It reminded me of the risks I take when I brave the unknown. I will continue to exercise maximum caution as I make my decisions. I didn’t know the man in the Red T-shirt, but I will never forget about him and the lesson he taught me. I hope he had a good life.