As I prepare for the solo kayak voyage from Maine to Guatemala, folks are asking me, “Can you really do that?” When they see a 62 year old woman in a business suit, it's not surprising that they might express surprise when I say I want to kayak solo over 2237 miles along the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean Sea. What they don't know is that I have paddled dozens of expeditions in various locations including: the western Arctic Ocean, Hudson's Bay, the Davis Strait off Greenland, the Atlantic coasts of Nova Scotia, Maine and Virginia, the Sea of Cortez, and wild

rivers in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Many were solo expeditions where I was alone for weeks at a time. I've been startled, and then enraptured, as I've paddled among narwhals and walruses. I've hauled my loaded kayak over miles of sea ice, when the wind has closed the open lead I was paddling through. By quickly paddling 300 miles in 6 days I've placed first in my class in an extreme adventure kayak race through the Everglades (and simultaneously placed last in my small class of one). I've dealt with hurricanes off Nova Scotia and North Carolina: one approaching so fast that the local lobster men lost their gear. When our canoe was trapped overnight in a rapid at the beginning of a five week trip in the Yukon, I calmed my panicked group, and organized a climb along a cliff face to set up the rope pulley system that extracted the canoe the next morning. What people don't see in that elderly business woman that I am, is the passion and persistence and experience that have made it possible to complete such expeditions.

Similarly, when people see a mother at Safe Passage, working in the Guatemala City garbage dump, they might see poverty and illiteracy, and not be seeing the full picture. They might not see the passion the mother has for making sure her children receive the education that she missed as a child. They might not see the persistence she has in working so creatively to make jewelry to create a livelihood for her family. They might not realize the experience that she successfully brings to bear every day in making a home in a community where most of us would be clueless about how to survive.

Paddling from Maine to Guatemala will definitely be a challenge, and I do hope I succeed. As I paddle I will be thinking about the passion and the persistence and the wisdom of the mothers at Safe Passage. That vision will inspire me to persist in the voyage to bring awareness and financial support for our work together at Safe Passage.

-Deb Walters

Voyage to Guatemala Solo Kayaker