Marc Soberano has never canoed for more than two weeks at a time, but this summer, he’s planning to spend at least four months retracing routes taken by early explorers of Canada.
The 23-year-old is planning to spend up to five months paddling in a canoe with five friends from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., to Lachine, Que. He’s hoping a 5,000-kilometre canoe trip will be the ticket to figuring out what to do when he comes back, since he graduates from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario just before leaving on May 10.
“I’m hoping a flash of genius comes to me somewhere along the way – that the light bulb goes off and I’ll figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
The Toronto native spent time canoeing as a child attending Camp White Pine in Haliburton, Ont., but he met his five friends at Camp Tamakwa in Algonquin Park, Ont. All six of them worked at the camp as canoe trippers, which means they would take campers out on canoe trips.
Soberano said his love of canoeing doesn’t have as much to do with the actual activity, but rather being outside spending time with friends.
The group, which is now called Paddling Across Canada Tour (PACT), was initially called Six Friendly Voyagers, which Soberano described as a perfect description of the team, and why he chose to participate.
The idea for the voyage began when one of Soberano’s friends, Peter Vooys, had a hernia. Although it wasn’t life threatening, it left him with a reminder that life is unpredictable, so he decided he wanted to go on this big adventure, Soberano said.
The team ranges in age from 22 to 31, and includes three Canadian men and one Canadian woman, one Australian man and one American woman.
The group is working away at preparing for the trip, with a mandate that each day they should get one step closer to making the trip happen, said Soberano.
“The planning that goes into this is like nothing I’ve ever attempted before,” he said, adding that it’s especially difficult given that no two members of the group live in the same city. Five are spread out in Ontario and one is in Colorado, so much of the planning happens online.
The planning involves figuring out how to evacuate if there’s an emergency, or where they will resupply food, but also finding funds both for the trip and for charity. Although fundraising has been slow going so far, Soberano said he hopes they’ll be able to donate to three charities that offer outdoor opportunities. These charities are Camp Outlook, Couchiching Community Initiative and the Pine Project.
Soberano said his trip isn’t unique – lots of people have paddled along these routes in the past, and that means there’s a wealth of information and people ready to offer advice. For example, his friend’s sister’s boyfriend did this trip two summers ago and has shared his experiences with Soberano.
“One segment of the trip is paddling Lake Superior – it’s essentially like an ocean. At any moment the wind could pick up, and sometimes they had to sit on the shore for five to seven days waiting for the wind to calm down,” he said. “That’s going to be the one where we’re going to be the most careful.”
He’ll be sharing his own experience through photos, stories, music and blogs that will be updated online throughout the journey.
This trip is the longest Soberano will be away from the Jewish community, which he thinks will make for an interesting situation.
“Hopefully, I’ll let my years of Jewish education give me energy and perspective,” said the graduate of the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto and United Synagogue Day School, who compared canoe trips to Shabbat, in that you sit around and talk with friends, without worrying about getting caught up in other parts of your life.
“Every time I’ve been on trips, that’s when I get most spiritual,” he added.
He’s most looking forward to visiting the various cities he’ll be paddling through, including Edmonton and Winnipeg.
“Any time we see a little civilization, it’ll be interesting,” adding that he hopes to meet people along the way who might offer help to the group through what he called random acts of kindness. “There’s bound to be times where morale gets kind of low. The thing that keeps people going is the people they meet along the way that are enthusiastic about the trip.”
Although there is still a lot to do to prepare, Soberano said he’s looking forward to spending months paddling in this six-person canoe and is confident the journey will be a success.
“As long as we’re making a bit of progress every day, we’ll make it happen,” Soberano said.
For more information, visit the website paddleacrosscanadatour.org.