On October 30th, 2012 friends and supporters of Project Canoe gathered together at the Imperial Pub in Toronto for our annual Pub Night Fundraiser and an evening of celebration and fun. Each year, we ask a participant from one of our programs to come and speak to the crowd and tell their story. This year, we were lucky to have a participant from the 2012 Leader-in-Training program come out and share his experience with Project Canoe and how it changed his outlook on life and the natural world. Olivier has been participating with Project Canoe for two summers and hopes to become an Intern in the summer of 2013. With his permission, we are proud to share a transcript of the speech he gave that night.
"I started with PC in the summer of 2011. I was going through some tough times. I was having a pretty difficult year, dealing with issues on the home front. Signing up for a 12-day trip out in the wilderness, sounded like a really good escape. Little did I know that running away into the forest means running towards yourself. Your inhibitions, your fears, your misconceptions, all laid out in front of you. Think of it as an impromptu self-evaluation. It’s not an unpleasant experience, not at all. In fact, it's one of the greatest joys I’ve found in my life. It’s as if nature brings you out, unfettered and free.
Going camping means finding your strengths and coming to terms with your short comings, realizing that they only limit you as much as you allow them. This is not an experience that happens overnight – it’s a gradual experience, like climbing a ladder while shedding all the extra weight. These things weighing you down: material attachments, addiction, even depression slowly fade away so you can finally see yourself. So what brings this epiphany of sorts? What causes this effect of clear-headedness? To put it simply, the catalyst is necessity. Extreme circumstances and surroundings bring out a sort of hidden resolve inside yourself.
It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well going out into the wilderness forces you to reinvent yourself in order to do things like carry a boat on your shoulders, hike for hours with a heavy pack on your back, trek through terrains that honestly look like overgrown goat paths, paddle through huge waves and winds and weather pushing you back and threatening to flip you over, accept the fact that there is no running water in the forest... Necessity gives you strength to do all these things, and not mind it. In fact, I’ve never felt more accomplished.
PC helped me differentiate wants from needs, it showed me how to persevere, and be interdependent. I’m proud to say I finished both a 12 day and a 21 day trip, and I am hoping to go on many more, because finding yourself is an ongoing journey. Project Canoe helped me to speed up the process a bit. Thanks for listening."