July 2011 |  Maine_Levi_on_beachI have a past history of being overly ambitious. Yes, thinking big can be a great quality, but it can get you into all sorts of trouble. My most recent expedition was an eight month, nearly 10,000 mile bicycle journey across Siberia, Central Asia, and Europe. This was thinking big. Really, really big. And after finishing that ride, I wanted my next adventure to be different.

Sea kayaking has always been one of my favorite sports. And kayaking the coast of Maine, the place where I grew up, has overtime become one of my ultimate dream adventures. True to form, when I initially decided to paddle the coast of Maine this summer, I thought big. Really big. My plan was to begin near the New Hampshire border and paddle northeast along the coast all the way to Canada. “If I was really going to do this,” I thought, “it wasn’t worth doing unless I kayaked the entire coastline, right?”

Maine_SceneryIf you’re like me, it’s hard to convince yourself that less can be more. As I pored over charts of the Maine coast last winter, I did the mileage and realized that, with a whole month to embark on this journey, I would have more than enough time to paddle the entire coast. But the southern coasts of Maine—although incredibly beautiful and enticing to explore in their own right—just didn’t interest me as much as the vast island systems of Vinalhaven, Deer Isle, and Isle Au Haut in Maine’s Midcoast region of Penobscot Bay. And beyond that, there was that mysterious, indefinable area that locals refer to as “Down East.” So, after a lot of personal debate, I made a bold decision: to cover less distance during my summer journey, and focus on really enjoying the places that I wanted to see most.

Maybe I’m finally getting older. More practical. I have a tendency to refrain from doing anything unless it involves surmounting the most extreme challenge I can imagine. In a fast-paced modern world, the decision to slow down, or content yourself with the thought that less really is more, feels out of place. But, after finishing the first leg of my journey, I don’t regret my decision.

Maine_Chatham17_on_BeachInstead of putting in long paddling days to make it from one side of the state’s coast to another, I’ve been doing smaller distances, stopping frequently to explore different islands as I go. Most days that I’ve been paddling sections of the Maine Island Trail—a system of island campsites available to Trail members for overnight and day use—have begun at the break of dawn. I paddle for an hour or so, and then stop to explore an island, walking the perimeter of its coast, or meandering along a designated island trail. Then I continue for another hour, pulling up at another island for lunch before continuing on and locating a nearby campsite. By early afternoon, I’m normally setting up my tent, and embarking on another lengthy ramble around a rugged Maine beach before preparing dinner. Then, early the next morning, I do the whole thing again. The relaxed pace of my journey doesn’t necessarily feel like a vacation, given that I spend each night sleeping on the hard earth and paddling through rain and wind, but it certainly is a bit more low-key than some of my previous expeditions.

Maine_Sunset2As I paddle the coast this summer, I often recall what I was doing two years ago at this time—cycling for ten hours across the plains of Siberia each day in 100 degree heat in an attempt to make it from one side of the earth to the other on a bicycle. I do, at times, miss that sense of discovery one feels on a long journey of epic proportions. But this summer, I’m taking my time, paddling the Maine coast in my Necky Chatham 17 touring kayak and loving it.