Nomadic kayaker on 5,000-mile journey through the U.S.

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When we think of nomads and full-time travelers, we usually think of people living in camper vans, RVs, or sailboats.

But Rich Brand of Captured Heartbeats is taking a different type of journey –  traveling in his kayak across North America. He’s paddling down rivers, through Great Lakes, and along the coastline, from Quebec City, Canada to Jacksonville, Florida.

“This expedition was introduced to me by a harbormaster in Prescott, Wisconsin, while on the Mississippi River adventure,” Brand wrote on his website. “I was told of a route that was about 5,000 miles, but mainly powerboats and sailboats accomplished it. I thought about it for a second and thought, ‘Why could I not do it in a kayak?'”

Brand left for this kayaking adventure in May of 2018, and he plans on the trip taking him one year.

One day, I spoke on the phone with Brand, to ask him why he gave up his home to travel full-time in a kayak.

Why Brand decided to travel in a 19-foot kayak

Brand's kayak pointed out into the water

Brand is a seasoned kayaker; he’s ocean kayaked from Seattle to San Diego and the entire length of the Mississippi River, which is 2,500 miles. Then he paddled from New Orleans to Portland, Maine, 3,100 miles. Then Portland up to Quebec, which was 1,500 miles.

“I feel I am just settling into kayaking. The gift I have found is I am able to reach, communicate, and engage with people in a way that I don’t believe I could with other means of transportation. I have been hosted by so many and brought right into their personal lives in a way I just could not do with a Jeep, motorcycle, or a boat,” said Brand.

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With his 5,000 mile trip, Brand is hoping to inspire a younger generation to see what’s possible when you follow your passion.

“I believe in leading by example,” he said. “There is a big world out there with unlimited possibilities. You can be your strongest asset or your greatest defeat. You cannot inspire anyone from a couch. You have to move and do.”

He wants to meet people, see everything, go everywhere.

“You have but this one shot to do amazing with your life. Why would you want to do anything less?” said Brand.

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How Brand sleeps and eats while kayaking full time

Brand camps with his kayak at least one foot above the high tide line

Brand seems to do a pretty good job finding places to sleep when kayaking. His one main goal is this: to set up his tent at least one foot above the high tide.

“I don’t have a home but I’m good with that,” said Brand. “Home is where you make it and where you pitch your tent. I’ve had water come up to the base of my tent,” said Brand. “I stay on beaches, docks, marinas, in backyards. If I land near someone’s backyard, I request permission to stay.”

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As for food, he carries around freeze-dried food for camping. He saves over the wintertime so he can eat out along the waterways. He’s often hosted, and people give him dinner.

“People often let me use their bedroom, shower, give me a meal in exchange for my stories. That’s happened well over 100 times so far on this trip,” he said. “If people have kids, I make sure to spend time with them and get them excited about the great outdoors.”

The joys and struggles of being a full-time kayaker

Kayaker Rich Brand poses with his kayak paddle

Living on the water and paddling around all the time isn’t always easy. Brand has had a couple of close calls during his kayaking adventure.

“I’ve been way too close to drowning on the Pacific ocean,” said Brand. “I’ve been through two lightning storms where I didn’t think I’d make it to shore. Solo adventuring, while fun and inspiring, is not always the easiest. It can be hard explaining to people why I do this.”

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But by far, the joys way outnumber the challenges. Brand has paddled among whales and dolphins, has eaten seafood fresh from the waters. He loves the sense of freedom and personal growth, the fresh air and open seas.

“I love waking up to a different horizon every day,” said Brand. “I love the stars, listening to the wind and the silence, making new friends, seeing new cultures. I love seeing things for the first time. When we are kids, everything is new and for the first time, but as we get older, those opportunities are few and far between. I like that each day/person/experience is a first.”

Brand’s hopes for the future

When Brand ends his current 5,000 miles kayaking trip in March of 2019, he’ll set the paddles aside for awhile. His next goal is to hop on a motorcycle and travel all over, meeting people along the way.

“I wish people would get outside more and realize life is short,” Brand said. “If you work a 9-5 and you drop dead tomorrow and they replace you in a week, what kind of job is that?”

He’s met so many people while paddling around in his kayak, and hopes he’s captured some heartbeats with his journey and lifestyle.

“People live in these comfort bubbles and I run at them in a tracksuit with nails,” he said. “I try to get people out of their bubble.”

To follow Brand on social media, go here:



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3 thoughts on “Nomadic kayaker on 5,000-mile journey through the U.S.”

  1. Hello,
    I saw you today as you headed south passed beneath the Lake street bridge in Chicago. I snapped a pic and wished you Godspeed… WishI had invited you in in for a hot shower, meet my wife and hear some adventure stories. And I thought I was a kayaker….Hah.
    Best of luck and safe travels on your adventure.
    Bill Aylesworth

    • Thanks for your comment, Bill! I forwarded it onto Rich 🙂 I’m sure he’ll love reading it!


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