I’ve got a cousin you would not believe. As a child, I knew how different he was based simply on how the other adults acted around him. My cousin is one of the only true adventurers I know. I know a TON of people who talk about adventure, me included, and I know a ton of people who watch films about adventure but then just go back to the couch. My cousin planned, saved and acted. When I was young he built a canoe with a sail mount and traveled from the top of the Ohio River to the tip of South America. When I asked him about this, just a few months ago, he said “Ya, I think I had a map, but I don’t like to plan out too much.” He ran from hurricanes, bandits and disease and just hammered away, year after year. He came to visit after the trip was over and I knew I had found a true hero in my life. My parents had a set of leather-covered books detailed the natural world from A to Z. The books were incredibly detailed, scientific books but also illustrated in wonderful ways. Both photography and illustration. My cousin knew the material front to back.
One, he knows what it means to fact check. Two, he might know John McPhee, one of my OTHER heroes. Ben wrote a book people, a book about Dick Conant, a long distance canoeist who disappeared on a journey from New York to South Florida. Conant was an odd bird. A Navy man, a sibling to eight other kids and someone who may or may not have suffered from an ill fit with mainstream culture and society. But Conant was a shining light to legions of people he met along the way. An enormous man in overalls with an overloaded canoe, Conant left an impression that is nearly impossible to describe or explain, even with those he only shared a brief encounter. This is a remarkable story. A story of pain, acceptance and rejection. The kindness of strangers and the resilience of a man who just kept going out there, both because he wanted to and because he lacked other options. Get it, read it.