By Erin Bastian
In 2012 I stumbled across a website called Explorers Connect. Back then, I had just discovered the delights of outdoor adventures. My head was full of big dreams, and becoming an expedition kayaker was right at the forefront. My trouble was not knowing anyone who shared this passion enough to join me on the biggest adventure I could think of. Circumnavigating Sardinia was my objective, fuelled by stunning pictures of Mediterranean beaches and turquoise waters. The expedition would be a 850km journey, that would take four weeks to complete. We would wild camp every night on beaches and paddle at least 30km every day.
Twenty three at the time, my mum forbade me from contemplating a solo adventure, her fear that the sea was too dangerous alone were very valid! I decided I’d try my luck at finding a partner on the internet. I posted a team mate ad on Explorers Connect and through the platform I found Mike. Nicknamed ‘Mike The Stranger’, my mum wasn’t sure if going solo was a better idea than disappearing with a strange man.
In Mike, however, I found an incredible person. A guy who was up for anything! Happy to sleep rough on beaches, paddle out through terrifying surf, and walk miles to hunt down pizza on a storm day. Mike would go on to join me on even bigger adventures in the future - a friend and adventure companion seven years later. Without that one ad on explorers connect, I’d never have undertaken that life-changing adventure, and my career would not be what it is today.
When I posted that first team mate ad, I was a newly-fledged sea kayak guide. Shiny new badge and eager to test myself. Little did I know, I was at the very start of an incredible career path. Sardinia tested me in ways I never imagined. I survived storms and paddled 50km in a single day, which is twenty more than I previously knew I was capable of. We learnt what success felt like and how to deal with failure. I learnt how to lead in challenging environments, paddled in the biggest swell I’ve ever seen, and figured out how to keep pushing, even when I thought the tank was empty and I had no energy left to give. Sardinia above all, lit the fire in my belly to become a expedition leader.
I felt so alive after Sardinia, that I decided to take on a big adventure every year. I would work non-stop all summer as a sea kayak guide, and every November, I would take time off and spend all my savings on the next big expedition. I went on to kayak 800km down the remote west coast of Patagonia, and to circumnavigate Corsica, Menorca and the Lofoten archipelago in Arctic Norway. This year I kayaked across the Aegean sea. A 400km journey which required 16 open water crossings, ranging between 15 and 50km, linking the rocky islands that are scattered between Greece and Turkey.
As my experience of being an expedition paddler and leader has grown with each trip, my career has moved with it. I’m super stoked to now run my own expedition company Evoke Adventure. I focus on leading unique and adventurous expeditions - no two are ever the same. I want to provide the stepping stones between being led and leading your own adventures, bridging that daunting gap between the two. Along the way I teach valuable expedition skills, that I often had to learn the hard way myself. I show people that with little determination, and imagination, they can really test their capabilities and challenge themselves. One of my biggest goals is to bring together adventure-loving people, and creating friendships with a depth that often can only be built on expedition. A value which Explorers Connect has certainly shown me the importance of.
So happy birthday, Explorers Connect. You have influenced my journey more that you can imagine! Thank you!