HEADLINE: Paddling with purpose
BY SCOTT HADDOW
Wild Northerner staff
For siblings Lara and Jonathan Hollway, a paddle in the hand is one of the most powerful tools in the world, capable of relaxing the mind and body and giving people new opportunities to empower themselves.
The brother and sister share their passion of paddling as instructors for Outward Bound Canada. Lara, 30, and Jonathan, 28, were born into it - literally. The siblings were babies when their parents loaded them into canoes for trips from their home in Marathon and the Maritimes. The siblings stayed with paddling as they grew up in northern Ontario. Lara uses paddling to help women who have survived trauma and abuse. Jonathan has worked with youth at risk, cancer survivors and military veterans.
The siblings took time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions about their love for instructing and teaching paddling.
Lara Hollway works with Outward Bound Canada as the Women of Courage Coordinator. In her teens, Lara kayaked as much as she could and worked as a sea kayak guide. Her most epic trip involved several weeks of paddling the Harricana River into James Bay. She started guiding and instructing in her late teens in the Bay of Fundy (sea kayaking) and in the Rocky Mountains (white water canoeing and backpacking). She earned her Master’s in Social Work and worked in mental health for three years. Recently she has been able to combine her passions of working outdoors with people who have faced and survived trauma in their lives.
Q: What makes instructing rewarding for you?
A: So often women experience the outdoors and camping through a male relative or friend or partner. Women of Courage participants have often been told that they are inept, or unable to do things like camp, hike or paddle. They are often afraid to 'get things wrong', and so hang back from setting up tents, or starting fires, or cooking with the camp stove. It is amazing to bring a group of women out into the woods, and be able to share these skills with them. It's a transforming experience for everyone- by the end of the trip, the women are confident, glowing, and feeling so at ease in the woods. It fills my heart up every time.
Q: What is your role as an instructor? What must you do to prepare each year? What is your style of instruction and what do you love about it?
A: On Women of Courage trips, my role as an instructor takes on many different aspects. These are women who have survived trauma and abuse, and are now at a point in their lives where they are seeking to reconnect to their own power and strength again- or perhaps for the first time. As an instructor, I strive to be their guide and mentor in this process: teaching wilderness skills, holding discussion, and inviting laughter.
Q: What has working for Outward Bound Canada done for you in your life?
A: This is now my third season with Outward Bound. Outward Bound has offered me the chance to do meaningful work with women in the outdoors. It's a bit of a dream job.
Q: What does paddling mean to you in your life?
A: Right now, paddling means time away. I get to paddle now just for me, and so when I'm paddling, it means I'm surrounded with friends and family, and have some time and space in my life. I recently got a dog, and I can't wait to see how he does in a canoe. Lately, I've been paddling a whole lot less, and when I do paddle, I've been loving canoeing. The gentleness, and the quiet of the lake in the early morning. The chance to connect with friends. The last trip I took was with a couple friends- we went into Algonquin for a week, and had a leisurely sun-baked holiday of a time canoeing around.
Q: You got to work with your brother in May. What does it mean to share time with him?
A: Jonathan is an amazing paddler and an amazing brother. I'm always just looking for more time on the trails and on the water with him, because we don't see each other nearly as much as I wish.
Jonathan Hollway is a natural resource management master’s student, Outward Bound Canada instructor and a part-time farmer. He has vivid memories of being a young kid on trips with his parents and sister on the coastline of Lake Superior. Jonathan started guiding sea kayaks when he was 17, taking people on day trips into the Bay of Fundy. He has extensive experience guiding and instructing in white-water rafting and kayaking, sea kayaking and flat-water trips from northern Ontario to Mexico to the Maritimes.
Q: What does it mean to you to have the opportunities you paddle and experience?
A: For me it doesn’t matter what boat or what style of paddling I am doing. I can get equally lost in the rhythm of soloing a canoe on a glassy lake at night or in the concentration it takes to paddle a hard rapid in a white-water kayak. One of my most proud and favourite memories of paddling would be when after my first year of university (2012) I decided to paddle solo from Thunder Bay, Ontario to my family’s home in Rothesay New Brunswick. The journey was over 3000km long and lasted 105 days. This trip was challenging physically and mentally as I spent most of the trip by myself.
Q: Tell us about your role as an instructor and what the experience has been like?
A: Although Outward Bound staff is considered instructors, I see my style as more of a facilitator. Obviously, it is our job to teach hard skills, but it is also our job to create a space where people are open to sharing about and reflecting on their lives. What I love about instructing Outward Bound courses is they can have an impact on all the participants, no matter what their background. For instance, I have worked with youth at risk, cancer survivors and their siblings, as well as military veterans. Often, I will ask each group similar reflection questions or present them with the same activities. The metaphors we use allow people to respond in their own matter and in a way, that is relevant to their own personal growth or healing. Instructing Outward Bound courses becomes rewarding for me in those moments where I can see that a course has had an impact on someone. The impact can be huge or very minute-it can range from being as simple as someone saying that their first camping trip wasn’t as scary as they thought to people completely revaluating their relationships with their loved ones. The beauty of it is that the change can be completely unexpected.
Q: What inspires you to paddle as much as you can in life?
A: Paddling for me is a chance to reflect. It simplifies life being on the water, when your needs are reduced to staying warm and dry, eating well and making it to the next campsite. I can get pretty caught up the stressing out about school, money, relationships and sometimes I forget to take the time to be still out on the water. Then when I get out there I remember why I love it so much. There is something so special about being on the water whether it is for an afternoon or for a summer.
Paddling with purpose