| Max - who prefers not to use his last name - was still in high school when he decided to go out and see the world. "In the winter of 1995, when I was 17, I sat down in front of an atlas in the school library and started to plan the trip that, I hoped, would give me direction in life, and let me realize my potential," he recounts. "I looked at the map and realized that my entire life, and all the people I had ever met and who had influenced me, had taken place on this minute piece of the world, and that there were a great deal of opportunities awaiting me outside. I started thinking of all the adventures waiting to happen to me out in the wild blue yonder."Heading home from the library, Max began to weave together a plan to make his way around North America in a kayak. He would update an Internet site from wherever he happened to be, and tell the world of his experiences. "To be an inspiration to others," he says, "and try to foment a revolution in the educational system, and drive people to be the best person they can be."
All this took place eight months before Max ever set foot in a kayak, two and a half years before he ever stroked a paddle through ocean waters, three years before he learned how to maintain a website, and four years before he learned how to operate satellite communications.
"I always wanted to be like a hero in the adventure stories," Max says. "My philosophy is, 'Don't do anything that you wouldn't want to tell everyone about.' Writing about the trip helps me to think about doing things in a responsible manner, and maintain focus. I am constantly questioning the reasons I am in a kayak, and am always asking myself what the readers think of me now." For their part, the websurfers send a great deal of e-mail. Some are enthusiastic, others condemn what he's doing. He regrets a few comments he made in his own journal, about Indians in Washington State. "Thanks to the trip, I've gained a broader perspective, and this is the real gift I have received. The educational system taught me to fear the world, as if there were some sort of vicious wolf waiting for me right around the corner. But anyone who wakes up every morning to the sound of birds chirping looks at the world with new eyes."
Max's voyage is being underwritten by his family and by several companies that agreed to serve as sponsors after he convinced them his website would draw innumerable readers. Nevertheless, the money ran out midway through the trip. "I flew home to Canada, and went on a lecture tour with the slides from the first part of the trip. Over 4,000 people came to hear about it, filling the auditoriums of four schools, a university, a church and a museum. I am now setting up a foundation that will offer grants of $5,000 a year to high-school students who want to take trips like mine but who don't have monetary support from their families, such as I had."
Max went back to his kayak, with a digital camcorder this time. Earlier in the trip, his website featured only still pictures, but now Max hopes to enrich it with excerpts of what will eventually be a full-length documentary film. Despite the cramped space, Max's kayak is equipped with a satellite phone, a laptop, and a solar panel that produces the electricity. "It makes it hard to paddle," Max admits, "but it's worth it, because being connected with the world comforts and amuses me when I'm alone. I've met with some of my readers, but it's always embarrassing, because I have no idea which stories or jokes they've already seen on the website."