Van Life: Top 5 Reasons Kayaking Changes Your Life

It’s funny when you look back at your life and see all the things that led to where you are today.  And, you are really lucky if you are able to pinpoint one very decisive moment that set your life in a totally different direction.  Discovering kayaking was one of those life changing events that truly set our lives on a course we never, in one million years, would have, could have ever foreseen.  Kayaking, or rather the love of kayaking, was the catalyst for homeschooling, it was the catalyst for traveling, it was the catalyst for starting to RV and it was the catalyst for selling everything and hitting the road fulltime.  It was the main reason we were passionate about traveling across North America discovering new river runs, new climbs, new hikes, new trails, new back country and new people.  

Bend, OR is an epic family kayaking spot!! Photo: Kady Kellogg

And now, we can honestly say that traveling has exponentially improved our lives …

I don’t really know what it is about whitewater kayaking that takes a hold of a person’s soul and doesn’t let go.  I mean, sure there’s the adventure aspect, but we get that from a gazillion other activities.  There’s the competition aspect, but again, we get that from other sources as well.

If I had to wager a guess I’d most likely say that it’s the combination of things that kayaking possesses that no other sport can offer.

Table of Contents

Family Activity

Kayaking in Washington State … best state for meeting locals who want to paddle anything with anyone!! Photo: Kady Kellogg

First and foremost, for us, it’s a family activity.  While our youngest are not out paddling Class V with their older siblings, their older siblings are out paddling Class II and III with their younger siblings (and their dad and mom), teaching, encouraging, laughing, singing and, yes, rescuing.

Paddling is also a very unifying activity for a family. My kids love paddling with all their siblings and their parents!! There are a lot of sports that kids play, but for the majority of them, the parents are in the stands, cheering and yelling. Maybe a select few coach, but kayaking is a sport that we can all experience together.  The joy, the fear, the adrenaline, and the accomplishment – at any given moment we are face to face with the same emotions and that is a very addicting thing for a family as close as we are.


Lava Falls, Class V in Bend, OR.

Now, personally, I find kayaking to be, hands down, the scariest sport I’ve ever participated in and that’s saying a lot.  We rock climb some pretty epic stuff, we free climb, even, we board the backcountry where there are definite “no fall” zones, we dirtbike, I’ve actually flown 30’ in the air after crashing … still, kayaking is the most frightening.  There is no other sport that challenges your mental capacity to fight back fear and gain complete control over your thinking.  If there ever was a sport that could be labelled a Mind Game, kayaking is it.  It’s amazing to me to see young kids, boys AND girls, out there paddling gnarly Class IV and Class V rivers, when I myself have a hard time controlling my fear.

And because of the fear, kayaking offers one of the biggest rushes of adrenaline I have ever felt.  I feel more alive running a river than anything in the world.  The pump, the excitement, the incessant talking that occurs after a river run is incomparable … and that alone is why kayaking literally engulfed our lives.


It’s a family affair as most spots have nice Class II/III’s for our younger paddlers as well as more action packed for our more advanced crew!! Photo: Kenny Kellogg

Fun!!!  Oh my gosh, is kayaking fun!!!  Fun for all the reasons listed above and so much more.  Kayaking makes you feel so outrageously free.

I mean, we have water fights, we play water polo, we play King of the Wave, we try to make each other swim by holding boats upside down or pulling skirts, we play Horse on the wave, we try new tricks over waves on river runs … we have so much fun that people ALWAYS come up to us and want to talk.  It’s contagious, everyone wants to find that one thing in their lives that makes them feel alive, that helps them bond with their families and seeing our huge crew on water being crazy speaks to them in profound ways.  Shoot, I’m often on the side with our littlest kids (or pregnant, ha ha) and watching my family makes me filled with such joy.

You know, our kids compete too, not because they are “serious” boaters, as they are really seasonal boaters due to our passion for powder as well, but because kayak competitions are FUN as well…especially since becoming part of the Jackson Team!

Life Changing

Paddling to Skookumchuk Rapids with the ENTIRE family!! Even 3 year old Coby made the paddle out!! Photo: Dan Kellogg

You know, kayaking is so all engulfing that it also literally changed our perspective on life.  We moved out to Colorado in 2000 focused on careers and education and getting ahead.  Fun was sprinkled where it fit in between school, work, football, soccer, hockey, ballet, etc.  But after discovering kayaking in 2010, our lives drastically changed!!

We pulled our kids out of school to homeschool them.  Our kids then wanted to spend as much time in their boats as humanly possible and no longer wanted to play all the organized sports, we started buying boats and gear instead of clothes and furniture.

And then the biggest A-HA of them all … we bought an RV and sold everything to hit the open road and travel (to rivers and mountains).  I’m shooting straight when I tell you, had we not discovered kayaking we never would have started traveling.  We love boarding and climbing and everything else, but kayaking took a-hold of our souls.

Stress Relief

Dally throwing down in Buena Vista at CKS Paddlefest. Photo: Susie Kellogg

The pharmaceutical companies make a killing on anti-anxiety, anti-stress, anti-depressants … literally anti-everything because people are filled with dread on a daily basis.  Life is freakin hard and no-one, I mean-no-one has it easy, none of us are immune from the daily onslaught of stress.  But guess what?  Kayaking is the best temporary fix I’ve ever found for whatever has a strong-hold on your thoughts.

It’s virtually impossible to stress about finances or your health or your business or home repairs … or anything, for that matter, while kayaking.  It’s not physically possible. Kayaking is the only sport where every last brain cell is occupied — all you focus on is the here and now, what is in front of you, the water, your boat.

Many times, nearly 100% of the time, kayaking takes you to otherwise inaccessible places and the scenery is breathtaking.  You know, paddling with a few friends or family members in a canyon is also as humbling as it is renewing.  The cliffs rise out of the water toward the sky and you can’t help but realize how small you really are, how encompassing and overpowering nature is.  Your “problems” cease to exist when you are on the river.

Way of Life

The fam in front of the RV before our annual Colorado River Float! Photo: Kady Kellogg

One more reason we have caught the kayaking bug is the people.  These people understand our seemingly crazy withdrawal from society, they understand that we would cram into an RV to explore the outer reaches of the continent…heck they understand our WHY!  Some of the people we have met have become part of our family and others we have a great bond with simply because we understand each other.

You know, it’s hard to stress how integral a part of our lives kayaking is. And we are so passionate about it, we have this drive to share the love of kayaking.  If you see us on the river, or you hear we are coming to your neck of the woods, don’t hesitate to give us a holler.  We’d be happy to meet you at a putin or at a lake or wherever …

If you have ever thought about it, if it’s ever crossed your minds, we urge you to give it a go … but be careful, who knows, you could end up selling your home and living in an RV with your entire family!  😉


4 thoughts on “Van Life: Top 5 Reasons Kayaking Changes Your Life”

  1. I really like how you talked about how kayaking can help you forget stress and anxiety for a while. My son has been working tirelessly to save up for his property purchase. As a result, he definitely looks worn down and stressed out than usual. I will be happy to tell him to try out kayaking every once in a while to blow off some steam.

  2. It sure is interesting to know that kayaking will help you keep your mind off of finances and your work for a while. My son has worked really hard to keep his brand alive and thrive in the oversaturated market. He deserves to slow down and rid himself of all the stress and anxiety that is stemming from his business, so I will be sure to advise him to try out kayaking with his family every now and then.

  3. It surely is an exciting experience to go kayaking with friends or family. If you want that rush of adrenaline and get your mind off work or stressful school stuff, this is a way to have fun and make awesome memories!


Leave a Comment