“I felt so liberated on the Bruce. That’s the way I want to continue to live.”
At 24, most women are starting their lives with a road map to successful ‘adulting.’ They’ve got plans and expectations. But not Kendra. She’s following her own internal compass. And her quiet confidence moves me.
Kendra Slagter considers herself the “super outdoorsy, super adventurous” type. Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Kendra’s thirst for the unknown took her to the far corners of Africa, where she spent a semester in Uganda during her third year of university. After graduating with a degree in Social Work in 2018, she then spent two months working in Kenya. She’s summited mountains. Hiked through rain forests. Always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible during her time out in nature.
Last year, Kendra was chosen among thousands of applicants for a sponsored permit to tackle America’s famed Pacific Crest Trail, a 4200-km thru-hike that’s gained mainstream recognition thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s popular memoir Wild. Despite the formidable effort required to prepare for the journey — including selling most of her belongings to offset the cost — her March 2020 departure date came and went. Thwarted by the onslaught of COVID.
Now unemployed, void of any plan, and stuck at home, Kendra found solace in tree-planting contracts as she began to dream about other opportunities for fulfillment. Her father was also in transition, dealing with the impact of COVID on his business and deciding his next steps. One day in September, while sitting at the kitchen table with her dad, an inspired idea hit Kendra smack in the face. She needed only to look out into her backyard. The Bruce Trail.
What if she seized this moment of downtime?
Kendra had grown up with the Bruce Trail right on her doorstep, spending weekends hiking short stages of it with her family. But the trail had lost its lustre once she began to experience the wider world and its infinitely tantalizing possibilities. Could she be convinced of the Bruce’s ultimate worthiness? What if she hiked all 944 km of Canada’s longest and oldest waymarked trail? What’s more, what if she tackled it with her dad? The serendipity of their combined downtime fuelled her imagination. Would he walk the whole thing with her?
The short answer, is YES to all of the above, but her story is a journey worth digging into. A tale of strengthening her self-awareness. Of facing intense discomfort. Embracing personal growth. And finding solace in slowing down. Together, she and her dad Ken supported each other through abysmal rain stretches and recurring injuries. But they never gave up, and completed the Bruce in 29 days, just as the snow was beginning to fall.
Kendra produced a stunning video about her experience, which is how I discovered her. I was particularly moved by her reflections on the hike’s positive impact on her bond with her father. I knew I needed to know more about this young woman, who has already figured out that she doesn’t need to fit into some box society prescribes. So I interviewed her for the launch of my new SWTW Podcast. I’m stoked to bring you her story, which premieres on our first episode, here! You’ll find it wherever you get your podcasts.