It’s not every day a best-selling travel writer shows up on your front porch, but that’s what happened early this afternoon in Meaford. Heading out to take out the recycling and compost, we met – or rather, startled by opening the door before he could knock – a Newfoundlander (transplanted originally from Yorkshire, England) by the name of Bernie Howgate. He explained that he was engaged in a Newfoundland tradition (though one suspects that it’s a Bernie Howgate tradition) – that is, going door to door selling your literary wares. In Owen Sound for a wedding, Bernie was making the rounds of Meaford homes before heading to Collingwood to promote his latest travel memoir.
“Zen and the Art of Paddling”, is the sixth in a oeuvre that includes “Tales of a Travelling Man”, “Newfie or Bust”, “Around the Rock in a Bad Mood”, “Journey Through Labrador” and “Lazy Days in Summer”. Since the early 80s, Bernie’s been financing his solo long-distance cycling and paddling odysseys by writing book-length accounts of his journey and selling them primarily door to door.
During the last 30 years, Bernie spent eight years solo-cycling around much of the world, crossed Canada on a rickshaw, journeyed through Labrador in winter and set out from Toronto to Labrador in a kayak. And at 62, it doesn’t seem like he’s ready for retirement, though he claims he’ll be hanging up the paddles soon. (And his cross-Canada book tours will doubtless continue.)
This latest book covers the 3,000 kilometre sea kayaking journey Bernie took north through B.C.’s Inside Passage to Alaska in 2008 – and with my inscribed copy in hand, I’m ready to settle down for an interesting read.