A group outing during a kayaking trip reminds me I am enough.
I watch ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. One, there isn’t anything else on. Two, I want to keep up with pop-culture. Three, I believe in love. Often, I feel the heartbreak when contestants don’t receive roses and are sent home.
What Girl Doesn’t Want a Rose?
I’m too old to be a contestant on one of the shows. That doesn’t stop me from thinking what it would be like to participate in one of the group dates. One-on-one dates are awkward enough. A group date? Oy!
Stepping out of the kayak and onto the soft, white sand of Shell Key, I admired the orange fireball disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico. Nervousness and anxiety weighing on me instantly melted away.
Those Darn Negative Thoughts
Self-doubting thoughts consumed me all week. Thoughts of, “I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not successful enough. I’m too old,” raced through my head and intensified as I drove up to Tierra Verde (St. Petersburg area) in Pinellas County. My stomach flipped with butterflies and driving up Interstate 75, I thought about turning around and heading home.
I was about to embark on one of my scariest adventures yet. Scary, not because of the activity but scary because of the fear of not being enough for someone else. Or simply, the fear of rejection.
Changing My Mindset, Trying Something New
Stopping at a Sunshine Skyway Rest Area, I changed my mindset and perspective. I focused on the activity rather than the potential people participating.
In my quest for finding Mr. Right, I signed up for a sunset kayaking trip with Match.com, the online dating service. They offer off-line group activities where the ratio of men to women is typically even. These activities allow participants to engage in something they enjoy while meeting new people and taking the pressure off.
Match has been a miss for me. Every other week or so, the dating site thinks the former fishing captain who broke my heart is a great match for me. Or, they match me with men who I know are married, or guys using photos of celebrities, or, well, I won’t get into details. Insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results. Breaking the insanity, I decided to give an in-person event a try.
Rather than thinking this was group date on The Bachelorette, I decided it is another activity I’m enjoying solo. Instead of a rose, my goal was to take home a positive memory. If I meet someone, that’s a sweet bonus.
Sunset Kayaking Trip in a Clear Kayak
Island Ferry Eco Tours offer nightly, two-and-a-half-hour sunset paddling trips into a portion of the 1,828-acre Shell Key Preserve in gorgeous, clear kayaks by Crystal Kayak Company. This area is popular for fishing and boating and is an important sanctuary for birds.
I was the first to arrive to the meeting location and when other participants showed up, I felt more relaxed. They were pretty much like me; nice, good people who enjoy the outdoors, and living their best life possible.
Three things about the group stood out. Most everyone was around my age of mid-to-late-40s (the event was promoted as something for those in their 20s – 50s). There were more men than women, which could have happened because participants no-showed. Lastly, a couple of people brought dates.
Bringing a guest was an option and I would have thought bringing someone to be your wingman was more appropriate than bringing a date. Don’t get me wrong, they were lovely people. I just didn’t think an event meant to meet someone, and potentially “the one,” was a place to bring a date. I wish them well.
Handing Over Control Was Challenging But Nice
Say “tandem kayak” and I cringe. I wore my best poker face when I learned tandem kayaks were the evening’s arrangements. Grabbing the guy next to me, we settled in the boat with him in the back and guiding the boat. After finding our paddling groove, which included knocking paddle blades a few times, we chitchatted, enjoyed the scenery, and shared some laughs.
It was difficult letting him control the kayak. It was not because I did not think he could, it is because I am used to doing everything by myself. Although difficult, it was welcomed and appreciated. As in life, doing everything on your own can be exhausting.
Living in the Moment
Every so often, the paddling guide’s voice emitted from the kayak’s speaker. A cormorant swam and dove along the kayaks and the guide explained they were feeding. As brown pelicans flew above, through the clear kayak I saw fish swim below. Kayaks passed single file through a mangrove tunnel, occasionally getting stuck in the roots or shallow areas. We helped each other when possible. Small, black mangrove crabs scurried along the branches and the setting sun’s rays cast a light golden glow through the trees.
The visit to Shell Key was an opportunity to stretch the legs, look for seashells, and admire the peacefulness. After sunset, we hopped back in the kayaks. Two lights were added in each kayak and they were spotlights on the preserve’s floor. This made the trip back more exciting than the trip out.
I Am Enough
Soon enough, we arrived at the launch point. The experience was over. There was no rose. There was no goodbye. There was no sense of rejection. There were positive memories of a casual, fun, beautiful evening, and a renewed sense of confidence in myself. For everything I did not think I was enough of, this experience reminded me I am enough. My heart is still open.
Mr. Right, I can’t wait to share endless adventures with you. Heck, if you are the right guy, I am willing to hop in another tandem kayak. Until then, being a party of one is enough.
Nuts & Bolts About Island Ferry Eco Tours
Island Ferry Eco Tours
Tel: (727) 742-2277
Sunset Kayak Tour: Departure time is dependent on the sunset time. Reservations required; $54 per person for 2.5-hour tour. The tour launch point is located at 2830 Pinellas Bayway South in Tierra Verde. Participants must be in moderate physical condition and there is a weight limit of 250 pounds per person.
Island Ferry Eco Tours offers other guided kayaking trips, Egmont Key snorkeling trips, a dolphin-snorkeling cruise to Shell Key, sunset cruises, and private charters for up to six people.
If you’re planning on participating in the Sunset Kayak Tour and traveling from the South, visit the Sunshine Skyway Rest Area restrooms after paying the toll since restrooms are not at the kayak launch site.