The Happy Camper: Reviewing David Norwell’s “A Complex Coast”

Out of the gate, David Norwell’s new book, A Complex Coast, received astonishing reviews. Award-winning author, Colin Angus, the guy who circumnavigated the planet by human power, described A Complex Coast as “a smorgasbord for the senses.”

John Kimantas, author of the Wild Coast series, also added his appraisal, saying that David Norwell “has painted an intimately personal portrait of a journey as much about personal growth as the voyage itself.”

I, too, gave the book a short but precise assessment on the back cover of Dave’s book. “One of the most uniquely told adventure tales I’ve ever read.”

A Complex Coast

This is truly a beautiful book!

The adventure itself is a good one. In 2014, the 24-year-old geography student, David Norwell, sets out on a 1,700-kilometre kayak trip from Victoria, BC, to Gustavas, Alaska. The journey takes David 92 days and his write up includes the common observations that most adventure scribes document along the way—plant life, wildlife encounters, depictions of interesting people… and other daily observations, musings and activities.

A Complex Coast

But this book goes beyond the norm. It’s more of a search for purpose in life than a bunch of misadventures had while kayaking through a labyrinth of over 50,000 islands scattered along the jagged British Columbia coastline.

A Complex Coast

“Our planet is connected by trains, planes and tech, yet many of us are lonely, stressed and suffering. My life at university is an assembly line—wake up, poop, eat, study, fumble with relationships, protect ego, brush teeth, sleep and repeat. Be a good dog. Disenchantment mounts as I struggle to find purpose.” — David Norwell, day four of the trip.

A Complex Coast

Not only do Dave’s written words speak of nature, solitude, the search for meaning and adventure and the existence of his own privilege, this one-of-a-kind travelogue is filled with more than 700 whimsical watercolour illustrations. Each page is lit up with vibrant maps of the route, landscapes, flora and fauna, stick-figure self-portraits, cloud formations, lighthouses and one nasty blistering toe. Heck, even the paper used by Heritage House Publishing Company feels special. It has the smooth texture of a painter’s canvas.

A Complex Coast

Some simpletons will look at the visual of A Complex Coast as the perfect holiday gift for a fellow traveller. It is. I don’t have another book that looks like it, and I own a lot of books. But it’s much more than that. To me, David Norwell’s work is a pretty awesome read for someone trying to find their place in the world.

I highly recommend it.

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