Eric Straw, a 2008 alumnus of Texas Tech, made it his mission to canoe in all 50 U.S. states this summer.
Camping alongside the rivers and streams he paddled through, Straw said he went on the trip for himself and to raise money for American Rivers, a Washington, D.C. advocacy group that works to protect America’s bodies of water, according to its website. Straw also chronicled his trip through his own blog, Shameless Travels.
“I had that ‘aha! moment,’ where I wanted to canoe all 50 states. I was living and working in Dallas, and I wanted to do it when I was in college, but seven or eight years went by, and I had only done maybe three states,” he said.
“One day, I was jogging, listening to this Dallas sports show called ‘The Ticket’ of all things, and I just thought ‘If I am to do this, I guess I should do it now.’”
Straw said he began to save money in summer 2016, planned the trip and bought his canoe. He quit his job and hit the road.
“I canoed for five or six months, escaping the real world,” he said. “I worked for an environmental conservation company in Dallas for six years. It was a normal big-boy job, but I was working to develop places that should not have been developed, and it was tough doing that. So, right now I’m just building my obituary, writing about my experience and sharing that with people.”
Straw graduated from Tech in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources.
Straw said he canoed with green sea turtles in Hawaii, crocodiles in Louisiana, and traveled more than 500 miles. He swamped his canoe in Deer Field, Massachusetts and hid in a ditch during a thunderstorm outside of Fargo, North Dakota.
“Being away from the internet and technology was great. I met a stranger who gave me $100 in the Florida Everglades, and along the way I had my faith restored in the American people,” he said. “I will say though, that if I wasn’t a white dude, I would have had a harder time. There was racism in some places, but like that Maya Angelou quote says, I found that people are more alike than they are unalike.”
With his trip now over, Straw said he will return to Dallas, where his family is hosting a party for him. He will return to the workforce but will still find time to get out and canoe again.
“For college students now, I say take a weekend and go camping,” he said. “Go hike Palo Duro or Red Rock. You won’t remember the weekend parties, but you will remember that weekend campout with your friends. Go out and get into nature.”