One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage

Non-Fiction - Memoir
288 Pages
Reviewed on 10/26/2016
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Author Biography

Susan Conrad is an adventurer, author, educator, and speaker. She's also an accomplished paddler. Her tenacious exploration by sea kayak has fueled her stories and images of the natural world for decades. Her articles and photographs have appeared in Sea Kayaker, Canoe and Kayak, Adventures Northwest, and Figure magazines. Countless newspapers, guidebooks, and historical journals also feature Susan’s work. INSIDE is her debut memoir.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Inside: One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage is a non-fiction adventure memoir written by Susan Marie Conrad. Conrad grew up loving the water despite her parents' fear of it, and, when she moved to Montana, she experienced being in a kayak for the first time. The closeness of the water and the sensation of being an integral part of her water craft immediately had her hooked on kayaking. In 2009, almost twenty years after that first transcendent foray into Flathead Lake in Montana, Conrad decided that she would solo kayak the Inside Passage, which spans from Anacortes, Washington along the coast of British Columbia up into Alaska, terminating in Skagway. She had long been inspired by her long-time friend, Jim Chester's own experiences on the challenging route. Then, after watching her father's precipitous decline and death from Alzheimer's and reading a memoir of a woman who had also kayaked the Inner Passage, Conrad decided that she would also make that trip to Alaska -- and she would do it on her own. It was a wildly exciting and even dangerous idea, but with the proper training, charts, and the help of her mentor and friend, it was something she knew she could do.

Susan Marie Conrad's non-fiction adventure memoir, Inside: One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage, had me thinking about getting into a kayak from the moment I first saw her outstanding cover photo showing her trusty kayak, Chamellia, with icebergs and snow-capped mountains in the background. Conrad shares so much of her experience with the reader, from practicing rolls and other maneuvers in her health club's heated pool in preparation for the trip to figuring out how to compress and pack her gear into every free space in her craft. Her story is an illuminating and inspiring one. She shares both the highlights of her trip and those low moments when the rain seems to last forever and her gear stays soggy and damp. Conrad’s writing style is smooth and conversational, and, throughout my reading experience, I felt as though she were personally telling me her story. I enjoyed every minute of this action-packed and exciting memoir. She also includes a gallery of outstanding photographs, recommended readings, and her inventory of gear in the appendices. Inside: One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage is most highly recommended.


Inside: One Woman’s Journey through the Inside Passage is a singular epic. It is a brave story. One of personal triumph, of heart break, terrifying challenges, soulful introspection and sheer joy. It is also a moving story about the power of friendship. Her words flow off the pages carrying the reader along on the current of her adventure. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about real adventure, personal challenge and experience, through her evocative writing,
the wonders and beauty of the Inside Passage.
—Milbry Polk, co-author Women of Discovery and Founder, Wings WorldQuest—


Susan Conrad writes of the things that make solo sea kayaking challenging, rewarding and life changing. The tides are not always in her favor and the crossings are not all sun drenched and paddled with ease or certainty. At times her fatigue is as palpable as the taste of salt from tears or sea spray or both. When Susan reaches her goal, the reader will understand there is so much more to a solo endeavor than the physical act of paddling 1,100 miles.
—Chris Duff, expedition paddler, author of On Celtic Tides and Southern Exposure—


It’s not often that a person possessing the ability to sea kayak the Inside Passage solo is also capable of putting into words the extraordinary mental, physical, and emotional challenges faced daily on this incredible journey. Susan Conrad is one of those people. By skillfully blending sometimes painful memories of her life's trials and tribulations, with stories of the hardships and accomplishments she faced on her 1,100 mile kayaking adventure, she reveals valuable lessons for every outdoor lover seeking to find balance between themselves and nature. The life changing decisions, impassioned frustration, numbing exhaustion, and internal obstacles that we all face on our life's journey are eloquently mirrored here in one woman's Northwest Pacific Coast odyssey.
—Denis Dwyer, expedition paddler, author of Alone in the Passage: An Explorers Guide to Sea Kayaking the Inside Passage—


Susan Marie Conrad’s new memoir’s title, Inside: One Woman’s Journey through the Inside Passage, is a bit of a misnomer: it is not a “woman’s” book. It’s a book for everyone. Conrad’s narrative is engaging and unpretentious. She comes across as refreshingly transparent. The book is an easy read. Conrad’s memoir isn’t just a self-discovery, pull-yourself-up-by-one’s-bootstraps story.
It’s an adventure story and a love story.
—Robert H. Miller, author of Kayaking the Inside Passage: A Paddler’s Guide from Olympia, WA to Muir Glacier, AK—


I enjoyed reading Susan’s second expedition. By “second” I mean her book about the trip, because I know that writing it must have drawn as much energy, taken as much time and pulled as much on her emotions as the paddling trip itself. She reveals her background; some ghosts she was determined to come to terms with. She reveals her hopes and her fears. She reveals the emotion that spending so long in such an impartial environment invokes. She shows her backbone. Hers is the story of a deliberate passage from one place to another, from one life into another, burying old ghosts and creating the foundations for a happier future.

Inside is thought-provoking. I read Susan Conrad’s book twice.
—Nigel Foster, kayak designer, instructor and author of numerous books including On Polar Tides and Encounters from a Kayak: Native People, Sacred Places, and Hungry Polar Bears—


The WET version of “WILD”! Susan Conrad’s amazing solo kayak expedition up the Inside Passage is not only an adventure of epic proportions, it is also a journey deep within – an “Inside” vision quest. The fact that she did this arduous trip as a single woman at age 49, and paddled marathon distances (or more) most days is a testament to her strength, courage, and detailed preparation for this trip.

Her writing is so genuinely human—gut-wrenching at times, humorous at others that it’s hard to put the book down. You want to see what’s around the next corner, just like she did. And, her sense of childlike wonder at the magnificent scenery, wildlife (big and small), and the kindness of the people she meets along her journey engages you and transports you to her cockpit.

Susan’s story of healing, adventures and misadventures, fear, sorrow, and profound joy will lift your spirits and make you want to grab a paddle and a kayak!


Definitely a page turner from cover to cover. Each and every word reflected the author's passion of adventure as she traveled thru the Inside Passage of Alaska. The strokes of the paddle drew me in. A few years ago I read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed but “Inside” tops it by far. I was fortunate to meet Susan Marie Conrad at a local book reading and signing. As she spoke her eyes lit up as she shared her everyday experience. Add Inside to your read list. You will not be disappointed.


Enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend it! Susan does a wonderful job of writing and interweaving her inner journey as it unfolds in the face of her day to day struggles and successes of kayaking the Inside Passage. Her journey conveys the relatable condition of humanness of restlessness, fear and uncertainty, of elation, joy, and serenity. Most importantly, she demonstrates the incredible power of the human spirit to heal. Susan fulfills her dream of kayaking alone along the Inside Passage knowing that the physical journey would be so critically demanding and captivating of her attention she would have to live in the present moment. She finds insights and wisdom. Her detailed descriptions of the ocean, her paddling, the land, wildlife and encounters with land lovers along the way bring freshness, humility, humor, genuineness and fun. Her writing style, so easy to read, took me along her journey. Beautiful photographs and detailed lists for kayakers and campers. Overall great read.


This book will inspire everyone from couch potatoes to pro athletes. Susan was dealt a very bad hand as a child and overcame much adversity. She discovered that everything she needed was already INSIDE her. She just needed to believe! This book will particularly speak to those who have suffered from sexual or emotional abuse. This book deserves national recognition so it can inspire those that need it the most—folks who got the short end of the stick and are searching for answers to questions they never thought to ask.


Sasquash w/ explanation. She had a flavor few captured.