Meet Kevin. He's a graduate from the forestry program with our School of Natural Environment. Kevin boasts 19 books under his belt, including The Happy Camper and his series of acclaimed paddling guides. As a renowned public speaker, radio and TV personality, he’s also a prolific contributor to Explore Magazine and Paddling Magazine, clinching numerous national awards. Kevin’s achievements include Patron Paddler for Paddle Canada and multiple filmmaking honours. He’s also been recognized as one of the Canadian Geographical Society’s top 100 modern-day explorers. Keep reading for more of Kevin's story.
Kevin grew up in Milton, Ontario and was a shy kid and battled depression and anxiety, plus a stutter in his pre-teens. His father introduced him to the natural world, and taught him to admire, respect, share and protect it and find joy in it. Kevin's saving grace was time spent in nature. He says there's been plenty of psychological research to prove that moments in nature are a powerful healing agent and improve mental health. Nature sharpens memory, ability to focus and cognitive flexibility, along with having emotional benefits.
Even with Kevin's anxiety creeping back now and then, he career brought him up on stages presenting in front of hundreds of people, sharing his love of the outdoors and his passion to protect the wilderness.
With Kevin's love of nature, it was only fitting that he decided on a program related to natural environment and outdoor studies - he chose forestry at Sault College. He was never the best academic and lacked an attention span, so college was also a struggle. He loved the north and loved that his classes were in the woods more than in a traditional classroom setting. Many of his instructors were past foresters. Kevin had to repeat a couple of classes, but excelled in identifying trees, birds, fish, mammals, frogs, turtles, snakes and insects.
His career path in nature started as a forestry technician once he graduated, but the recession of 1983 made jobs in forestry slim. He eventually landed some temporary forestry gigs and later worked at a wildlife centre for injured and orphaned animals. Although he made less money working with the animals, he decided to move away from forestry as he craved something more meaningful.
Kevin later started to teach outdoor education as a part-time instructor at Sir Sanford Fleming College. Teaching part-time allowed him to write more books and work contract jobs related to what he was teaching. Choosing to work contracts and part-time jobs meant he had no safety net or pension, but he has no regrets. While not rich in the bank - he feels rich in spirit!
In 2004, Kevin became a father to his daughter Kyla and proudly admits she is one of the best things that ever happened to him. With teaching part-time, he was able to spend a lot of time at home with her and got to write, too. They went for a lot of walks in the woods and then canoe trips were next. Kevin wanted to introduce her to the majesty of nature like his father did for him.
All About Books and Writing
Outdoor writers from paddlers to preservationists were Kevin's superheroes. They motivated him and helped him with direction in life. Kevin lists these authors as Farley Mowat, R.D. Lawrence, Bill Mason, Cliff Jacobson, Sigurd Olson, and Eric Morse. He's more likely to crack open a book about paddling, but can't ignore the power of a good superhero movie. But these writers who taught him about nature, paddling and protecting the wilderness will always be his true superheroes.
Kevin wrote a series of ten guidebooks, with most becoming bestsellers. Many of the canoe routes he wrote about were not very well-known at the time always making sure the areas were already established. One of his books saved wild areas from resource extraction, and the majority of routes in the book have been reclaimed, with five becoming Provincial Parks and one park expansion.
Kevin's ultimate bestseller wasn't a guidebook, but a how-to camping book titled the Happy Camper: An Essential Guide to Life Outdoors. The media loved it and he appeared on radio and televisions shows across the country, headlining as "The Happy Camper."
He eventually created KCHappyCamper , his YouTube channel, with how-to segments like dealing with bears at camp, hanging food in a tree, and layering clothing for cold weather. Gary the puppet was a popular addition to his segments, being the "camper without ethics" and doing unsafe and stupid things in the woods.
If you want to learn more about Kevin, visit kevincallan.com