Emily Little grew up in Northwest Washington, but found her passion for whitewater on the Rogue River. She learned to kayak at age 12 with Sundance Kayak School and has been in love with rivers every since. She splits her time guiding in Oregon and Idaho for Northwest Rafting Co. (www.nwrafting.com) and on Chile’s Futaleufu. She is in her happy place when she is on the river and in the mountains. We tapped her for a little advice about life on the river and how she plans to get back to normal…
Lessons Learned: A River Guide’s Perspective
When I think about my river guiding career up to this point and how it has impacted my life, I see a lot of change. Those who knew me eight years ago in college would see a different person now. There are a lot of lessons I learned from river guiding that I try to implement in every day life. Here are ten takeaways I would like to share with you.
- Nature soothes the soul
I am more relaxed after spending time outside. Whether it is going for a 20 minute walk or spending 20 days rafting in the Grand Canyon, breathing in fresh air and feeling the wind on my face keeps me optimistic.
- Go slow, to go fast
Guests commonly say, “You never stop moving!”. There is lots to do between waking up and starting coffee and closing the camp at night. I have learned you can save your day by doing things right from the beginning instead of losing time later – rushing at first to then be forced to go back and correct mistakes. As life speeds up and reaches a velocity that seems out of your control, remember to take the time for a measured approach to new things. This will prevent taking one step forward and two steps back.
- Express your joy with a big whoopeee
There is no better feeling in the world than successfully rowing or paddling through a rapid. The anticipation, adrenaline, sense of relief, and pure joy deserves to be released. Everyone has their own whoopee moments, share them and be yourself. Expressing the stoke of a good line!
- Wishes won’t wash dishes
I wash a lot of dishes and I love it. I have some of the best memories scrubbing pans and ending up laughing until I cry. My fellow guides and I enjoy each others company, we do not want to be anywhere else. It is pointless wishing the dishes were done already because they will not clean themselves. It helps to find the fun in our day-to-day chores so life is not monotonous.
- Go with the flow
Although probably the most commonly used pun about rivers, it is so relevant. I treat the river as the boss, letting it lead me, especially when rowing big, heavy gear boats. You can not change the flow of the river, only try and use it in your favor. Any obstacles encountered, you must deal with and overcome to keep moving downstream.
“I LIKE TO KEEP IN MIND ANTICIPATION, ANGLE, AND MOMENTUM WHEN I BOAT, LETTING THOSE THREE IDEAS LEAD ME THROUGH LIFE AS WELL.”
- Ask for help when carrying a big load
A river guide is a relocation specialist: their job description entails picking up awkward heavy things, moving them, and then moving them again. There is actually so much more, but we do do a lot of heavy lifting. To save our backs and longevity in the job, we need to remember to share the load with a friend. Shared loads, emotional or physical, help us stay healthy. Team work makes the dream work.
- Find your people
My time spent working and living on the river has led me to some of my best friends. Spending all of our time together in a (sometimes) challenging environment forces us to work as a team. It is in our best interest to get along and like each other, but this just seems to happen naturally. I am thankful to have found these types of loyal, amazing human beings. They make work and life in general better.
- Tee up to the big waves
One of the main rules to running rapids is to point your boat straight into the big waves and lean into them. This gives you the best chance of remaining upright all the way through. Trying to skirt them last minute will only increase your chances of a flip. In life, it is better to charge head on into daunting tasks or difficult conversations rather than delaying or making them worse than they need to be.
- Never go to bed with a mess you cannot clean up
When camping in the wilderness, there are lots of critters that love to steal our food. To avoid trash spread throughout camp or losing provisions, we close the camp every night. This involves making sure food boxes and coolers are latched securely, trash is put away, and kitchen surfaces are cleaned. We also check camp for things left out that might blow away in a storm or not do well in the dew. I have become a cleaner person after years of guiding and enjoy cleaning up my messes so as not to become overwhelmed by a huge one down the road.
- Don’t have it, don’t need it
On a rafting trip, you only have what you remembered to pack in your dry bag. Anything forgotten you can usually live without or borrow from a friend. It is easy to get caught up in the material world of “things” in your everyday life, forgetting to be resourceful with what you already have. That being said, try doing a river trip without butter, toilet paper or coffee. Triple check your load list!
More here: www.nwrafting.com