New York City? Really?

Guests hardly ever believe me when I tell them I lived in New York City for two years. How could a raft guide live there? There’s no rafting there.

As I look back on it, on our time chasing dreams in the magazine industry, I too find it hard to believe how far we’ve come from those fresh-faced degree-wielding days in the city that never sleeps.

Clean shaven, short hair, and a lot of collars, I thought the world was at my feet. From PR agencies to publishing houses, this was the big chance to find success.

But how much do you really know at 22?

Looking back, I’m thankful for the opportunities I had. Tracking investments, conducting interviews, Third Wave Fashion opened the door for me to be a writer, a published writer at that. Living in Manhattan provided lessons I never anticipated, from city slush in January to heat-rashed ice baths in July because air conditioning didn’t exist in our East Harlem apartment.

Yet, despite so many memories, so many people met, it’s hard to believe we lived there.

In my third year as a raft guide, I’ve been told by friends and family that this job makes total sense. I’m outside, I’m “in my element” and loving every moment chasing new dreams.

But these same people never saw me in New York. They never saw the late-night bus rides after fashion-tech meetups, or the furiously scribbled notes from interviews that still hide in the shelves of our office.

Our life in New York taught me to work faster, to expect more out of those around me, and to make hard decisions. In that past life I was a writer, I followed stories and helped guide opinions through a still-young industry.

Now, fashion is a new PFD. Everyday-tech consists of little more than a simple watch to keep trips running on time.

It’s hard sometimes to accept that we lived in New York City, but it shaped who I became. Who I am. To draw correlations between life in Manhattan and life running rivers is difficult, but I know it’s this combination that will guide me into the future.

And that’s what it’s all about.

Not where you’ve been, but where you will go because of it.

Travel Writing: Finding My Voice

What’s the key to travel writing? How do you break into an industry that so many people want to be a part of? More importantly, how do you separate yourself from the hoard?

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Having written for the Fashion Tech industry, had a story about life as a raft guide published, and traveled around the world, it can’t be that difficult… Right?

It’s here, at this awkward intersection that I find myself and my writing. Blogging fell out of my routine when we moved away from New York; outside of the UNDO story, writing in general has been almost nonexistent since I started guiding. So what then is my angle? Where is my voice as I approach my third year on the water, just returned from Iceland and finding myself deeply motivated to share my experiences with others beyond my closest friends and family?

The key, so I’ve read, is in separating yourself from the common traveler, that there is an emotional difference in travelers able to share their experiences with the world. I can do that. So why haven’t I?

As I watch the Intagram and Twitter feeds of my favorite travel magazines, the inundation of photos, reviews and mediocre concepts, I realize that the key to travel writing is to separate yourself from those standards. To write in the same vain as a travel publication is one thing, but you can see for yourself among the poorly-lit hotel rooms and over-edited selfies that even getting recognized by these brands is about who you know. And that’s not me. Would it be cool to say you know someone at the top travel mags? Absolutely! But at what cost? In a 30 under 30 story about outdoor photographers, I cringed as children were featured, not because of their prodigal ability to find beautiful light and inspiring dimension, but because their parent(s) were well-known, published, photographers. To me, it isn’t cute.

Photo via Paige Hogan | @PaigeWilhog
Photo via Paige Hogan | @PaigeWilhog

I learned quickly in New York that getting ahead in certain industries was all based on who you knew, and it’s part of the reason why I didn’t pursue a career in PR. Of all the lessons though, New York also taught me if you’re true to yourself and you believe in what you’re doing, it will be hard to stop you.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Between this blog and The Eddy Folk, my goal is to share stories with you that aren’t like all the other travel blogs. Yes, there will be reviews, I’ll tell what gear Paige and I like, and there will be a ton of photos, but the voice will be different. These stories won’t be series-upon-series of listicles made famous in the Buzzfeed generation, and they won’t be full of drone footage shot in some remote corner of the country. These blogs, these stories, they’ll be told from the ground-level. Looking you right in the eye and reaching for your heart, the purpose of the Freelance Rider and The Eddy Folk isn’t to soar above you as you sit behind your screen, rather to invite you on our journey, to encourage you, and share all the Earth has to offer as we explore it together.

If you want to be a travel writer, go write. Don’t set your sights on writing the same garbage everyone else is, just be you. If the magazines like it, they’ll find you… Because you’re that good.

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For more adventures in tapping the travel industry, follow The Eddy Folk on Bloglovin’ and don’t forget to find me on Twitter!

Be Water

Be water.

As a raft guide, water is my life; as a human, water is essential to life. On a personal level though, water is much more.

Water is strong, water is powerful, water is humbling. Until recently I whole-heartedly believed in the adage to just “go with the flow” and take life as it comes, but this ideology is flawed.

It may be cliché to talk about water and reference Bruce Lee’s famous “be water” quote, but if you don’t know it, the philosophy is this:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

The value in the idea of being formless yet forming to everything is untouchable; in modern society it seems harder today than ever before.

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But is it? Really?

As a raft guide I’ve flipped boats, I’ve rocketed out of rafts because of mistimed paddle strokes and I’ve been stuck under rafts in class III and IV whitewater; the key, in my mind, though is not just to go with the flow, but to embody its dynamic force. Feel the power around you, develop understanding with the current and in that moment of humility allow the energy to manifest itself within and through you, guiding you to a better place.

I have written before about the unmatched power of water, but in considering my experiences and the words above, contextualized by the current state of global politics, I believe we must allow ourselves to be guided by the energy around us.

Regardless of cultural background or political standing, there is value to be found in the water analogy. According to philosophers Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese, the Tao Tê Ching teaches:

The highest good may be likened to water.
Water benefits all creatures yet does not strive or argue with them.
It rests content in those lowly places which others despise…

To me, this doesn’t conflict with any belief system. Believe in whatever God(s) you want, I won’t tell you you’re wrong, but in the idea of making ourselves like water and “resting content in those lowly places which others despise,” we may find a rejuvenated appreciation for those people around us. Family, friends, neighbors, let us derive our purpose from benefit of each other, finding our way to those at rock bottom and surrounding them with the relentless energy of forward progress.

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Like the unyielding power of water, we flow forward; at times raging and torrential, more-often-than-not placid and welcoming. Let’s be like that. Together, let’s be water.

The Veiled Woman

I don’t know her name, I don’t know who created her or what she was made of.

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Walking through the famous Louvre, on a hurried three hour tour to see the greats of the museum, one sculpture caught my eye; a veiled woman, standing isolated at the end of a display, solemnly gazing at the crowds inevitably passing her without a second of consideration.

To say art speaks to people is a cliché to be avoided, yet, regardless of reasoning her hollow gaze pierced me, calling me from the crowd to pause a moment at her feet. I took pictures, I lost myself in question and simply stood in her presence, thanking this seemingly avoided woman for reaching out to share this brief moment together.

Paris was beautiful, and the Louvre was more than I could have ever imagined, but in the midst of the Mona Lisa’s fame, and the classic romance of the French capital, she stopped me in my tracks.

Among the Michelangelos, the veiled woman looked into me, and asked me what I saw.

Want to know more about our trip to Paris? Destination: Paris over on The Eddy Folk has a look at how we maximized our short time in the City of Love

The Eddy Folk

What happened to the Freelance Rider?

Life..?

For those of you that have wondered, or been wondering, what happened to the daily posts, why it’s been an eternity since my last post, here it is:

The Eddy Folk

Photo via Paige Hogan | @paigewilhog
Photo via Paige Hogan | @paigewilhog

Together, Paige and I have been chasing dreams of backcountry adventure, mixed with the art of slow living and garnished with a few of the finer things in life. Which doesn’t sound much like raft guide life, but guiding is actually what has launched the pursuit.

So what does that mean for this site?

Two things:

  1. I have a ton of opportunity to draw inspiration from everything that happens in this new outlook on life, AND,

  2.  There are two places to find out what life has in store for us as we make our way through this adventure writing, rafting and photographing every step along the way.

As a part of my resolutions for 2017, I told myself I would turn attention back to my writing, discover the voice that’s been developing in this time off, and bring more to each of you.

If you’ve been with me from the beginning, I thank you. If you’re just discovering the Freelance Rider as we enter this new chapter, welcome, and don’t forget that the adventure continues together over on The Eddy Folk!

Want to see the adventure as it happens? Instagram has everything from recaps real-time Stories available!

Turning 25: Am I Ready?

I just turned 25. I raft guide at the US National Whitewater Center and I freelance write, but with another year down, I’m asking myself: where am I?

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Guiding pays, it’s fun and fulfilling, but it certainly isn’t enough to truly prepare for the future. On the other side, as anyone that freelances will tell you, when the money’s good it’s great, but when it’s slow, things dry up pretty quick.

Which is what brought me to where I am today. Twenty-Five and considering what the hell I’m doing to prepare for retirement.

That may sound like a tremendous jump, you know, something that is meant to be far off, in the distance, and virtually forgotten until it’s right around the corner, but seriously; what am I doing.

Considering seasonal employment, I love it, but there’s no financial security in the form of insurance, retirement plans or paid sick days. On the freelance side, even less. So as i stare down what my wife calls the “quarter-life crisis” I’ve decided that 25 is all about the prep.

Not a five year plan, not even ten; where will we be when it’s time to retire? Will we be ready? Sure we tried to save, but did we do everything we could?

That last one is a question that seems to plague me; like in “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Andy is confronted with the smack of truth that she isn’t really trying all that hard to be the best at her job as Miranda’s assistant. I feel that I do everything I can, but there are still days off, slow days and in a 12-month span I’m still not making close to an entry-level income. So am I really trying, or like Andy am I traipsing around with the facade of a hard-working 20-something that’s actually reluctant to move totally beyond his comfort zone to realize the fullest potential literally right in front of him?

For now, we’ll say the jury is out, but what I can do is begin preparing, with whatever I have at my disposal.

I’ve looked up IRAs, Solo 401(k)s and suggestions on investing as a freelancer. I’ve come back to writing. I had been on hiatus from working on my book, but I’ve picked up the research again.

There are no guarantees in life, that I’m confident in, but there are steps that each of us can take to at least guide our lives in the right direction. Much like whitewater rafting occasionally you’re going to hit some rocks, maybe even flip your boat, but don’t be afraid to call a couple backstrokes and point your boat in a new direction. We all end up making it downstream, how we do it is up to us.

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